I returned to Cuba in November for the first time in two years. On the surface, not much had changed. From my room in the Riviera Hotel on the Havana waterfront, I could still see vintage 1950s American cars driving down the Malecón. On television I watched the Cuban national baseball team win another international tournament. Just up the street a billboard next to the old U.S. embassy building denounced “U.S. imperialism.” Beneath the surface, though, the country was in the middle of several important changes. Fidel Castro was gravely ill. When he could not even appear at his own birthday celebration, Cubans were forced to accept the reality that the man who had led them for forty-seven years would not likely be returning to power.
Many of the Cubans I spoke with during my visit were prepared to acknowledge that some kind of transition was underway. The transition they seemed to have in mind, though, was not the one spelled out in the U.S. government’s July 2006 report from the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. According to the report, the only acceptable transition would be one that excluded all current Communist Party leaders from political leadership, including Raúl Castro. But the changes expected by the Cubans I spoke with might well happen under the current leadership, which is headed by Raúl and also includes Ricardo Alarcón, president of the National Assembly; Carlos Lage, minister of finance...
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About the Author
Gary Prevost is chair of the Political Science Department at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota. He is the co-author of Cuba: A Different America and Politics in Latin America: The Power Game.