Sunday, February 24, 2008

Viva Cuba! Viva la Revolucion! Viva ... Raul!?

The Cuban National Assembly voted today to confirm Raul Castro, Fidel's younger brother, as Cuba's new President and Commander in Chief. This signals the first change of leadership at the top of the nation's government in almost 50 years.

Raul is believed (hoped) to have some ideas about liberalizing Cuba's moribund economy before there's a counterrevolution among the younger folks, but you wouldn't know to see all the hard line Old Revolutionaries who hold the senior posts in the new regime.

While listening to NPR's report of this, I started to think.

And the Wayback machine activated.

Way back in 1984, the President of the Soviet Union, Yuri V. Andropov, died. The Soviet Politburo turned around and chose Konstantin U. Chernenko as his successor, a move that surprised many in the west since Chernenko was a) a Stalinist holdover, and b) so old you'd have to count tree rings.

Everyone instantly concluded that Chernenko was a caretaker, the last gasp (the 'last throes') of the Old Guard. Truth to tell, he did die a year after succeeding Andropov, paving the way for the man who presided over the end of the USSR, Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Now, what's all this history have to with the price of Alsakanite cigarettes FOB Valeria?

(Special no-prize for guessing what part of the culture I strip-mined THAT from.)

Raul is Fidel's baby brother, but he's 77 years old. And the others in the hierarchy are about the same age. You cannot tell me that a steady diet of rum and cigars can give these guys longevity.

So we may be looking at another change in Cuba before the wheel turns to show us 2010.


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