Will 2013 Bring New Hope To Cuban-American Relations?

Jan 2, 2013

The New Year marked 54 years since the Castro Revolution in Cuba. Since then, there have been 11 U.S. Presidents. Will 2013 finally be a year of major change on the island? Will Cuban-American relations improve?

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro and his successor and brother, Raul Castro
Credit Archivo Invasores III

We brought together two experts to look into their crystal balls, El Nuevo Herald reporter Juan Tamayo and Dr. Andy Gomez of the University of Miami's Institute of Cuban-American studies.

Both agree that nothing will change without the release of American  contractor Alan Gross, who has now been held in Cuba as an accused spy for more than three years.

While some economic reforms have taken effect, Raul Castro remains in power as president. 

Despite continuous rumors of his death, former President Fidel Castro remains alive. Now that he is reelected in the U. S., will President Barack Obama make any more overtures to the island?

Gomez remains skeptical. “It all depends this coming year on what the Cuban government is going do to. I think the move is on their part.”

Tamayo agrees. “The continued holding of Alan Gross indicates that Raul Castro isn’t really interested in paying the price for improved Cuban-American relations right now.”

The impetus for change may not come from Cuba at all. It may come from the country’s number one ally, Venezuela.

With leftist President Hugo Chavez's health again in question, and with $10 billion in annual subsidies sent from Venezuela to Cuba, is his survival essential to the survival of the Castro brothers?

“Will Venezuela continue to provide that kind of support?” asks Dr. Gomez. “If not, it would create a bigger problem for Cuba internally.”

Tamayo believes that 81-year-old Raul Castro isn’t going anywhere as President, but doubts remain about his power. “Yeah, Raul is the ruler," he said. "There’s no question about who rules Cuba. There’s a lot of questions about what orders are obeyed.”

And what about Fidel? The 86-year-old former leader continues to operate in the shadows. But has he lost any of the influence he once had?

“Are the Cuban people ready to go from Fidelismo to Raulismo?” asks Gomez.

He believes that recent economic reforms on the island allowing some Cubans to own their own businesses were from the hand of Raul, who is finally making his mark, five years after taking the presidency from his brother.

The bigger question, say Gomez, is whether Cuba’s younger population still believes in the 54-year-old revolution, or is tired of the same old leaders, who are trying desperately to inject new life in to an aging regime.