By Manuel Ingenio
HAVANA TIMES — A conversation between two people from different generations could be regarded as interesting. The younger person is normally identified as the one with more idealistic, romantic views, with more hope in the face of life’s tugs and pulls. The older person is distinguished as the one with experience, objectivity, more realist views to portray life’s essences and processes.
An exceptional window into Cuba’s political ins and outs was opened on April 19th. On that day, Raul Castro Ruz formally passed on the position of Head of State and Government to Miguel Diaz-Canel. Some made a big fuss about the importance of the event while others said that it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Something I found particularly eloquent and illustrative were the speeches both leaders gave when closing that pompous ceremony. These speeches were broadcast live and were faithfully reproduced by pro-government media; there they are for people to study them.
First, the younger one spoke. According to this speaker, the recent “revolutionary” electoral process which “the Cuban people have taken the lead of” confirm “its eminently democratic nature.” He also claimed that the Cuban people exercised their voting rights, put their representatives forward, nominated them and then elected them. And citizens “have honored humble, hard-working and modest people” in an election which “starts with the people”, who will control their management, take part in the decision-making process and the implementation of approved laws.
Notice how our conventional press and other pro-government voices are in keeping with one another. Like many people, Diaz-Canel can assume that he is somewhat recognized by the population. Based on this, he also predicted that Raul will still be at the head of more important decisions that need to be made for Cuba.
Following him, former president Raul Castro then gave his speech. One of the things we must be thankful to him for are his sincerity and clarity when he talks about matters, there’s no doubt about it. He leaves very little room for interpretations, he speaks without flowery prose or metaphors. Let’s take a look at how this played out on this occasion.
Raul gave some words of thanks to the electoral and nomination committees, as well as other institutions which worked to bring about the latest elections in Cuba. And he immersed himself in praising the careers of the comrades who had been elected as president and the five vice-presidents.
He began with 1994, a legendary date, when the responsibilities of today’s new president began at the head of the Communist Party in the Villa Clara province.
Nine years later, Diaz-Canel went on to hold a similar position in Holguin province, for another six years. All of this was planned, Raul warned; there weren’t any coincidences. In fact, he wasn’t the only comrade in training. Leaders from the previous generation had a whole organization going and he explained how “we tried to do the same thing with a dozen young people” in a similar operation.
He also recognized that their plans didn’t go as well with the others in their training-promotion program. With a lot of discretion and restraint, he didn’t go into the shortcomings of that group, rather he leveled responsibility to other more experienced leaders who, in the end, showed a less than humble, hard-working or modest attitude. These circumstances led to Castro repeating the emphasis they (I assume he was referring to higher ranking and more experienced leaders) should have in paying attention to the training of potential younger leaders.
When he named Diaz-Canel first vice-president, Raul asserted, satisfied, that the Politburo was “absolutely sure” that they had “hit the nail on the head” (sic) for the solution which would come five years later. That is to say, now, when Raul named him president, he repeated that they hadn’t made the same mistakes they had with other comrades.
The training process wasn’t sped up inadequately, rather “he made sure, with purpose and foresight, the changeover for different party and government responsabilities, so that he would have a more comprehensive training which, along with his personal qualities, would allow him to successfully take on the positions of Head of State and Government, and later the highest position within the Party.”
I think that a natural, understandable difference can be seen between the views given by both speakers from different generations. And how educational it has been to watch this dialogue. The good thing about Raul is that he calls bread, bread and wine, wine. In the same way, he has made it clear that he will remain the First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party until 2021, when Diaz-Canel himself will take over this position too.
Comrade Diaz-Canel will fulfill both of his five-year terms, as long as the Party’s Central Committee and National Assembly deem his work to be positive. Given that this will be the way things work in the future, “the Party and State’s superior bodies will be the ones who decide and make the final decision in these events.” In the future, Raul will reiterate that “it is the Party, State and Government’s” responsibility to fulfill a policy of ensuring the source for the country’s future leaders.
He didn’t stop talking about the challenges which Cuban authorities are facing, which have delayed his reforms process quite a bit. One of the changes on the horizon is ammendments to the Constitution, which they have already studied, he himself said. We, the general population, don’t know what the content of the studies about our Constitution are but at least we are left with the solace of knowing that they were already explained to the Party’s Central Committee. We have also been informed that the new Parliament will approve (unanimously I bet) the Committee to draw up the proposal for the new constitution at the next ordinary session.
Raul Castro’s speech was very comprehensive and worthy of our close attention. I have tried to cover only a few points in this limited space. I believe that the new and former presidents’ speeches established a very clear complementary relationship. We’ve all stand warned.