Friday, July 31, 2009

Castro Tries To Hold Back Time

Cuba's President Raul Castro has postponed the Congress of his country's Communist Party, which was due to take place later this year. When it eventually happens, it'll be the sixth such meeting since he and his brother Fidel seized power in a revolution back in 1959, but with both now ageing, it'll almost certainly be the last with them in power.

Raul says he needs more time to make sure the meeting takes place in the right way. That's basically code for he still hasn't worked out how to make sure the Communist regime remains in place once he and his brother have gone. Wondering when the Castro brothers will finally leave the political stage has long been a favourite parlour game of the families of Cuban exiles in Florida, forced out by the Communists all those years ago, who would dearly love to return to a non-Communist Cuba. As soon as Fidel and Raul die, the exiles will do anything they can to sweep away the current regime.

The fact that the Castros have remained in power so long has a lot to do with the personal credibility they have in the eyes of many ordinary Cubans. After all, both Fidel and Raul personally fired the first shots of the campaign for a revolution, at the Moncada Barracks all the way back in 1953. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the regime they have led over the last fifty years, that personal credibility has helped them retain the affection of many Cubans, plenty of whom remain proud of the revolution.

But if the exiles and other enemies of the Castros believe that their deaths will end up badly weakening the regime's authority, then they're probably right. Younger Cubans are increasingly aware of the world outside, including the US less than 100 miles away. The huge increase in tourism in Cuba, developed since the collapse of the Soviet Union which had previously propped up the regime, has given ordinary Cubans a close-up look of the lifestyle of wealthy westerners. Raul Castro knows that it's a lifestyle lots of Cubans want for themselves, and he knows that once he's gone, his successors at the top of the Communist party may struggle to maintain the control that he and his brother have enjoyed for so long, by dint of their revolutionary exploits. However Raul Castro eventually deals with this problem at the next Congess meeting, the odds are probably against the Communists managing another fifty years in power.

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