Now that Fidel Castro has died, some Cubans wonder if brother Raul Castro—who took over when the leader became ill—will modify the communist regime in favor of a more democratic society.
Don’t count on it.
Castro, who died on Nov. 25 at age 90, came into power by deposing Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, and ruled the Republic of Cuba for 47 years as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and then as President from 1976 to 2006.
Loved and hated by his own countrymen, Castro fought to end racial discrimination and brought free education and health care to Cuba. He also persecuted and killed dissenters and isolated his country from much of the world. He clashed with 10 American presidents and nearly sparked a nuclear war over the Cuban missile crisis.
The Castro revolution will not die easily. For nearly half a century, he controlled just about every aspect of Cuban life. The Castro regime still dominates economic and political life on the island, controlling nearly three quarters of economic activity and the results for Cubans have been disastrous.
President Barack Obama re-established diplomatic ties with Havana and loosened the travel ban in 2009. The first group of American tourists traveled legally to the island of 11 million people in 2011.
Despite the easing of sanctions, however, the Pew Research reports that Cuba’s GDP grew just 1.3% and a survey published in the Washington Post last spring showed that 79% of Cubans said they were dissatisfied with Cuba’s economic system.
Economists say Cuba will likely continue to exercise disproportionate influence in Latin America. The Castro regime retains outsized diplomatic clout in the region, as the last remaining old-school communist autocracy.
Meanwhile, Cubans in America are celebrating Castro’s death. Miami reported scenes of people dancing, partying and waving Cuban flags.
In Cuba, the mood is more subdued. Flags are at half-staff, and the government has called for nine days of national mourning.
Raul Castro has said he intends to step down in 2018.