Diaz-Canel, a Continuity without Charisma, Historical Weight, or ‘Ashe’

Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel at the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba. (Cubandebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 16 February 2022 — The Cuban dictatorship laid its foundations on the charisma of Fidel Castro. Beyond what fans or detractors may argue, it is undeniable that the bearded man had qualities for oratory, knew how to channel the frustrations of an era in his favor, and was an unparalleled demagogue.

It is difficult to understand how a people quite alien to the ideology of the hammer and sickle embraced Marxism without much resistance. But it could be explained with that guaracha that sounded in the Cuban streets of the 1960s: “If Fidel is a communist, put me on the list.”

Fidelismo became a kind of religion, whose cornerstone would be the cult of the commander in chief, maximum leader, caballo, caguairán, etc. The white dove on his shoulder, his face on the cover of Bohemia magazine as if he were a Christ, his stature and his olive green uniform reinforced the magical halo. And the legend of him spread beyond the borders. He was, for many in the world, a kind of revolutionary messiah.

Despite the ferocious proselytism committed to consolidating his myth, for a good part of Cubans it was quite obvious that the country was headed for disaster. Already at the beginning of the nineties the song that marked the popular vision towards the figure of him was another. And this time it was not a guaracha, but a criollo rock: “That man is crazy.”

Raúl Castro had the good sense to understand that he did not possess a drop of his brother’s charisma. He focused his efforts on being discreet, pragmatic and open. He based his power on the so-called “historical weight.” For some, the administration of the Army general has been the least bad moment that the country has experienced since the Special Period. However, his motto, Without haste, but without pause found so many potholes along the way that the dream of copying the Chinese and Vietnamese ended up getting bogged down.

The dictatorship urgently needed to find a successor. Raúl had swept away the team that had been near his brother. Those guys from the Battle of Ideas committed the deadly sin of seeing themselves as heirs to the throne. Raul, el chino de La Rinconada had his own list, unrelated to that of Punto Cero [Fidel’s estate]. Raúl personally acknowledged having experimented with a dozen candidate dauphins. Until, finally, one of those test-tubes met his expectations: Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez.

The blond from Las Villas had been holding his breath since he learned he was on the way to the crown. It was obvious that he had microphones and cameras even in the toilet. And that prolonged apnea not only turned his hair gray before its time, but also removed all human expression from his face. Díaz-Canel is incapable of delivering a fluid speech without looking at the notecards that accompany him in all of his interventions. When he has gone a millimeter from the script, he has made mistakes like the one where he stated that “lemonade is the basis of everything.”

Without charisma, or historical weight, Canel had no other option but to choose the least revolutionary motto imaginable: We are Continuity. For a people that cried out for the word “change,” continuity was a bucket of cold water. Nor has ashé (that Santeria concept associated with luck) accompanied it. The sad crash of a plane, the Havana tornado, the collapse of a bridge over the Zaza River and the covid-19 pandemic do not point to the blessing of the orishas.

When it comes to nicknames, he hasn’t been lucky either. In Holguín, when he was first secretary of the Party and insisted on preventing the farmers from bringing milk into the city, he was baptized Miguel “Díaz-Condón [condom].” Later, influencer Alex Otaola would rename it “El Puesto a Dedo [hand-picked].” And finally, from the rapper Maykel Osorbo, the former porn actress Mía Kalifa, to a choir shouted in the streets and labeled on the walls, they have given it the not very friendly name: “El Singao* [motherfucker].”

There is no need to recount in detail the disaster of the Ordering Task*. And to make matters worse, the “combat order” after the social outbreak of July 11 already places him as an irredeemable tyrant. Raúl Castro is probably banging his head against the walls wondering how the hell he came up with such a designation. It is useless that Díaz-Canel’s new slogan is To Cuba, put some heart on it. With such symptoms, the myth of the Cuban Revolution, in his hands, goes in free fall towards cardiac arrest.

Translator’s notes: 
*Tarea ordenamiento = the [so-called] ‘Ordering Task’ which is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and other measures. 
** ‘Díaz-Canel, el singao’ roughly rhymes.


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