When the end of the Castro era arrives, the successor government and the Cuban people will need to answer certain questions: How is Castro's more than four-decade rule likely to affect a post-Castro Cuba? What will be the political, social, and economic challenges Cuba will confront? What are the impediments to Cuba's economic development and democratic transition? The authors examine Castro's political legacies, Cuba's generational and racial divisions, its demographic predicament, the legacy of a centralized ...
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Cuba after Castro: Legacies, Challenges, and Impediments

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When the end of the Castro era arrives, the successor government and the Cuban people will need to answer certain questions: How is Castro's more than four-decade rule likely to affect a post-Castro Cuba? What will be the political, social, and economic challenges Cuba will confront? What are the impediments to Cuba's economic development and democratic transition? The authors examine Castro's political legacies, Cuba's generational and racial divisions, its demographic predicament, the legacy of a centralized economy, and the need for industrial restructuring.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780833036179
  • Publisher: RAND Corporation
  • Publication date: 6/10/2004
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 152
  • File size: 913 KB

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Legacies, Challenges, and Impediments
By Edward Gonzalez Kevin F. McCarthy


Copyright © 2004 RAND Corporation
All right reserved.

Chapter One


Cuba is nearing the end of the Castro era. The government that succeeds Fidel Castro-as well as the Cuban people themselves-will arrive at a decisive crossroads in the island's tumultuous history. When that end arrives, they will need to answer a series of questions: How is the legacy of Castro's 44-plus-year rule likely to affect Cuba after Castro is gone? What are the political, social, and economic challenges that a post-Castro Cuba will likely confront? What are the structural impediments that will need to be surmounted if Cuba is to develop economically and embark on a democratic transition?

The analysis that follows addresses these issues. It synthesizes and integrates the findings of the research papers developed for this analysis, most of which appear in a companion RAND technical report (Gonzalez, Edward, and Kevin F. McCarthy, Cuba After Castro: Legacies, Challenges, and Impediments: Appendices, TR-131-RC, 2004).

This report addresses five major challenges. Part I covers the first three:

The twin political legacies of caudilloism (rule by a strongman) and totalitarianism/post-totalitarianism that will burden the new government, whether it is a communist successor regime or a democratically oriented regime, and arrest the development of a law-based civilsociety.

A growing number of alienated youth, whose disaffection is due both to nonfulfillment of their personal aspirations, especially after 1989, and to the regime's failure to live up to its high-minded ideals. These youth, once viewed as the promise of the Revolution, will likely prove difficult to re-engage politically.

A looming cleavage between white Cubans and Afro-Cubans, stemming not only from the growing racial discrimination of recent years but also from different expectations concerning the distribution of political power and economic wealth in a new Cuba.

Part II then focuses on two major structural problems:

An emerging demographic bind, in which Cuba's population is rapidly aging at the same time that its shrinking supply of young workers will not be able to support either old-age entitlements or Cubans' educational, health, and other needs.

An economic legacy of deformed institutions and an obsolete and inefficient sugar industry that has left Cuba ill prepared to make the needed transition into a global economy. Cuba's economy will require substantial restructuring along market-driven lines if it is to produce sustained economic growth and development required to meet the demands that will be placed on the new government.

The analysis in this report will show how these problems are interconnected and how, individually and in combination, they will pose very difficult policy choices for a new post-Castro government. Failure to meet these challenges is certain to further weaken the successor government's fragile legitimacy, thus lessening its capacity to marshal the public support needed for Cuba's political and economic reconstruction, including the long-term process of moving toward national reconciliation.

Part I: Political Legacies, Social Challenges

Signs of political change and growing uncertainty abound in Cuba. In the spring of 2002, more than 11,000 Cubans dared sign their names to the Varela Project, in which they petitioned the National Assembly to enact liberalizing political and economic reforms. Less than a year later, on March 18, 2003, the Cuban government responded by rounding up 75 prominent dissidents, independent journalists, and librarians, and sentencing them to prison terms of six to 28 years. Three Afro-Cubans, meanwhile, were executed for attempting to hijack a boat in a vain attempt to flee the island. When international condemnation of these actions followed, Fidel Castro, Cuba's aging patriarch, in a sign of increasing irascibility, leveled bitter, vitriolic attacks against the European Union and the Spanish and Italian prime ministers. In the meantime, the Cuban economy is again faltering and the European Union has refused to sign a cooperation agreement with Cuba. Prospects are that social tensions could worsen in the months ahead. These developments, and the continuing delay in convening the Sixth Communist Party Congress, suggest that the Cuban leadership is both apprehensive and uncertain over what course changes it should make as the Castro era nears its end.

