Raúl Castro: A Tolerated Dictator

At a time when fleeing the homeland has become one of the most critical social phenomena in Cuba, it seems rather interesting that the media fail to pay any attention to it. Week after week, dozens of Cubans manage to leave the country by sea – often by means of contraptions that don’t meet even minimum conditions that would ensure their safe arrival in their destination.

The number of the dead and missing has dramatically risen due to an increasing number of Cubans who resort to this way of escaping from their country and also due to a larger distance they need to travel in very precarious conditions. The fact is that getting from Cuba to the United States is no no longer as easy as it used to be before the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which now only allows the entry of “rafters” who manage to get to the shore. Because of the impediments, people prefer to try their luck and head towards the coasts of Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras or Mexico, from which they later want to move to the southern US border with the help of a secret guide whose services they buy. This way they can benefit from the provisions of the “Cuban Adjustment Act”.

Similarly, emigration of professionals working in culture, sports and public health hasn’t stopped, either. Their attempts to escape from the country are usually successful, unless their plans are hampered by plain-clothes police officers, who usually form part of foreign delegations.

Yet, there are more things that the media seems to have forgotten to inform about – among them, for example, repressive incidents. Also, the international press fails to cover the lives of imprisoned political prisoners and it pays little attention to acts of repudiation, including vandalism perpetrated by crowds of parapolice with the aim to thwart various human rights activities which, among other things, try to draw the attention to the fact that the government is abusing its authority.

Lack of balance in the information brought to the public favours Raul Castro and, in general, the regime he represents. After analysing the facts, it seems as if there were a transnational project which essentially seeks to legitimize the status quo, hoping that it could possibly evolve to a less authoritarian form of government (yet, in a time horizon impossible to predict).

The almost uncompromising acceptance of the Cuban dictatorship by both regional and international institutions only fuel suspicions that Cuba is now facing something like a medium-term construction project to build a China-like model adapted to fit the Caribbean island. Obviously, the accredited foreign media in Havana focus their reports and analyses on the need of a unilateral lifting of the embargo and pursue the proverbial strategy of avoiding too controversial issues, thus opening door to doubts about their policy.

In such circumstances, any suggestion of the possibility of building a democratic regime in Cuba under the leadership of the President–General must be false, which also applies to the president’s possible successors, be it Mr. Diaz Canel or Mr. Machado Ventura. The chances of there ever being more political parties in Cuba and of fundamental rights being exercised remain questionable.

The end is near and it can bring new ways of continuation. While waiting for it, the stampede goes on, with its collateral casualties, backed by politicians and the media. Actually, Raul Castro doesn’t have to worry a bit; day by day he’s receiving better and better credentials as a bearable dictator.

Jorge Olivera Castillo

Olivera Castillo is a former political prisoner. He published number of books. He lives in the old part of Havana.