14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 4 January 2017 – The March 2nd “military parade and combatants’ march,” dedicated to the late Fidel Castro and to Cuba’s youth, which lasted an hour and 40 minutes, offered four main messages: projecting an image of austerity; no aggressiveness towards the new American government of Donald Trump; demonstrating an image, unreal, of youthful engagement; and no internal changes. There may be others.
1-Projecting an image of austerity
The iconic yacht Granma, surrounded like sea waves with young “pioneers” and “mambisa” calvary, harking back to Cuba’s 19th century wars of independence, filled the parade, which was lacking in heavy armaments, cannons and tanks. Nor were there rockets or “strategic weapons.” Rather it was a review of the troops carrying their long rifles, state workers, many young people from military schools, and more than a few children organized to show broad respect for the newly deceased leader.
The absence of heavy and strategic long-range and mechanized armament promoted an image of austerity in the face of the serious economic situation that the Government has not hidden. Since the assumption of real power by Raul Castro, the traditional parades and speeches in the Plaza have been characterized by sobriety and speed.
2-No aggressiveness toward the new Trump Government
The speech for the occasion, evidently prepared under the direction of the Party-Government, was handed over to the meteor of the FEU (University Students Federation), Jennifer Bello, who is also a newly appointed member of the Council of State. The speech was marked by the “reaffirmation” of the traditional “principles,” especially in relations with the United States: the lifting of the blockade/embargo, the elimination of interventionist programs and the return of the Guantanamo naval base.
However, the absence of offensive weaponry may also be a sign of the interest in not showing any aggressiveness to the outside, particularly towards our neighbor to the North, at a time when a new tenant arrives at the White House.
This fact, incidentally, could be influenced by Putin’s Russia, which has just intelligently responded to President Barack Obama’s recent moves to oust 35 Russian intelligence officers for their alleged interference in the recent presidential elections in the United States. Putin decided to assume that this is an irrelevant act, and to wait for the relations between the two powers to assume a new rhythm with the inauguration of Donald Trump.
In sum, the discourse of the designated youth “leader,” along with the highlighting of the traditional policies toward Washington and the absence of offensive weaponry, would be sending a two-way message to Trump: “We do not want problems with the US, but we are not going to change.”
3- Show an image, unreal, of youthful engagement
Another message is intended to show a greater role of youth in the current stage of the “Revolution,” touched up by the presence of women younger than the average age of the “historicos”: Raul Castro, Machado Ventura, Ramiro Valdes and Guillermo Garcia who were in the reviewing stand.
However, it was damaged by the same old speech from the young star and by the fact that these four figures were the center of the choreography presiding over the parade, relegating to a secondary position, away from the center, Miguel Diaz Canel, who could indeed represent that younger blood in his position as vice-president.
The excessive image of youth engagement does not reflect reality, since the young woman gave the same speech, old in both form and content, while it is evident that those who identify themselves as the “historic generation,” decorate their surroundings with young faces who will be present only as long as they remain loyal.
I do not pretend that the irrelevance granted to the vice president suggests that he himself is in disgrace, but it does show that the young faces are only adornments and can be moved like dominos, or disappear, as long as they do not affect the power of the historical ones, certainly now that they lack their natural glue: Fidel Castro.
4- No internal changes
Finally, as a whole, the speech, the parade itself and its images carry a message of immobility: no substantial changes, no democratization and the repression against dissent and different thinking will continue.