Ian Vásquez, director of the Cato Institute's Project on Global Economic Liberty, says that Fidel Castro's transfer of power to his brother Raul does not guarantee the end of the dictatorship in Cuba, although it assures political uncertainty. "It is anybody's guess, including within Cuba, whether a transition on the island means only a transition to new leadership or a transition, however uneven, to a different kind of regime," says Vasquez. "If Castro does not survive or is too incapacitated to rule, perhaps the most likely scenario under Raul Castro is a regime willing to compromise on some socialist principles to placate various constituencies, including the military, which is interested in business activity, and the general population where there is widespread discontent with the status quo.
"Once such cracks appear in the system, it will be difficult to hold Cuban socialism together. But we can be sure that the regime's top people have closely studied transition experiences since the fall of the Berlin Wall and will do what they can to avoid losing power or endangering themselves personally. The Cuban regime can rely on one factor that Eastern and Central European countries could not count on in 1989: Cuba has a financial benefactor interested in propping up socialism -- Venezuela. The role of Venezuela may be key in a post-Fidel Cuba. Washington should avoid over-reacting and let political developments play themselves out, including any tensions that could develop between Caracas and a Havana that has long prided itself -- however inaccurately -- on its fierce independence. "