Neocastroism: A Tropical Dynasty
Dictatorial systems end up exercising public power like a private company. The elite trust no one, so family and personal ties are the only guarantee. Over the course of his protracted period in power Fidel Castro, the founder of the Castro dynasty, monopolized all the country's top positions. And he consistently worked so that his younger brother, Raúl, was the regime's second-in-command, and its head of Defense, a key position in the system's structure.
In 2006, when Castro was incapacitated, Castro II stepped forward and the system began to be promoted as the work of both Fidel and Raul, who mustered an entourage of senior officers who supported him in establishing the Second Front in March of 1958. But time is also running out for him, as he needs to make way for others who are able to sustain the structure. And that is where family is a sure bet. Therefore, Raúl's regime has been characterised by the visibility his family has acquired. Gradually, the clan's relatives have come to play public roles and occupy positions of power.
The last of them to achieve visibility is MININT Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín, the current dictator’s son. Having participated, in a marginal role, in the war in Angola, under his father he was promoted to personal assistant and head of the Security Commission of the Assembly of the People's Power, and rolled out before society at the Summits of the Americas (SOA). Since then he has been accompanying his father on different trips abroad, thereby cultivating a public image. When it comes to the organisational schemes of dynastic structures, the last can become the first.
Alejandro is raulismo's crown prince, but in order for power to be formally handed over to him it will be necessary to supplant a whole set of longstanding figures, who will probably be reluctant to take orders from an upstart. We have seen the retirement of many ageing leaders, especially in the military, the result not only of the necessary renewal, but also restructuring to ensure a a team more pliant to the heir, although he probably will not exercise power from the civilian sphere.
No one can know exactly the real strategy that will be applied to keep the system standing. Therefore, it cannot be ruled out that an anodyne figure like Díaz-Canel will assume formal command after Raúl. The real power would remain in the shadows, with the construction of a profile enabling the heir to ultimately position himself with weapons at his disposal.
The family's control of vital sectors of the country is hardly something hidden or mysterious. Mariela Castro Espín ended up appointed the country's first sexologist, a kind of "First Lady" in charge of social work for the system. She is a member of the National Assembly of the People's Power and all her efforts have been dedicating to covering up and whitewashing the regime's responsibility for years of homophobia and repression in the name of "socialist morality."
And Mariel's performance does not only seek to furnish the system with a liberal face, as sex represents an important economic sector. The sex tourism industry seems to stand out in Cuba, controlled by the Government. During a trip to Holland the sexologist had praise for prostitution. This contrasts, however, with the Cuban regime's official rhetoric over the years which cited to justify itself, among other things, the need to eradicate the sex trade as a scourge of the past.
The eldest brother's older brother, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, after being removed from his post as head of Cuba's nuclear program, spent some time keeping a low profile. He recently re-emerged as an authority within the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment, specifically in the areas of nuclear energy and nanotechnology. Castro Díaz-Balart's interest in science points to the economic value that it can entail.
The elder Castro's other son, Antonio Castro Soto del Valle, went from being an unknown to overseeing sports medicine, and now serves as a baseball authority. The doctor's interests transcend the sphere of national sports, as golf and fishing also fall within the scope of his affairs. Perhaps in the future he will become the czar of Cuban sports, with all this implies in terms of profits.
Another important figure is Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, who controls the military business group GAESA. His role can be traced to his dissolved marriage to Raúl Castro's eldest daughter Deborah. They say that to get anywhere in business in Cuba you have to be on good terms with the boss, and sons-in-law also have their corresponding slice of power in the realm.
This panorama presents us with a family willing to and convinced that it is entitled to perpetuate itself in power. Two factors will be necessary in the scenario it wishes to construct. First, a docile opposition that accepts these moves as valid, or at least does not pose an uncomfortable challenge. Second, an international community willing to accept the elite it proposed, all veiled in a supposed spirit of changes and openness.
After the Communist Party Congress the pieces on this board will begin to be moved more conspicuously. Whatever happens in the next few months will determine how this confrontation between the Cuban people and the Castro clan unfolds.