Change or no change?
You know that old cliché about not being able to see the woods for the trees?
I sometimes wonder whether we spend so much time and effort examining in minute detail what is supposed to be going on in Cuba (from the outside) that we miss the bigger picture.
For instance, as far as I can see, there has been no fundamental political change on the island since Fidel Castro was forced to step aside due to serious illness mid last year.
Well, one thing has changed: ordinary Cubans are no longer forced to listen to the dictator’s interminable and increasingly incoherent harangues every second night on television.
Otherwise … situation normal?
A Reuters correspondent in Havana, Anthony Boadle, has written an interesting article about the changes he has perceived on the island over the past six months, under the headline, “Debate grows in Cuba six months after hand-over”.
It’s a fairly optimistic piece that hints at an increasing openness within sections of the regime – a kind of Cuban apertura.
To back up his theory, Boadle quotes dissidents and outside observers as well as Cubans whom understandably, declined to be identified.
Boadle also refers to “unprecedented” investigations that have appeared in the tightly controlled official media in the past few months uncovering poor service and highlighting a shortage of consumer goods and other “economic shortcomings”.
He also points to the current controversy among some intellectuals on the island over the apparent return to public life of the bureaucrat who was in charge of cultural policy during the 1970s, when hundreds of writers, movie-makers and academics were targeted as ideologically impure.
Now, this is all true. But from where I am, these do not seem to be major policy changes.
Instead, I see them as a clever if inevitably futile attempt by the regime to shift the focus away from the real story: the impending demise of the older Castro.
Then again, perhaps I am missing the bigger picture. Perhaps I am too close. Perhaps I can see the trees alright but beyond that … nada.
Photograph: Claudia Daut, Reuters