Four days after Fidel Castro announced that he would not accept another term as a president after almost half a century in power, the Cuban blogosphere continues to be abuzz with the news. After Janine Mendes-Franco's roundup collecting the first reactions after the announcement, and ahead of today's General Assembly meeting to elect a new head of state to replace Fidel Castro, here are a few more reactions from Cuba and abroad on the latest developments.
Photo by FloraG, used under a Creative Commons license.
Y como Castro nos tiene acostumbrados a esos numeritos, la única renuncia en la que creeré será en la de la muerte. De cualquier modo, su hermano es el mismo perro con diferente collar, uno de los hombres más crueles y perversos de la historia de Cuba y de la humanidad. Con Castro II no creo en cambio alguno. El cambio sólo puede venir de la democracia, de la liberación inmediata de los presos políticos, del reconocimiento de las organizaciones disidentes de dentro y del exilio. El cambio sólo vendrá cuando Marta Beatriz Roque, Osvaldo Payá, u otros de dentro, o figuras del exilio puedan intervenir en un espacio democrático dentro de la isla. No pienso que Raúl Castro asumirá semejante riesgo
… since we are used to such acts by Castro, the only resignation I will believe is the one brought by death. In any case, his brother is the same dog with a different collar, one of the cruelest and most perverse men in the history of Cuba and of humanity. With Castro II, I don't believe in any changes. Change can only come from democracy, from the immediate liberation of political prisoners, from the recognition of dissident organizations in Cuba and in exile. Change will only come when Marta Beatriz Roque, Osvaldo Payá, or others from the inside, or figures in exile, can intervene in a democratic space within the island. I don't think that Raúl Castro will assume the risk.
Ivan García [es], guestblogging at Tania Quintero's blog, is equally pessimistic about the expectations for change:
Cansados de campañas revolucionarias, marchas y consignas, los cubanos dudan que el próximo presidente, que se espera sea su hermano Raúl Castro, de 76 años, no sea una continuación de su política. […] Algunos como Juan Oñate, 44, obrero, cree que aunque nada cambie, “al menos Raúl habla menos y no está presente tanto en la vida de los cubanos como Fidel”. […] Pero ya la calma escasea. Tras casi 50 años de pobreza material y penurias, la paciencia se agota y la desilusión aumenta. Las encuestas internas realizadas por el partido comunista reflejan que la popularidad de los hermanos Castro y de su sistema político cuenta con menos del 25 por ciento de apoyo de la población.
Tired of revolutionary campaigns, marches and slogans, the Cuban people are doubting that the next president, who is expected to be his brother Raúl Castro, aged 76, is not going to be a continuation of his politics. […] Some, like Juan Oñate, 44, construction worker, believe that even if nothing changes “at least Raúl talks less and is not as present in the life of Cuban people as Fidel”. […] But the peace is scarce. After almost 50 years of material poverty and dearth, patience is running out. Internal surveys by the communist party reveal that the popularity of the Castro brothers and their political system is supported by less than 25 percent of the population.
After Castro released another letter on Friday calling for “a united vote in favor of the Presidency of the General Assembly” and thus continuing to meddle in Cuban politics, Alexis Gainza [es] declared that “joy lasted as much as a meringue in a school”.
Bloggers like Cuban in London, quoting Frank Sinatra, regret that Castro is stepping down after so many years on his own terms:
It’s hard for a British citizen to understand the stature of the outgoing leader. After all, the Cuban president outlived nine British Prime Ministers and ten American dignitaries. And he did it his way.
He also adds some blueprints for change in Cuba:
There are four principles, in my understanding, that Cuba should follow: the development of a free media and an independent judiciary are the first two. Economic and financial opening to foreign investors (as long as cherished achievements like education and health are not touched) and accountability should be the other two.
However, for Lou Rodríguez at Ninety Miles Away there's nothing to envy in Castro's way of leaving power:
Whatever the media may say about leaving on his own terms, leaving as a doddering old man, evacuating from three orifices, you can be sure, was never on his wish list. I could almost find it in my heart to feel sorry for him, almost. My head, however, offers no absolution. I will dance metaphorically over his grave, if the old buzzard doesn't outlast me.
For Jaime Leygonier [es], Castro didn't retire, he was made to retire:
No se retira, Fidel Castro era incapaz de retirarse, incapaz de saberse incapaz, lo retiraron hace año y medio con una incruenta revuelta palaciega, todos contra el animal enfermo, como mismo retiró Stalin a Lenin, para que se repusiera de su enfermedad bien lejos y bien oculto. Muy mal tenía que estar el anciano jefe de la manada para que con absoluta unanimidad lo desaparecieran sus secuaces.
He does not retire. Fidel Castro is incapable of retiring, incapable of knowing that he is incapable. He was retired a year and a half ago in a palace coup, all of them against the sick animal, just like when Stalin retired Lenin, so that he would recover from his illness, very far and very hidden away. The chief of the herd must have been in pretty ill in order to be made to disappear in absolute unanimity by his henchmen.
Review of Cuban-American Blogs criticizes Western media for their moral relativism towards Fidel Castro:
If Hitler had retired as Führer before 1939, what would the reaction of the Western media have been to his decision? Not much different, we suppose, to their reaction to Castro's “retirement” as Cuba's president-for-life.
