Reflections on Raul Castro’s Speech

By Erasmo Calzadilla

Raul Castro, center, at last year’s Cuban journalists congress.
Raul Castro, center

July 26 is known in Cuba as the Day of National Rebelliousness in homage to those brave men and women who launched the assault on the Moncada barracks to liberate Cuba from one of its many tyrants.

As is the custom, the President gives a speech to the entire nation on that day.  On this occasion, naturally the responsibility fell to Raul Castro.

I have to acknowledge that my first impression was of calm and certain joy at the brevity and certainty of his words.  They filled me with enthusiasm, especially if I compare them with some of the last July 26 speeches given by Fidel – the country falling to pieces and he dedicating his speech to recounting the evils of imperialism.  That really drove me crazy.

Nevertheless, in a second reading of Raul’s speech I took more time going over some “little things” that caught my attention, or, better said, that I didn’t like as much.

To begin, let’s refer to the words with which the Granma newspaper introduces the speech:  “Our people have never failed to heed the call of the Nation.”  I asked myself: In this expression, who is “the Nation”?

Well, it seems clear that this very worthy and abstract term, associated perhaps with the patriarchs, doesn’t include the people.  It could be that this seems like an insignificant detail, but I feel as if these disconnects that abound in the official discourse are intended to reinforce subliminally the idea that the People are subordinate to a cast of government officials and patriarchs who “watch over the Nation.”

Am I exaggerating?  Let’s go on to another point.

Several paragraphs later, congratulating those who resisted and recuperated so quickly from last years hurricane damage, Raul mentions the people of Holguin and Pinar del Rio, provinces where the swirling winds passed over.  He later went on to note the important work carried out by the top Party leaders in Holguin and Las Tunas.

At 34, I still don’t understand very well how this country is governed.  Above all, my doubts revolve around the relationship between those two parallel powers: the Assemblies of Peoples Power, (the elected city councils, provincial assemblies and national parliament) and that of the Party.  Which of the two is the definitive government?  Because I imagine that it’s not both at once.

And with this in mind, I wonder: Why did Raul congratulate those from the Party in the province, but didn’t mention the representatives of Peoples Power Assemblies?  Could it be that they didn’t do their work well, or was it perhaps that the possibility of accomplishing something fell only into the hands of the Party?

In addition, if his words were a tacit confession that the Cuban Communist Party is what governs, then how can it be that an institution not under popular control is governing?   As far as I know, those who are subject to public scrutiny, even if only symbolically, are the representatives of Peoples Power.   In the end, this becomes a rhetorical question.

Lastly, I want to mention that I am very happy that the marabou (a thorny bush that has proliferated on idle lands) has been retreating due to the efforts of farmers and ranchers, and that Raul has the farsightedness to envision and encourage us to work towards the day in which petroleum becomes scare, a day that I suppose is not far off.

6 thoughts on “Reflections on Raul Castro’s Speech

  • ALSO JOEL!! do your homework you have no right to speak about anything unless and until you have facts..u get them by living here. My family eats well

    PEOPLE LEAVE CUBA, BUT THEY DO NOT COME TO RACIST AMERIKKKA BECAUSE TOO MANY HAVE EDUC THEM ABOUT THE NON DEMOCRATRIC SOCIETY of haters of those of Spanish African and native heritage who may need a hand, a place to lie thier heads, work etc..White ameriklkka as we speak is getting ready to demand that spanish speakers without legal status get no health care under the healthplan proposed by your racist hater pres Barak hussein Obama. So, my man with ther poor research skills..whats to want there in the US? ..FYI ELCOMMNDANTE has never needed the US we have survived and done well with out it..we have the following and more..Please don’t believe the hype..Those who left including Carlos Moore did so for more reasons that are told here..

    Cobalt, nickel, iron ore, chromium, copper, salt, timber, silica, petroleum, arable land

    Joel!! this is for your eyesa..
    Unless and until you understand that the US lied about everything and perpetrated a fruad about how good it is to live in racist amerikka where white men make it thier biz to disrepect an African pres/african people while seeking votes.. you would not know..Its easy for you to go to Fox news and aspout numbers..and what u post here tells me and other Cubans that not only are u a racist and hater of self determination you don;t even have your facts..10% if u only knew.. do ur homework..People are relocating to Cuba in numbers albeit not those who 2 b ripped off.
    Fidel has kept us with food clothing and shelter for 48 yrs and regardless of what FOX nerws says he did it without help from racist amerikkka

  • It always amaze me how some people in the US are so quick to say Cuba is better place to live.
    Please, I don’t mean offense my any mean.
    I guess propaganda does work.
    How do you explain 10% probably more of the Cuban population has decided to leave such a great place to live anywhere else? And how come another big part of the population wish they could do the same?
    I have no knowledge of a migration flow from USA to the paradise land of Cuba. I’m sure Castro would be happy if this happen, it would finally proof he is right.

  • Erasmo, here’s my two cents on who governs Cuba. The senior leadership of the Communist Party with the so-called National Assembly of People’s Power acting like a rubber stamp.

  • I hope, the extremely painful and dangerous situation Cuba will be facing in the coming months, may incentivate some basic changes, without altering the principles on which that nation is conceived. In order to control theft, graft and other demoralizing behaviour, a centralized government, cannot possibly know what is happening in a barber shop in La Maya. Lease it to any inerested barber, charge him occupational license, rent, water, sewer, electricity, phone, personal health insurance, pension fund etc., and we can rest assured, that no one in that shop will be allowed to steal a comb or scissors. The Controler’s office is a great idea, but it scope must be limited to big, important matters, not a cook stealing some tomato sauce. Finally, lets think of descentralizing provinces, municipalities, circumscription and measure those leaders, not for calling people to rallys, but for the development, upkeep of their community and let their constituency decide their fate yearly.

  • I cannot answer you question as to who is in charge, The Party or the People., but I do have some observations:

    I have only visited Cuba once, so I am not as an expert on Cuban politics, but have experience in the US. We are no more a democracy than China. A few people vote here [less than 50%]. Elected officials pocket the money of the Corporate/Military Oligarchy, and do as they’re told. On the local level, elected officials dance to the tune of the developers, and ignore the mandates of the people. That is how they condition us to accept the decisions of their betters.

    Bankers and the Military get trillions of tax dollars while the workers in the US are unemployed, homeless, and have no healthcare.

    Work with your elected councils & make them more effective. At least Raul delayed the Party Congress till the Councils debate theissues. I have hopes that Cuba will remain an example of a better way to live than the greed and violence here.

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