Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

Print Print Cite Cite
Style: MLA APA Chicago Close


Who Speaks for the People of Cuba?

by Elliott Abrams
March 1, 2013


Last week the Castro brothers announced the name of the man who, they said, will succeed Raul Castro when–or if–he retires at the end of the new five-year term as president to which he has just appointed himself.

The name is Miguel Diaz-Canel. He’s an apparatchik in the best Soviet style: thirty years in the Communist Party, starting with its youth groups. He’s not particularly well-known on or off the island, which may have recommended him to the Castros: previous heirs apparent sometimes got too big for their britches and had to be dumped. Of course, Canel may be dumped too, at any moment. He has no power base, and no apparent close ties with the Army and security services–who will be critical once the Castros are dead. The day Raul or Fidel is tired of him will be the day his “elevation” is undone. It will be interesting to see whether, in his new post as vice president, Canel is handed any real responsibilities by the Castros. This much is clear: nothing this man has ever done in his life suggests he believes in freedom, democracy, or human rights–or the Castros would never have selected him.

Meanwhile another Cuban is in the news: Yoani Sanchez. She has achieved international recognition as a young (37 years old) blogger whose blog, Generation Y, is followed in 17 languages.

Here’s what President Obama had to say to Yoani in 2009:

Congratulations on receiving the Maria Moore Cabot Prize award from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism for coverage of Latin America that furthers inter-American understanding. You richly deserve the award. I was disappointed you were denied the ability to travel to receive the award in person.

Your blog provides the world a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba. It is telling that the Internet has provided you and other courageous Cuban bloggers with an outlet to express yourself so freely, and I applaud your collective efforts to empower fellow Cubans to express themselves through the use of technology. The government and people of the United States join all of you in looking forward to the day all Cubans can freely express themselves in public without fear and without reprisals.

Recently Yoani was permitted to travel, and after a visit to Brazil is now in the Czech Republic. She is thanking the Czech government for its support of human rights in Cuba. She will also be coming to America on this trip.

Yoani has posted a comment on the Diaz-Canel selection, and here it is:

The designation of the number two man in the Cuban nomenklatura has probably been more commented on and discussed outside the Island than inside. In part because for several months the national media has already been suggesting — with constant allusions to this 52-year-old engineer — that he could become the successor to Fidel Castro. So few were surprised when the former Minister of Higher Education became, as of Sunday, yesterday, the “dauphin” of the Cuban regime. Their biological clock has the octogenarians governing the Greater Antilles at a crossroads: either establish the inheritance now or forever lose the chance seems to be dictating the hands of history. So the line of succession has been left to a much younger figure. They have based their choice on their confidence in the fidelity and manageability of Diaz-Canel, trapped between a commitment to his superiors and a conviction of how limited his real power is.

History shows us that the behavior of these dauphins while they are being observed by their bosses is one thing, and something else entirely when those bosses are no longer around. Only then will we discover who the real man is who yesterday became number two in Cuba. However, I have hopes that the fate of our country will not be decided by this Council of State, nor by this presidential chair. I have hopes that the era of the olive-green monarchs, their heirs and their entourage is ending.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by John J. Suarez

    The answer to the question “Who speaks for the people of Cuba” is that the Cubans do. Over 25,000 Cubans risking their lives and priviledges signed the Varela Project in 2002-2003 demanding reforms that would bring the Cuba regime in line with international human rights standards. The dictatorship’s response was to arrest the organizers of the legal petition drive and on July 22, 2012 apparently murdered the lead organizer Oswaldo Paya along with Harold Cepero Escalante, a youth leader from the movement he founded, the Christian Liberation Movement.

  • Posted by macontherock

    Elliot when will you revisit the Guantanamo Freezone from 1980’s bag of ideas. The time is ripe because of cholera outbreak on the island that trigger clauses in the lease and restated in the 1934 TREATY of RELATIONS THAT GIVE THE US authority to expand the hospital and thus expansion the supporting facilities for such an endeavor and develop the base for returning veteran of the war on terror. IT WOULD CREATE JOBS FOR THEM AS WELL expanding rehabilitation facilities to facilitate treatment in island setting to assist their assimilation back into western stressed society.

    [Note:Remember Greece did such an effort in CYPRUS in 1959 ironically, today it is fully developed as the largest US military installation overseas..]
    Mr. Abrams you were the first.. MAKE NEWS!!

Post a Comment

CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.

* Required