October 26, 2006:
After about three months as acting chief-of-state, Raul Castro seems to be moving well beyond exercising "provisional" authority. He has recently sacked a cabinet member, and quietly been making nice to the United States. Most recently, Raul acceded to a U.S. Weather Service request for over flight during a hurricane. Despite official hostility between the US and Cuba for nearly 50 years, both countries have maintained numerous unofficial ties. For example, the US Coast Guard regularly informs the Cuban Coast Guard if drug smugglers seem to be heading their way, routinely pops into Cuban ports to return shipwrecked fishermen home, and so forth. Fidel allowed this stuff because it was, well, practical to do so. But Raul seems inclined to extend the "courtesies." Raul appears to have noted surveys conducted by the secret police, which indicate many Cubans are unhappy about the ramshackle economy, and corruption among government officials. Apparently Raul sees an opportunity to ride in, when his brother Fidel dies, as a savior. Raul does not carry all of Fidels political baggage, and could get away with a sharp break from his brothers long standing anti-American stand. A large minority of Cubans have benefited from money sent by kin in the U.S., or from working in the growing tourist industry, and are favorably disposed towards the U.S.m despite decades of anti-American propaganda. Most Cubans know that Castro's "revolution" is a failure, and that there's a better world out there. Raul wants to lead the way to a better future, before that future puts him in front of a firing squad of angry Cubans.