Juan Juan Almeida, 12 October 2015 — Alejandro Castro’s role in the secret talks between Cuba and the United States was akin to that of Arnaldo Tamayo on the Soyuz 38 mission.
No crisis comes with prior warning. Just as the term “opposition leader” is used to describe people who are neither leaders nor have ever been in opposition, the government mythologizes events to find a place for slackers in the national consciousness. Following this useful tradition of political dishonesty, it seems the time has come to create a reformist profile for the most obtuse of the island’s traditionalists: Alejandro Castro Espin.
It was not enough to foist an engineering degree on him or to award him a bogus medal intended for those injured in the Angola war. It now seems that the youngest offspring of Raul Castro and Vilma Espin was one of the chief negotiators in the secret talks in Canada that brought about the reestablishment of relations between Cuban and the United States.
Please, let’s get real. Alejandro’s role in these conversations was akin to that of Arnaldo Tamayo on the Soyuz 38 mission.*
It is easy to understand. Power was transferred to Raul in August 2006. In February 2008 he was elected president of the Council of State and Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba. And in less time than it takes a cock to crow, Raul Castro, with relative ease, cut off Fidel’s access to power and ability to make executive decisions. It is not unreasonable to think that, if things continue as they are, history will repeat itself and in a couple of years — after the general has resigned the presidency (at eighty-seven years of age) — he will also be stripped of power along with his entire herd.
With this in mind as well as with what else was happening in the world, he made his intentions perfectly clear in his very first speech: to enter into dialogue with the Americans under what at the time he called “a foundation of respect.”
The price of oil was falling on the world market. Russia was using military power in an effort to reestablish a bipolar world. President Hugo Chavez had been operated on in Havana for what was said to be a “pelvic abscess” but which doctors knew to be terminal cancer. While Venezuela was going down the tubes, the nations of the ALBA trade bloc were becoming resentful as an economically (if not militarily) powerful China was aggressively expanding its presence in the South Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean. Almost on the verge of a crisis worse than the “Special Period,” Raul — the man who inherited Fidel’s political base — decided to throw in the towel under the guise of dignity.
I am not questioning the positive aspects of any of his reforms, but they are too few and are being implemented at a snail’s pace. Their purpose is to stall for time in order to control the stampede.
General Castro is a hostage to himself and has an approval rating lower than a mosquito. The smartest thing he ever did was to align himself with well-organized people, intelligent assistants and outstanding advisers. But his immense cowardice evolved into paranoia and forced him to retreat into a world controlled by the most inept members of his dysfunctional family, the only people he trusts. Their personal ambitions incited infighting and intrigue that led to those by whom he was best served, his inner circle, being tossed into the trash heap.
Knowing he will leave government in 2018 and that he cannot solve the nation’s problems, the only thing he thinks about now is retiring. Of course, this is purely speculation based on my personal experience. When I was ten-years-old, Raul was forty-four, and I have been listening to him say during national celebrations since then, “This is the year I will retire.”
I dare say that he will leave Cuba and is just waiting for the moment. The general is fearful, but he is also an old man in countdown mode. That is why, with an eye towards the future, he is trying to turn his son Alejandro into a person of international standing. The point is not to permanently secure him in power; he knows that that is impossible. The point is to provide him with the immunity that worldwide visibility provides.
*Translator’s note: A Cuban cosmonaut who was part of a Soviet space mission to the Salyut space station in 1980.