Raul Castro in Santiago de Cuba Because of Matthew? / Juan Juan Almeida
Juan Juan Almeida, 6 October 2016 — Santiago de Cuba is, as Cuba's
ruling class puts it, a big headache. Disasters and conflicts are music
to the ears of politicians. And a very destructive Hurricane Matthew
presented Raul Castro with an excellent opportunity to kill two birds
with one stone: He could correct an old mistake while reducing the
visibility of a man who has earned many people's respect.
On the morning of October 25, 2012, Hurricane Sandy passed over the
eastern edge of the island. In its wake, the Category 2 storm caused
extensive property damage, injured more than a hundred people and
resulted in eleven fatalities. People there were terrified but felt
abandoned because the nation's president did not bother to make an
appearance in the region. And this oversight brought on a whirlwind of
jokes and criticisms.
Though compelling, the stated reason for the General's recent visit was
less than convincing. No sooner had the hurricane alarm been sounded in
the east than the ringleader-in-chief appeared alongside a presidential
lackey, doing everything possible to attract attention, both before and
during his tour of Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba provinces.
We all saw a Raul Castro concerned for people's welfare and reviewing
Civil Defense preparations. But then he disappeared. We do not know if
he flew back to Havana or rode out the meteorological event in the
underground shelter of his home at the end of the Manduley Avenue in
Santiago's Vista Alegre district.
But there is another equally plausible reason for the General's visit to
the region and his name is Lazaro Exposito. The first secretary of the
Communist Party in Santiago de Cuba is a man of the people who uses his
position to do good. Though still a communist and considered by some to
be an opportunist who is not truly committed to reform, his leadership
is widely considered to be a success among the locals.
You might recall that in September 2008, when Hurricane Ike was lashing
Granma province with winds approaching 100 miles an hour, Lazaro both
guided and supported a population in panic. He catapulted to political
stardom on national radio (TV had gone off the air) by contradicting
then president Fidel Castro by saying, "Commandante, you are in Havana
but I am in Bayamo and here the people are afraid."
This small comment led to his being transferred to Santiago, a city that
— due to its heroic, rebellious and hospitable nature — is practically
ungovernable by anyone who is not a convivial, party-going native son.
But Exposito was able to pull it off. And he would not allow a cyclone
to be used to his advantage.
That is why Raul went to Santiago. Because, though he is very close to
retirement, Matthew was going to be his hurricane. And to achieve this,
he could not leave any loose ends untied.
Source: Raul Castro in Santiago de Cuba Because of Matthew? / Juan Juan
Almeida – Translating Cuba -