Cuba’s new President is anything but,
and the much expected change in power
will bring only minor modifications
for Cuba’s long-suffering citizens.
On February 19th, Fidel Castro made it official:
he was resigning the presidency and ending his 50-year reign over Cuba.
Many exiles, U.S. officials and Cubans on the island had been waiting e begin with the prem- for this historic day, confident that it would not only mark a new begin- ise that Raúl Castro ning but signal that fundamental change was coming to the hemisphere’s andhisallies willonly
only communist nation. Some experts predicted that Cubans, fed up with accede to radical change if they are
shortagesandhardship, wouldriseupanddemandfree- forcedintoit, thatis, iftheregime’s
dom. Others suggested change would come from within survival is at stake. A close look at
the government—that a younger generation of leaders what has occurred since the 1990s,
wouldascendtothetopandrecognizethat Cuba”seco- which saw the introduction of lim-
nomicandpoliticalsystemwasbankruptandneeded itedreforms, revealsthat Cuba’srul-
radical reform. ing elite remains committed to so-
But what happened following Fidel’s announcement cialism.
was the opposite. In 1991, Cuba’s economy went into a
Rather than taking to the streets demanding change, freefall following the collapse of the
Cubans are going about their daily lives—queuing for Soviet Union and the resulting loss of
hours at bus stops, collecting monthly food rations at neighborhood $3 billion in annual subsidies. Hun-
bodegas, and showing up at government jobs—as if nothing unusual has ger and power blackouts were wide-
happened. Rather than a new generation of leaders taking over, Raúl Castro, spread. Public transportation disap-
Fidel’s younger brother, was named Cuba’s new president, and a cadre of ag- peared, while crime and prostitution
ing communist loyalists continue to dominate the leadership structure in soared. Almost overnight, Cuba be-
the newly named Council of State, the nation’s top policy-making body. came a sex tourism destination for
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice once again urged the Cuban Spaniards, Italians and Mexicans. Af-government “to begin a process of peaceful, democratic change.” But Rice’s ter a brief riot in 1994, tens of thou-words ignore evidence that strongly indicates Cuba’s economic and politi- sands of Cubans took to the seas in
cal system, with minor modifications aimed at improving daily life, is sus- flimsy rafts in a desperate attempt to
tainable for the foreseeable future. Here’s why. reach U.S. shores.