Where Fidel Castro is known as the publicly charismatic
visionary, his younger brother Raul is the technician, the talent
scout - the consummate manager.
Fidel sees China's gradual shift toward free-market reform as a
betrayal of socialism. Raul, the pragmatist, sees it as an economic
reality, which someday may have to be implemented in Cuba.
As second-in-command, Raul has only recently emerged from the
shadows, but experts say the two brothers have balanced their
strengths and weaknesses since they plotted the Cuban Revolution of
Now that Fidel has handed temporary control to Raul as he
recuperates from gastrointestinal surgery as announced Monday night,
analysts are weighing the kind of regime that his 75-year-old
brother would form while at Cuba's helm.
So long as Raul is a provisional leader, no one expects anything
but the status quo. Even in the long-term, many say his economic
instincts and organizational knack won't amount to much in the face
of domestic and foreign pressure.
But should Raul eventually become the permanent leader of Cuba
after Fidel's death, some analysts say the less-iconic younger
brother could ultimately start to build consensus and open up the
country's economy - allowing greater numbers of Cubans to set up
restaurants, rent out rooms to tourists, and sell farm products to
local markets. Some believe this could also start to ease
hostilities with the United States.
"After Raul had a chance to put his own stamp on things, I would
expect better relations with the US," says Brian Latell, a former
CIA agent who authored a biography of Raul called "After Fidel."
"That would be something that would reflect the overwhelming desire
of the Cuban people. In other words, it would be a politically smart
Over the years, Raul has steadily taken on more state
responsibilities. But he does not share widespread support among the
general population, experts say, because they view him as brutal,
after the hard line he is believed to have taken with his enemies in
the early days of the revolution. Most of his support comes from the
military, which he has run for over 45 years.
"He does not occupy the same place in the historiography of the
Cuban Revolution as his brother," says Mark Falcoff, author of
"Cuba, the Morning After." "But you don't have to be popular to be a
Raul's economic vision
Raul's economic vision is where most see room for change after
Fidel. The military has largely been handling tourism, which
requires foreign investment.
When the subsidies of the Soviet Union disappeared with its
collapse in 1991, it was Raul who urged the opening up of incentives
to farmers to be able to sell surplus goods to local markets,
reforms which have been scaled back in recent years. Many say he
would likely reinstitute and expand such measures.
"If Raul Castro introduces some sort of reforms or openings, even
those that maybe are not that large," says Ian Vasquez, director of
the Project on Global Economic Liberty at the libertarian CATO
Institute, "those might be cracks in the system that are difficult
to control, and may make it hard to hold Cuban socialism together."
This movement could be meaningless for better US-Cuba ties,
however, if the US continues to refuse to deal with any member of
the Castro team. A report issued recently on US plans in a post-
Fidel Cuba pledged $80 million to bolster Cuban democracy. "Raul is
perfectly capable of bringing about some change," says Wayne Smith,
a former US diplomat in Havana. …