Cuban exiles in Miami feel let down after a year without Fidel
IANS Sunday 29th July, 2007
The euphoria seen in Miami after Cuban leader Fidel Castro's first-ever
transfer of power to his brother Raul has turned into outright
disappointment one year after the handover.
On July 31, 2006, Miami was boiling with activity: Fidel had
'temporarily' given up power to undergo surgery for intestinal bleeding.
Exiles in Little Havana, Hialeah and other parts of Southern Florida,
carried Cuban flags, honked their car horns and shouted anti-Castro
slogans, along with symbolic expressions like 'Viva Cuba' and 'Libertad'
Others celebrated by the restaurant Versalles and its surroundings - a
meeting point favoured by Cuban exiles - until late into the night and
over the following days as the news spread like wildfire.
The jubilant mood has since changed.
'There has been a sort of let down, because people always expected that
when (Fidel) Castro was no longer directly in power his absence would
provoke more solid symptoms of some change in the country,' said Ramon
Saul Sanchez, leader of the Democracy Movement.
The transfer of power in Havana led many in Miami to cheer, thinking it
was a historic moment that would pave the way for the inevitable
transformation of Cuba. But Sanchez believes Raul Castro has done little
to open up the country.
'(Fidel) Castro is no longer directly giving orders ... But the same
crude policy continues, of repression against the civic opposition in
the country,' Sanchez said. 'In fact, dissidents have been jailed,
repudiation acts continue, so the iron policy against the peaceful
opposition has not died down.'
Twelve months have gone by since Fidel Castro underwent surgery, yet on
both sides of the Florida Strait life goes on as normal. The 80-year-old
Cuban president has made no public appearances and speaks only through
the occasional video and articles in the state-controlled media.
But anti-Castro activists are not ready to give up hope just yet.
'We still think that this process is irreversible for this regime by
now. I mean, the deterioration is going to continue. Those of (Fidel's)
generation, who have done so much harm to Cuba, are going to disappear
gradually,' said Sanchez.
Sanchez has fought for the rights of Cuban exiles in the US and went on
hunger strike several times in protest of the return of Cubans found at sea.
'Over 50 years the Cuban government has not managed to rejuvenate the
revolutionary project it championed and never accomplished, because in
Cuba there is really only a dictatorship that keeps the people in huge
scarcity,' Sanchez said.
'And although there have not been changes in Cuba, for us it is the
beginning of the end of that tyranny which will force Raul to carry out
reforms when Fidel Castro is not on the Cuban scene, due to internal and
external pressures,' he added.
The civil rights activist said that if the Cuban government does not
introduce reforms that help the Cuban people, 'conditions can worsen in
such a way that they lead to a social explosion with incalculable
As Miami's Cuban exile community looks toward Cuba with one eye, they
watch the United States with the other. There too, exiles see a danger
in the fact that more and more people are speaking against the
decades-long embargo the US has kept in place against Cuba.
While the embargo still stands, voices have risen over the past year
against sanctions and in favour of opening up trade with Cuba. Another
attempt to soften the embargo was defeated Friday in the US Congress.
Tomas Robaina, of the Domino Network association, said he recently
travelled to Washington to 'inform' members of Congress of those fears.
'We have to remind (the US) more than ever of the atrocities that are
committed in Cuba. We feel that outside Miami there is not as much
understanding,' Robaina said.