He turned 80 recently. And however much an icon he is for Cubans, he is also mortal, meaning Fidel Castro will not live forever.

Being the longest reigning ‘benovalent’ dictator (since 1959) in the world, being in the news off and on whenever there was (another) quarrel with its neighbour the USA, the question arises, “Will life change for the Cubans after Fidel?”

From a Cultural perspective: No.
Here´s why:
First of all Cuba is a country with a steep hierarchical society (high Powerdistance). This means that centralised power and institutions probably are there to stay. Since 1925 Fidel Castro is already the third dictator of Cuba. Their total period of reign covers 61 years! This means in a period of 100 years (1906 – 2006) only 39 years Cuba wasn’t controlled by dictators. Of which more than 10 years (1933 -1944) Cuba had a number of “puppet presidents” behind which the strong real power holders stood. And all the elected presidents had short periods of reign. There was in most cases some kind of ‘scandal’ that led to their fall. In other words society is controlled by a few people, high up in the existing power pyramid or they gain and establish central power for a long period through up rise, “coups d’etat”, revolution, etc.

Second, Cuba has a collectivistic society (low score on Individualism). This means that there are so called in groups and (implicitly) out groups. The current rulers (Fidel is not alone, he has a family, typically a brother who most likely will succeed him) are such an in group. Not necessarily limited to the Castro family, more so like a circle around the power holders. If you do not belong to that circle, you belong to the out group. Plus, every in-group has certain (unwritten) rules that the group-members should follow in exchange for a powerful position, protection and a comfortable life.

Third, there is open questioning if one can actually change the current socio-political situation in Cuba. In other words people are uncertain if any changes will/can succeed. They are somewhat fatalistic. This is the link to the third cultural dimension: Uncertainty avoidance. The internal need for structure, rules, and stability.

Change of power outside the existing in-group will only take place through revolution. And the new power holders would come from the ranks of present Cubans living in the USA, they would establish again a centrally controlled power system.

So, No, Cuba will not change as a society where power is centralized, and where there are a few “haves” and many “have-not´s”.

Chris is passionate about Cultural Differences. He has been helping organizations save time and money when they work Internationally for the last 20+ years. While doing this he had the fortunate opportunity to hold lectures, workshops, and consulting projects on this subject World Wide. It has made him understand his own culture much better and appreciate the differences around the world.
His education is in Organisational Psychology and he has lived in the USA, the Netherlands, and currently lives in Belgium.

Chris Smit
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