This is the latest speech by Raul Castro, made in June this year. He discusses, in his capacity as head of the army, the view held by the Cuban government that in 2003 there was an increased danger of invasion by the USA, whose confidence was engorged by the ease of their onslaught on Iraq. That danger passed, but clearly the US government has its eye on intervening in Cuba should Fidel step down. Raul discusses this scenario.
(Raul pictured with Che and Fidel below)
“We should not forget that [the American government] have drawn up a so so-called transition to capitalism, banking on an end to the Revolution when its historical leadership is no longer here. For that reason they are maintaining the so-called Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba with a designated U.S. administrator and everyone to the front, like in the good old days of the Yankee cannons throughout Latin America.
“We are confronting an enemy whose obstinacy and arrogance frequently leads it to commit errors, but that does not mean that it is stupid. It knows that the special confidence given by the people to the founding leader of a Revolution, is not transmitted, as if it were an inheritance, to those who occupy the main leadership posts in the country in the future.
“I reiterate what I have affirmed on many occasions: the Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution is solely and uniquely the Communist Party, as an institution that brings together the revolutionary vanguard and is a sure guarantee of Cuban unity in all times, can be the worthy inheritor of the confidence deposited by the people in its
leader. That is what we are working for and that is how it will be, the rest is pure speculation, not to call it by another name.
“Just as we have won all the battles, as much within Cuba as in fulfilling our internationalist duty, we shall overcome the enemy who tries to hide within our ranks, we shall further consolidate the Revolution and we shall make ourselves stronger on all fronts.”
The important point to note in this speech is that Raul stresses that Cuba has a collegiate leadership – via the Communist Party – not individual rule by Fidel. Furthermore, by stressing the role of the Communist Party, Raul is dispelling any idea that the Army (his army) might take over the government. Although Raul is tipped in some quarters as an automatic successor to Fidel, the constitution requires an election of the 601 deputies to the National Assembly of People’s Power, which then elects the Council of State, who then elects the President.
Within the Party there are those who favour taking the Chinese or Vietnamese road of opening Cuba to international capital. The faction around Fidel, including Raul, are opposed to that policy. It is highly unlikely that any succession to Fidel would lead to an open debate between party factions, but behind the scenes there will be manoeuvring, and Raul’s succession cannot be guaranteed.
But he may be the best candidate. Although he lacks the personal charisma and diplomatic experience of Fidel, he does have the authority of participation in the revolution. He has also proven ability, having been chief of the army during its victorious war against the South African Apartheid forces in Angola. Under raul's leadership, the Cuban army were also the only non-Arab country to ever fight rifle in hand against israel - when 1500 Cubans fought on the Golan heights during the 1973 war. He is also the candidate who embodies continuity of economic policy.
But he is also 75 years old. Long term stability requires that the Castro supporters in the party reach out and encourage popular participation in defence of the revolution.