Don’t be fooled — there’s no real change in Cuba

Raúl Castro’s regime wants to change the general perception about Cuba. It is intent on displaying an image that fundamental changes are taking place on the island, but that’s not true.

Cubans are better able to speak on the phone or enter the hotels, restaurants and stores that used to be reserved for tourists. They can open minuscule family businesses to provide services or are allowed to exploit small parcels of land to produce food. But none of that is essential.

These are nothing but token gestures intended to alleviate the disastrous economic consequences of a system that’s mostly unproductive in a material sense and cruelly harmful in an emotional sense.

What is the essence of that and all other totalitarian tyrannies? It’s evident: the monstruous fact that one person, one group of big shots or a party makes all the basic decisions, tramples on the will of individuals and builds a false reality that matches the image the rulers themselves prefabricated, in accordance with the dogmas of the sect or a speech by The Boss.

What’s terrible is the concealment of reality and the propagation of lies, vile tasks to which those regimes devote almost all their energy. From that clumsy sleight of hand comes the rest of the catastrophes. Everybody lies in order to survive, to keep from being crushed.

The Boss lies when he promises a future that he knows will never come, because his reign is made of promises, not realities. The functionary lies when he falsifies his data to adapt it to the plans imposed on him by his leaders. The worker lies when he pretends to carry out those unattainable or absurd projects. The citizen lies when he applauds a reality that he knows to be false, as false as the Potemkin villages, mere facades of nonexistent buildings erected in Russia to please the Czarina and deceive the travelers.

Here’s clear proof that Raúl Castro’s dictatorship is more or less the same as that of his brother Fidel:

In July 2012, Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero died in a purported car accident that occurred on a remote roadway in Cuba’s eastern region. Payá, an opposition democrat and winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, was one of the most loved and internationally respected Cuban dissidents. Cepero was one of his most brilliant lieutenants.

The car was driven by Ángel Carromero, a youth leader for the Madrid-based Popular Party. With him was Aron Modig, a Swedish young man linked to his country’s Christian Democratic movement. Carromero and Modig had gone to the island to express their solidarity with the Cuban freedom fighters.

Strictly speaking, it was not an accident but an incident. A political police car that was tailing them rammed them from behind, pushed the small vehicle that carried Payá and his friends off the road, and flung it against a tree.

The two Cubans suffered fatal injuries. Or maybe they were killed in the hospital so they could never tell what happened, something that Payá’s relatives suspect but would be very hard to prove.

From that moment on, the vile task began (typical of totalitarianism) to conceal reality. Modig and Carromero were told that if they revealed the truth, the authorities would throw the Cuban penal code at them and sentence them to years in prison for aiding counter-revolutionaries.

In addition, because Carromero drove the car, his jailers drugged him for days “to soften him up” until he admitted that he was speeding on a poorly paved road, a recklessness that culminated in the accident that took the lives of Payá and Cepero.

The tragicomedy lasted until Carromero arrived in Spain and spoke with Rosa María Payá, Oswaldo’s daughter, to whom he couldn’t lie. Not only had political police staged the incident (not an accident at all) but the regime, absolutely intact in its contempt for reality, also had put its machinery to use covering up the crime. All of it: the police, the courts, the scandalous propaganda, domestic and foreign.

The conclusion is obvious: Basically nothing has changed in the Castro brothers’ Cuba. It is the same dog, wearing a slightly different collar. It knows only one trick and repeats it endlessly: It conceals reality and barks at and bites whoever tries to expose it.

Read more Carlos Alberto Montaner stories from the Miami Herald

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