Cuban society, not Castro, must change government

Credit: Courtesy of NASA Credit: Courtesy of NASA
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There is no Cuba after Castro… at least for now. The 83-year-old comandante has been subject to jokes about his immortality for some time now, with good reason. After Queen Elizabeth II, he is the one leader who has maintained the position of head of government for the longest period of time.

It is common knowledge that stability has never truly found a permanent place on Cuban soil, and Fidel Castro certainly did not fall from the sky straight into power. Unfortunately for Cuba, Castro has been pretty fortunate. His rise to power was carried out without any major mishaps, and fortunately for him, Castro is a smart guy and has, throughout the years, perfected the strategy that keeps him in control.

Cuba was definitely doing better before the establishment of Castro’s totalitarian regime in 1959; however, this is not to say that the country was exactly doing well. Fulgencio Batista had already taken power by force long before that, and it would take precisely someone like Castro to get him off the throne.

Like most leaders of totalitarian tendencies, Batista, also known as “the Man,” began his political career being regarded as a hero. A young sergeant in 1933, he led a rebellion with labor leaders and students against dictator Gerardo Machado. Not too long after, he conspired with United States ambassador Sumner Welles to get provisional president Ramon Grau San Martin off his seat.

In 1944, however, respecting the electorate’s choice, Batista returned the presidency. Not long after, in 1952, he seized power again through a coup d’etat. From then on, it was on between him and Castro, who belonged to the party that had been running against Batista’s when he took power by force in 1952.

When Batista’s army could not take on Fidel’s, Batista fled to Spain with a fortune of around $300 million that he had managed to amass. Ironically enough, he died after living peacefully and comfortably in Marbella, Spain on Aug. 6, 1973 — two days before a group of assassins appointed by Castro reached him. Perhaps it was the same bug of paranoia that prompted Batista to flee Cuba that sent Fidel after him. That is, after all, what a dictator’s influence feeds on: paranoia and brute force.

Cuba is a nation that, before it became frozen in time by the reversing power of a totalitarian regime, had existed for nearly five centuries, and as a republic for 57 years. Cuba’s favorable agricultural industry — primarily sugar and tobacco — along with the collaboration throughout the years between the island’s different sectors and the hard work of its society in general had set fertile ground for progress in the country.

But in Cuba, despotism has been a persistent enemy of progress. The centralization of power is so ingrained into the way Cuban society perceives everything that it becomes hard for an individual to come up with an idea of change without the substance to even construct the thought.

Power has now been transferred to Raul Castro, but change will still not show its face. The Cuban population is still not allowed to collaborate for causes or organize in any way. Even if Fidel is no longer physically active, the idea of him still hangs on all of the political proceedings and foundations of the Cuban government. President of the Union of Cuban Exiles in Puerto Rico Mariluz Suarez is not optimistic about Raul’s potential to direct Cuba in the right direction.

She states, “The personal history of Raul, who is not a charismatic leader, of ruthlessness and greed, does not herald a bright future for the Cuban people. If anything, the changes that Raul has claimed worldwide, such as the right to own and use a cell phone, are nothing more than cosmetic. Who can buy and pay for the use of cell phone in a place where the average salary is equivalent to twenty dollars?”

In other words, Raul is perhaps just a puppet of this system. He operates under the same ideology, the only ideology that will keep the system alive: careful and coldly premeditated manipulation of the masses.

The Obama administration has certainly begun taking steps toward mending relationships with Cuba. For example, shortly after taking office, Obama lifted restrictions on the possibility of individuals visiting relatives in Cuba, as well as sending them remittances.

This represents an important shift in a U.S. policy that had remained mostly unchanged for as long as half a century. However, while we like to look optimistically upon such “advancements,” we are forced to remain hesitant, since the system has proven stubborn throughout history — it drives us to believe that no real change will come until it springs from the Cuban government itself.

UCE President Suarez seems to agree. “There is a worldwide expectation that with the ‘disappearance’ of Fidel from public view, the system that has strangled the economy, the liberties, the hopes for a better life in Cuba will somehow change positively. The system is firmly established in the island, just as it was established in Russia for various decades. In the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, after the deaths of Lenin, Stalin, Breznev, Kruschev, etc. — the iron fist of Communism was not abated. So will it not be in Cuba, where nothing will change for the better, since the system is entrenched in all the aspects of everyday life, and there is no liberty of expression, reunion, or political views.”

In short, we must view this regime for what it is if we wish to do away with it. The key is definitely Cuban society itself. Communism will die when Cuba and its people are ready to let it disintegrate, when they realize there is another way, a chance for a better life.

As younger generations come of age, communication with the outside world will continue increasing and will subsequently feed the dreams of the Cubans.

The regime controlling these people’s minds and lives will be done away with as soon as circumstance allows them the social capacity to shatter the habit of fear and blind obedience that is keeping them subordinated.