What happens if Fidel Castro dies? This was the question posed by the UM Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies and explored Feb. 3 in the form of a near-future Cuban Communist Party Politburo simulated meeting.
The meeting began at 6 a.m. on Feb. 14, 2008, an hour after Castro’s death, which was attributed to his ongoing bout with Parkinson’s disease. Raul Castro convened the Politburo to “discuss what policies to follow in Cuba’s immediate future and how to secure the planned succession.”
Raul Castro started with some general rhetoric. He said his brother would be laid to rest under “an eternal flame” and the Cuban Communist Party should not “lose [its] revolutionary awareness, [its] revolutionary spirit.”
Raul Castro then said he seeks a so-called election to become First Secretary.
As the meeting continued, various members of the Politburo voiced a diverse range of opinions with their individual takes on how to best handle the country in the days and months ahead. All agreed, however, that they “do not want another Tiananmen Square,” referring to China’s violent handling of the student-led protests of 1989.
Discussion covered a range of topics, such as how to suppress the international media, the development of economic services and the suppression of the appearance of a police state.
The meeting ended with the arrival of a document saying the U.S. would be sending a high-level diplomat to engage in talks with Cuba.
Raul Castro and the panel agree to send Carlos Lage, rather than Raul Castro himself, sending a clear message of superiority to the U.S.
Each member of the Politburo was played by a prominent expert of Cuban affairs. Raul Castro, second secretary of the Cuban Communist Party and Fidel Castro’s younger brother, was played by Brian Latell.
Latell worked for 20 years at the CIA and, in the early 1990s, served as National Intelligence Officer for Latin America.
Gen. Alvaro Lopez Miera was played by Jaime Suchlicki, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura by Alcibiades Hidalgo, Abel Prieto Jimenez by Andy Gomez, Gen. Abelardo Colome Ibarra by Jose Ramon Ponce, Yadira Garcia by Georgina Lindskoog, Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada by Domingo Amuchastegui and Lage by Eric Driggs.
After the simulation was over, a question-and-answer session was held.
Regarding the issue of Cubans living in the U.S. who would wish to go back to Cuba to reunite with family members, Suchlicki, director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, claimed that “in a post 9-11 world, the U.S. would have contingencies.”
The panel also said the succession is already ongoing, since Raul Castro is running the day-to-day operations of Cuba.
The participants in the simulation stressed that this scenario is only one of several possible situations that could play out upon Fidel Castro’s death. Many of the political dynamics would greatly depend on when exactly the leader dies. The year 2008 was chosen mainly due to a possible power shift in Washington, D.C., since presidential elections would be taking place at that time.
Jason Albrecht can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.