URI professor discusses future of Cuba

FILE - In this July 11, 2014 file photo, Cuba's Fidel Castro speaks during a meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin, in Havana, Cuba. Social media around the world have been flooded with rumors of Castro's death, but there was no sign Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, that the reports were true, even if the 88-year-old former Cuban leader has not been seen in public for months. (AP Photo/Alex Castro, File)

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) – Fidel Castro’s death is raising many questions, including what’s next for the nation.

University of Rhode Island professor Rick McIntyre has been to Cuba five times.

He says Americans have a lot of misconceptions about the country, including who will have the biggest impact on its future.

Co-Director of the Cuba program at URI and frequent visitor to the island nation, McIntyre says Castor’s death is just one of many factors that will impact the country’s future.

Another, is the imminent changing of the guard when Castro’s successor and brother Raoul steps down in 2018.

There are younger generations waiting in the wings.

“This will be a real shift. These are people who did not live through the revolution, who did live through the 90’s, which was a really bad period, and so, who I think understand that the reform process has to go forward.” said McIntyre.

The URI professor believes there will be a period of Cuban nationalism, but doesn’t think it will linger long.

“Going down the road though I think the reform process is going to move forward.” said McIntyre, “A lot now depends on the United States. In fact in some ways the election of Trump was more important than the death of Fidel.”

On Monday, President-Elect Donald Trump tweeted “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”

What Trump means specifically is yet to be seen, but McIntyre believes the fate of Cuba is ultimately in the hands of its own people.

McIntyre said, “Those are the people who are going to decide the future of Cuba, not people in Washington DC, not people in Miami.”

McIntyre believes there are business opportunities for America in Cuba and when it comes to Trump, he hopes the businessman in him wins out.

Castro died on November 25 at 90 years old. A nine-day period of mourning is underway.