Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Here is the news

Well, folks, it’s now 12 months since that nerdy looking guy you see in the photograph above went on national television in Cuba with the announcement some of us had been waiting for for a long time: Fidel Castro was stepping down.
The soon-to-be 80-year-old dictator had undergone emergency surgery for some mystery condition (cancer?), and as a result, had transferred all his powers “temporary” to his slightly younger brother, Raul.

The man who had ruled Cuba with an iron fist for nearly half a century handing over power? Voluntarily? Because he was sick?

Many thought it was the beginning of the end for the rancid, deeply corrupt hierarchy that has kept a tight rein on the island since those heady days back in January 1959.

There was dancing in the streets of Miami, but back here in the Antipodes, the handful of Australians who pay regular attention to Cuban affairs (hi, everybody), took a more cautious, wait-and-see approach, which is the naturally Australian thing to do.

That and the fact we have grown weary of predictions about Castro’s demise.

Anyway, it all seems like a long time ago and the obvious question today is this: has anything really changed in Cuba in the past year?

Here are two separate assessments.

The first is a report by David Usborne of the British daily The Independent, who is of the view that Cuba is still “languishing” in Fidel Castro’s shadow.

“Cuba marked the first anniversary of Fidel Castro provisionally handing power to his younger brother, Raul, with little sign of the political or economic change some had expected,” Usborne comments. “Human rights reform, freedom, and reliable supplies of food staples remain as elusive as ever."

Then there is this somewhat more up-beat assessment from Anthony Boadle, the Reuters correspondent in Havana.

“One year after taking over from his ailing brother as Cuba's leader, Raul Castro is raising hopes of reforms to relieve economic inefficiencies and food shortages but he is not offering political change,” Boadle writes in his dispatch.

He then quotes a “Havana maid who asked not to be named” as saying: "People feel encouraged. The speech [on 26th July] shows that Raul is in charge now. Changes are coming.”

But Boadle reports, her husband was way less optimistic.

"We've heard the same story for years - I can only afford vegetables on my pay, never meat," the unnamed husband said before “his wife shut him up, saying he could be arrested”.

Make up your own mind.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Raising hopes." Indeed. Well, why not? Castro I spent the previous 46 years doing the exact same thing. The results were hardly commensurate with the promises, but I suppose it's the thought that counts, isn't it? Now Castro II continues the fraud, I mean tradition. Touching, really.

I am, of course, deeply impressed by the, uh, open-mindedness of the Reuters reporter. Some would call him, at best, embarrassingly clueless, but they're no doubt CIA operatives. Carry on.

3:16 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nerdy, you say? Fair enough, but but to my eye he looks exactly like every truly abject arse-kisser I've ever seen. One would have thought that such a brazen example of the species would be less openly displayed, if only to preserve a modicum of propriety (or at least the semblance of it).

3:36 am  

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