Is Castro dead? Until the Cuban government makes an official announcement, there is no way of knowing for sure.
The Cuban government, however, has very little to gain and a lot to lose if and when they make an official announcement.
As even El Gusano notes, the current state of transition from Fidel to Raul has provoked no visible popular revolt or known palace coup attempts. This is the point at which the state is most vulnerable as well. If Raul is as clever as is claimed, he might just realize that he has hit upon the ultimate method to perpetuate autocratic despotism: rule as regent to an immortal corpse.
Consider it if you will. A dead dictator certainly can’t be assassinated or even really overthrown. What’s to seize from a pile of bones? Raul need not risk a genuine political transition, or take the time to build his own personality cult, or even give a single speech to persuade the masses to accept him as their new surrogate secular deity and adopted father. The corpse already has all that.
Sure, the secret will leak out eventually. But is the notion that Castro is both dead and ruling, really too much doublethink for a people who are told daily they’re drowning in plenty on empty stomachs? The Cuban state has been lying to the people about almost everything for over four decades now. Why should they suddenly lose obedience over this lie? The people might even be eager to consent to the charade. After all, could a dead man’s policies be any worse than a living Castro’s?
The benefits are considerable for Raul. If they were to accept the corpse ruler, communism in Cuba could last for a thousand years, because a dead man cannot die. But also because the nature of that political contract – accepting rule by a dead head of state –is perhaps the ultimate exchange of independence for total social control. For any people, I can think of no greater indignity or humiliation than the realization that they are in fact governed by a nonexistent executive, which an entire government pretends to believe exists. If that is granted, anything can follow.
I heartily agree with Postpolitical: Don’t expect any official notices that Castro’s kicked the bucket for the foreseeable future, folks.
Kim Jong-il is probably watching how it all plays out, too.