Swapping places of power

The Associated Press is reporting that 79-year-old Cuban President Fidel Castro underwent intestinal surgery and temporarily relinquished power to his younger brother Raul, his 75-year-old heir apparent.  It is unknown whether Castro is critically ill or whether he will recover and reassume power.  Eventually Castro will permanently step down–or die in office–and Cuba will name a new leader.  When Castro resigns as Cuban President and head of the Cuban Communist Party, Cuba could very well follow the precedent set by North Korea and name a family member to succeed him.  North Korea became the first communist nation to engage in dynastic succession by transferring power from Kim Il Sung to his son, Kim Jong Il.  Raul is his brother’s most likely successor.  Some suggest that Raul, at 75, is too old to be president and would have a brief tenure as president.  From a democratic point of view, a brief length of tenure would be a welcome change for a communist regime.  Like the selection of 79-year-old Pope Benedict XVI to succeed Pope John Paul II, it is likely that Raul will succeed his brother in spite of his age.  No one really knows what will happen in Cuban politics after Fidel Castro dies, but President Raul would be much more likely to continue his brother’s policies than other potential candidates.
Kim Jong Il’s son Kim Jong Chol is currently considered the leading candidate to succeed his father as leader of North Korea.  In a fit of futile "what if," and "what will never be" musing, I pondered what would happen if Raul Castro and Kim Jong Chol decided to swap power and take over as presidents of each other’s countries.  I thought about what would happen if the new leaders of two very different, relatively isolated communist nations swapped power and suddenly became the ruler in each other’s countries.  Aside from having to learn Korean and Spanish, Raul Castro and Kim Jong Chol might actually infuse reform into their newly adopted nations.  While they might not last long as leaders, because they would lack the support apparatuses necessary to sustain their regimes, they might just achieve international legitimacy and prompt their countries to reform.  Of course, this is all an exercise in futility.  It is indisputable that Cuba would develop a mighty fine kimchi and ginseng industry, and North Korea would field one heck of a baseball team and start manufacturing cigars.

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