The critical challenge for Raul Castro will be to balance the need to improve the economy and satisfy the needs of the population with maintaining political control. Too rapid economic reforms may lead to an unraveling of political control, a fact feared by Raul, the military, and other allies keen on remaining in power. A partial solution may be to provide more consumer goods to the population, including food, but without any structural economic changes.

Similarly, any serious overtures to the U.S. do not seem likely in the near future. It would mean the rejection of one of Fidel Castro’s main legacies: anti-Americanism. It may create uncertainty within the government, leading to frictions and factionalism. It would require the weakening of Cuba’s anti-American alliance with radical regimes in Latin America and elsewhere.

Raul is unwilling to renounce the support and close collaboration of countries like Venezuela, China, Iran and Russia in exchange for an uncertain relationship with the United States. At a time that anti-Americanism is strong in Latin America and the Middle East, Raul’s policies are more likely to remain closer to regimes that are not particularly friendly to the United States and that demand little from Cuba in return for generous aid.