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A year following the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the relationship between the U.S. and the island nation has dramatically changed. To discuss this and more, President of the Inter-American Dialogue, Michael Shifter spoke with CGTN’s Susan Roberts.

Comments by Michael Shifter:

“The internal politics of Cuba are pretty opaque. It is hard to know exactly what is going on in the inner circle at the highest levels of the Cuban government, but it seems clear that Raul Castro will step aside and there will be a new President, most likely [Miguel] Díaz-Canel, the current Vice-President. But Raul Castro will still retain a lot of power as head of the communist party. How much he gives up, actually, we’ll have to see. Cuba is going through a hard time, I think they are preparing for continuity, I don’t think we should expect any dramatic changes, but there may be changes on the margins.”

“The communist party is the only party [in Cuba], so this is the chief mechanism for making policy decisions, and so [Raul Castro] will not give up his authority and his power completely, but Díaz-Canel or somebody else, but most likely Díaz-Canel will be the new President. That new President will be able to take a new direction, and this will be the first time ever that there won’t be a Castro as the head of the country.”

“Raul Castro has that decision to make – how much power does he want to give up to Díaz-Canel or how much does he want to retain. There is going to be a testing period for Díaz-Canel to see to what extent he really he is effective, he is committed to the revolution, and policies will continue to move forward.”

“The economy [in Cuba] is stagnant and there are some economists that say there could be negative growth next year. The Venezuelan crisis has affected Cuba to a large extent, there have been hurricanes in Cuba, the Trump administration clearly hasn’t helped since things have cooled downed and the kind of investment that seemed very promising during the Obama years has been halted. If no investment comes in, it is difficult to see how Cuba could grow. It is in a very troubled state right now.”

“I think Cubans want the reforms to continue that were initiated under Raul Castro. There was some hope and promise that they would succeed but they have been stalled and it has been very slow, and I think Cubans want to see things moving forward.”

“There is the political side and the economic side. I think most Cubans worry more about the economic side, they are not living in good conditions, and there could be laws that could change this and open things up, laws that would make it easier for those that want to invest to invest in Cuba. […] Political reform is going to be extremely gradual and I think it is going to be over the longer term.”

Watch the full interview here