Sunday, April 18, 2021

Can you blame Raúl for leaving?

According to news reports, Cuba's chief, Raúl Castro, is resigning and passing the ball to the younger generation.  This is from 
NBC News:

Raul Castro confirmed Friday he is stepping down as the head of the Communist Party of Cuba, the most powerful position on the island.

During a speech on the first day of the Communist Party's eighth congress, he said he would hand over power to a younger generation that is "full of passion and anti-imperialist spirit."

"I believe fervently in the strength and exemplary nature and comprehension of my compatriots, and as long as I live, I will be ready with my foot in the stirrups to defend the fatherland, the revolution and socialism," Castro told party delegates at the closed-door meeting at a convention center in Havana. He was retiring, Castro said, with the sense of having "fulfilled his mission and confident in the future of the fatherland."

And so he will step down.

Some in the media are treating this as some "Washington moment," or when President Washington decided not to seek a third term in 1796.  Well, not really.  President Washington retired after being elected for two terms.  Raúl Castro was never elected to anything, unless you think running unopposed for head of the Communist Party is some kind of model election.

So what's going on?

Let's cut him a little slack and say he is old.  Yes, he will be 90 in a few months.  Let's accept that the absence of a Castro is historic.

My guess is that Raúl Castro knows that this is a good time to get out because the island is facing some difficult times.

COVID has hit Cuba hard and cut into tourism, the only thing the island has to bring in dollars.  Once upon a time, Cuba had a private economy.  It doesn't anymore, so tourism is about all they have.  COVID stopped those flights full of tourists, and the economy shrank 11% last year.  Thanks to President Trump, U.S. sanctions have made it more difficult for Cuba's regime.  And finally, long food lines and shortages are back, reminding my mother of those days when she stood in line to buy milk.

To make matters worse, the new leaders want to reform, but the Cuban version of Perestroika will probably work as well as the Soviet one from the late 1980s.

So Raul is handing the keys to the new generation.  The problem is that the engine does not run, the gas tank is empty, the car needs new tires, and there are still lots of payments due on that note.

Do you understand now why Raúl wants out?

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