HAVANA TIMES — A political event of huge significance for Cubans will take place in 2018: President Raul Castro will step down, not without leaving someone to his liking (and not so much the people’s) on the throne. We may breathe some winds of change initially, but, as the months pass, the situation will likely get more and more tense.
If the anointed one who catches this hot potato doesn’t multiply the bread and the fishes quickly – something highly improbable, as I see it – I anticipate a whole period of political protests, demonstrations, police repression, power cuts and generalized shortages.
Behind this turmoil, we can expect the United States to pull the strings in different circles and add fuel to the fire.
I am extremely worried Cuba can become a kind of Syria. How could we avoid such a fate? After giving the issue some thought, I have come to a rather painful conclusion: I think we’re going to need a leader.
I am very much aware of the danger that a firm-handed popular leader represents, but, given the delicate situation that’s heading our way, I’d say that would be the lesser of possible evils.
Anarchists, with whom I share more than one posture, would prefer to the see the establishment of an “order” managed from below, from the level of collectives, neighborhoods, communities, workplaces, etc.
I would love to see this happen, but I feel that a society that has just put a totalitarian system behind it, whose guiding “political” aspiration right now is to consume more, isn’t prepared to take on such a challenge. I think self-management ought to be practiced and encouraged, but that trying to build a radically new society at the edge of the precipice is a dangerous proposition.
Whatever option we lay our bets on, whatever it is, must be rooted in the practices and ways of thinking of contemporary Cubans.
Who could become our mahatma?
Certainly not the elite troop that the younger of the Castros has been mentoring. Diaz Canel, Murillo and Bruno Rodriguez who have behaved like obedient children and, what’s more, haven’t really solved any problems.
What respect could they possible aspire to have from the people? If we want to avoid a political split a la Venezuela, we’d have to get Raul’s people to kindly step aside (I have no idea how we’d manage this), get all of them to leave for “the good of the homeland.” And, if they won’t go willingly, let them go off the cliff.
The dissidents are no good either. Yoani Sanchez, Eliecer Avila and Rodiles enjoy the support of a significant sector of the émigré community, the new middle class and some liberal intellectuals, but run-of-the-mill Cubans do not know much about them (or so it seems to me).
The “problem” with them is that they’ve created far too many anti-bodies: they are the enemy in the eyes of government supporters (which are neither few nor weak). From this point of view, they don’t seem the best qualified to achieve a minimum of consensus.
The left-wing opposition has produced a whole slew of top-level leaders. But we may need a dark period of savage capitalism for people to overcome their allergy to socialism.
After we’ve discarded all of the above, what are we left with? A sportsperson? Victor Mesa? No, please, Mesa will only lead us to a humiliating defeat. A scientist? A priest? A doctor? A rich Cuban-American businessman? A young general? None will work – no one knows who these people are. Who would begin to trust them overnight?
We need a familiar face, a person people like, someone who inspires confidence, who is close to politics but who is neither a boot-licker nor a radical oppositionist. Does anyone like this exist in Cuba today?
I am going to propose three people and you, dear reader, may criticize my choices and choose your own. Without further ado, here are my candidates: novelist Leonardo Padura, singer-songwriter Pablo Milanes and filmmaker Fernando Perez.
Let me explain my choices:
First and foremost, these three people have known how to reach the soul of the average Cuban, something crucial for the leadership we’re interested in. They are not devoid of wisdom – not the pedantic kind, but the kind that meshes well with commonsense. They are older, true, but they have full use of their physical and mental faculties. In any event, they need not carry the torch until their last breath.
None of them is foreign to politics: they have sung praises for “socialism”, true, but they have also criticized excesses and abuses of power.
If these venerable grandpas had a shot at it, if we gave them the opportunity, they could manage to bring about the miracle of keeping us united and peaceful when the political situation gets complicated.
We wouldn’t be asking them for a heroic sacrifice. They need not impel the spiritual renewal of the nation (it would be unfair to ask them to turn mud into gold). It would suffice for them to afford us the reassuring feeling of being in good hands during the dangerous transition.
Does any of this strike you as a bit crazy? It seems that way to me too.