Some analysts say Raúl could open up the country's economy and start to ease hostilities with the United States.
Where Fidel Castro is known as the publicly charismatic visionary, his younger brother Raúl is the technician, the talent scout – the consummate manager.
Fidel sees China's gradual shift toward free-market reform as a betrayal of socialism. Raúl, the pragmatist, sees it as an economic reality, which someday may have to be implemented in Cuba.
As second-in-command, Raúl has only recently emerged from the shadows, but experts say the two brothers have balanced their strengths and weaknesses since they plotted the Cuban Revolution of 1959.
Now that Fidel has handed temporary control to Raúl as he recuperates from gastrointestinal surgery as announced Monday night, analysts are weighing the kind of regime that his 75-year-old brother would form while at Cuba's helm.
So long as Raúl is a provisional leader, no one expects anything but the status quo. Even in the long-term, many say his economic instincts and organizational knack won't amount to much in the face of domestic and foreign pressure.
But should Raúl eventually become the permanent leader of Cuba after Fidel's death, some analysts say the less-iconic younger brother could ultimately start to build consensus and open up the country's economy – allowing greater numbers of Cubans to set up restaurants, rent out rooms to tourists, and sell farm products to local markets. Some believe this could also start to ease hostilities with the United States.
"After Raúl had a chance to put his own stamp on things, I would expect better relations with the US," says Brian Latell, a former CIA agent who authored a biography of Raúl called "After Fidel." "That would be something that would reflect the overwhelming desire of the Cuban people. In other words, it would be a politically smart move."
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