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August 12, 2006
Where's -- And Who's -- Raul-do, Day 12

The continuing disappearance of the Castro Boys would have put them on milk cartons in any other region, but Cuba continues to insist that all is well and that we stop looking behind the green curtain. Granma, the regime's media mouthpiece, even reports that Fidel has returned to work on a part-time basis from his hospital room, walking and talking and recovering nicely, even though Cuba has yet to show any footage of its Commandante and his little brother still hasn't made a public appearance since having presidential powers transferred to him almost two weeks ago.

So what kind of man is Raul, anyway, besides apparently suffering from almost-terminal shyness? CQ reader Matt C refers us to an explanation and history of Dear Placeholder in The Week Magazine. The leader of Cuban's armed forces comes across as a complete creation of his brother, a man who learned cruelty at the feet of the master -- but who has learned to embrace it since. He may have better connections to the Cuban military than Fidel, which means that a coup would be very unlikely while Raul is still alive.

Here are a few excerpts of The Week's profile:

[W]hile he lacks Fidel’s ability to inspire, he very much shares his belief in Cuba’s communist revolution, and has spent his life loyally managing his brother’s regime from behind the scenes. “If the Cuban Revolution can be considered an ongoing drama,” an exiled Cuban intelligence officer told author Brian Latell in his 2005 book After Fidel, “then Fidel must be thought of as its director and Raúl its producer.” ...

Raúl was very instrumental in turning Cuba into the Western hemisphere’s first Marxist state. It was Raúl who first befriended the guerrilla leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara in 1955 and brought him into Cuba’s revolutionary camp. He also enlisted the support of Soviet KGB agent Nikolai Leonov, whom he had met during his Eastern Bloc travels. After the revolution of 1959, Raúl was able to use this contact to arrange crucial Soviet economic and military support. When he visited Moscow in July 1962, he personally secured the deployment of medium-range ballistic missiles—an action that precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis three months later and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. ...

Raúl has a lot of blood on his hands. In November 1956, Fidel tested him by demanding that he murder a fellow rebel whose loyalty was in question; Raúl did so without hesitating. After Batista fell, Raúl presided over the execution of 100 of Batista’s military officers, personally participating in some of the firing squads. Over the years, he has played a major role in the regime’s ruthless persecution of dissidents and homosexuals. But in 1989, when Fidel ordered him to kill his best friend, Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, Raúl broke down and wept. Their sister Juanita (who had a falling out with Fidel and went into exile) blames Fidel for turning Raúl from a mild and generous boy into a “hard, even grim” strongman.

Read the entire primer. If Raul still lives, he is more than capable of continuing the current regime while his brother recuperates. Even if Fidel dies, his strong alliances within the Cuban military would likely keep him from facing the firing squads of a new revolutionary government. In fact, the Castro grip on power may have more of Raul's hand than Fidel's even under normal circumstances, from this profile's perspective. If Raul is gone, however, all bets are off.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 12, 2006 9:13 AM

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