Cuba minus Castro: A new start?

Yoani Sanchez / DW No Comments Share:
Members of the Cuban National Assembly voted Wednesday on Miguel Diaz-Canel’s nomination as the sole candidate for president. Reuters

It was a historic moment yesterday for Cuba: the end of the Castro era. But despite the change in power, people in the country are under no illusions that their problems will disappear, writes Yoani Sanchez.

My mother was born under the Castro regime. So was I, and so was my son. At least three generations of Cubans have known the rule of two men with the same name: Castro. This monotony ended yesterday with the announcement of a new president. Regardless of whether this means reform or continuity, a new leader for the country is an historic event. It is the end of the Castro era in Cuba.

And yet, expectations among ordinary Cubans are muted in the run-up to this unparalleled turning point in modern Cuban history.

The poor economic situation is the first of at least three reasons for public indifference. The majority of Cubans struggle every day to make ends meet. Visions of another Cuba are understandable, but overshadowed by very real challenges, such as acquiring enough food or getting to and from work.

Pessimism also plays a role. There is little hope for a major deviation from gerontocratic rule. The current state leadership is a submissive and well-controlled puppet.

And that makes for the third reason: no political imagination. Most Cubans do not know another form of government. They therefore lack a comparison and a frame of reference for an alternative beyond the “historic generation”.

The fatalism inherent to the conviction that nothing will change is a direct result of six decades of unfettered rule by the Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul, over the island nation. The two snuffed out every bit of opposition and eliminated any potential competition. The Castro brothers are therefore a permanent and inseparable part of Cuba’s history.

More than 70 percent of Cubans were born after January 1959, when a group of bearded men entered Havana with guns and smiles. Shortly thereafter, all school textbooks, media and government propaganda lauded the olive-green “revolutionaries” as saviours of the country. For decades, Cuba was presented as unified with official ideology, the Communist Party and its leader, Fidel Castro.

Mortality has closed this chapter of Cuban history, and this year could be the beginning of the next. But instead of jubilant people waving flags in the streets, the Cuban capital has been overcome by fatigue. It is the consequence of a people whose enthusiasm and drive have been worn away by a very long wait.

Yoani Sanchez is a well-known Cuban dissident blogger. This comment first appeared at http://www.dw.com

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