Cuba

Is this really the end of Cuba’s Castro brothers? Exiles say not so fast

 
WEB VOTE Does Raúl Castro’s decision to step down from the leadership in five years make you more optimistic about the future of Cuba?

lyanez@MiamiHerald.com

On the streets of Miami, the announcement of a possible end to the Castro brothers’ rule was met with uncharacteristic silence Monday — no clanging of pots and pans in Little Havana and Hialeah.

No loud pronouncements on Spanish-language radio, either, about the news that President Raúl Castro planned to retire in 2018 and had named an heir apparent.

“There’s like, a little burnout about this subject with us,” said Alex Fumero, 30, a co-creator, editor and contributor of the poetry group Hialeah Haikus.

But the emotions were as strong as ever for Cuban-born U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who believes this is just another sinister ploy by the Castro brothers.

“The fact that this possible retirement won’t take effect for years is just another in a long line of false propaganda tactics used by the regime to trick the masses and international community,” said Ros-Lehtinen, whose political career has been dedicated to opposing Castro.

“U.S. law states that no Castro may be in power, so this may be a ploy by the Cuban regime to attempt to normalize relations prematurely with the U.S.,’’ she said.

Miami radio commentator Ninoska Perez Castellon said five more years of any Castro is a long time. "This is just more of the same, and a cruel joke on a people enduring a 54-year-old dictatorship," she said.

Many like the idea of an end to the Castros, but they say it should have happened years ago.

“They’re giving up power too late and five years is too long to wait for them to actually do it,” said Francisco “Pepe” Hernandez, president of the Cuban-American National Foundation, a group that has long lobbied in Washington against the Castros.

“‘They’ve already done so much harm to the Cuban people. And the nerve to think they can name a successor, as if Cuba was their personal farm. The successor they named better be careful; those guys sometimes just disappear,” he said.

Cuban-born Marta Olchyk, a Surfside commissioner, said she was “glad that Raúl Castro said he is leaving in five years” although it would have happened anyway because of his age, she said.

“Cuba is slowly but surely moving away from communism,” said Olchyk, who left the island in 1960. “So, this is not earth-shattering news.”

Battle-weary Jose Basulto met the news with a cynical laugh.

“I have to laugh because this is so disrespectful, such an insult,” said Basulto, who took part in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and founded the Brothers to the Rescue, a group that helped rafters fleeing Cuba find their way to U.S. shores.

Juan Clark, a professor emeritus at Miami Dade College and Bay of Pigs veteran, does not believe Raúl Castro actually will leave on his own in five years.

“I think many people were eager to see the end of the system and unfortunately that hasn’t happened,’’ said Clark, who has studied the exile community for many years.

Some “historic exiles” who came to the United States in the early days of the revolution have sworn they will never return as long as a Castro is in power.

Others, mainly those who have arrived after the Mariel boatlift in 1980, still have family on the island and travel there to help fledgling family businesses and might not even consider themselves exiles, Clark said.

Cuban-Americans offered a variety of opinions through The Miami Herald’s Public Insight Network.

It was ho-hum news for some younger Cuban-Americans, known as the ABCs — American-born Cubans who learned to hate the Castros from older family members.

Lazaro Castillo of Orlando, who was born the year of the revolution, gave little credence to the announcement.

“Any change in the island has a meaning, and this particular change is another manipulation, and in order to maintain the dynasty,’’ he said.

Miramar resident Olga Perez-Cormier, an American-born Cuban, also felt it was no more than a ploy.

“I listen to this with my usual skepticism,’’ she said. “I wish both Castro brothers would hurry up and die, but apparently, it will never be that easy.”

Miami Herald staff writer Mimi Whitefield contributed to this report. It also includes comments from the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with The Miami Herald. Sign up by going to MiamiHerald.com/Insight

Read more Public Insight Network stories from the Miami Herald

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