Raul Unbound?

Some time in the early 1980s, a friend of mine went to Florida for spring training with the Minnesota Twins. She met an elderly couple, Cuban emigres, who told her that they had saved a bottle of champagne to be consumed when one of two things happened: the Twins won the World Series, or the Tyrant died. We felt sorry for them, as it seemed unlikely that they would live long enough to witness either event. I thought of that couple when the Twins, to everyone’s surprise, won the Series in 1987. It’s a good thing the Twins came through for them, because twenty years later, the Tyrant is still hanging on.
Castro resigned as Cuba’s President today, leading to this rather pathetic AP headline: Cubans Hope Raul Castro Brings Reform:

Now that Fidel Castro has retired, many Cubans are looking to his brother to let more people open businesses, own homes and even travel abroad. But it will probably fall to a new generation of leaders to ultimately fulfill or frustrate their dreams of prosperity.

That seems like a safe guess. Raul is 76 years old and has been at his big brother’s elbow for fifty years, during which time he has managed to suppress any fleeting reformist urges. Cuba’s situation is dire:

“There has to be some change, more freedom with Raul,” said Andres, 63, who like many Cubans wouldn’t give his last name for fear of reprisal when talking about the Castro brothers. “The other one always nipped that off at the bud.” ***
The younger Castro raised expectations of openings in the state- controlled economy with his reported fascination with Chinese-style capitalism, calls for unspecified “structural changes,” and acknowledgment that government wages averaging $19 a month do not satisfy basic needs.

Imagine living in a country where you aspire to the freedoms enjoyed by the Chinese! My guess is that even that modest hope will be frustrated for the time being. Still, at some point, power presumably will fall to leaders who didn’t share in Castro’s booty, at which point the temptation to open the island to full-scale tourism and economic development will become irresistible. That’s my prediction, anyway.
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