[Marxism] Cuban leadership's old ways fail to attract youthful new followers (MH)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Aug 21 06:19:11 MDT 2006


Though written from Miami, there is an element of truth to this
which ought not to be denied. While this reads like what one of 
Cuba's ultra-leftist critics might say, it  does point to a real
problem in Cuba: the salaries are so low that no one can really
live on them, or nearly no one, so everyone has to have one or
another kind of informal economic activity to make ends meet.
Significant cultural changes have also taken place, including
relaxing the limits on cultural expression, lightening up on
lesbians and gays, a much broader range of cultural far on the
expanding number of Cuban TV channels. Yesterday afternoon they
showed an English language documentary on the actor Cary Grant,
including an extended discussion of his friendship with actor
Randolph Scott, which led some people to think theirs was a gay
relationship. Later in the evening they showed the 2005 comedy
40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, about a man who hasn't had sex by age 40.

The island's social and cultural issues and contradictions are
also reflected in the television soap operas, which are among
the most popular forms of programming. Undoubtedly lots more 
could be done, but the idea that Cubans are isolated from the
culture of the United States reflects profound ignorance of the
reality of life on this island. 

People from the U.S., or who rely on the U.S. media for an idea
of what life is like in Cuba haven't a clue. The only way to 
get an idea of what life is like in Cuba is to come to Cuba and
see if for yourself. Good and bad, warts and all, people from
the U.S. need to see this country for themselves.

Though we don't get many postings from the ultraleftists who
have an anti-Cuban posture here on Marxmail, where Louis Proyect
has taken them on pretty sharply, the ultralefts pretty much take
what's said about Cuba in the dominant corporate media and simply
add a leftist rhetorical interpretation to it.


Walter Lippmann
Havana, Cuba
===============================================================

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/front/15321904.htm
MIAMI HERALD
Posted on Mon, Aug. 21, 2006

CASTRO'S GOVERNMENT
Cuban leadership's old ways fail to attract youthful new followers
Cuban leaders are desperately trying to win over 
	disinterested young people across the nation.
BY FRANCES ROBLES
frobles at MiamiHerald.com

[what THIS had to do with the rest of the article is anyone's guess]
* Tape suggests Raúl ordered shootdown:
<http://www.miami.com/multimedia/miami/elnuevo/archive/audio/0820raulcastro.
html>

As a 24-year-old Havana potato vendor who makes $10 a month -- double
if he finds side jobs -- Ricardo doesn't have anything against
communism or Fidel Castro.

He would just like some extra money to replace his shabby tennis
shoes or even buy a car. A diabetic who appreciates Cuba's free
healthcare, he says that even with the boost to his $6-a-month wage
from last year, his income just isn't enough.

''The only bad thing here is the salary system . . . With capitalism,
we'd have to work harder to pay for everything. I'd have to pay for
my medicine,'' he said before adding, ``I'd like the same system, but
I just want to earn more.''

Therein lies the problem for the Cuban government, which acknowledges
that it has largely failed to capture the hearts of the nation's
nearly five million Cubans under the age of 30. In a country where 70
percent of the 11 million people has known no other leader except
Fidel Castro, the government is keenly aware of the challenge that
lies ahead.

With the 80-year-old Castro ailing and his 75-year-old brother Raúl
now in charge, government leaders know that many of Cuba's young
people are looking forward to a new leader who can at least help them
buy new shoes.

In a speech last year, Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque -- age 41
-- noted that 1.5 million of today's young adults were 10 years old
when Cuba's economy virtually imploded with the end of Soviet
subsidies in 1991, so they know little of the island's pre-Castro
struggles.

They don't know, Pérez Roque said, what it is to pay half your salary
for rent or to go to college only if your parents can afford it.

''We have a challenge,'' Pérez Roque said. 'These young people have
more information and more consumer expectations than those at the
start of the revolution. . . . Sometimes I am sure that when you
speak of [free healthcare and education], many of them say, `Oh,
please, don't come to me with that same old speech.' ''

Many young people, he added, turned to ''negative'' activities.

