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'Todo cambia' - everything is changing in Cuba. With Fidel Castro transformed into an icon of the Revolucion by his illness, it is "the military that has taken power”, almost silently. With the endorsement of the Lider Maximo's brother, Raul. A qualified and independent source from Havana tells this. “No coup, not even lurking; the FAR, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, have simply secured control of the country's economy.” How? “Through the Enterprise Management Group, directed by Colonel Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez Callejas, Raul Castro's son-in-law,” given that he is married to one of his daughters, even though, WikiLao's source reports, "it seems the couple has some disagreements." Even tourism in Cuba has ended up, in great measure, in the hands of the military: thanks, for example, to the management of the Gaviota group.

As things stand today, WikiLao is told, “30-40 percent of the economy is controlled by the FAR,” which are working to further expand their influence in the country.

This soft siege of power was carefully planned, as befits a communist-inspired regime. In November 1997, Raul Castro was sent by his brother to Beijing to study the Chinese development model. In the following months the key advisers to Zhu Rongji, the brain behind the economy of the giant Asian nation, visited Havana numerous times. Their ideas made an impression on Raul and on the heads of the Cuban military. Less so, according to reports, on Fidel, who apparently was in favor of the militarization of the island's businesses, but not of the injections of mercantism suggested by the Chinese.

Raul Castro – closely tied to the FAR, having been the Minister of the Armed Forces for decades - waited for his time to come, preparing the terrain for the new course with a continuous and constant placement of men in uniform at the head of all offices. In exchange, he accepted (and made others accept) drastic cuts to the military machine.
At the height of the cold war, there were 300 thousand soldiers in Cuba, and in an emergency three times as many could quickly be deployed. Today, there are 60 thousand, with obsolete arsenals that nobody is planning to modernize in any significant way.

The FAR who are faithful to Raul, have therefore limited their projections: they maintain contacts of a certain importance with very few foreign governments (Venezuela, for example) and they collaborate pragmatically with the United States on drug trafficking and migration flows. For the rest, they are able to improve their national prestige by running the civil protection operations when needed, and they maintain a complex espionage system, which – it is reported - “continues to be one of the pillars of the regime." On the other hand, in the view of WikiLao's source, the FAR have de facto freed themselves from Raul Castro too, in preparation for what will be the country of tomorrow, which will probably be entrusted to one of them (Generals Leopoldo Cionta Frias and Alvaro Lopez Miera have been named as possible future leaders of Cuba). "Though they are still busy checking on dissidents," explains the source, "the Revolutionary Armed Forces seem to have sent various messages making it clear that they would not partcipate in any form of violent repression of potential mass protests.”

Among the predictions: the coming of a new form of militarized semi-capitalism, supported in some way also by the Church; the first business leaders will come precisely from the ranks of the FAR. In any case, things will never be the same in Cuba, a country that has, quietly, already shed its skin.

(Foto: REUTERS/Desmond Boylan)

May 13, 2013