Those of us looking in from the outside have been asking that question for 18 months or so, following the unexpected announcement last July that Fidel Castro was “temporarily” handing over power to his (slightly) younger brother Raul due to serious health problems.
From where I am, I can see little if any change. Then again …
According to this BBC report, one of the Castro regime’s most senior apparatchiks has just copped an unprecedented hammering from students during a question-and-answers session held at the Computer Science University – one of the regime’s educational showpieces.
It involved Ricardo Alarcon, the president of the rubberstamp parliament and a favourite of the foreign media, who was peppered during the discussion with plenty of what are euphemistically described by the BBC as “difficult questions”.
Like, why are ordinary Cuban workers paid by the State in pesos when they must purchase many essential goods in State-owned stores that only take convertible pesos?
And why are Cubans barred from freely using the Internet? Why are those few who are lucky enough to get access to the Internet then banned from using Yahoo? Why are Cubans barred from staying in luxury hotels, even if they have the money? Why are these hotels reserved for foreign tourists?
If the questions seem explosive (in the Cuban context, of course), the responses and evasions by Alarcon are nothing short of gob-smacking.
In a clear reminder of what happens to politicians in an totalitarian state who are never challenged and lose touch with their supposed constituents, Alarcon seems totally out of his depth, flailing like a half-dead fish.
He fails to answer most of the questions, saying they are “economic issues” (you bet they are!), or that he is “ignorant” about the Internet. And when he answers, his responses are laughable.
Responding to a question on why Cubans are not allowed to travel freely, he tells students that “if everyone in the world – all six billion people – were allowed to travel wherever they wanted, imagine the traffic jams in the sky!”. In any case, he adds as a form of justification, that “not many Bolivians get to travel overseas”.
Significantly, someone in the audience appears to have made and then leaked a recording of the event. You can watch bits of it here (in Spanish).
H/T Penultimos Dias