Cuba: July 26th

Cuba. 1953. Disillusioned with the American-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, Fidel Castro led a group of young revolutionaries in an attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago that came to be known as the start of the Cuban Revolution.

This past weekend, on July 26th, Cuba marked the 55th anniversary of that attack, an event which was to be presided over by Fidel's replacement as Cuban President, his brother Raul. Or, put another way by 1Click2Cuba:

55 years ago today, President Raul Castro, brother Fidel, and a ragtag band of rebels lead an audacious armed attack, launching a revolution that changed an island, and changed the world.

Prior to the celebrations, influential Havana-based blogger Yoani Sanchez wrote a post in which she speculated on the content of Raul Castro's speech:

More than just listening to the announcement of new measures, we Cubans are preparing ourselves to confirm how little has been accomplished in the past twelve months.

The time for promises, and for magical solutions to overcome our underdevelopment, is definitely behind us. The political discourse, without a doubt, has begun its descent. But this doesn’t mean that some day it will touch down. A man with maximum powers continues to pilot the plane, while nobody tells us, over the loudspeakers, if we are maintaining our altitude or heading into a nosedive, if we have the wind at our backs or if the engines are about the explode. Only silence, interspersed with calls for discipline and sacrifice, comes from the speakers of this Soviet-era IL-14 airplane.

Post-address, other bloggers weighed in. Child of the Revolution linked to mainstream media coverage of Castro's speech, from which he surmised that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Ninety miles away…in another country couldn't help but notice an emerging beverage theme in the “scintillating oratory”:

In last year's July 26th speech, Raul Castro went off on a tangent about milk, a digression the mainstream media managed to miss, maybe it's a language thing. But since almost universally, Cubans quoted in the media have complained that they have not gotten their glass of milk, this year he seems to have lowered his sights.

This year's wonky wending was all about…water. The aqueduct in Santiago should be finished in 2010, about the time Cubans get toasters.

Both haiti-cuba-venezuela> analysis and The Cuban Triangle published the entire text of the speech, with the latter noting that it failed to offer “a road map of sorts to some of Raul Castro’s policy actions”:

Castro did outline some positive economic results (tourism up, efficiencies realized in transportation), but he gave no hint of policies that would help to address big challenges that he has described starkly – aging population, declining workforce growth, income inequality, dual currency – much less an indication that, as in agriculture, he is looking at ways to change policies to liberate productive energies that could generate growth and jobs.

Instead, there was a warning of tough times ahead…

This sentiment was echoed in Alejandro Armengol's Spanish-language blog, Cuaderno de Cuba:

El discurso también fue una muestra de lo mucho que falta por recorrer en Cuba, no sólo en el terreno de avance de la democracia, sino también económico…el panorama de la isla resulta poco alentador para las esperanzas de una transición paulatina. En su lugar, las alternativas continúan definiéndose entre el cambio traumático y una evolución lenta, pero el peligro del caos continúa latente en la falta de esperanzas de una población.

The speech was also a proof of the long way ahead for Cuba, not just in the democratic advancement, but also in the economic field…the island's situation is not very encouraging for hopes of a gradual transition. Instead, the alternatives keep bouncing between a traumatic change and a slow evolution, but the danger of chaos is still latent in the lack of hopes of a people.

He also compared the new leader's “tendency of reasserting the ‘origin legitimacy’ as the fundamental justification for the government in La Habana” to “a principle assumed many years ago by the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, who used the same means to stay in power for a long time: his victory in the civil war guaranteed his autarchy.”

Uncommon Sense believes that the true legacy of July 26th is inextricably linked to the ongoing loss of life as a result of the Cuban Revolution, while Yoani Sanchez, who lives under the regime created by that revolution, says:

We don’t expect pirouettes in the air, nor caramels under our tongues to help us withstand the turbulent ride. What we do want is for the pilot to show his face, to tell us our itinerary, and for us to decide the course. We don’t need this speech on Saturday to turn into an exaltation about floating on air; we would prefer a clear report on how and when we can board a different flight.

The Spanish in this post was translated by Elia Varela Serra.

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