Cablegate Chronicles: Raul Castro the Family Man

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The Cuban regime reacts to the death of Vilma Espin, wife of acting Cuban dictator Raul Castro.

FROM: HAVANA, CUBA
TO: STATE DEPARTMENT
DATE: JUNE 19, 2007
CLASSIFICATION: CONFIDENTIAL
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¶2. (C) Espin has been terminally ill for the past two years and out of public view. Her death serves as a dry run for the other much-more-anticipated deaths in the ruling family, in terms of logistics and choreographed funeral activities. Havana has some roads closed off on June 19, most likely in areas through which the funeral procession will pass. Remembrance activities have been scheduled in various provinces around the country, along with a full-scale propaganda barrage. The message beamed out to Cuba and the world is that Vilma Espin was a heroic and loyal follower of Fidel Castro and the revolution, and only secondarily Raul Castro's wife and member of the ruling family.

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-------- COMMENT:

-------- ¶3. (C) Although we doubt Fidel Castro cares very much about the loss of Vilma Espin, or much else beyond his own personal legacy, we expect that her death will have a significant impact on Raul Castro. Yes, both Fidel and Raul Castro are mass murderers and cruel leaders, but Raul always has had a parallel reputation as a family man. He and Vilma Espin were, much more than Fidel and any of his partners, the ones concerned about the Castro family as a family. Some reporting from when Fidel Castro became incapacitated last July indicated that Raul Castro suffered from depression, caused by the parallel terminal illnesses of his brother and wife, and much more the latter than the former. For long stretches of time he stayed completely out of public view. Raul Castro and Vilma Espin were reported to have been estranged over the years, but not entirely. Raul Castro could lose his bearings over Espin's death, and return to that same kind of private detachment, leaving Cuba even more leaderless than has been the case during the past few months as Fidel Castro has become more and more active.

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