Six Years Later: Same Old Raul
I hear the echos of the experts, Raul the reformer, Raul the reformer, Raul the reformer, . . . and nothing to show for it, other than more repression.
Last month, a tragic anniversary passed (perhaps purposefully) unnoticed by the media.
On July 31st, 2006, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro fell ill and handed power to his brother, General Raul Castro.
At the time, the news was reported with great fanfare, as it was speculated that Raul was some sort of "reformer" (apparently à la Bashir al-Assad or Saif Gaddafi).
Yet, six-years later, Cuba remains as morally, politically and economically bankrupt as when Raul took the reins.
And finally, even his cosmetic "reforms" are being generally recognized for what they are -- a sham.
They were just a headline for the media, but in reality remain stalled and in some cases have even been reverted (as The Economist noted this week).
If Cuba were a democracy, Raul would have been booted from office two years ago -- and Fidel 43 years ago.
But that's why their rule is based on force and fear, instead of the popular will of the people.
However, one thing has dramatically changed since the 2006 transfer to Raul: Repression has sky-rocketed.
Political arrests, beatings and harassment are all all-time highs; leading pro-democracy activists, such as Ladies in White leader Laura Pollan and Christian Liberation Movement leader Oswaldo Paya, have died under mysterious circumstances; and an American has been held hostage since December 2009.
We warned the media at the time (see here at the 7:22 mark) about Raul's brutality, as historically he has been Fidel's chief executor and has led some of the regime's most infamous purges.
But the truth was inconvenient to their narrative at the time.