Those who expected some clues about the needed economic and political reforms that the island is crying out for were left disappointed. General Raul Castro sent them a message: you will have to wait.
Castro II did not even speak at a ceremony held in the province of Villa Clara, 180 miles from Havana, to mark the 57th anniversary of the assault on a military barracks in eastern Cuba.
He delegated the speech to Vice Minister Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, one of the many elderly men who occupy significant positions in the administration of the country. He said almost nothing.
More of the same. A boring recitation of successes, slogans, clichés, the occasional anti-imperialist bravado, and a spirited defense of Venezuela in the ongoing affair with neighboring Colombia over the issue of the alleged involvement of Caracas in supporting the FARC.
In one brief line, the vice president said that Cuba would not follow the advice of the international media, and that changes would be made at the pace and at the time that they decide.
The General saved his speech, short as always, for the close of a Cuba-Venezuela ministerial summit. He made no reference to topics of interest to ordinary Cubans, who have many unanswered questions about the economic crisis that has existed in the country for 21 years.
Fidel did not want to be left behind. This July he became a media star. After four years in bed, the Commander in Chief is doing piece work.
He has returned changed into a guru – prophesying nuclear wars and environmental disasters, and reading news dispatches. If anything has changed about the angry Fidel, it is his tone. Now he is moderate and measured. He seems like a political advisor. But he is not.
On July 26, at a meeting he held with a group of American Protestants, intellectuals, and Cuban journalists, the old fox Castro sent a message back and forth.
It seemed like another one of his speculations. But it wasn’t. Before finishing his far-fetched theories about the future of the planet, he let drop the news that perhaps before the end of the year, the five spies imprisoned in the U.S. since 1998 could return home.
In Cuba, information must be read between the lines. The government is a specialist in speaking about important issues cryptically or remaining silent.
But if Castro I delivered his message it is because something is cooking behind the scenes. It is almost certain that the operation to free 52 political prisoners is an exchange: 52 in return for 5. Remember that Cardinal Jaime Ortega traveled to Washington.
But the real message from Castro is to put fear in the gut of the leaders and influential intellectuals in the country who are trying to create a window with the West on their own.
In such closed societies, fear and suspicion is a constant rule. You can see with your own eyes a Castro who overcame death is always an arm of pressure.
Clearly, each Castro brother goes his own way. It might be a concerted tactic. Or a sign of differences between them. The truth is that Fidel is back. And many will have to retrieve candles.