Cuba marks Fidel’s death an­niver­sary as post-Cas­tro era nears

The Sunday Guardian - - World - REUTERS

hes­i­tantly as be­fore. Cuba’s re­la­tion­ship with the United States, mean­while, has ac­tu­ally wors­ened due to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s more hos­tile stance.

More sig­nif­i­cant po­lit­i­cally, an­a­lysts say, will be the elec­toral cy­cle that starts Sun­day with a mu­nic­i­pal vote and will end with the se­lec­tion of a new pres­i­dent in late Fe­bru­ary. Raul, 86, has said he would step down at the end of his two con­sec­u­tive terms.

The tran­si­tion is ex­pected to be grad­ual as Raul will re­main head of the Com­mu­nist Party. It comes, how­ever, as the coun­try faces a tricky time with a de­cline in aid from ally Venezuela, weaker ex­ports and a re­sult­ing cash crunch.

“Not even we know what our fu­ture will be,” said Ari­adna Val­divia, 45, a high school teacher. “Raul is end­ing his term in 2018, Fidel is al­ready his­tory, and I don’t re­ally see any way of im­prov­ing things.” His death last year plunged Cuba into nine days of na- the feel­ings of many Cubans who miss Fidel’s lead­er­ship, es­pe­cially at times of cri­sis. Raul did not ap­pear in pub­lic after Hur­ri­cane Irma thrashed the is­land in Septem­ber.

In keep­ing with his wishes to avoid a per­son­al­ity cult, no stat­ues have been made of Fidel or pub­lic places named after him in Cuba. Even his tomb is a sober af­fair, a large gran­ite boul­der in San­ti­ago de Cuba’s Santa Ifi­ge­nia Ceme­tery with a plaque sim­ply read­ing “Fidel.”

Galas and vig­ils in honor of Fidel will be held around the coun­try this week, ac­cord­ing to state-run me­dia. Cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions like the na­tional bal­let are ded­i­cat­ing their shows to his mem­ory, and state tele­vi­sion is run­ning archived footage on a loop.

The mu­nic­i­pal vote on Sun­day, the only part of the elec­toral process with direct par­tic­i­pa­tion by or­di­nary Cubans, is be­ing cast in state me­dia as a show of sup­port for his ideas. Posters of Fidel hung at as­sem­blies where neigh­bor­hoods nom­i­nated can­di­dates over the last two months.

It will be fol­lowed by pro­vin­cial and na­tional as­sem­bly elec­tions in which can­di­dates are se­lected from slates by com­mis­sions. The new Na­tional As­sem­bly will then in late Fe­bru­ary se­lect a suc­ces­sor to Cas­tro, widely ex­pected to be First Vice Pres­i­dent Miguel Di­azCanel.

Ed­uardo Tor­res, the director of Cuba’s Na­tional Li­brary, said there were sev­eral politi­cians well placed to be­come pres­i­dent but there would never be an­other Fidel and the coun­try faced a gen­er­a­tional tran­si­tion.

“Raul had the weight of the his­toric gen­er­a­tion,” said Tor­res. “When he leaves, it is an­other gen­er­a­tion and an­other his­tory we will start to build.”

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