By Karel Becerra
We’ve recently been living through historic days and hysteric days. The historic: the excessive optimism and “good intentions” of Barack Obama’s speech, heralding a reset in US relations with Cuba. The hysteric: the fact that the Castro regime has let the opportunity slip through its fingers.
Without doubt, Obama’s announcement has had a huge initial impact. The US President pitched a direct ball to the center, that any other leader could have hit for a home run. But the brutal state gerontocracy of Cuba has instead chosen to maintain its archaic position, and imagine itself to be the winner in a war stretching back half a century. This will prove to be a fatal mistake.
To show that he’d embraced the change, we didn’t see Raúl Castro on our television sets out of uniform, in a light, airy and modern office, or taking a joyful tone, with a Caribbean background and a palm tree dancing in the breeze. Instead, he opted for his faded, olive-green uniform, suitable for a funeral: fitting with his dogmatism and his ambition to die clothed in power, passing it on only to his descendants.
The picture, although a pessimistic one, conveys what’s really happened. Everything carries on the same, and the soldiers remain in power — as was confirmed beyond the shadow of a doubt only hours later by Mariela Castro, Raúl’s daughter, when she told CNN that Cuba would continue to be a one-party state, following “its own” concept of freedom of speech.
Raúl disdained to choose a the route towards a negotiated and honorable exit, and take advantage of the opening offered. Instead, he chose to celebrate the pyrrhic victory of the “heroic Cuban five,” and the “false end to the embargo.” Rather than beginning a process of transition, and taking heat off the Castro regime, he’s decided to remain right in the firing line. Do they genuinely think they’re immortal?
In a few days, those Cubans that went out onto the streets to celebrate will find that nothing’s changed, and that even the much maligned embargo hasn’t ended. They’ll find that the economy is still collapsing, heading for rock bottom, for a very simple reason: the system doesn’t work. The Castro brothers haven’t taken advantage of the nudge Obama has given the country, towards an easy exit for them, and a peaceful transition. Instead, they’ve let the train hurtle past them at full speed, choosing to wait for another one that will never come.