Can the armed forces act as a catalyst for a future of economic progress and political openness in Cuba?
To believe in the possibility that the armed forces might act as a catalyst facilitating a future of economic progress and political openness in Cuba is, at best, gullible. It is even more naive to expect the upcoming promotions of the military hierarchy to rectify the course set by the current leaders, whether by force or through generational renewal, dismantling the "funnel capitalism" (only for them) in place today and replacing it with real capitalism – which actually wouldn't be very different, in our case, as an underdeveloped country in ruins and, as such, doomed to be economically dependent, but which at least would represent an escape route to a brighter future.
However, there are many today who have pinned their hopes on one or another of these scenarios; perhaps thinking that, if you are going to dream, you might as well dream big, even if it's impossible.
Of course, with Cuba’s great political-economic-military leviathan, the elites who currently hold Cuba's fate in their hands will have to play a pivotal role. But this, far from benefiting the future, will probably spoil it, condemning us to suffer the worst legacy that fidelismo could ever give us, for a long time to come.
The military class and democracy are like oil and water, and there is no magic potion that will allow them to mix. Even though there are examples of cases in which the former has served as a guarantor of the latter, this was always the result of circumstances representing the opposite of the Cuban situation; that is, militaries trained under and forming part of democratic systems that they ultimately opted to defend.
The Cuban military cadre is, by its very nature, a body antagonistic to democratic culture. Having never even experienced it, it certainly feels no obligation to respect it. Hence, it is easy to anticipate their outright, absolute rejection of the two pillars of modernity: political freedom and a free, prosperous economy. Our military brass's conviction that the State should monopolise the country's economic life, in order to ensure "social justice," as they understand it, represents an obstacle for young and old alike.
As for the heirs themselves, one should not expect them to act differently if we take into account the circumstances they have always known, in which they have grown up and been trained, marrying amongst each other, establishing kindred and other affective ties, existing in a kind of zootechnic bubble, totally out of touch with the country and its reality.
Rather than allowing themselves to be attracted by the benefits of democracy and the values of civility, what ought to be expected, and feared, is that tomorrow, like today, this military caste will continue to pollute, corrupt and usurp them.
A clique holed up in its own cave, shielded from the struggles and aspirations of ordinary people, Cuba's military leadership, far from facilitating democratic transition, seems destined to prevent it. Those who see them as potential enablers of transition on the Island, based on the great economic power they boast, and the allegedly efficient and pragmatic way they administrate it, should not overlook (at least) two points:
First, that economic power is not the result of independent financial investments, or the fruit of their talent, efforts or sacrifices. Rather, it is a gift bestowed on them by fidelismo, which, in turn, obtained it through expropriations and subsidies. Thus, this caste is but a parasite of the ineffectual system that it, purportedly, will be willing to overturn. Second, without reliable statistics, the efficiency with which these generals have been administrating the country's major revenue-receiving business organisations in recent decades should be viewed with skepticism. Not to mention their laughable reputation as austere and pragmatic.
What is frequently referred to as the Cuban military’s “pragmatism” is actually nothing but mediocre and robotic performance, entirely dependent on the authorities above it, having little or nothing to do with genuine pragmatism.
Not without a certain turning of the stomach, let us remember that some of the fiendish military tyrannies that plagued Latin America years ago at least managed to spawn some economic progress. Hopefully this will not be the model advanced by those in favor of relying on Cuba’s generals and colonels to pave the way towards progress. Well, though these replicants of Pinochet are certainly devious enough, they are lacking the economic culture and business efficiency to mimic that model.