Friday, March 30, 2007

Cuba: waiting and speculation

Cuba: waiting and speculation

Recently I came back from Cuba, my homeland, where time seems to have
stood still. Before I left for Cuba, there was a lot speculation about
Castro's illness, all of it negative.
Being in Havana, it was a big surprise to me to see that many people
avoided talking about it, and I got the feeling that some of them really
didn't care one way or another. They're apparently just waiting on the

It was a very strange situation. I was thinking that if I had a close
family member who was seriously ill, I would really not have time to
celebrate New Year's Eve, Christmas or anything else. But most Cubans
were celebrating without any apparent worries. Life seemed to continue
as if nothing bad had happened, even though the whole world knew that
the father of the Cuban Revolution was undergoing emergency surgery in a
secret hospital in Havana to stop his internal bleeding.

Already around 8 months had passed from when Castro was admitted to
hospital. Inside Cuba, people mainly received news about Fidel from the
Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez, because he was one of the few who was
apparently allowed to make any real contact with the distinguished
patient. There were occasional videos that showed a weak man fighting
for his life. It was very clear to everybody that Castro's health was
really in decline. Castro's situation was considered by the Cuban
government to be a state secret, even though speculation inside and
outside of the Caribbean island was increasing from day to day.

In Miami, there was a group of Cubans who believed that the end of
Castro's era had just begun. Parties, meetings, champagne and all kinds
of pre-celebrations took place in this part of America, as Castro's
death seemed imminent. In Cuba the opposite happened: people were just
waiting for some new economic measures from the provisional government
of Raul Castro that might improve the bad domestic situation.

Now more time has passed and nothing new has really happened. But in
Cuba some people feel relieved, or even happy, because at least the
Cuban television and radio have been showing normal programmes without
interruption and without the long speeches from the Commander in Chief.

During my recent visit I saw a lot of people enjoying the different
offerings from the national media: musicals, movies, interesting
documentaries, sports, and so on. Some people say that it was just a
smoke screen so that Cubans would not worry about Castro's ill health.

Just one day before I arrived back in Finland a miracle happened: Castro
turned up on TV – once again with his friend Chávez – and all the gossip
about his impending death immediately stopped. Now a new question has
arisen, both inside and outside of Cuba. Will Castro be able to take the
reins of the revolution again or is it time for him to hand over the
leadership to another hero? Right now it's all up in the air.

People like Felipe Pérez Roque, the Cuban Chancellor, and Ricardo
Alarcón, the President on the Cuban Parliament have promised the Cuban
people that Castro is making a speedy recovery and will eventually be
reinstated as President on the Council of State, and even as the Head of
Some political personalities with similar political ideologies have
visited from abroad, including Evo Morales, the President of Peru.
Chávez has recently spoken with Castro on his own Hello President radio
programme in Venezuela. The international press has also participated in
the events. Perhaps the best example of this was the publication of
pictures in the Colombian newspaper El tiempo, which show Castro talking
with his close friend, the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez.

Both groups – those who are expecting Castro's demise, and those who are
hoping for his full recovery – are still waiting to see what will really
happen next.

The author is a Cuban living in Helsinki. He participates in the media
education and work training programme Mundo.

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