You don’t see the usual markers this anniversary — not the front-page stories, the analysis, and certainly not the hopeful mantra the exiles have traditionally embraced with certainty: Next Year in Cuba.
We’ve become so dulled by the shenanigans of the Cuban dictatorship, so disheartened by the lack of meaningful change, the regime’s macabre ability to survive, and the complicity of a world immune to outrageous human-rights abuses, what’s another year of the Castro brothers’ dynasty, right?
So much time has passed that Cubans like me who fled as children are now grandparents, and the generation of our parents, who left it all behind and fought for a democratic Cuba from exile, are sadly dying without seeing their most cherished dream come true.
Fifty-four years after Fidel Castro rose to power on the promise of social justice, the one-party system — absolute control in the hands of a few — remains intact. So do the repressive and violent crackdowns against peaceful dissidents whose only crime has been to voice their discontent.
The number of detentions — 6,602 — and the number of political prisoners sentenced to long jail terms rose, despite negotiated releases of some to bitter exile in Spain.
A lifetime later, only questions linger: Why doesn’t this dictatorship, no matter how ancient and abusive it gets, arouse the world’s indignation?
Why does it seem to breathe new life?
Longevity, explains Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, comes with the government’s reforms in response to economic and political pressures.
“There has been evolution over time in fits and starts,” he says, naming last year’s measures to allow people ownership of property and to lift some travel restrictions.
“Modest and not as far-reaching,” the anthropology professor adds.
Yet they’re mistaken for authentic reforms that make people think Cuba has an acceptable style of governance.
But look back at last year.
It began with the optimism of a papal visit hailed as “a spring time of faith” by Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski and Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega, and quickly deteriorated into the usual portions of surreal and sinister with the death in July — in a car “accident” under questionable circumstances — of the prominent Christian dissident leader Oswaldo Payá and activist Harold Cepero.
The Spaniard who was driving the car, Angel Carromero, a youth leader for the Partido Popular of Spain, was charged with manslaughter, tried and found guilty in a judicial proceeding the Payá family was not allowed to attend.
If all the evidence pointed to reckless driving instead of the early reports of another car forcing them off the road, why not hold an open trial?
Carromero was sentenced to four years in prison, and in an agreement with the Spanish government was flown to Spain last week to serve out his sentence there.
In other words, a democratic country is blackmailed into enforcing a dictatorship’s closed-door “justice.”
Another year, another roster of indignities, and no end in sight.