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September 18, 2007

Alternative futures in Cuba

Political transitions are highly uncertain events. For example, in 1988, the conventional wisdom was that communist rule in Eastern Europe was entrenched and would last into the indefinite future. The right question to ask about Cuba is not what will happen but rather what could happen. The latter question implies more than one possible future scenario. In this article, I construct and discuss alternative futures in Cuba after Fidel Castro passes away. The possibility of a transition to democracy in Cuba depends mainly on three causal factors.
By Juan J. López
 

Political transitions are highly uncertain events. For example, in 1988, the conventional wisdom was that communist rule in Eastern Europe was entrenched and would last into the indefinite future. The right question to ask about Cuba is not what will happen but rather what could happen. The latter question implies more than one possible future scenario. In this article, I construct and discuss alternative futures in Cuba after Fidel Castro passes away. The possibility of a transition to democracy in Cuba depends mainly on three causal factors: (1) what the Cuban government does, (2) what the United States government does, and (3) what the citizens of Cuba do. Each of these three variables might develop in ways that could foster or hinder the likelihood of a transition. A matrix can be built with the three causal factors on one axis and the ways they may vary on the other. To generate alternative futures, one would combine variations in each of the three factors.

Using this methodology, I constructed four alternative futures for Cuba: best, better, worse, and worst. There can be more than four possible scenarios, but I will limit the analysis here to four. What is “best” is defined as a transition that leads to a stable, high-quality democracy with a well-performing market economy.

About the author:

Juan J. López has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago. Among his scholarly publications is Democracy Delayed: The Case of Castro’s Cuba (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002). He currently teaches in the Department of Political Science at Florida International University. He has taught in the Department of Political Science of the University of Illinois at Chicago and in the College of the University of Chicago. He has been Director of Research in the Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University and a visiting scholar at the Center for Latin American Studies of the University of Chicago. He is the recipient of numerous awards, grants, and fellowships. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Chicago Center on Democracy of the University of Chicago. Dr. Lopez has been frequently invited to speak at professional conferences and in the news media.

Juan J. López
Juan J. López
Doctor en Ciencia Política por la Universidad de Chicago. Entre sus publicaciones académicas se encuentra Democracy Delayed: The Case of Castro’s Cuba (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002). Actualmente dicta clases en el Departamento de Ciencia Política de la Universidad Internacional de la Florida. Enseñó en el Departamento de Ciencia Política de la Universidad de Illinois en Chicago y en la Universidad de Chicago.