Thursday, March 12, 2009

Triumph of the Raulistas

Two factions had definitely emerged in the Cuban government since Raul's
formal accession to the presidency last year. The rift between the
Fidelistas and Raulistas was widening. The military (supported by those
in the intelligence services who know that genuine economic reform is
vital for the survival of the Revolution), were increasingly frustrated,
reflecting the widespread feeling of the Cuban people. I actually heard
senior military people say that a coup could happen if the Fidelistas
persisted in putting the brakes on economic reforms. This was a
necessary move, as the Cuban people are increasingly discontented, and
if there were a popular uprising, the military would probably join it
rather than shoot protesters.

From what I know of the people named as replacements, this is indeed a
triumph of the Raul faction. Most (including the Army generals) could
be characterized as technocrats, well-educated, worldly, with a strong
understanding of different economic systems, non-ideological, pragmatic,
and results-oriented. Some (and possibly all) have spent time abroad in
Western countries, and have been exposed to different political and
economic systems. I am sure that they are loyal to Raul. These are not
democrats, but I believe that they have a mandate to reform the Cuban
economy and that this will involve a strong market element at the
domestic level. I have been told that a sweeping economic reform plan
exists, but could not be implemented due to opposition of the

Perez Roque was despised by other senior members of the Cuban
government. I have heard for months that Carlos Lage had lost power and
was no longer a force to be reckoned with. He will continue to serve in
an advisory role, as his views are respected (he is considered to be an

It is very important for the US government to recognize that Ricardo
Alarcon is little more than an official spokesman for the Cuban
government. He is not a possible successor to Raul.

It is also important for the Obama administration to understand that the
Cuban military has morphed into a military/industrial complex, and is
staffed by officers who are more businessmen than "old school" military
thugs. I have met several field grade officers with MBAs from western
universities. These people have also been very influenced by the
economies of Viet Nam and China, although I have spoken to some who
expressed greater admiration for Singapore and Sweden, and have told me
that Cuba will create a new economic system that incorporates elements
from successful socialist economies and create a new "Cuban Economic

A common complaint in Cuba is "the system doesn't work." Raul's people
are determined to make the system work, even if it means creating a
market economy and putting a socialist veneer on it.

Finally, the people now in power are open to normalizing relations with
the US (and view it as inevitable), but want to control the process so
that change comes gradually. I believe that a similar policy path
should be followed by President Obama.

--Timothy Ashby 3/3/09
Cabesterre, LLC Miami, Fl.
former senior political appointee at the US Commerce Department, International Trade Administration. Bio at

1 comment:

  1. Assuming that your assertion is true: that in Cuba we have politics organized on the basis of raulistas and fidelistas. What would be the difference on such matters as calculo economico, sistema empresarial, budgetary system of finance, role of the Secretariat, party membership on the basis of territory or workplace?

    Somehow, "analysts" stress "personalities" rather than pressure groups when it comes to Cuba or latin America. Why is that? How about paying attention toother variables?. For example, is Santa Cruz del Norte more or less independent than Yara?

    What is the difference between the PCC in Holguin and in Ciego de Avila?

    Do Cuban holding companies in tourism compete? How? How are prices determined by the production of agricultural goods sold to the general public?

    These are important questions that the manichean "raulista" and "fidelista" categories are unable to answer.

    Nelson Valdes