Faithful To Fidel

Faithful To Fidel

Changing Cuba after the death of the leader.


The death of Fidel Castro, has ruled Cuba more than half a century, has not affected the stability of his system. Hope that caring for the elderly Comandante in this socialist country it will all change, yet remain hopes. Cuba, according to the observations of the correspondent of “Kommersant”, as if frozen between life and death of the leader.

I’ve persuaded some friends to go to Cuba in time to see the country till death “the great hero” or (whichever is closer) “a brutal dictator”. Didn’t happen. Fidel Castro died 25 November 2016 on 91-m to year of life. But, anyway, the trip took place. Having been on the island nearly three weeks, I was able to confirm that “the case of Fidel” with his death, if it dies, it is a very long time.

Pending McDonald’s

“Change? They can wait five years and then after ten — not before” all my interlocutors from the local have been of the same opinion. With the 2018 year, when the post of head of the state Council promised to leave Fidel’s brother, Raul Castro, who also was an active member of the guerrilla war and the ensuing revolution of 1959, hopes for change, no one connects. There probably are counting on the start of the warming of Cuban-us relations (in 2016 the country was visited by the then US President, Barack Obama, diplomatic relations were restored), which should result in capital inflows from the United States. While the signs of warming are not very noticeable — the Cuban authorities are in no hurry to cancel the 10-percent fee for exchanging dollars on the island.

For ordinary Cubans, who are happy to wear the colors of the American flag and washed down with rum, Coca-Cola, rare iPhone and boast in front of tourists, the personification of the restoration of relations with the United States will be the emergence of McDonald’s in Cuba.

In 2015, the son of Fidel Castro, Alex has publicly invited to the McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. And although not all of it welcome — “flooded the entire island, with eateries,” the warming with the United States perceive good. Surprisingly, I had not heard any angry comments about the state, which in 1960 in response to the nationalization of their property on the island imposed sanctions and trade embargo against Cuba.

However, it is difficult to hear the truth about the current regime. The Cubans fear.

In a country where there are still committees for the defence of the revolution, and detention for political reasons is not rare, people are afraid to share their opinions about what is happening, especially with foreigners. Direct questions about the mode of answering in monosyllables: “All is well”. In clarifying what can be changed with the death of Comandante, too: “we’ll be fine”.

Driving on American convertibles of the 1950s at the Revolution square in Havana, I casually asked our driver, as he refers to Fidel Castro. “How do you feel about Lenin?” he replied, dropping his thumb down and pulled an eloquent grimace. When a similar question I asked to the owner of a tobacco plantation in Vinales in the West of the country, he was outraged.

In the bar at Cienfuegos I chatted with a local mechanical engineer Nikolay (his mother is Russian, and father is Cuban). In Spanish, he expressed himself much better than in Russian, and about the regime on the island spoke briefly but succinctly: “What is there to discuss Castro the same as Stalin”. Officially, Fidel Castro, declared the suppression of the cult of personality during the life (and after his death, Parliament quickly passed a law prohibiting the named Comandante of the street and generally any objects, the use of his name in titles of awards or titles), remains the undisputed father of the nation.

Everywhere you can see his portraits with quotes — I found this even in the younger group of kindergarten and elementary school in the city of Trinidad. But people’s love is expressed in posted in the Windows of the houses pieces of paper with printed portrait of Castro and the words: “farewell, commander”.

“Fidel steep 80%, and Che Guevara — 100!”

If t-shirts with portraits of Fidel Castro’s almost impossible to find in Cuba, it is Mikey with another Comandante — Che Guevara — the main tourist product. The death of Fidel Castro and a possible change in the country, it seems, is not able to influence the attitude of the Cubans to the national hero, which to them is the Argentinian Ernesto Che Guevara. It is an absolute favorite of Cubans who honors him to pay is not prohibited. “Fidel steep 80%, and Che Guevara — 100!” — explained to me by an employee of the Agency in Camaguey, to be sure, writing a percentage on a piece of paper. In this city only in the center of the high buildings two huge portraits of revolutionary. In Santa Clara — where Che Guevara staged the successful ambush of the armoured train in 1958 — already three monuments dedicated to the most famous revolutionary in the world.