In 1993, Alina Fernández, the estranged daughter of Fidel Castro, left Cuba. She has become a critic of the regime her father built and offers some insight on her uncle Raúl Castro and the state of the Cuban people in this interview in Foreign Policy magazine:
Foreign Policy: Who is Raúl Castro?
Alina Fernández: Raúl Castro has always been the second main character of Cuban politics, of this process called the Cuban Revolution. He has great administrative talent, which he demonstrated clearly in managing the armed forces, the most efficient—and the only—institution in Cuba. He’s not a liberal or democratic person; he’s a communist of the old orthodox school. He’s a man who, for the first time in his life, has the right to make decisions as a first, and not second, in command. He has a very pragmatic attitude. He’s going to make all kinds of economic changes except those that could affect the political system in any way, as evidenced by the fact that he appointed personalities of the oldest guard.
FP: As you said, it’s the first time in his life that Raúl is going to have the chance to decide alone. Is this going to affect his personality and choices?
AF: I know that power changes people. I know because I saw it. There’s almost a physical effect. With power, you can see the person suffering from a dramatic change of personality. But what I can tell you is that the Raúl Castro I know doesn’t suffer from any form of messianic delirium. He’s a very rational, organized, and caring person ... more than anybody else in the family. But at the end of the day, it’s true that power transforms people.
FP: When did you see Raúl last?
AF: In 1989, I started having contact with Cuban dissidents. Obviously, when you are in contact with political opponents to the regime someone built, you automatically become his enemy. I saw him last at that time, and I haven’t seen him since.
FP: Is it hard for you to criticize your own family?
AF: It’s been so long since I made my choice and started speaking this way that I’m now kind of used to it. It’s hard, sure, but there are many hard things in life and I know I’ve got to do this for my country. I want to make up for at least a bit of the great mess my family made in my country. Castro is the reason why 3 million Cubans have to live abroad, to escape on boats. And he’s why I had to run away from my country with my daughter.
FP: Why did things go so wrong? At the beginning, they said the revolution was meant to help the Cuban people.
AF: Everybody keeps on talking about revolution as something ideal, but they simply forget that this was 50 years ago. And now, today, people in Cuba are living in barely passable conditions. They can’t find anything in the market because no clothes, no goods are coming from outside. And the few things you can find are so expensive that no Cuban can afford them. Cubans have been eating, sleeping, and breathing ideology for the last 50 years, but you can’t live off ideology, and Raúl Castro knows it.
[As a critic of the Cuban regime,] you don’t have to speak about freedom or all the other big words. The only thing you should focus on is the total poverty in which Cubans have to live. In Cuba nowadays, there’s a double currency system in which those who only have Cuban pesos have to survive on five or 10 dollars a month. Basically, in Cuba there’s nothing for those who don’t have convertible pesos. Ironically, in the land of revolution, there’s a dramatic social inequality between those who can count on foreigners’ help and money, or work in tourism, and normal Cubans.