The sudden death last week of Cuban Gen. Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja only adds to the number of questions about the stability and durability of the communist tyranny in Cuba. First, in the context in which his death occurred; and second, because of what López-Calleja represented for the power and continuity of the regime.
Cuba’s communist regime seems to be a ship sailing without direction, a ship without a helmsman lording over a people tired of waiting for so many unfulfilled promises.
On July 11, 2021, Cubans came out on the streets en masse to demand their freedom, and they have continued to make shows of public resistance since then, despite the repression and sentences — totaling thousands of years — imposed on hundreds of young people just for protesting.
The regime lacks basic responses to its collapse in every sense; collapse generated by the communist policies imposed on the Cuban people by blood and fire for more than 60 years.
Despite the serious threats to the nation — its negative birth rate; a high suicide rate; the mass exodus of thousands; the breakdown of the national energy industry; the deterioration of the countryside’s productive capacity; and the literal collapse of urban infrastructure — the regime jumps from one unreal slogan to another, followed by a chain of failed improvisations.
Within that chaos, López-Calleja — who, according to state media, died of a heart attack on July 1 — was the severe face of the true state administrator. Under him, Cuba could sink into the sea because of the lack of freedoms and rational public investment.
Still, López-Calleja was the symbol of a machinery of power that continued to build hotels to lure tourists for the exclusive benefit of an oligarchy hidden behind the socialist lie. For example, how many hospitals or schools were built or repaired with this money? How many roads paved? How much did worker wages increase with the millions that went to the coffers of GAESA — an enterprise controlled by the military with interests in Cuba’s tourism, financial investment and import/export sectors — for North American cruise tourism?
López-Calleja seemed to be the increasingly visible shadow of Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel, perhaps even his possible successor. Recently, the general appeared more frequently public, including internationally. His career had been characterized both by low media visibility and absolute submission to the Castro family.
Relatively young at 62 — compared to the 80-something hierarchy of real power in the Castro regime — López-Calleja simultaneously represented the financial stability of the dictatorship as well as the generational change of the status quo.
His sudden departure from Cuba’s power structure brings consequences deeper than would the death of Raúl Castro himself, whose demise is expected by inexorable biological mandate. López-Calleja was to be the structural extension and the newer blood of a spent dictatorship.
Moreover, López-Calleja’s death occurs within the strange sequence of deaths of high-ranking Cuban military between July 11, 2021, and the present.
By our count, more than 23 high-ranking military members — most of them generals and colonels — have died, some suspiciously, one after another. This seems unusual, especially since the number of communist civilian bosses has not increased within the island’s power structure.
What can this mean in such a hermetic and totalitarian regime, where the slightest perceived disloyalty has been harshly punished historically?
The crisis of tyranny is real and absolute in Cuba. The death of López-Calleja may add to it.
More than ever, the strongest initiative of change is in the popular resistance, in the unity of the opposition inside and outside the island, in tracing a clear path of transition to return Cuba to the people and in international support for this process.
Orlando Gutiérrez-Boronat is the coordinator of the Cuban Resistance Assembly in Miami.