Indeed, the government that follows Castro will face daunting political, social, and economic challenges, including some that are of a structural nature that will require fundamental systemic changes if they are to be resolved. However, Cuba's future government, whether communist or non-communist, is certain to be constrained by the legacy of its past in trying to cope with the challenges ahead. A large part of this constraint is due to the comandante's more than four decades of caudillo-like and totalitarian/post-totalitarian rule. The future government will further be haunted by the policies pursued by his regime, which, for the most part, either delayed or exacerbated the severity of the political, social, and economic problems that lie ahead.

Castro's successors may well find themselves in a dead end: Conditions once conducive to Cuba's maximalist state no longer exist, and the state-controlled economy will be unable to satisfy the long-suppressed demands of Cuban consumers and reinvigorate the government's various social programs. The state apparatus will be weakened by the absence of the Revolution's founder and charismatic leader just when the new government must cope with the problems of youth, race, an aging population, and a slowing economy. Indeed, if they are to be surmounted, these problems in themselves will require that the basic structure of the Cuban polity and economy be altered fundamentally and rapidly; otherwise, Cuba could find itself paralyzed by simultaneous, multiple crises.

Chapter Two

Castro's Political Legacies: Caudilloism and Totalitarianism

The analysis that follows has two overarching themes. One is that the pillars of support upon which the Castro regime has relied over the past decades have either collapsed or been seriously weakened. As a result, the communist government that will likely succeed Cuba's líder máximo is likely to find itself in a tenuous position. The other is that the caudillo, or strongman, and totalitarian/post-totalitarian legacies bequeathed by the Castro regime will greatly complicate governance on the part of the successor regime, whatever its character, and impair the emergence of a civil society that would be supportive of a post-Castro political system.


After assuming full powers following his near-mythical triumph over the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, Fidel Castro would become Cuba's-and Latin America's-greatest and longest-reigning caudillo. But Castro is not the typical caudillo. Buttressed by Castro's charismatic appeal, a popular, redistributive revolution that benefited the lot of the Cuban people, and Soviet economic and military assistance, Cuba developed a powerful state apparatus in the post-Revolutionary period. Enjoying wide popular support even as it decimated civil society, Cuba's new revolutionary government evolved into a single-party totalitarian state, starting in the mid-1960s: It was guided by a ruling ideology that fused fidelismo with a radicalized version of Marxism that aimed at transforming Cuban society. It eliminated pluralism as the private sector was replaced by an increasingly centralized command economy; at the same time, autonomous social institutions were taken over, dismantled, or cowed into submission. And through its state and Party organs, it penetrated deeply into society, providing the Castro regime with far greater control over individual citizens than traditional authoritarian regimes in the rest of Latin America had.

Cuba's powerful state apparatus not only enabled the Castro regime to repel U.S. aggression and ride out the potentially destabilizing effects of the more-than-four-decades-old U.S. embargo. It also enabled Castro to project Cuba's influence worldwide-including through the dispatch of combat troops to Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. Further, it enabled the regime to carry out a radical social revolution that extinguished most of the nonagrarian private sector, redistributed private property either on an individual basis or on a mostly collective basis, and eliminated the vestiges of Cuba's pre- 1959 civil society.

The power and reach of Cuba's totalitarian state were greatly strengthened by the Castro government's close ties to Moscow. Begun in 1960 and, after surviving the strains caused by Nikita Khrushchev's withdrawal of Soviet missiles in the October 1962 crisis, these ties grew steadily to the point that Cuba became a privileged client-state of the Soviet Union. Soviet arms transformed Cuba's armed forces into Latin America's most potent, battle-tested military (Suchlicki, 1989). More important in terms of the regime's political survival at home, Soviet economic largesse enabled Cuba to overcome the effects of the U.S. economic embargo and, just as important, enabled the regime to deliver on the social compact between state and society: Cuban citizens were provided with an array of social goods-free health care and education, low-cost housing, subsidized food rations, and state employment-in exchange for their loyalty and support.

Pillars of Support for the Castro Regime, 1959-1991

Seen in retrospect, the Castro regime rested on four pillars of internal and external support during the first three decades of its existence.

The first was the great caudillo himself, Fidel Castro, who from the outset enjoyed enthusiastic personal support and loyalty from the majority of the populace when he seized power in 1959. Fidel's persona was immediately invested with charismatic authority as the young rebel chieftain who had miraculously delivered Cuba from the Batista dictatorship; in the eyes of his followers, he was now the chosen leader, destined to continue performing miracles on behalf of the fatherland. A gifted orator, he articulated the aspirations of the common man and effectively manipulated symbols of nationalism and anti-Americanism to rally popular support. Although his charisma would wane following the 1970 sugar harvest debacle, and although Cubans would become increasingly weary of the personal sacrifices and repression they had to endure, he would remain like China's Mao Tse-tung-Cuba's "Great Helmsman."

