Cuba’s Diaz-Canel, Continuity without Charisma

Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and Miguel Diaz-Canel at the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in April 2016.   Photo: Cubandebate


By Yunior Garcia Aguilera (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban dictatorship laid its foundations on the charisma of Fidel Castro. Beyond what fans or detractors may argue, it is undeniable that the bearded man had qualities for oratory, knew how to channel the frustrations of an era in his favor, and was an unparalleled demagogue.

It is difficult to understand how a people quite alien to the ideology of the hammer and sickle embraced Marxism without much resistance. But it could be explained with that guaracha that sounded in the Cuban streets of the 1960s: “If Fidel is a communist, put me on the list.”

Fidelismo became a kind of religion, whose cornerstone would be the cult of the commander in chief, maximum leader, the invincible stallion, etc. The white dove on his shoulder, his face on the cover of Bohemia magazine as if he were a Christ, his stature and his olive green uniform reinforced the magical halo. And the legend of him spread beyond the borders. He was, for many in the world, a kind of revolutionary messiah.

Despite the ferocious proselytism committed to consolidating his myth, for a good part of Cubans it was quite obvious that the country was headed for disaster. Already at the beginning of the nineties the song that marked the popular vision towards the figure of him was another. And this time it was not a guaracha, but a criollo rock: “That man is crazy.”

Raúl Castro had the good sense to understand that he did not possess a drop of his brother’s charisma. He focused his efforts on being discreet, pragmatic and open to changes. He based his power on the so-called “historical weight.” For some, the administration of the Army general has been the least bad moment that the country has experienced since the Special Period (early 1990s). However, his motto, “Without haste, but without pause” found so many potholes along the way that the dream of copying the Chinese and Vietnamese models ended up getting bogged down.

The dictatorship urgently needed to find a successor. Raul had swept away the team that had been near his brother. Those guys from the Battle of Ideas committed the deadly sin of seeing themselves as heirs to the throne. Raul had his own list, unrelated to that of Punto Cero [Fidel’s estate]. Raul personally acknowledged having experimented with a dozen candidates. Until, finally, one of those test-tubes met his expectations: Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez.

The blond from Las Villas had been holding his breath since he learned he was on the way to the crown. It was obvious that he had microphones and cameras even in the toilet. And that prolonged wait not only turned his hair gray before its time, but also removed all human expression from his face. Díaz-Canel is incapable of delivering a fluid speech without looking at the notecards that accompany him in all of his interventions. When he has gone a millimeter from the script, he has made mistakes like the one where he stated that “lemonade is the basis of everything.”

Without charisma, or historical weight, Canel had no other option but to choose the least revolutionary motto imaginable: I am Continuity. For a people that cried out for the word “change,” continuity was a bucket of cold water. Nor has ashé (that Santeria concept associated with luck) accompanied him. The sad crash of a plane, the Havana tornado, the collapse of a bridge over the Zaza River and the covid-19 pandemic do not point to the blessing of the orishas.

When it comes to nicknames, he hasn’t been lucky either. In Holguín, when he was first secretary of the Party and insisted on preventing the farmers from bringing milk into the city, he was baptized Miguel “Díaz-Condón [condom].” Later, influencer Alex Otaola would rename him “El Puesto a Dedo [hand-picked].” And finally, from the rapper Maykel Osorbo, the former porn actress Mía Kalifa, shouted to a choir in the streets and labeled on the walls, the not very friendly name they gave him: “El Singao* [the motherfucker].”

There is no need to recount in detail the disaster of the economic reforms of 2021. And to make matters worse, the “combat order” after the social outbreak of July 11th put him in the category of an irredeemable tyrant. Raul Castro is probably banging his head against the walls wondering how the hell he came up with such a designation. It is useless that Díaz-Canel’s new slogan is “Put in some heart for Cuba.” With such symptoms, the myth of the Cuban Revolution, in his hands, heads in a free fall towards cardiac arrest.

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2 thoughts on “Cuba’s Diaz-Canel, Continuity without Charisma

  • With regards to Robert’s comment, that “spine” can be found in Miami and throughout South Florida where it is least needed. As I have commented many times in the past here at HT, my ninety pound mother faced down firehoses, police dogs and racist bullies throughout the south during the 1960s Civil Rights struggle so that her two black sons would not have to live under the oppressive fog of Jim Crow racism. She obviously had more “cojones” than the Men Robert refers to.

  • To the Cuban Men that are in Hiding, Its Called a Spine, Find yours where ever you Lost it.

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