Castro Leaves, Castroism Remains

The responsibility of carrying out the urgent reforms that Cuba needs rests on the shoulders of the successors appointed by Raúl Castro. (EFE / ACN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 17 April 2021 — A few hours before the start of the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), there were those who insisted that the conclave would be canceled and Raúl Castro’s departure from office postponed. The hypothesis was not entirely far-fetched but it failed to take into account two very important aspects of the man who,  until yesterday, was secretary of the PCC: his mediocre predictability and the almost 90 years that weigh on his shoulders.

Without surprises, as one who carries out a long-drawn up plan down to the smallest details, Castro not only opened the Party meeting but also confirmed that his name will no longer formally head an organization placed above any institution or entity of power on this Island. He had long prepared for that moment and postponing it was to risk dying on the job.

Since the announcement, the international media has been filled with headlines about a farewell to a surname that has ruled the country for 62 years, but without perceiving that Castroism is more than a man and his clan. It is a way of managing politics, controlling the press, managing the economy from the military sector, defining education plans, managing international relations and structuring ideological propaganda.

Now, when Raúl Castro says goodbye to his secretariat in the Party and goes through the last stretch of his finite biology, he remains looking over the shoulders of the successors to whom he designated the responsibility of carrying out the urgent reforms that the country needs. But embarking on the path of these changes implies dismantling, to a large extent, Castroism, that system marked by voluntarism, inefficiency and intolerance.

Molded and promoted by Fidel Castro and later touched up by his brother with the flexibilities carried out in the past decade, Castroism has ended up establishing itself as a way of behaving. Hence, it does not matter if the surname that gives the system its name will no longer be in the minutes or documents. As long as the heirs to power do not dismantle such a legacy, it will be as if both brothers were still in command of the national ship.

Is Miguel Díaz-Canel willing to dismantle that strict network of controls and absurdities in which Castroism has gripped an entire country? Does he want his legacy to be as a continuist who sank the Island, or as a reformist who prioritized the well-being of the people over the dark task of prolonging a dysfunctional regime? As long as Raúl Castro breathes, those questions are unlikely to be answered, and by then the situation is likely to be even more catastrophic.

In order to say goodbye to Castroism, it is necessary to remove the fundamental pillars that make this stale populism, disguised as sovereign nationalism, an evil deeply rooted in Cuba. They would have to dismantle their hatred of difference, that deep allergy to any criticism or dissent that has been one of its most characteristic signs. But its end would also have to eliminate the economic centralism with which they have controlled everything from the sugar trade to the importation of a vehicle.

In order to say goodbye to Castroism, it is necessary to eradicate the confusion that national independence is only possible from the socialist management model and, incidentally, set aside the fallacy that something similar to a system of social justice and equality for all governs in Cuba. Burying Castroism involves opening the parliament to plurality, the newsstands to the diversity of the press, and the schools to other versions of history.

Raúl Castro’s farewell eulogy this Friday in front of a party organization increasingly diminished in number and social descent, is not enough. The true end of the Castro era will come with the eradication of that constant hatred of the other, of prosperity, wealth and freedom, that one family managed to sneak into the DNA of an entire country.

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