[…] The media now recoils at condemning tyrants for their crimes as if their own objectivity were judged by their subjectivity to them. When forced to mention those crimes the media characterize them as allegations made by the tyrant's detractors. But their so-called achievements are never identified as the allegations of their apologists.
Another issue widely discussed in the Cuban blogosphere was the official visit of Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State for the Vatican, on Wednesday to mark the 10th anniversary of the Pope's landmark visit to Cuba in 1998. Rui Ferreira [es] describes the mass that Bertone officiated in Havana's Cathedral square, followed by about 3,000 Cubans who expressed their desire to receive the visit of Pope Benedict XVI soon “to bring us peace and improvements, which are very much needed”, according to a woman attending the mass.
The sight of these Cuban Communist henchmen participating in a Mass is revolting. But, I have to confess that I get a little perverse pleasure out of the irony of hearing about this bunch of murdering thugs having to bow to the Almighty in a sobering preview of the judgment that’s ultimately coming their way, in a ceremony that could very well represent the last rites for the regime. At least raul had enough sense not to attend.
Marc Masferrer has published human rights violations in Cuba this week, such as unlawful arrests of independent journalists, and has also posted a musical a tribute to political prisoner Oscar Elias Biscet, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for opposing the regime in 2003. A campaing was launched this week to pressure the Cuban dictatorship for his release, he reported.
Penúltimos días [es], who also posted a song as a soundtrack for today's Assembly election, has been collecting media reactions to Castro's announcement to retire. And amongst those, he started a Top 10 of the most stupid things written about Castro in the last few days, with readers’ contributions in the comments section. One reader mentioned a comment made by filmmaker Michael Moore, who shot part of his latest film Sicko in Cuba and wondered about the possibility of bringing Castro to give his acceptance speech:
As long as he keeps it under five hours. I'm telling you, that's got to be a ratings grabber. Can you imagine him? Showing up? If I could talk to (Oscar producer) Gil Cates and maybe get Castro in a dance number at the beginning of the show? Great.
It turns out Castro is a great subject for entertainment and humor, as shown by Claudia4Libertad collection of recent jokes about him on American television late night shows. Here's a sample from David Letterman's show, who also made a list of '10 reasons why Fidel Castro is retiring':
Experts believe that now that he has resigned,” Castro “will either be succeeded by his brother, Raul, or by his idiot son, Fidel W. Castro.
To finish this roundup, here's a very illustrative little parable that Enrique del Risco wrote [es] in his blog:
[…] un niño al que un compañero de juegos había hecho dar su palabra de honor (o de pionero, no recuerdo bien) de que se mantendría de guardia en el parque hasta que vinieran a relevarlo. Pasan las horas y el niño se mantiene de pie haciendo guardia, aterido de frío sin que el supuesto relevo aparezca. Al fin un transeúnte le pregunta qué hace allí y el niño le explica. El hombre trata de convencerlo de que se trata sólo de un juego, que seguramente los niños que le encomendaron hacer guardia estarán en sus casas calentitos pero el niño se aferra a la palabra empeñada. Por fin el hombre, convencido de la firmeza del muchacho busca a un policía y le explica la situación. El policía va entonces hasta el muchacho y le dice que él es un oficial superior y ha venido a informarle que su turno de guardia ha terminado tras lo cual el niño medio congelado entiende que ya no se trata de romper con su palabra sino de acatar nuevas órdenes y haciendo un saludo marcial se marcha. El cuento terminaba, si no recuerdo mal, con el hombre que había ido en busca del policía admirado ante la firmeza del niño. De más está decir que no era un cuento destinado a enaltecer nuestra firmeza sino a reafirmarnos la docilidad. […] Ya no somos niños, hace mucho tiempo todos hemos visto que todo no se trata más que de un juego. Los que dieron la orden original están calentitos en su casa o simplemente muertos mientras nuestros melancólicos no hacen más que aferrarse a viejas consignas, a las viejas palabras empeñadas, como a un instinto en el que al parecer les va casi todo, empezando por su propia idea de sí mismo. Sólo les digo esto: la realidad no es tan generosa como el cuento. Si aparece un nuevo policía será para decirles que todavía les quedan unas cuantas horas de guardia.
[…] a kid gives his word to a playmate that he would stand guard in the park until he would be relieved. Hours pass by and the kid stands guard, stiff with cold, with no sign of being relieved by someone else. Finally a passerby asks him what he's doing there and the boy explains. The man tries to convince him that it was just a game, and that probably the kids that sent him to stand guard while they would in the warmth of their homes, but the kid sticks to his word. In the end, the man, convinced by the firmness of the kid, looks for a policeman and explains the situation. The policeman then asks the kid and tells him that his an upper-ranking officer and that he came to inform him that his shift is over, after which the half-frozen boy understands that it's not about breaking his word but about following new orders, and with a military salute he goes away. The tale ended, if I remember correctly, with the man that had looked for the policeman being really impressed with the little boy's firmness. Needless to say it wasn't a tale destined to extol our firmness but to reaffirm our submissiveness. […] We are not children anymore, we all realized a long time ago that this is just a game. The ones that gave the original order are in the warmth of their homes or simply dead while our nostalgia is just hanging onto old orders, to old words given, like an instinct in which they have everything to loose, starting by their own idea of themselves. I just tell them this: reality is not as generous as the tale. If a new policeman appears it will be to announce that they still have a few more hours of standing guard left.