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The First Cuban Vice-President, Miguel Díaz-Canel, shown here listening to Raul Castro, is one of the candidates to occupy the presidency. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 6 August 2017 – Only half a year before the announced general-president Raúl Castro’s departure from his duties as President of Cuba, it is still not known with certainty who his successor will be. It is undeniable is that whoever the Power choses to give continuity to the failed socio-political and economic model imposed by the olive-green clan will inherit not only a country in ruins with an astronomical debt and an aging population, depleted by the emigration of a large segment of the best of its workforce, but also a very different regional panorama from that memorable summer of 2006, when Fidel Castro proclaimed himself  “provisionally” retired from the Government after placing country’s direction in the hands of a clique led by the current president.

In recent times the continent’s left has been suffering its worst setbacks in decades, after losing the political power that had spread like an epidemic and even seemed fused to some of the most economically strong nations of this hemisphere, such as Brazil and Argentina.

At the same time, Venezuela, once the capital of this shady Castro experiment known as “socialism, XXI century style,” continues to sink in what many experts consider the greatest economic and political crisis in that country’s history, which has affected a significant contraction of the oil subsidies destined for Cuba, with its implications for an economy as fragile and dependent as ours.

Gone are the fleeting glories of the entelechies born in the wake of the late Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro, like the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA-TCP), created in 2004 in Havana, or Petrocaribe, which was founded in Venezuela in 2005, in order to politically influence the small oil-poor Caribbean nations and buy their support in international forums, in exchange for oil quotas at extremely magnanimous prices.

Despite such an adverse scenario for his interests, it is assumed that whomever is sentenced by Raúl Castro to be his successor will be “reliable”: sufficiently pliable to lend himself to the management of those who really move the political threads

Despite such an adverse scenario for his interests, it is assumed that whomever is sentenced by Raúl Castro to be his successor will be “reliable”: sufficiently pliable to lend himself to the management of those who really move the political threads – and all other threads – behind the scenes, and be reasonably cautious not to attempt the rehearsal of too abrupt a turn that would dislodge the ever-unpredictable social balance in a country saturated with shortages and frustrations. Autocrats do not like surprises.

It is necessary to consider the possibility that – similar to his elder brother when he left power in 2006 – the general-president has conceived a kind of collegial succession, leaving specific functions to several representatives of the different tendencies which, according to widely spread but never confirmed opinions, exist among the groups close to the Power. The bad guys’ great advantage is that they know how to be cohesive when they have common interests to defend.

Thus, a collegial government after the partial withdrawal of the general-president is a perfectly possible variable in a nation where there is only one political party “as the superior governing force of society and the state,” where, as a norm, the ruling caste ominously tends to ignore all the other commandments of the Cuban Constitution and what they themselves have legislated without obstacles in the last 40 years, and where all the political and economic maneuvers are hidden in the most absolute secrecy and come to light only as fait accompli, which saves the mokogos* of the Palace of  Revolution the cumbersome process of requesting approval from the bland Parliament or of also submitting the most important matters of State to the consideration of the (dis)governed.

In fact, this variant of collegial succession – not necessarily explicit – headed by a visible string-puppet does not seem very remote. Especially if one takes into account the experiences of other regional successions, such as that of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, elected by the deceased Hugo Chávez at the touch of his finger, but devised to the last detail by his comrade and mentor, Fidel Castro, in order to guarantee the survival of their respective so-called “socialist” projects and their leaders.

The once rampant Chavismo, just as its maker conceived it, has ended up succumbing to the ineptitude of the “successor” and the Castro greed

Suffice it to examine the composition of the Maduro cohort to understand that the red-olive/green arrangement was not only forged in Havana, but was already a done deal long before the Chavez, the “Eternal Commander,” was planted in the Mountain Barracks to end up transmuted into a little bird**.

However, despite the careful calculations of the most experienced conspirators, the ambush that Maduro has led Venezuela into is so complicated and profound that it overwhelms any control. Sooner or later, the dictatorial power will fall, because the situation has become ungovernable and, by appealing to repression and crime to retain power, the Government has lost all traces of legitimacy. The once rampant Chavismo, as conceived by its maker, has succumbed to the ineptitude of the “successor” and to the Castro greed.

Another planned succession, but of very different character, is the one that took place in Ecuador after the triumph of the candidate of the ruling party, Alianza País, in the person of Lenín Moreno in the second round of elections last May.

Moreno, surprisingly and quickly, soon began to detach from the hard and belligerent politics of his predecessor and has developed a conciliatory, inclusive, measured and serene style, seeking dialogues and agreements with different social sectors and with the opposition, which has provoked the virulent reaction of an angry Rafael Correa, who has described Moreno as “a traitor,” among other equally strong accusations.

The cases of Venezuela and Ecuador confirm that changes in power are not always “more of the same”, but can lead to unpredictable turns

 The confrontation has led to a deep fracture within the heart of party, according to the sympathies of its militants, between Correa and Moreno. Nevertheless, during the festival of Lenín Moreno’s electoral victory, a radiant and happy Rafael Correa could be seen celebrating the triumph at full sail, shouting slogans and thundering on the microphones with songs of the radical left (“here is the clear, the affectionate transparency”) as if instead of Lenín Moreno, he himself had won the elections.

Just as all autocrats dream of or aspire to it, Correa certainly believed that the person who was at the moment his cabinet vice-president would now, at the head of the new Government, be a docile follower of his dictates, the visible figure behind which he would somehow continue to exercise the power and iron social control. It has not been the case, and this avoids deepening the country’s internal conflicts and opens the way to a possible process of pacts that will overcome the tensions and social polarization suffered in Ecuador through all these years.

It would be premature to say how successful or not Moreno’s performance might turn out, but it is clear that this veteran does not feel indebted to the previous government, but has his own agenda. If it will benefit democracy and the citizens of Ecuador, let’s welcome it.

The cases of Venezuela and Ecuador allow us to confirm that changes in power, beyond successions or ruptures, are not always “more of the same,” but can lead to unpredictable turns. Thus, succession in Venezuela has resulted in the fraudulent attempt to legitimize a corrupt and repressive dictatorship, while succession in Ecuador seems to favor a return of the democratic spaces violated by the previous ruler. We will wait to see if the Cuban succession offers us a Maduro or a Moreno.

Translator’s notes:
*Ceremonial figure in Kundu settlements of southwestern Cameroon.
** Maduro has claimed that Chavez comes to him in the guise of a “very small bird” and speaks to him through whistles.

Translated by Norma Whiting


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