Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Democracy in Cuba unlikely as Raul rules

Democracy in Cuba unlikely as Raul rules
By Rowan Scarborough
Published August 28, 2006

The permanent successor to Fidel Castro will be his brother, Raul, Bush
administration officials have concluded, and he will be enthusiastically
assisted by the cadre of "young technocratic communist professionals"
who have run Cuba's day-to-day government machine for decades.
The officials said in interviews that this layer of committed
communists is a key reason that democracy is not likely to emerge in
Havana soon after the dictator's death. The 80-year-old Mr. Castro is
said to be recovering from intestinal surgery. He turned power over to
his brother on July 31.
The Bush administration has debated making secret overtures to
Cuba. One strategy toward democracy considered was an alliance with key
military leaders in the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), the officials
said. Some officials in the Pentagon backed the idea, but the State
Department and White House said "no," calling it unlikely to succeed.
Mr. Castro's military was considered as a contact point because it
is regarded as the "least of three evils" within the security apparatus,
which also includes the regular police constabulary and the secret
police. The average Cuban is not thought to necessarily link the
military to political repression.
"We said, 'We need to establish contact with the military,' " the
official, who asked not to be named because the source is not authorized
to discuss internal administration debates, says. "The military would
play a major role in transition and maintaining order."
The military, while tainted, "is not directly involved in repression."
"The Cuban military is salvageable. Just like in Iraq, you should
try to salvage the military."
What is probably not salvageable are the generations of young,
handpicked dedicated Communists who run the party and the government,
and appear to be firmly in control.
A secret Pentagon report from 2000 assessed national-security
threats until 2020 and predicted that the Castro bureaucracy would be
able to hold power for some time after his death.
"The Cuban Communist Party -- even without Castro at the helm --
likely will remain in power," the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
concluded. A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Times.
"However, a post-Castro government -- particularly after Castro's death
-- probably would liberalize the economy more rapidly, and any
concomitant relaxation of U.S. foreign policy would be likely to spark
debate over the extent of political liberalization inside and outside
the Communist Party. Fundamental political change would probably result."
The DIA concluded that the military likely would remain loyal to
the Communist Party. "The Revolutionary Armed Forces will remain loyal
to Castro. The high command has demonstrated concern over the speed of
economic reforms -- they favored more rapid change prior to 1994 -- but
probably will continue to agree with Castro on the need to maintain the
Communist Party's monopoly on political power."
The Cuban regime is helped by Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, a
self-proclaimed socialist who has sought strong ties with foes of the
United States, including the Castro regime and Iran's hard-line Islamic
government. Mr. Chavez subsidizes the Cuban economy with oil and has
invited hundreds of Cuban communist operatives into his country to tell
his government how to wield power.
"You can't influence people without money, and that is what he has
been doing," the defense official said.
Mr. Chavez's strategic vision is to organize groups of countries to
oppose U.S. policies, a second official said. U.S. hopes of a democratic
uprising in Cuba are a "fantasy" and "wishful thinking," the official says.

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