And how long will it be before the vastly distorting effects of the dual currency system are tackled?
Without politicians and an arena for debate, who can Cubans look to for guidance?
Enter Yoani Sánchez, Rosa Maria Payá, and, yes, Mariela Castro, all of whom confront real issues. A Castro and an independent blogger are never going to agree but they accept their Cuba is changing and challenge orthodoxy.
Sánchez points to the ally of technology and mocks the distinction between Cubans and Cuban Americans. For her the non-conforming black market of ideas is becoming the new politics. One day, she jokes, there will be a statue in Havana to the memory stick. Sánchez has no party, belongs to no institution, but she has a blog. Cubans have cell phones, funded by family visits. They can connect with each other and their families under the radar of controls. The “self-employed” in the economy need other Cubans more than the government. Politics is pushing up from the underground and the disenchanted youth are enjoying it.
The battle of ideas in Cuba — ironically a slogan of the Castro revolution — is now happening on a new stage. Diaz-Canel is being shown to Cubans because he is not a Castro and needs to become a politician.
In the Venezuelan election, a nominated successor deriving his status from political cronyism has struggled to be accepted. The Cuban system has ensured that Diaz-Canel’s main challengers are not other politicians or parties but ideas. The ideas articulated by Yoani Sánchez that Cubans are connecting, interacting, losing their mask of fear. The suffocating structures of Castroism are intact, but the black market of Cuban politics is already in full swing.
Paul Webster Hare, a former British ambassador to Cuba and deputy head of mission in Venezuela, now teaches international relations at Boston University.