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The two halves of Raul Castro

The two halves of / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on May 12, 2015

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 11 May 2015 – Raul Castro arriving in
Italo Calvino’s other homeland, like the Viscount of Calvino’s book,
landed divided in two, split down the middle. He came from a flood of
soldiers and armaments at the Red Square parade in Moscow, where he
showed his Communist nostalgia recalling the “glory days” of the Soviet
Union. In Rome, however, he arrived with his other side taking the lead.
At the Vatican he became the man educated in a Jesuit college and even
confessed to Pope Francis that he might be disposed to return to the
Church and once again take up prayer.

This Sunday, the two contradictory and irreconcilable pieces of Raul
Castro have returned to Cuba, a country also fragmented between the
celerity with which it feeds hopes and the slow pace of reality. The
official media only reported the tour of one of the General’s parts,
that of commitments and continuity and the embrace of the Kremlin
comrades. However, with regards to the meeting with the pope, they only
reported the words of thanks for the mediation between Cuba and the
United States, accompanied by a reference to the pope’s upcoming visit
to the Island.

Why did neither prime time TV news nor the newspaper Granma report Raul
Castro’s declarations about a possible return to the faith? Because this
part is not suitable to be aired indoors, it should only be exposed to a
foreign public. Inside the house, within the national frontiers, the
image must continue to be that of a tough, strong man of clenched fist,
who neither wavers nor exhibits any weakness. In Cuba he is not willing
to show the moderation or the diplomatic side on display during his
trip. Here, he wants to make it clear who leads and reaffirm that there
is no room for differences nor opposition.

To add to the contradictions, while the General- was engaged in
a foreign tour, published some reflections that reinforce
the choice of Marxism-Leninism. Speaking out for an atheistic and
materialistic ideology a few hours after his younger brother was
received by Saint Peter’s successor. It was not a coincidental text, nor
a careless one. It focused on reining in the reformist side that Raul
Castro exhibited before democratic governments. The commander-in-chief
also needed to make clear the limit of the transformations Cuba is
experiencing, which so far have been timidly focused on the economic
sphere without going so far as political changes.

Like the story written by Italo Calvino, it is very difficult for these
two halves to coexist without confrontation. The pope, the French
president and Barack Obama, among others, have shaken the hand of the
politician who says he is willing to talk. They do not observe how the
military and intolerant side, that is also a part of him, behaves on
Cuban soil. Under this Raul Castro are authorized the acts of
repudiation against the dissidents, State Security’s harassment and
surveillance of activists and the greater part of the population which
doesn’t even dare to criticize the system out loud.

Which of the two halves will prevail? A Raul Castro who returns to
religious faith, propels a comprehensive reform of the country and sits
down to talk with the internal opposition? Or that other, raised up in
military intransigence, who incites political hatred and puts the
interests of his family clan above the urgent needs of the nation? Will
there come a time when he cannot sustain such duplicity?

In the last part of the book by the famous Italian-Cuban writer, the two
halves of the protagonist are sewn together and live in harmony after
trying to annihilate himself. In the Cuban case, that could be the most
devastating of the choices. A Raul Castro who maintains a benign
moderation towards the outside world and a harsh authoritarianism within
Cuba would be a terrible scenario for the future.

Source: The two halves of Raul Castro / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez |
Translating Cuba –

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