14ymedio, Havana, 17 February 2023 — At the age of 29, with a position as manager in a military company in Varadero and his recent appointment to be a candidate for the Cuban Parliament for Cárdenas, the once “niño” Elián González has a high concept of himself. In an interview published this Thursday in the communist youth newspaper, this father of a two-year-old girl says he is proud that the voters of Matanzas have finally noticed his “qualities.”
Clearly, González is laying his best card on the political table: the reputation given to him by the media campaign launched by Fidel Castro in 2000 to achieve the return of the “little rafter” to the Island from the United States. That episode is, for the young man, a “responsibility” that he owes to Castro, for having “mobilized” the same people who voted for him.
“I will always have Fidel and Raúl’s hand on my shoulder,” insists González, who now is enjoying in advance the “simple fact of being nominated,” even without “being a deputy” yet. Should he occupy a seat in Parliament, of which the young man has absolute certainty, he plans to “approve the most just and equitable laws,” represent the “concerns” of his territory and be “faithful” to the legacy of the Castros. Even so, González does not commit to anything: “Many times we will not have the resources nor will we have an immediate response,” he warned.
At no time in the interview did he mention Miguel Díaz-Canel or the other members of the current government. Nor did he mention that the area of Matanzas that he will have to represent has been characterized in recent years by a fall in tourism, inflation and the loss of purchasing power. In addition, it was precisely in Cárdenas where one of the most notorious popular protests in history on the Island occurred on July 11, 2021, and where police repression fell the hardest.
His appointment to occupy a seat in the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP) leads González, rather, to evoke the past and resurrect his obsession with Fidel, who made him a standard-bearer of the “Battle of Ideas” and forced him to be at his side in public.
His father, Juan Miguel González, also occupied a place in Parliament. Elián sees this “coincidence” as another responsibility to the regime. “I know that the training I have, the support and admiration that I enjoy from the people of Cuba, even this responsibility, I owe to Fidel,” he says.
Despite his meteoric rise in the economic administration of the Island and, soon, in the Government itself, González alleges that he never aspired to any position, although he clarifies this by saying that “I will always be willing to assume it as long as it’s required. I am proud to know that I’m going to share in a part of the historic direction; knowing that Raúl will be there redoubles my happiness,” although he regrets not being able to be “in that room” with Fidel Castro.
Both leaders, he admits, urged him on more than one occasion to follow “that path” of politics. His entry into Parliament, he says, is a sign that “I followed that path and have done it well.”
González devotes several paragraphs to reflecting on the impact that his position will have on his family. “I wouldn’t be a good Cuban if I didn’t take the problems home,” he says, while warning that the work will “steal my time.”
Asked about Cuban democracy, González avoided assessing the system in general and offered a vague answer: in Cuba there is democracy because among his friends are both “a division general” and the “president of the Council of Churches of Cuba.”
As expected, he referred to the “blockade” of the United States as the cause of all the ills of Cuba and detailed his idyllic vision of the Island, “a country [in which] there are so many gratuities [’freebies’] and social benefits.” In addition to the embargo, González assumes that the Cuban economy has a failing for allowing those who “do not contribute anything” to receive the “same benefits” in health and education. “That damages us,” he complained.
He asked that, despite the obvious economic crisis, people “do not lose confidence in their leaders” and to express their problems “without fear.” He did not clarify whether among the ways of being heard by the leaders was that of peaceful protest, for which hundreds of Cubans have been tried in recent months.
González, a member of the Union of Young Communists and with a military education, is one of the regime’s great bets to rejuvenate its image. The election of young deputies has been, at least since the last legislature of the Parliament, a way to appear updated, which echoes the traditional policy of “continuity,” the slogan of Díaz-Canel.
Victimization by the United States and “politically correct” self-criticism characterize the discourse of young people close to the regime. Despite his fifty years, the official singer Israel Rojas repeated last Tuesday in an interview the same ideas about the young people that Elián González had.
In short, Rojas said he defended “the Cuban cause, beyond the government. Because the government also fucks up.” He quickly qualified his statement and said that he did not mind being branded as an “official” musician, because “all speeches are official.”
Translated by Regina Anavy
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.