On Post-Castro Cuba

Over at Comment is Free, two takes on what to expect following Fidel Castro’s retirement (via normblog). The first by Ignacio Ramonet, editor of Le Monde Diplomatique:

It is on this international plane, developing ever stronger ties with Latin America, where the most visible changes in Cuban politics are likely to come. Its socialism will undoubtedly alter – but not in the manner of a China or Vietnam. Cuba will continue to go its own way. The new regime will initiate changes at the economic level, but there will be no Cuban perestroika – no opening up of politics, no multiparty elections. Its authorities are convinced that socialism is the right choice, but that it must be forever improved. And their preoccupation now, more than ever with the retirement of Castro, will be unity.

But everything in Cuba is related to the US: that is the one overarching aspect of political life which outsiders need to understand. The retirement of Castro, long anticipated, means continuity. But in the evolution of this small nation’s history, the election of Obama could be seismic.

Oliver Balch:

In a country of shortages, political symbols are one of the few objects of plenty in Cuba. Hasta la victoria siempre (always, on towards victory) screams from billboards and television screens across the Caribbean island.

But, almost 50 years after Fidel Castro marched into Havana, many younger Cubans are beginning to ask how much longer the promised “victoria” will take. Hospitals may be free, they say, but they lack medicines; pupils may not pay for school, but there are few textbooks.

Before yesterday’s announcement of Castro’s retirement, many had already started tuning out of Cuba’s revolutionary rhetoric.