A deal with Castro, for a post-Castro future
They are almost certainly correct.
The bigger question, though, is whether Obama’s initiatives can position the United States to more effectively influence events in Cuba on the day the country is no longer run by someone named Castro.
If the overarching goal of the old U.S. policy was to precipitate a collapse of the Communist government, Obama’s new approach reflects a conclusion that such instability is no longer in the best interests of the United States.
With the announcement last week, Washington acknowledges that, like Havana, it wants a managed, orderly transition to a post-Castro future. What that future will look like is the game going forward.
“Do we want a hard landing or a soft landing?” Arturo Valenzuela, who served as assistant secretary of state for Latin America during Obama’s first term, asked in an interview. “It’s not in our interest nor in the interest of the Cuban people to see a total collapse.”
Raúl Castro, 83, has repeatedly said he will step down from the presidency in 2018. There has been speculation that he might leave early, while he’s still in relatively good health. Among his possible successors are Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel, 54.
In an address to Cuba’s parliament Saturday, Castro set April 2016 as the date for a new Communist Party Congress — an event that has served in the past as the occasion for reform announcements and leadership changes. The last one, in 2011, was the first of its kind in 14 years.
In the audience was 21-year-old engineering student Elián González, who as a child survived the wreck of a boat headed to the United States and became the object of a drawn-out custody battle that eventually saw him return to Cuba. There, too, were the long-imprisoned, lionized intelligence agents known as the “Cuban 5,” the last three of whom were freed in the deal with Obama.
Fidel Castro, 88 and ailing, was not there.
In his speech, Raúl Castro reiterated a willingness to talk about a broad range of issues with Washington but said that Cuba’s one-party state and its socialist principles were not up for discussion.