Late in the night on November 25, Cuban state media reported that longtime Cuban dictator and American adversary Fidel Castro died at age 90. The announcement originally came from Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother and current Cuban head of state. Raul Castro is expected to manage the Cuba’s government for the foreseeable future. While being dictator since 2008, when Fidel resigned due to health concerns, Raul Castro has often taken his brother’s advice and direction.
With Fidel dead and Raul not seeking another term in 2018, Cuba will receive new leadership for the first time in over half a century. The most immediate in line would be Ramon Machado Ventura, current Vice President of Cuba. Ventura is a disciple of Che Guevara and an original fighter who rebelled with Fidel and Raul Castro in the 1950’s. Another contender, and most likely to succeed the Castros, is Miguel Diaz-Canel, an extreme Marxist and Castro family shadow. Other officials that are reported to will likely rise are Alejandro Castro-Espin, Raul’s son, and Esteban Lazo, a rank-and-file lawmaker. None of this is certain if the Cuban people choose to take another course of action after nearly 60 years under an oppressive authoritarian government.
Fidel Castro is most famously known for overthrowing the Batista regime in Cuba in 1959 and imposing a Communist dictatorship in which he led from 1960 to 2008. During that time the Castro dictatorship stripped many of the human rights of its people. Via the Department of State, Castro had:
- Banned all political opposition.
- Denied citizens from running for political office.
- Denied right to a free and fair trial.
- Denied citizens the ability to petition the government for wrongdoings.
- Created extreme prison conditions, concentration camps, and labor camps.
- Denied prisoners health care.
- Tortured prisoners and civilians alike.
- Restricted Internet and Media access.
- Limited religious practices.
- Denied citizens the ability to protest or peaceably assemble.
With Castro’s death and Raul’s intention to no longer lead the Cuban government, unless a massive change occurs, Cuba will likely be led by the previously mentioned individuals, signaling that the status quo of human rights abuses and opposition to democratic practices will prevail. While outgoing President Barack Obama has worked to establish a regular diplomatic relationship with Cuba, it will seem that the Cuban newcomers will have little interest in diplomacy with a nation that allows its citizens freedom from the government and was established to protect rights rather than to define what they are. From the American perspective, it will seem that President-Elect Donald Trump will continue to follow decades of bipartisan practice to take a strong stance on Cuba. Unless, that is, the Cuban people say to the Communist regime “You’re fired.”