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NY Times: With One Castro Gone, Questions About What the Other Castro Will Do

"Raúl, 85, has pledged to step down in 2018. While Raúl is firmly in control, and seemingly in good health, many people inside and outside Cuban wonder what kind of Cuba comes after him."

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MEXICO CITY — For half a century, as Fidel Castro transformed Cuba into a Communist state and sparred with the United States, his brother Raúl worked in his shadow, the authoritarian leader’s disciplined, junior partner.

But by the time the elder Mr. Castro died on Friday night, Raúl Castro, who assumed presidential powers in 2006 before getting the official title in 2008, had transformed Cuba into a country that was unrecognizable in many ways — and yet remarkably the same.

Raúl discarded some of the precepts that Fidel had considered sacred, chipping away at the Communist scaffold his brother had built. And in a stunning embrace that caught the world off guard, he negotiated an end to the 50-year diplomatic standoff with the United States that Fidel had fiercely maintained.

It is now solidly Raúl’s Cuba, an island where millennials talk to their cousins on Skype, where restaurant owners hustle for zucchini at privately run farms and where Americans clog the streets of Old Havana.

Over all this, he has a firm hold on power, secured by trusted military leaders in vital positions and a new economic course of his making in which private enterprise plays an essential — but unthreatening — role.

Still, Fidel died at a time of great uncertainty. Cuba’s regional benefactor, Venezuela, is collapsing economically. And many Cubans are trying to reach the United States while special immigration privileges are still in place.

And now, after multiple rounds of changes by President Obama to knit the two countries closer together, a wild card has emerged: the election of Donald J. Trump, who has threatened to undermine the détente between the two nations unless he can extract more concessions from the Castro government.

Cuban officials say they have weathered financial and political swings before, whether they were the American embargo, the collapse of the Soviet Union or the economic troubles in Venezuela.

With Fidel gone, a lingering question may now be answered: Did the weight of his legacy hold Raúl back, preventing him from substantially dismantling the cherished system his brother had constructed, or were the slow, halting steps toward change a reflection of Raúl’s own desire to insert new life into the ailing Cuban economy — without weakening the structures of state power?

NYTimes extended story

Feature photo courtesy of New York Times: Raúl Castro in Havana on Nov. 24. Mr. Castro assumed presidential powers in 2006 before getting the official title in 2008. Credit Ernesto Mastrascusa/European Pressphoto Agency

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One Response to NY Times: With One Castro Gone, Questions About What the Other Castro Will Do

  1. Dan OBrien
    Dan OBrien November 26, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    I am hoping The Torturer Raul Castro will soon follow his brother into the bowels of Hell. Where is Seal Team 6 when you need them?

    Reply

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