From ElBlogDeMontaner (MH); Posted on Monday, 03.05.12
BY CARLOS ALBERTO MONTANER
The Cuban government takes it for granted that Hugo Chávez will die soon. A diplomat posted to Cuba told me so, reciting some well-known verses by Martí: “The palace is in mourning and on the throne the King weeps; / the King’s son has died, / the King has lost his son.”
That hasn’t yet happened. The King’s son is still alive, though very damaged, but Raúl and a disconsolate Fidel view his death as an inevitable fact. To Fidel, it’s a political catastrophe.
Chávez was his heir in the task of struggling against “Yankee imperialism” and creating a glorious little world, as collectivist and authoritarian as the one that sank after Gorbachev’s “betrayal” more than 20 years ago.
Raúl was useless as an heir. He lacked the ability to dream, something that fills the incendiary brain of revolutionaries. Raúl was much too pragmatic, much too stuck to reality, that strange and contemptible thing.
Fidel has returned to the mindset of the pre-Chávez era. In the 1990s, he languished in melancholy, convinced that everything had gone for naught, when suddenly Chávez appeared onstage with a wallet full of petrodollars and the fury of a crusader in his eyes. Fidel’s hopes were rekindled. Quick, saddle my horse again. Chávez was the man, his beloved disciple, the fruit of his ideological womb. Now it seems that he’s dying in the flower of his political life, at only 57.
Who is the heir? Inside Venezuela, nobody. Outside Venezuela, not even that. Within the inner circle, there are half a dozen men who would like to occupy the presidential seat, but none possesses the mindless messianic vocation that’s needed to step forth and conquer the planet. Potentially, any one of them could control the local madhouse with a whip and a club, but that’s not what Fidel had in his tormented mind when he annointed Chávez as the successor to his revolutionary throne.
Raúl Castro, a farsighted and methodical fellow, is already making contingency plans. To the dictatorship, the 110,000 barrels of oil that Venezuela contributes daily are essential. That remarkable amount of crude can be replaced by the extractions that Repsol plans to make in Cuban waters but, according to the Spanish company’s calculations, there’s only a 17 percent probability of finding that oil, and the pocket of fuel may be just a fourth of what Havana estimates.
In any case, even if found, that oil will take about two years to arrive at the Cuban power plants to generate electricity — its main purpose — and at the international markets to acquire dollars. A commission assigned to manage those hypothetical funds has already been created. Therefore, Raúl needs to prolong for at least two years the milking of the generous Venezuelan cow.
How does he plan to do it? First, by becoming a part — very carefully though barely visible — of the mechanism of transmission of authority that will choose Chávez’s successor.
Second, by discreetly approaching Henrique Capriles, the popular candidate of the democratic opposition, who has a very high probability of winning the Oct. 7 elections.
According to the analysis of “the Cubans” (as Castro’s puppeteers are called) anyone who runs against Capriles will lose. He won’t even have the opportunity to cheat without provoking a military coup from the right, which would be catastrophic for Havana.
So, the most convenient formula for Cuba is to peacefully dissolve the unnatural marriage between the two countries, but allowing the two-year period that Raúl Castro thinks he needs so the island’s economy won’t experience the same contraction it suffered after the end of the Soviet subsidy. At that time, the misery of Cubans worsened with a 50-percent plunge in consumption, leading to thousands of cases of malnutrition that caused blindness among many people (none of them members of the ruling class, of course).
Will Raúl’s maneuvers succeed? I don’t believe so. Generally, those plans never work. Things develop otherwise because they’re subject to imponderable factors, unforeseeable decisions and events.
Who would have thought that the end of the Chávez era would begin so unexpectedly? That’s the strange beauty of history.