After me, the deluge

TIME has stood still in Cuba for the past half a century. Comrade Fidel Castro, who came to power in 1959 after the socialist revolution and has ruled ever since, is the world’s longest serving leader.

Just as Castro has refused to change with changing times even though most of his socialist allies have changed or disappeared from the scene, Cuba has remained stuck in a time warp for the past five decades. And you can see it all over the country. Poverty, unemployment, corruption and lack of development are nowhere as distressingly visible as they are in Castro’s Cuba.

This is why all this brouhaha over Castro’s temporary exit from the scene is so intriguing. So what is the big deal if Castro has decided to take a break albeit not the reasons of his own making? His disappearance is not going to change a thing in Cuba. The island nation will remain as miserable under Raul Castro as it had been under his brother.

Well, Castro may be missed by both his friends and foes for being so long in power. But for all his revolutionary rhetoric and populist antics, the socialist leader has woefully failed his people and nation.

He will go down in history as a man of failure, who despite getting a long, long time to rule and plenty of opportunities for change failed to make a real difference to his people. Claiming to be a revolutionary and enjoying the people’s mandate for life, he has lived like a king. While he imposed a spartan lifestyle on Cuban people, his own family is not part of this hard and punishing existence. Cubans are condemned to live under less than $11 a month even as they live next door to America and envy its all-round prosperity and breathtaking riches.

In the end, Castro’s exit —temporary or permanent —will make no difference to Cuba. Castro was a dictator and his brother Raul is unlikely to prove any different. So the more things change in the Cuban socialist paradise, the more they will remain the same. The situation will change for the better only when there is genuine democracy in the country and people are allowed to exercise real political freedom to choose the leaders they want. Which is not a distant possibility considering Castro is 80 and Raul, the new leader, is 75. After all, they are not going to live forever. And it will be impossible to hold back the forces of change once the revolutionary glue called Castro comes off.

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