Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Castro: Empty harbors

Is this the beginning of the end, as the wishful thinkers in Little Havana want so desperately to believe, for the Castro dictatorship in Cuba? If so, what does the future hold? Democratic reform, possibly? Even freedom?

Let’s not be too hasty, get our hopes up too high, but there’s no question that these are some tantalizing possibilities. Unfortunately, the ailing 79-year-old dictator may still have quite a few laps left to go. The story is that the Castro family is known for its longevity. And even if this is the end of the line for Fidel, his 75-year-old kid brother, Raul, is primed to step right in without missing a beat in police state rule. And he’s as close to a clone as you can get politically.

When we were there five years ago—legally, for journalistic purposes—things were as they had been since 1959, as if frozen in time, without any sense of the possibility of any significant change in anyone’s lifetime. The first thing you noticed was all the 1950s automobiles on the streets. We rode to church in a late-model 1958 Buick with a Russian diesel engine that could be heard a couple blocks away. The second thing you noticed was the grand architecture of the once-magnificent city of Havana, looking all the sadder for its down-at-the-heels state of disrepair. So many elegant pieces of architecture that probably hadn’t had a new coat of paint since the revolution.

Another thing you notice strolling along the Melancon—kind of like Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive—is the grand harbor that should be full of ships, but standing empty. The obvious reason being that boats could afford a means of escape, which is not permitted. Cubans have proven themselves willing to commandeer anything that will float, even risk being eaten by sharks, to make their escape to Miami.

Such a sad, sad place. And yet, we found reason for hope even here: The church of Christ, which always flourishes under persecution, is alive and well. One of the facts that the mainstream mediocracy will not tell you is that many of the Orange-style peaceful revolutions, such as in Ukraine, have largely been the works of pro-democracy, freedom-loving Christians in those countries.

Could such an eventuality be in store for Cuba, long-term? Who knows? But one thing’s for sure: Succession planning is one of the fatal flaws of dictatorships everywhere. Someone will have to pick up the pieces of yet another unsuccessful experiment in Communism. Will the broken-spirited Cuban people be equal to the task?

That is the question.


Post a Comment

<< Home