The Reflection in the Mirror: Castro and Mubarak / Angel Santiesteban

Mohamed Bouazizi

The newspaper Granma, official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba, which also controls the rest of the official media as is common in totalitarian regimes, announces that demonstrations against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak are a response to his thirty years in power.

The news seems to mock Cubans. The Castro government is already threatening to reach double that figure at the helm of the country, leading to ever growing poverty and scarcity.

Common sense, however, seems to fail authorities because a certain logic dictates that they shouldn’t publish this image of Mubarak–their reflection in the mirror. Thirty years in power in the Egyptian nation is bad, but fifty-three years for the Cuban dictatorship is good?

Mubarak declared, according to an interview on the American network ABC, that his departure from power would lead the country into chaos. “I hate to see Egyptians fighting among themselves.” It’s hard to know whether all dictators are the same by nature or if they studied the same manual.

What’s laughable–if such a thing were possible–is that they mock themselves, they defy the most basic common sense. Mubarak and Fidel Castro imagine themselves to be gods, chosen ones, capable of guiding their people if not to prosperity, at least to “dignity.” They have no bread to offer but they try to swindle us with populist ideology. The tragedy is that the price of their love of power is paid by their people.

Also, recently, we have the “bread intifada” in Tunisia, a rebellion against a government that, as the official Cuban press describes it, has been “entrenched in power for 23 years.” In Yemen something similar is happening. In the Ivory Coast the population demands respect for the outcome of its elections. Sudan votes in a referendum of self-determination. Peoples, risking their destiny, tired of being deceived, launch themselves like cannon fodder to impose their will.

Just a few hours ago, national television claimed that representatives from the Mubarak government were holding talks with the opposition. The key question is when will the Castros’ government accept democracy, admit the opposition, and stop ignoring plans that could heal the present national crisis.

Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian whose death sparked the wave of riots that are shaking the Arab world today, died like Orlando Zapata Tamayo. Neither of them had any other alternative.

February 12 2011