Cuba's Future: An Interview with Julia Sweig
From Cuba, May/June 2007
A top policy analyst in Washington talks about Cuba today, a post-Fidel Castro regime, key players on the U.S. side and new ideas for changes in America's approach toward its island neighbor
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The inner workings of the Cuban government are the hardest part of Cuba to penetrate. They are enormously disciplined. It is really hard to speculate. For now, you've got Perez Roque, Lage and Francisco Soberon, head of the Central Bank, all of whom cut their teeth in the government during the 1990s.
What's interesting about that constellation is that not one of them could run the country by himself. They all know that. It's kind of like they are one big body, and they have the brain and the heart and the digestive tract, but they can't do anything by themselves.
I think the Secretariat of the Communist Party has been reconstituted because the party, as an entity and a legitimate instrument of government, needed to be strengthened. The Secretariat existed until the collapse of the Soviet bloc, and then it was removed. It's back. The membership is not all people who are older than their mid-50s. It is female and Afro-Cuban, too, and it is much more diverse.
Raúl has said that the only thing that can replace Fidel Castro is the Communist Party. What that implies ideally is small "d" democracy and representation and participation because the party is huge. It is a million and a half people. If you multiply that by four, or a family of four, it's over half the country connected somehow to the party. That's the main instrument of continuity. And so is the military. Let's not forget that the military is important. The military has a national defense function, but it has an economic function too. And it has a political function too.
CA: Is Cuba moving toward the Chinese military model, in which it has stewardship of big parts of the economy?
Sweig: The Cuban military is increasingly a business organization. They have a national defense function, and they will continue to have that. But through real estate, tourism and minerals, they have major, major pieces of the economy. So they are stakeholders that Raúl will have to continue to make happy. They are loyal. They are nationalist. They are pragmatic.
They also are concerned about problems with corruption in Cuba, increasingly so. That's one of their big anxieties, I believe, about opening up, is the corruption. It is so corrosive, and so damaging, and could hurt them. They are very aware of that.
In the military especially, it is a pretty delicate balancing act, of how much do you throw to them and how much do you track to keep a lid on it.