Nikolay V. Kalashnikov, PhD in Economics, Deputy Director, RAS Institute of Latin America, in an interview with EADaily speaks about the future of the Republic of Cuba and the prospects of the Russian-Cuban relations after demise of Fidel Castro Rus, the leader of the Cuban Revolution,.
Will Fidel Castro’s demise put an end to the Cuban revolution and socialism in Cuba?
Fidel Castro was committed to building socialism in a separate country and had worked on it throughout his life. I do not think that his demise will have any serious impact on the ongoing stagnation. His brother Raul Castro has repeatedly said that he assumed reins of government not to end socialism, but to adjust it to the new conditions. He refuses from the word “reform” and speaks about adjustment only.
Will Raul Castro leave his top leadership positions in 2018 as promised?
I think he will leave office as promised: he will no longer be elected as chairman of the National Assembly of the Republic of Cuba and no longer chair the Council of Ministers. He will retain the position of First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, as he was reelected to that post for another five-year term this April.
U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has already warned to terminate the agreements signed by Raul Castro and Barak Obama if Havana fails to revise them. Do you anticipate further “thaw” in the Cuba-U.S. relations?
I used to believe and I do believe now that it was just normalization of relations, no thaw. It featured the contact between civilized states: establishment of diplomatic relations. However, neither the Cuban leadership has sacrificed its principles nor Barack Obama has done what the Cuban side expected him to do i.e. he failed to lift the blockade and close the Guantanamo naval base. Neither has he cancelled the special status of Cuban refugees in U.S. It is not his executive privilege. It is the prerogative of the Congress. At present about 50,000 Cubans have no status of legal immigrants, but they cannot be (and, of course will not be) deported to Cuba, as the two countries have no respective agreements. They will become U.S. citizen sooner or later.
Of course, Donald Trump will be just toughening the requirements to Cuba when the Conservative wing of the Republican Party of U.S. comes to power. He will never cancel Helms-Burton Law. He is able to break the agreements signed by Obama and Raul to show the weakness and uselessness of the leaving president.
How would you explain the fact that the top leadership of Russia, President Putin and PM Medvedev, were not present at funerals of Moscow’s “cold war” period strategic ally?
This question should be addressed to Putin and Medvedev. I had no doubts that someone from our high-ranking officials would attend the funerals of Fidel Castro. It was Vyacheslav Volodin, the third person in the Russian hierarchy. It is not the highest but still a very high level. Generally, the relations of our countries are in line with our possibilities. Cuba is very much interested in further cooperation with us, specifically, to diversify its energy resources suppliers amid the crisis in Venezuela and possible overthrow of Nicolas Maduro, the closest ally of the Castro brothers and their partner in the left-leaning ALBA bloc.
Will Russia restore its military bases in Cuba in Lourdes, Matanzas or elsewhere?
There will be no Russian military bases in Cuba any more. First, the infrastructure in Lourdes has been transferred to China that is building there something unknown. Second, there is a commercial harbor and Mariel free economic zone in Matanzas. In general, I think Cuba cannot afford reopening of the Russian military bases, as it will create obstacles to Havana’s aspiration for Western investments, specifically from U.S. and NATO countries. Once our chaotic retreat from our “Caribbean foothold” had deeply affected the island’s economy and the public conscience of the Cubans. I do not think that Fidel’s successors and approximately in a year Raul’s successors too will again risk to lose the benevolence of rich Western and Latin American countries and the anticipated investments in the economy of Cuba from there.
Interviewed by Georgy Kolarov for EADaily