By J.C. Perez:
Raul, Prince or Pawn?
Cuba in the 21st Century
Everything is going as Fidel planned, transitioning his undisputed power to his brother Raul seems to be going without a hitch, and not that he would allow any hitch, or allow his subservient brother to make any changes that would challenge his 50-year grip and autonomous rule on his Island nation. We must remember what he has touted over and over as Cuba’s objective, “Socialismo o Muerte”, “Patria o Muerte”. “Socialism or Death,” “Patriotism or Death.” After three years of this so-called transfer of power Cuba’s objectives and tyrannical ways have stayed the same; there’s been no change to speak of. Fidel has exchanged his seat at the head of the Politburo due to his age and failing health for a seat at a desk and now writes his memoirs under the guise of self patronizing, self retrospect, reiterated and rhetorical essays on the success of his revolution and the failure of the US to recognize it. And younger brother Raul is beginning to feel his oats under a rapidly fading and ailing Fidel, something he was not allowed to feel for the past 50 plus years
With this in mind, we must remember that little brother’s transition into pseudo-power did not occur overnight, but through decades of communist indoctrination at the hands of the world’s longest lasting dictator, big brother Fidel. The meek and mild look that we see strewn across Raul Castro’s face whenever we see photos of him is not one of kindness and compassion as the pictures might suggest, but that of a shrewd man who has learned well under the tutelage of his older brother’s overpowering alpha male personality. Instead, the face is that of a man who fears his older brother but acquired his savvy and now enjoys being in charge and garnering the fear of his countrymen and accolades from ignorant foreign dignitaries such as Hugo Chavez. The same fears and accolades that once belonged to his older brother. But he himself still fears the consequences that he might incur if older brother’s words are not followed to a tee. Change? I don’t think so.
Let’s not forget that at the onset of the revolution, one of Fidel’s closest comrades, Camilo Cienfuegos, disappeared in a mysterious plane crash. Most people in the know think it was an assassination upon the orders of Fidel simply because Camilo did not agree with Fidel’s political philosophy or the road he was paving for Cuba and its already unstable situation. Rumors also ran rampant that Fidel had something to do with Che Guevara’s death in Bolivia. Che was getting to many headlines, becoming too famous, and Fidel was not happy with the Argentinean gathering a following. Are we to believe that Raul Castro was not aware of these atrocities, or what his arrogant, overbearing, dais slamming older brother was capable of doing? There are countless examples throughout history of brother killing brother over power issues. Change! I think not.
The look on Raul’s face is one of fear and retribution if big brother Fidel’s words and orders are not adhered to in their entirety. He is now enjoying the fruits that Fidel so well sewed years ago but was never allowed to fully enjoy until Fidel’s deteriorating health. Cuba is still the same, and Raul the puppet is feeling freer with some of his strings being cut loose. Now his egotistical bravado and arrogance is beginning to show through, but to date, he is still only a figurehead at the hands of an aging puppeteer who is hiding behind the curtain like the Wizard of OZ hiding himself but continuing his tyrannical ways.
You don’t have to go far in Cuba to see the expressions of fear; just look to the faces of the people who have lived under that grip oppression for the last 50 years. Those expressions haven’t changed under Raul. I think little brother Raul is feeling the heat a little more than he’d like to from behind the curtain, and the realization of the wrath that he will be subjected to if he doesn’t do as told are all too real to him, so he maintains things status quo. Only now, he is the one receiving the pats on the back from the ignorant leftist and communists of the world. He is a reluctant figurehead at the behest of his older brother, he was not asked if he wanted the position, he was told to do it, and do it as told. The puppeteer is never far away from the mealy-mouthed little puppet.
Examining some of Cuba’s so-called political changes since the transfer of power to Raul Castro only adds to the ongoing comic relief of which the Cuban people both in and out of Cuba have become accustomed. As a nation and a people who have lived under the gun for more than 50 years, Cubans have learned to take a bad situation and turn it into a joke so as not to be weighed down by more rhetoric and lies from the central Politburo. Laughing in the face of the odds that are stacked against them and not allowing their absurd living standards and ridiculous political system, which has failed them for those 50 plus years, has become their form of escape.
Just take a look at past and present history; there’s something to the fact that the Cuban Peso has no value anywhere in the world except Cuba, and even there, the Dollar and the Euro are the preferred currency. There’s a reason why the world banking system won’t extend any credit to Cuba, and that is because it won’t be paid back, just ask the defunct U.S.S.R.
Amazing, can one really believe that if there is fiscal stagnation, social deterioration, and the complete inability to provide the basics of life to a people in need is any kind of progress? I think not. When a leadership fails to provide and does not allow its people the freedom of choice, then it is an oppressive leadership.
I’m sure I have not awakened anyone to this realization on the Cuban situation, but then again no one should think that under Raul Castro things will get any better. Human rights are still nonexistent, freedom of speech is a jailable offense, and arrests are up.
Change in Cuba under Raul; see for yourself, I think not. Until the regime is gone, or better put, the Castro brothers are dead and free elections are allowed to take place along with a monetary system that will allow individual progress and expansion, then the road to change in Cuba will be slow and arduous at best, if not at all.
J.C. Perez is a Cuban American novelist and a Pedro Pan kid. His latest novel, “Heisting the Beard,” is available in bookstores and at Amazon.com