A Cuba without Fidel could evolve gradually toward an economic and political transition. Initially, that transition would unravel under the Development Plan’s guidelines, announced during the 7th Communist Party Congress and intended until 2030. Once Raúl Castro relinquishes the presidency, the process could accelerate. A Trump administration could alter these plans, either with a costly and fruitless reality show (a return to the Cold War and to U.S.-Cuban conflict) or with a real politik of greater positive consequence than that of Obama’s in normalizing relations between the two countries.
My grandmother said it best when my mom told her what had happened. “Me siento extraña,” she said. “I feel strange.” For an entire generation on the island there is no reference point for change. For an entire generation outside the island, there is no reference point for our lives without Fidel, that real and imaginary figure, reshaped in Miami – Enemy #1. No wonder we spin, and spin. The hope is that once we stop spinning, we’ll still be able to find our North Star.
The legacy of Obama might not be completely undone. But it will be redirected, and the pace of change may slow. Fidel’s death makes things easier—he has moved from contemporary to historical presence. But Cuba and the U.S. still speak quite different political languages, and their objectives for Cuba are quite different: well-managed economic contributions for the Cubans, and political transition for the United States. There is a small space where their interests converge. But there are still many people fighting old ghosts on both sides of the Florida Straits, and it is possible that even this small space may be appropriated by those with a substantial interest in preserving the past.