Sunday, August 06, 2006

CUBA, CASTRO CORPSE WATCH: Sunday Brooding Sunday, Factions And The Military


According to the Sunday Telegraph Castro almost became a corpse, but the Stalinist leaders personal physicians postponed his descent into the eternal fire.
Doctors at the exclusive Cimeq hospital in western Havana are accustomed to handling the delicate health problems of Cuba's communist elite.
It was here last weekend, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt, that they battled for several hours to save the life of the regime's most important patient, Fidel Castro. Unable to stem intestinal bleeding with drugs, the country's top surgeons performed an emergency operation on the veteran leader.

Hand over permanent?

Another Telegraph article
noted that some of the changes instituted might be permanent:
Yesterday the Communist Party newspaper Granma assured readers that Castro's younger brother Raul, the head of the army and the internal security apparatus, was coping at the helm.

In a sign that Fidel is unlikely to return to government even if he recovers, it endorsed a new power structure in which six senior ministers headed by Raul will manage the country.

They include Felipe Perez Roque, the 41-year-old foreign minister, and Carlos Lage, 54, the man credited with keeping the economy afloat in the Special Period that followed the ending of Soviet subsidies in the 1990s.

Brazilian sources say Lula was aparently told that Castro will not return to power. Also says that Fidel has a malignant stomach tumor, which was denied by Castro buddy, Vice-President Carlos Lage from Sucre, Bolivia where is attending President Evo's grand premiere of the Constituent Assembly. Aparatchik extraordinaire, Ricardo Alarcon, while repeating the line about Castro's health, did call on the Cuban people to be alert and take "measures to assure that we can confront any agression."

Speaking of Alarcon, Trouble In Paradise?
He seems to be shut out, and might not be in the inner circle of power nominated by Fidel. As pointed out here that as President of the National Assembly "the supreme source of power in the State," he is theoretically the third most powerful person in Cuba. Theory aside, it does mean he handles an assembly composed of many top aparatchiks , though not as cohesive as the more powerful Central Committee which is under Raul's thumb. But it still is a potential source of trouble for the ruling circle, and Alarcon conceivably would be able to draw upon the contacts he has made. And Alarcon seems to be launching a one-man campaign to build himself up, by granting numerous international media interviews.

Queen Fidel?
Norberto Fuentes, who was once close to Fidel, interviewed in ABC, also thinks that Fidel is no longer going to be running things entirely, and might become a ceremonial head of state, like "Queen Elizabeth" of England.

Fuentes also sees that within the "hard nucleus of a collective government" created by Fidel Castro, there is a sort of deliberate power split. Machado Ventura and Balaguer are Raul loyalists, but that the "money" people like Lage are Fidelistas.
He finds it curious that Fidel named Raul "commander in chief" of the armed forces, "without giving him command."

Dissidents Speak And Are Persecuted
Oswaldo Paya Wants Spain - a country with historical ties to Cuba - to step up and Show Some Audacity , something that seems unlikely given Zapatero's coddling of the dictator.

Dissidents are being threatened. At communist-party block committee meetings threats of "smashing heads" of anyone daring to "open their mouths, demonstrate against the government, or take any type of protest"

Speaking of the Cuban Military

The front page of Granma has a profile and interview with General Álvaro López Miera the equivalent of the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff and Vice-minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. That is interesting.

Dissident and independent journalist, Miriam Leiva, sees the military as the real source of power and source of direction for many of the main institutions. She asks if will be the one institution, to enable "a better future for all the Cuban people."

Ernesto Betancourt, in El Nuevo Herald, says the U.S. might want to talk to the Cuban Army. He says that the Cuban military is apparently willing to talk, and is actually banking on some sort of transition backed by the United States, where the military would keep its institutional character, instead of being dissolved. Betancourt notes that the military could guarantee order in any transition, and that many of its members are not as tainted as other parts of the Castroite aparat. They have also had extensive contact with the persestroika-era Eastern European military, and run some of the state businesses.

My Take:
Something tells me that the military, either with or with-out Raul's direction is floating trial balloons. Leiva would not be allowed to publish something that direct, without a wink from someone above. The other article also shows at least some in the military that want to ensure some sort of transition that might include a democratization, so long as they are preserved as an institution. Must remember the role of many younger officers in the Russian military in opposing the coup against Gorbachev in 1991, and how the militaries in Latin America returned to the barracks in the 90's, after decades of dictatorships.
Identifiable Factions seem to be forming. The top leadership is allegedly Raul + Lage, Francisco Soberon, Balaguer Cabrera, Machado Ventura, Perez Roque, and Lazo Hernandez, between them holding the reins of the military, the security apparatus, health, education and energy, and the purse strings. Conceivably there is a split between Raul loyalist and Fidel's men of confidence like the nasty Perez Roque. But then you have Lage, who while a Fidel loyalist was known to favor economic liberalization. Alarcon on the other hand, nominally in touch with many top members of the nomenklatura itself, though Raul is supposedly the party head and in control of the central committee and politburo. Alarcon is definitively keeping a high media profile, despite the demotion and it looks like he is jockeying for position.

Key questions, does Raul have the complete loyalty of the Military? Who are the genuine Fidelista hardliners that want to see a continuation of Communist one-party rule and Socialism? Who is the reform factions, both within the nomenklatura and the military that would like to see a genuine transition to democracy? Many younger reformers were purged in the 90's and just recently. In the USSR, in Russia, the Baltics, Armenia, Georgia, many of the reformers - as well as the most vicious counter-reformers- came from within the party. Bottom line many of the civilian bureaucrats don't want to lose their jobs, and might be willing to go along with a "Chinese" or "Pinochet" model of transition, where the party and military keep control, while moving to a market-oriented economy. The military, as opposed to the party, does have more flexibility. They win if the Chinese/Pinochet approach is taken because of their presence in key industries, but in a move to democratization and market reform, if they preserve their character they also win, as the Chilean and Russian military's did in the transition to civilian rule. This is going to get interesting.

Image Above from ,Dead Castro Dance