Leadership and Democracy LabWestern Social Science

Implications of Fidel Castro’s Death

Team Leader: Mary Peplinski

Primary Author: Isabel Angulo

Key Words: Political transition, diplomatic connections, Restructuring US-Cuban relations  

On November 25th, 2016, influential leader Fidel Castro, the former prime minister and President of Cuba, died. As a commemoration to the leader of Cuba’s socialist revolution, the country observed a nine day period of mourning. The former dictator, who had become severely ill ten years before his death, bestowed the power of governance to his younger brother Raul Castro. However, Fidel Castro continued to be a symbolic figure of the Cuban revolution even after he transferred his governing powers. Since his appointment as Cuban president in 2008, Raul Castro has introduced reforms that have made significant changes to Cuba’s economic sector despite his late-brothers sentiments. For this reason, the death of Fidel Castro will have minimal impact on Cuba’s political and economic institutions.

When Raul Castro assumed presidential power tensions raised between political leaders in Washington. United States officials insisted that the transition of power was an attempt to prolong the dictatorship of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) and confine political power to the Castro family. However, Raul Castro launched a variety of diplomatic initiatives that have enhanced economic and tourism opportunities for the nation. Tourism opportunities in Cuba have flourished since Fidel Castro left political office as President Barack Obama alleviated restrictions on travel to Cuba.

The increased traffic between the United States and Cuba has enhanced the likelihood of an influx of American tourism dollars. The renewal of diplomatic connections between the United States and Cuba is not likely to be drastically impacted by Fidel Castro’s death. Instead, the improving relations may be contingent on the Cuban government meeting the American government’s request for political alteration and economic liberalization

Fidel Castro’s death is unlikely to have a significant impact on the Cuban tourism industry, other than the nine-day mourning period, held out of respect, in which music and alcohol were restricted. His death has come at a time where the future regarding Cuban and American political relations is uncertain. American President Donald Trump has indicated that after the death of Fidel Castro, his administration will ensure that Cuban people can obtain prosperity and freedom.

However, President Trump has reportedly threatened to dismantle the efforts by the Obama administration to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba. The potential for restructuring political relations between United States and Cuba is closely related to Trump’s policies rather than the death of Fidel Castro. Trump has threatened to implement a political transition, as he plans to renegotiate the logistics of the reconciliation between Cuba and the United States. He has repeatedly disapproved the agreements made by the Obama administration to re-establish trade with Cuba.

It is a delicate time for United States and Cuban relations. Although, the death of Fidel Castro does not impose fundamental changed to Cuba’s political structure, it is expected that there will be a shift in political power in 2018. Raul Castro has indicated that he plans to retire at the end of his second term in office. This could lead to more changes in Cuban policy. Political analysist Roberto Álvarez Quiñones believes that a strong candidate for the head of the Cuban Communist Party is General Álvaro López Miera. López Miera is currently the head of the General staff and the deputy minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba.

Transitions in head of state for both Cuba and the United States could impact the tourism industry. However, the death of Fidel Castro has not significantly impacted the Cuban economy or the employment sector. Raul Castro’s has proved that the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) will maintain a stronghold over the country’s trade and employment, which are highly interconnected to Cuban tourism. Therefore, for the time being we should not expect any drastic transformations as a result of Castro’s death.