Outside editorial: No surprises in Cuba's sixth congress, just the same old, same old

The following editorial first appeared in the Miami Herald:

About the only surprise at Cuba’s Communist Party Congress that ended Tuesday is that Fidel Castro didn’t open his mouth. For once, no hours-long diatribes about the “evils of American imperialism,” or the irrational reflections he has been prone to writing in his feeble octogenarian state since he stepped down because of an intestinal illness almost five years ago.

The “big news” at the rare meeting was that Fidel’s brother Raul, a spry 79, was elected first secretary of the party, replacing 84-year-old Fidel.

Another “news flash” came when the congress tapped Jose Ramon Machado Ventura as the Numero Dos. He’s just 80, and potentially the Cuban dictatorship’s next “president.”

And No. 3 in this crusty lineup?

Ramiro Valdes, the 79-year-old vice president and former interior minister known for his crackdown on all things liberty.

What an exciting bunch! They’re sure to make a difference in the lives of Cuba’s struggling and jobless youth.

As if.

Let’s be clear. We aren’t ageist. America has its own obsession with youth, and wisdom certainly is sorely lacking in many of our politicians today, regardless of age and political leanings.

The problem we have with the Cuban regime’s “new” cadre of leadership is that they’re still partying like it’s 1959, when they were the revolutionary comandantes who toppled another dictator with promises of democracy.

Fifty-two years later, Cuba has been ravaged by one failed communist policy after another, and despite Raul Castro’s promises of “reforms” nothing really changes because Cuba’s rulers in a one-party state control the press, the labor unions, and every aspect of people’s lives.

Economic reforms amount to allowing such “techie” jobs without government intervention as shoe shining and fruit peeling. This is progress?

Raul Castro has pretended to chart a new course by warning that the regime cannot afford to pay everyone to pretend to work and calling for up to one million workers to set out on their own, but then delaying the inevitable.

So-called economic reformers have been cast aside, even arrested over the years. The hype about a new group of leaders with new ideas — like 50-year-old Marino Murillo, who is Cuba’s latest economic czar, and Lazaro Lopez Acea, the 47-year-old chief of the communist party in Havana, or Lazaro Exposito, the 40-something chief of the party in Santiago — was just that, hype. They remain in the second tier.

Term limits remain Cubans’ latest hope — and so does the biological clock.

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