When Fidel Castro stepped down in 2008, handing over power officially to his brother Raúl, few were surprised. But the effortless manner of the transition caught everyone off guard: After nearly a half-century as Cuba's strongman leader, Fidel largely disappeared from view, popping up only occasionally to prove his good health or comment on international developments. Ann Louise Bardach, a journalist who has spent the last two decades following the ins and outs of Cuban politics, spending hours with the Castro family over that time, may have been the person best-placed in the world to chronicle the transition, which Fidel himself had prophesied to her years earlier in an interview.
Bardach's recently released Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana, and Washington is now the authoritative book about Cuba under Raúl. She spoke to Foreign Policy about how the two brothers differ, Cuba's dependence on Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, and why there's no end in sight to the Castro era.
Foreign Policy: I want to start by asking about Raúl Castro. What distinguishes his leadership from that of his brother?
Ann Louise Bardach: He is a below-the-radar guy. As much as Fidel craved the limelight, Raúl eschews the limelight. After the revolution, Fidel told Raúl that he wasn't much of a speaker, and so Fidel got [his brother] a speech teacher. But it never took. Raúl sort of delights in having almost a charisma deficit. It may be for the Cuban people that they've had too much charisma, so I can't say that it's to his [detriment]. The Cuban people may have heard all they need to hear for quite a while.
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Ann Louise Bardach is pretty awesome--one of the best fairly objective (not super biased either pro/anti Castro) and knowledgeable sources about Cuba/the Castros, IMO. And shit, Cuba's more Stalinist than I imagined (according to some of the things mentioned in this article) D: