Raul may have assumed the presidency over a year ago, but it is still far from clear how much he is control over the country. Fidel continues to cast a long shadow over everything, even though he hasn’t been seen in public for almost three years, and to voice his displeasure with his brother’s efforts to lead the country out of its current state of affairs. Raul’s handling of the economy, diplomatic relations with the , and over the future of the Cuban Revolution have all been public questioned by Fidel, but it is clear that things are in flux.
Whereas ten years ago was largely isolated, today the is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that has not normalized relations with the island. Since last June, the EU has followed a policy of engagement and held a series of high level diplomatic talks, though it is unclear what has come out of them. Leaders from the Latin American countries of , , , , and have visited in the last year with others promising to do so soon. Furthermore, ALBA has grown, succeeded in becoming a member of the Rio Group and is on the verge of possibility being allowed back into the Organization of American States (though Fidel has stated that has no interest in rejoining the OAS).
So what comes next?
This issue of the Cuba Europe Dialogues looks into the challenges ahead for and the international community as it tries to move towards the post-Fidel era. Dan Erickson looks at the limits of change based on the initial decisions made by the Obama administration and the inherent limits on Raul’s ability to make radical changes. Brian Latell offers his analysis of the level of tensions between Raul and his brother, especially following the expulsion of two of ’s highest level political figures, Carlos Lage and Felipe Perez Roque in March. In addition, esteemed Cuban historian and analyst Carlos Alberto Montaner discusses the growing frustrations of the Cuban elites and of Raul’s diminishing credibility. In addition, the Europe-Cuba NGO Network offers its recommendations to the European Council for what it should do in the year ahead in its ongoing dialogue with Cuban diplomats.
Regardless of how much has changed in the international community’s approach to , conditions have changed very little on the island for the internal opposition and civil society. Raul Rivero compares the slow death facing imprisoned independent journalists in to the murder of Anna Politovskaya in , in that everyone knows who gave the orders, but no one has truly been found guilty of the crime. In addition, People in Need with help from several Cuban human rights groups is releasing is third semi-annual human rights report, which documents the range of violations and abuses that have taken place on the island between November 2008 and April 2009. Lastly, Ricardo Carreras, from Solidaridad Espanola con , discusses the ongoing intimidation and repression against the Damas de Blanco by the Cuban government.
The international community’s move towards engagement may or may not prove capable of convincing the government of to change its ways, but if the Castros fail to contain the public’s rising expectations for improved living conditions then it may not matter.