For those of us who had our doubts about the Obama “opening” to Cuba, Fidel Castro’s son, a photographer, has confirmed the worst in an interview with a Chilean radio station. Alex Castro, the regime’s official photographer, went to Chile to present his photographic books at an international book fair.
Alex, however, accuses his uncle, Raúl, and his buddies, who took over from his father in mid-2006, of bureaucracy, moving too slowly toward change, and extensive corruption. Furthermore, Castro hints that he wants to defect and that he would go to Miami to show his pictures there if an American visa is forthcoming.
Alex follows several other second generation Castro offspring x-wives and lovers who have flown the coop. Alex is the second son of Fidel Castro y Dalia Soto del Valle. He has published a number of photograph books about his father. But he refused to answer a question about the details of the transfer of power from Fidel to Raúl, other than to say that it arose from changes the latter have made and had come come about for “various reasons.” Raúl was longtime head of the military under Fidel and there is a growing suspicion the Havana dictatorship is turning into the traditional Latin American military regime.
One of the many ironies in the interview is that Alex says Raúl has failed to follow the example of Communist Vietnam. That is “difficult [because] there are no other [political] parties, “ he said. “It’s likely to be that we don’t follow the Vietnamese path in five years but take 40 to 40 years the way we are doing things.”
“The way we change things in our socialist system”, although he added that he recognizes that “many things have changed”, is being done “without submitting the population to shock treatment.”
Castro was equally pessimistic about the future of foreign investment in 84-year-old Raúl’s Cuba. He said he would like to have seen great progress in the negotiations for such investments with the prospect for important gains for the Cuban people with ”large companies.” But he pointed out that the majority of these negotiations are going with the Cuban state not with any equal partners in the virtually nonexistent private sector.
In his opinion, Castro said, these negotiations won’t produce much. These are big companies “in trade or industry or large chains of hotels” that cannot negotiate except with similar enterprises and those do not exist in Cuba. “They don’t exist now in Cuba and they aren’t going to come about. Some people can get rich but they aren’t going to be millionaires”, he said.
Castro referred to elements in the current regime which are “hard-line and blind”. He said that power is wielded only by a small group, all of whom are “conservatives” who oppose any fundamental changes.
He said relations with the Vatican are better “at this moment”. But he said while relations :”have been lit”, “we nevertheless understand that instead of a war, the Church and the government want to improve relations, the same as with the Americans” and for the moment don’t go further than that.
Laughing, in an aside on his three divorces, he said that each one of his ex-wives “gave him a haircut”. That came through a division of assets, the feeling of responsibility, and they left him with little, he said between guffaws.
Without doubt, Castro’s comments about the slow movement toward change indicate “[there are] forces even more conservative than Raúl, in a highly personalized regime such as Cuba’s,” according to Sebastián Arcos, deputy director of the Institute of Cuban Studies at The International University of Florida in Miami.
American businessmen coming up against these barriers – like their Canadian and European colleagues during the last several decades – are going to find it slow going in Cuba. The promise of new markets and trade, one of the things for which the Obama Administration excused its dealings with a regime still jailing political opponents, isn’t likely to come about. Except – of course – if the American taxpayer picks up the tab with new credits which a bankrupt Cuban economy certainly cannot justify. Obama’s recent request for lifting the Cuban embargo, now only a shadow of its former self, may be the first step in that direction.