Friday, April 22, 2016

Raul Castro: More Boring and Conservative Than Ever

Raul Castro: More Boring and Conservative Than Ever / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 17 April 2016 — A little bent and dressed in civilian
clothes, with a dark blue suit, light blue shirt, no tie, gold metallic
glasses, and a star on his bag, Raul Castro Ruz, 84, president
hand-picked by his brother Fidel in 2006, among applause advanced to the
dais in the corner of the room in the Palace of Conventions west of Havana.

After briefly adjusting the microphone and with a voice more hoarse than
usual, the first secretary of the Communist Party began the longest and
most boring speech of his political repertoire.

It was a quarter past ten on the morning of Saturday, 16 April, when the
Cuban autocrat began taking stock of the last five years that had passed
since the previous congress, held in 2011. In the room a thousand
delegates and nearly three hundred guests waited for a transcendental
announcement. The speech was broadcast life by Channel 6 on Rebel Radio.

At least in the La Vibora district adjacent to the so-called Red Square,
very close to an old bus stop, people were doing other things. At that
same time that Raul Castro began his spiel, Rebel TV broadcast the match
between Real Madrid and Getafe, a serious competition.

In his apartment, watching the TV, Rene and his two sons chewed their
nails watching Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. When asked their
opinions about the 7th Congress, which had just opened, neither had
anything to say. I was on my way out when the father said, "Sorry man,
I'm not up for that humpbacked grindstone."

Diana, an office clerk, took advantage of the time to wash clothes and
clean the house. "Nobody cares about that. Saturday is for doing things
around the house and watching movies of the weekly packet at night."

Of thirty neighborhood residents, only two listened to the speech. A
patchwork, but they knew what it was about. For Fabricio, self-employed,
was interested in knowing if there would be a new twist that would
benefit private entrepreneurs.

"They just announced a wholesale market for private non-agricultural
cooperatives and who have leased places from the State. I expected
they'd report more about it. Vaguely, Raul talked about a new legal
framework for private businesses, but without approving measures that
will make the proposals launched by Obama effective. He even said that
the policies would not allow the self-employed to concentrate businesses
and capital. I hope that before the end of the event they will announce
something positive."

Jose Carlos, retired military, in shorts and slippers, smoking and
drinking coffee, saw Raul Castro's appearance on TV. "I'll have to
analyze the speech later when it comes out in [the newspaper] Granma.
But it seemed very conservative and long to me. Raul always stood out
for the brevity of his speeches. Strategically, the government is
backing off. Obama left Cuba on 22 March, but the sequel he left behind
is a concern to more than one in the Politburo. What's the economic
situation of the country? It seems irresponsible to me to slow down
measures that could get us out of the doldrums."

For the former soldier, if one day there were two political parties on
the island, Fidel would lead one and Raul the other, as well as a
weighty joke from the general-president, he sent a message: "In Cuba, in
the political area, nothing is going to change."

Not even many of the opponents followed the speech life. Some were
traveling outside the country and others prefer to read it in the press
and listen to summaries.

The dissident poet and journalist Jorge Olivera spent two hours and
twenty minutes in front of the TV. The speech, little of note. "More of
the same. Raul Castro repeated his litany on the economic plane and in
the political he kept his foot on the brake. If someone expected
something new, they're disappointed."

Hildebrando Chaviano, an opposition lawyer and independent journalist,
who in the last elections ran for election to the People's Power,
believes that there is a regression to the past. "It's notable even in
the repression. When I returned from a trip to Peru, Customs dusted off
their old methods of seizing books and papers. The impact of Obama's
visit has been a Trojan Horse. The government will do what it knows
best, exercise social control and repress those who think differently.
In any event, something they will have to announce at this congress.
Time is running out and so is the apathy of the people toward the system
in general."

Castro II replayed the worn out anti-imperialist rhetoric and the
attacks on the OAS. With regards to future business with the United
States, his words implied that the government will only accept what
benefits state enterprises.

He returned to the exotic Soviet narrative, of hollow slogans and a
warlike atmosphere. Language from other times now re-soled with the news
that on 2 December there will be a lavish military parage to celebrate
the 70th anniversary of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the ninetieth
birthday of his brother Fidel.

Although he announced a reform of the Constitution, the most striking
was the decision to limit to the age of entry into the Central
Committee to people 60 or under, and for the Politburo, 70 and under.
Putting makeup on the face of the exterior gallery.

An attempt to "rejuvenate" a nation with a low birthrate, an unstoppable
exodus (the vast majority of those emigrating are young people) and an
accelerated aging of the population.

Like it or not, Cuba will remain a country of ole people. In any case,
the "rejuvenation" in the party leadership will begin to be seen in
2018, after Raul Castro retires.

And the old Castro leadership always valued above all good or evil. The
rules are for others. Not them.

Source: Raul Castro: More Boring and Conservative Than Ever / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -

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