News orgs everywhere are rightly playing up the big announcement out of Cuba regarding Fidel. It’s a move that’s been rumored for some time, but still: When a guy who’s been in power for nearly a half-century says he’s done, it’s a big deal.
Then, of course, you get to the details, which make it less of a big deal. Starting with the fact that Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, will likely take the reins of state very shortly. Continuing with the fact that if Raul doesn’t take the reins, some other party man will.
President Bush is saying all the right things, stressing how this isn’t about Fidel but rather about the Cuban people and the hope of real democracy, not the rigged kind that Fidel and Raul arrange down there.
I’ll believe there’s real change on the island when the authorities fold up the CDRs. These are little neighborhood cells—Committees for the Defense of the Revolution—and they operate throughout Cuba. Originally designed to somehow channel the power of the grass roots for the good of the revolution, they’ve turned into petty snooping and snitching operations.
On a trip to the island in 2000, I spoke with a woman who was about to do her night shift for the CDR. She was griping about having to go and do her duty. She said it was always a bunch of bullshit. She’d go out, walk around, and act like she was interested in what was going on. The CDR’s boosters, she said, just liked to trade in pettiness and gossip, finding out who was sleeping with whom and the like.
She was seriously contemplating blowing off her shift, but she knew that someone on the CDR would take note of her absence.