Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Final finale for Fidel?

The political role of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro has been up in the air since he transferred power to his younger brother Raúl nearly a year ago. Fidel, who has not made a public appearance since the handover, was still seen as being at least nominally in charge despite the formal handover. Skepticism abounds, with some people believing Fidel may actually be dead, while others believing that he's been shunted aside, while others believing that he's primed for a comeback.

Soon, however, we may be finding out what role if any Fidel will be officially playing. Raúl has set October 21 as the date for general elections to the Cuban National Assembly, the Communist party organ that "chose" (actually rubber stamped) the country's president, who just happened to be Fidel Castro, decade after decade, by unanimous margins. National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon declared that he would once again nominate Fidel for the presidency back in March, but if Fidel's name doesn't come up when the Assembly convenes after the election, it's a safe bet that Raúl will win the job by a Fidelesque landslide. And after that? You can bet that only time we'll be seeing Fidel in the news after that is in the obituary section.

All of this begs some interesting questions. Is Fidel out of the way for good? What sort of changes will Raúl make? Obviously, Raúl has seen the writing on the wall regarding the economic and political viability of one party socialist states after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Cuban people are becoming noisily fed up with empty store shelves and ever shrinking government rations. It's a safe bet that Raúl, who is no spring chicken himself, won't rock the boat too much (least of all on human rights). After all, he's invested too heavily in the status quo to turn Cuba into Canada, but it will certainly be interesting to see what Raúl will do once he wields the same unlimited political authority that Fidel was used to.

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