A 2000 report by the Center for Youth Studies in Havana said 60
percent of the unemployed are young people. Blaming the U.S. trade
embargo, another of the center's reports last year acknowledged that
youths were losing interest in education and sometimes turned to
prostitution because of the ''imbalance'' between what they want and
what they can afford.

''There's a lot of disenfranchised youth,'' said Damián Fernández, on
temporary leave as director of the Cuban Research Institute at
Florida International University. ``They have been bombarded with
propaganda of the state that they failed to believe. They don't want
more voluntary work and more sacrifices.''

Last year, Castro unveiled a new ''social work'' program -- 28,000
young people in matching T-shirts who have descended upon the
nation's fuel pumps and oil refineries to crack down on widespread
theft. Like the youths sent to the countryside in the 1960s to teach
peasants how to read, Castro considers them as the next generation of
socialists who will save his revolution.

''The government tries to combat all this tuning off with more
rhetoric and more indoctrination,'' Fernández said. ``It seems
counterproductive.''

Fernández said more young people are joining the Union of Young
Communists, not for political allegiance but opportunism. The
government says about 600,000 people are members of the party's youth
branch.

''From the crib, the government dedicates itself to prepare young
people to satisfy its projects,'' said Liannis Meriño Aguilera,
director of a dissident news agency, Youth Without Censorship. ``I
call it fatal indoctrination through manipulative organizations.
People like me who don't join are marginalized.''

Meriño, 22, said young people feel they can't plan for the future
with so few professional options.

''The problem with Cuban youth is very far from politics,'' she said
by phone from the eastern province of Holguín. ``This current
communist government is not going to solve it. If it hasn't resolved
it in 47 years, why would they be able to do it now?''

Ahmed Rodríguez, 21, co-director of the news agency, says he knows
how the government can convince today's young adults.

''If the government wants to capture the hearts of the young people,
all it has to do is give higher salaries that cover living expenses,
democracy and freedom,'' he said flatly.

SPEAKING OUT

Rodríguez's and Meriño's views are unusual in that it's rare for
young people to openly declare themselves in opposition to the
government and risk sanctions. Several young people interviewed in
Havana mostly talked about the struggle to make ends meet.

''Young people want to be able to live off their salaries,'' said
Rodríguez, who lost his $10-a-month job in the tobacco industry when
he joined the dissident movement. ``We can't buy things, we can't go
out with our girlfriends.

``What are you going to do with $10?''

Cuba's ideological struggle with youth is nothing new. In the past,
Castro has cracked down on aspects of youth culture such as rock 'n'
roll, long hair and tight jeans. In the late 1980s, one group of
disenchanted young people dubbed frikis grew so disillusioned that
they deliberately injected themselves with the AIDS virus, reportedly
so they could live better in well-stocked health facilities set aside
for AIDS patients.

The ruling Communist Party first censored rap music, but then
embraced it and even organized an annual rap music festival.

In 2000, when the government was locked in a custody battle to win
back rafter Elián González, Castro launched the ''battle of ideas,''
an ideological campaign to reinforce the values of communism among
the island's younger generation.

''The battle of ideas cannot be lost, and it will not be lost,''
Castro has said.

YOUNGER LEADERS

In recent months, the government has made efforts to promote a
younger class of revolutionary leaders. A recently created Communist
Party Secretariat has several members in their 40s, born after the
revolution's triumph in 1959.

Elsa Falkenburger, Cuban program officer at the Washington Office on
Latin America, said those new leaders are bound to make changes to
benefit the nation's young.

''As things progress from Fidel to Raúl to whoever comes after,
there's a different feeling,'' Falkenburger said.

``There is a different generation that can't help but bring that
perspective, in choosing which policies they hope to see for their
future.''

Dissident Damarys García Antúnez, 24, said most young Cubans are
taking a ''wait and see'' attitude with the government's new
leadership.

''These are decisive moments for Cubans. The young people are trying
to see what change this will bring for their lives,'' García said by
phone from the central city of Villa Clara. ``That change is within
us. We have to take the step forward and show we can do it.

``We need young people to wake up.''

A Miami Herald correspondent in Havana contributed to this report.





More information about the Marxism mailing list