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Castro succeeds Castro and “gatopardism” prevails

castrocastro1.jpgThe expectations that Fidel Castro’s resignation generated throughout the world are vanishing. Nothing augurs profound change, at least not in line with the change that world leaders are looking for. It looks like the day in which Cuba opens itself up to democracy, holds debates regarding the rights of the people and is incorporated into the global economy is far away, the author assures.

(From Santiago) UNDER THE HOT SUN typical of the island in this era, a very old Fidel Castro, with failing health and apparently the same lucidity and vehemence that has characterized him for decades, sat down at his desk during the afternoon of February 18, just as he had promised three days earlier. He wrote like he has always done, except that on this occasion his text would take on the character of a dividing milestone in the course of the history of both Cuba and the West.

The next day, the pro-government newspaper ran this on its front page: Message from the commander in chief, and in its first paragraph this was written: …I will not aspire to, nor will I accept—I repeat—I will not aspire to nor accept, the position of president of the council of state and commander in chief…, which then proceeded to circulate throughout media sources around the globe.

Many people stopped at this mere fragment and did not find read the following sentence: …I am not saying goodbye to you…

AS MANY VIEWPOINTS AS OPINION HOLDERS

“Hugo Chavez categorically said that nothing will change, because only united (at least he and Cuba) will they come out ahead; with respect to Fidel Castro he energetically expressed that he will continue to be his guiding light” The principal leaders and politicians of the Western world could not keep from referring to the incident. In the United States, the presidential candidates (immersed in their intense campaigns) found themselves in an awkward situation, since any inopportune or imprecise opinion in regards to their declared position could cost them important votes.

The word change rang loud and clear: some spoke of change towards a true democracy, and others said that free elections should be held, attempting to cloak in a euphemism their feeling that none of the elections has been free and informed like those in developed nations. On the island, Fidel himself responded the following day that with this change the United States is thinking annexation, annexation! As always is the case with politics and historical and philosophical debate, there can be as many viewpoints and interpretations as there are opinion holders.

“With tact that is clearly due to the upcoming elections, none of the American candidates has directly taken on the matter of the American embargo” Condoleeza Rice declared that Cuba must initiate a profound peaceful and democratic process of change, meaning that it must free political prisoners, respect human rights and establish a mechanism for free and clean elections.

As the counterpoint, Hugo Chavez did not waste any time in categorically saying in his already well-known style (and as of late he has been called a thug even by the American Speaker of the House (and noted Bush critic) Nancy Pelosi) that nothing will change, because only united (at least he and Cuba) will they come out ahead; with respect to Fidel Castro he energetically expressed that he will continue to be his inspiration and guiding light. As a crowning opinion, and from an intellectual approach at that, Brian Latell, an expert on Cuba, stated that If Cuba were a theatrical play, Fidel would be the director and Raul the producer.

A LEADERSHIP FROM WHICH NO CHANGE IS EXPECTED

At the time of writing, the new leadership in Cuba is already clear, although not without questioning the electronic system based on the National Candidature Commission’s proposal, which the National Assembly evaluates in addition to settling any disputes that may arise, using a broad and transparent consensus as a starting point.

“Perhaps the case of Cuba, which everyone says should align itself with the modern concepts of democracy, alters the agendas of the politicians and analysts to such a point that it could almost make it necessary for them to come into effect” Second in command after Raul Castro is José Machado Ventura [1], a 77 year-old doctor known as a harsh communist. Just like the rest of the leadership, who are all rather old, aside from 56 year-old Carlos Lage [2] (which is reminiscent of the former Soviet political bureau), he is known to be a strong defender of Castro’s model. Julio Casas [3], Esteban Lazo [4], Juan Almeida [5] and Abelardo Colomé [6] are all, without exception, staunch Fidelistas on the island itself.

As the days pass, it looks more and more like the initial impact caused by Fidel Castro’s resignation, and especially the expectations that it has generated around the world, has been reduced. What is more, it appears that nothing will augur profound change in the short run, at least not what the Western leaders and spokespeople consider to be change. It even seems like the day in which Cuba opens itself up to international debate on the prison situation, the rights of the people and the eventual economic liberalization of the island is quite far away.

In this sense, with tact that is clearly due to the upcoming elections, none of the American candidates has directly taken on the matter of the American embargo. It has also caught our attention that, with the passage of time, the once-fiery discourses of the Cuban community’s celebration in Florida (replete with flags, songs and dances until dawn) have since cooled down.

A LONG 360 DEGREE WALK?

We can justifiably consider that perhaps the case of Cuba, which everyone says should align itself with the modern concepts of democracy, in view of an eventual fine-tuning of the regime, alters the agendas of the politicians and analysts to such a point that it could almost make it necessary for them to come into effect immediately.

And this is reminiscent of the case of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, which in the postwar era fed thousands of political speeches and postulates for more than forty years, in the context of the bipolarity of the era. Would it not be convenient for both the interior of the island and the pressure exerted by the more developed nations if the same thing that happened in Lampedusa’s Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) were to occur, and this new Cuban era were to simply be a long 360 degree walk around the contemporary political scenario?

At the end of the day it looks like globalization and its by-products will reign for many more years, in spite of Cuba.