It will be business as usual in Cuba after Fidel Castro dies.
Such was the consensus of a panel discussion Monday evening at Nolte Center to discuss Cuba and the United States in a post-Castro era.
The panel comes on the heels of the ailing leader’s surgery for intestinal bleeding two weeks ago.
Community members and students packed in to hear the panel of six experts, professors and activists, most of whom have been to Cuba within the past few months.
While panelists generally expressed admiration for some aspect of the decades-old communist revolution and thought the transition would be a smooth one, all expressed concern over the so-called “Bush Plan,” a plan published by the government delineating a transition after Fidel Castro exits from the scene. Some panelists objected to the plan, as they claimed it would fund so-called “counter-revolutionaries” based in Miami, and could prove divisive to Cuba.
David Samuels, a panelist and University political science professor, said the United States – both the government and its people – should care about what happens in Cuba.
“If a collapse were to happen that would be disastrous for the U.S.,” he said.
Samuels said the U.S. government is preparing for a transition in Cuba that has “already happened,” referring to the handover of power to Castro’s brother Raul Castro and other members of Cuba’s communist government.
“Our government is continuing to ignore this possibility that the regime doesn’t depend on Castro’s authority,” he said.
Sociology professor and panelist Enid Logan said for all its social advances, Cuba still has to come to terms with racism.
Some of the inequalities -class divisions lining up with race – have crept back into Cuba because of the growth of the tourism industry, she said.
Whites and lighter-skinned people have more access to tourism money than darker-skinned Cubans, she said.
Racism might also be reinforced by the sex tourism industry, Logan said, in which foreigners generally have predilections toward darker-skinned women.
August Nimtz, a political science professor and panelist, said Cuba is taking “baby steps” to address current inequalities.
“It’s always important in looking at the revolutionary process to look with a telescope and not a microscope,” he said. “All revolutions carry with them the baggage of the past.”
Black nationalism often was frowned upon in the past as it was seen as divisive, Nimtz said.
But in the past decade Castro began programs trying to draw in the seemingly marginalized population, he said.
In addition to racism and the deepening of class divisions, the U.S. embargo of Cuba was a much-discussed topic.
While some panelists expressed hope that the United States would lift the embargo – ostensibly to see if Cuba would sink or swim on its own terms – others said they didn’t foresee a change in the embargo’s status.
“As long as the revolution is in place, Washington will have no interest in ending the embargo and improving relations with Cuba,” Nimtz said.
Andy Exley, a computer science graduate student attending the event, said he is concerned with the goings-on in Cuba.
“I’m glad to hear that they think there won’t be civil disorder when Castro dies because I don’t wish terrible civil disorder upon anyone, anywhere,” he said. “I don’t want to hear that if Castro died thousands of people would be injured or killed.”