The second pillar of support was the "Revolution," which combined nationalistic defiance of the United States with popular, responsive government and a social compact between the state and its people. Under the social compact, the state promised to deliver a better life to its citizens in return for their support and devotion to the Revolution. Hence, the revolutionary government bettered the standard of living of the rural population, committed itself to a policy of full employment, and provided blacks and mulattos with equal access to government jobs, higher education, and the professions. In addition, extensive entitlements were given to all Cubans-from free health care and education, and low-priced rationed foodstuffs, to early retirement with a pension.

The third supportive pillar was the totalitarian state apparatus. Its erection greatly strengthened the regime's control over the population and rid society of pluralism. The movement toward totalitarianism had been under way since the sweeping nationalization decrees that began in 1960 eliminated large and medium-sized privately owned Cuban enterprises, as well as large and medium-sized private farms, which were also converted into collectives or state-farms under the Second Agrarian Reform Law of 1963. The state had taken over most autonomous civil-society institutions of the pre-1959 era-private schools, trade unions, and professional associations, for example-along with newspapers and radio and TV stations in the early 1960s. Although it remained independent of the state, the Catholic Church had been effectively neutered in the same period with the government's expulsion of priests and nuns, after which the Church would remain a compliant institution. In the meantime, Cuban society had become thoroughly penetrated and controlled through State Security and its agents and legions of spies and informers-ordinary citizens who, through conviction, loyalty, fear, malice, or self-interest, became accomplices of the totalitarian state

The totalitarian breakthrough came when Cuba formally became a one-party state, with the unveiling of the new Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) in 1965. Fidelismo was fused with radical Marxist thought as the regime's guiding ideology, the goal being to eradicate capitalism fully, construct "genuine communism," and create the "new communist man." What was left of the urban private sector-some 55,000 small shops, restaurants, barbershops, food stands, etc.-was swept away by the "Revolutionary Offensive" of 1968, thereby eliminating the last remnants of pluralism.

The boundaries of Cuba's totalitarian state thus became coterminous with those of society. State organs, principally through the Party and its affiliated mass organizations, such as the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Cuban Confederation of Labor, the Union of Young Communists, and the children's Pioneers, reached down and controlled the citizenry at the neighborhood, workplace, school, university, and family levels. As Castro's charisma eroded after his 1970 harvest failure, and as the earlier voluntarism and enthusiasm of the citizenry began to slacken, the totalitarian state apparatus filled the breach through various forms of coercion, whereby the populace was continually mobilized in support of the regime.

The fourth major pillar of regime support was the Soviet Union. Soviet economic and military assistance enabled the Castro regime to the 1960s and into the 1970s. Moscow's largesse increased after the Revolutionary Armed Forces mounted successful military expeditions that advanced Soviet interests in southern Africa (Angola) and the Horn (Ethiopia and the Ogaden) in the mid- to late-1970s. From that point onward, Cuba enjoyed a preferential relationship with the Soviet Union as a super-client-state, obtaining loans, credits, and subsidized prices for its sugar exports and oil imports, as well as technical and military assistance. As a consequence, Cuba became highly dependent on the U.S.S.R. to such an extent that Soviet economic ties to the island amounted to $4.3 billion annually during the 1986-1990 period-or more than 21 percent of Cuba's gross national product (GNP) (Pérez-López, 2001, pp. 44-45).

Surviving the Crisis of the 1990s

The disappearance of the Soviet Union in 1991 removed the Castro regime's external pillar of support and, in the process, created an ideological and economic crisis that reverberated through both the political elite and populace alike. The loss of Cuba's patron also weakened the other remaining pillars of regime support.

Perhaps in a manner unequalled since the 1970 harvest failure, Fidel Castro's moral authority and political sagacity were tarnished by the Soviet Union's collapse. Having literally hitched Cuba's fate to the Soviet star for more than three decades, the comandante was now perceived to be on the wrong side of history. His regime was left without its ideological lodestar and economic lifeline, with Cuba appearing alone and adrift in a post-communist world. Making matters worse was the fact that Cuba's great caudillo, along with his old-guard followers, stubbornly opposed the kind of deep, liberalizing economic reforms that had transformed China in the 1980s under the leadership of Deng Xiao Ping.


Excerpted from CUBA AFTER CASTRO by Edward Gonzalez Kevin F. McCarthy Copyright © 2004 by RAND Corporation. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Introduction 1
Pt. I Political legacies, social challenges 3
Ch. 2 Castro's political legacies : caudilloism and totalitarianism 5
Ch. 3 Cuba's disaffected youth 33
Ch. 4 Cuba's racial divide 47
Pt. II The structural challenges ahead 67
Ch. 5 Cuba's changing demographic structure 71
Ch. 6 The institutional legacy of a centralized economy 83
Ch. 7 The need for industrial restructuring 95
Ch. 8 Conclusion 105
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