In “Prospects for Cuba’s Revolution in 2018,” TeleSUR speaks to Cuba expert Arnold August about Raúl Castro’s impending retirement and U.S.-Cuba relations. Here are excerpts from telesur.
Telesur: Marking 59 years since the triumph of the revolution, do you think there is something particular this year about the celebration given the looming elections and Raul Castro’s impending retirement?
Arnold August: Basing oneself on Cuban press publications in the last few days of December leading up to the January 1 celebration, and talking with Cuban colleagues last night and today, there is no mention at all regarding the April 19th 2018 election of the new president. What are then the themes to mark the passing of 2017 to 2018? Cubans, like everywhere in the world, first and foremost highlight events of the outgoing year.
For example, the official Granma daily reviewed major events or accomplishments of 2017. Domestically it was the successes in the health sector. Internationally, among others, it was the ongoing efforts in favour of Latin American/Caribbean integration and cooperation such as ALBA, the Venezuelan resistance and the Trump move to recognize Jerusalem. While the youth communist daily Juventud Rebelde hailed the 70,000 youth participating in voluntary work, and the international Youth and Student Festival in Sochi, it also did deal with 2018. It pledged to focus on the 90th anniversary of Che’s birthday, June 14. The revolutionary youth, through its prestigious regular contributor Graziella Pologotti, wrote that one of the peaks for 2018 will be the 150th anniversary of the October 10 1868 revolt against Spain as the precursor of the 1959 triumph.
[. . .] There were various features such as Raúl trying “to hang on to power etc.” However, the common denominator more often than not was the following: the “Castro era” will come to an end on April 19th. Thus, the new president will have to confront “growing demands for democratization and opening” and deal with the increased use of social media in Cuba. The narrative often spars against invisible “hardliners” in Cuba. However, who are the hardliners? It seems to be a red herring to serve as a pretext for creating divisions and pressuring Cuba to “change” according to U.S. desires. Thus, my New Year’s wish would be for them to name who these “hardliners” may be. It does not seem that this wish would ever be fulfilled as the list would be far too long to assemble.
[. . .] However, two years ago these forces inside and outside of Cuba completely underestimated the political consciousness of the Cuban leadership and the vast majority of people at the grass roots. The Cuban Revolution was and is being strengthened. Without “firing a shot”, it won that battle. What will happen in the first few months of this year as the Cuban Revolution heads toward April? It is after all unprecedented. For the first time since the Cuban Revolution a non-Castro will be the most visible political personality in the formal Cuban political system.[. . .]
Telesur: What do you expect in Cuba-U.S. relations for 2018?
AA: I will go out on the limb and predict that Trump will somewhat soften his stand on Cuba. [. . .]
[. . .] This wave of opposition to restrictions that runs the gamut from sectorial demands such as the export of agricultural products from Trump-supporting Midwest states and Texas, to travel industry, to agricultural-machinery manufacturing, to port cities in Florida and Texas close to the Havana harbour and Mariel container port, to across the board bipartisan Republican and Democratic parties at the national, state and city levels, Trump may be foolish, but not to the extent of seeing the writing on the wall for 2020.
This why, as 2017 was the year of Trump imposing restriction on Cuba while maintaining diplomatic relations, 2018 may be the year that he backtracks to a certain extent.
From the Cuban side, 2017 was the year that the Cuban Revolution valiantly stood up to Trump as the U.S. imperialist bully while keeping its cool on maintaining the door open to the negotiating table. Cuba, as it has done since 1959, did not give in one iota on the principles of defending its sovereignty and independence. It was also the year that, despite the rhetoric, a series of successful bilateral meetings took place in Havana and Washington dealing with interests of common concern.
In 2018, the new generations further coming into power may be even more, not less, prone to defend Cuba’s sovereignty, dignity and further develop the Cuban Revolution against all attempts by the U.S. and its allies (open and disguised) to subvert it.