Given all these factors, it's difficult to see how The System can survive the coming year, much less ensure its long-term viability. But it's worth noting that the regime in Havana has long demonstrated its skill in surviving even the most unfavorable predictions. After all, the Cuban economy has been in a state of crisis for the last 20 years. One could even say that our leaders find tension soothing and perform better under emergency conditions than under prosperity. Material needs can also serve to paralyze people who must spend hours waiting for a bus or standing on line to buy a couple of pounds of chicken instead of organizing.
Those expecting to see Tahrir Square break out in central Havana in 2013 will probably be disappointed. Cuba's social explosion may end up looking like an emigration explosion. Given a choice to take to the streets to overthrow the government or to throw themselves into the sea on a flimsy raft to get to Florida, millions of Cubans prefer the latter. Our frustration is more likely to be observed in the lines outside embassies waiting to get visas than in mass demonstrations.
Of course, The System often seems to be collapsing in on itself without any help from crowds in the street. Like a nauseating stench, corruption is permeating every aspect of today's Cuba. Government workers are increasingly helping themselves to the till in state-owned enterprises -- without doing so, the majority of Cuban families couldn't make it to the end of the month. Money is constantly leaking "out the back door" via adulterated accounts, falsified production figures, and the illicit enrichment of administrative cadres.
After decades of denying that corruption exists in our country, the government has come to recognize that it has reached unsustainable levels. Raúl has launched a crusade against all these practices, though obviously it doesn't include an audit of corruption at the highest levels.
Still, the campaign to eliminate corruption is starting to touch powerful "chiefs" -- people who have lived a life of luxury for too long. Thus, the general-president wins new enemies among his own ranks every step of the way, enemies that include those in military uniforms. Could Raúl's moves provoke a reaction?
Even numerology seems to be against the regime. One less tangible factor you will rarely read about in the press, but which is very much on the minds of the fortune-teller's clients outside the Virgin of Regla temple, is that cursed number 13 -- identified by many with key moments in Fidel's life, from the date of his birth, Aug. 13, 1926, to the same day in 1993 when he was forced to dollarize the Cuban economy. Given his delicate health, one can expect that the coming years will bring Cubans the news of his "grand funeral" -- an event, at this point, with connotations more symbolic than political.
For now, we Cubans are clinging to our supernatural predictions, looking to what the oracles and fortune-tellers can divine from their decks of cards and thrown shells. But the clients are starting to get impatient.