SAndro Castro is almost bursting with pride: “Film that, Mommy, so that you can see it eating up the street,” he calls out to his companion. From time to time you just have to try out the toys that you have around at home, says Castro with a laugh in the video clip that has been causing emotions in Cuba since its publication.
The problem: Sandro Castro is the grandson of Cuba’s late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and is behind the wheel of a luxurious Mercedes. It’s not the first time he’s provoking. Sandro Castro is co-organizer of the Miss Cuba election, a welcome guest or, as the owner of one of the hip nightclubs, himself hosts the rich and beautiful Havana.
Apart from the fact that the 140 kilometers per hour documented in the clip clearly exceeds the Cuban speed limit (100 km / h), the video is also a major problem for the socialist regime for other reasons. It counteracts crucial legends of the Cuban revolution. The principle of class equality, the legend of the economic restrictions imposed by the US embargo and the contempt for capitalist status symbols are actually part of the standard ideological repertoire on the island of eleven million people in the Caribbean.
In the meantime, Sandro Castro has found out which avalanche he set off and apologized to those compatriots who felt offended. The luxury car belongs to a friend, the saying about the toy was a joke, he explained. He is actually a very simple person. The video was also made public without authorization and was actually only intended for a narrow circle of WhatsApp friends.
But that only made things worse for the Cubans. “In 62 years, no Castro or a functionary has ever publicly apologized for his good life while the people are sinking into misery,” criticized artist and activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara from Havana.
For decades there have been many myths about the alleged or actual wealth of the Castro clan. The fact is: The release of the video hits Cuba’s revolutionaries at an inopportune time. While the anger on the streets against the dictatorship is growing, the powerful functionaries of all people are undermining the basic principles of the revolution.
And that has consequences beyond the island. For left parties around the world, Cuba is a kind of fixed star in the socialist universe. The country is economically a dwarf, but ideologically a giant that has stood up to the “imperialist intimate enemy” USA for 60 years as a left bulwark. If the socialist revolution loses Cuba, the mother ship of the left sinks.
An entire generation’s attitude towards life
In the midst of this mixture, a protest song is currently spreading in unprecedented dimensions and speed in Cuba. “Patria y Vida” (Fatherland and Life) is the name of the song by six Cuban musicians who are not only prominent on the island, including Yotuel Romero and the Grammy-winning duo Gente de Zona. Even the title is an attack on the inviolable, because one of the mottos of the revolution was always “Patria, Socialismo o Muerte” (Fatherland, Socialism or Death).
In their song, the musicians criticize things that are normally taboo: In the video clip they show images of protests and repression, address poverty, malnutrition – and the steady and, in the end, increasing exodus of young Cubans who prefer the life-threatening flight over the sea to the Class enemy to Florida dare to serve as a system in which they no longer have confidence. “No more lies, my people demand freedom, no more doctrine”, sing the artists and thus clearly meet the attitude towards life of the young Cuban generation. Almost three million people have watched the clip online so far.
For more than a year now, the dispute between an independent art scene and the government has come to a head. The cultural workers who are not organized by the state criticized a decree that gives the state total control over the opportunities to perform. The party reacts as always: with arrests, intimidation and public discrediting of the government’s critics.
But this time something is different: Hundreds of artists, cultural workers and intellectuals marched in front of the Ministry of Culture weeks ago to demonstrate – a unique process to date. When the artists wanted to speak, Cuba’s Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso was violent, whereupon more than 1,300 personalities demanded his resignation in an open letter. With the protest clip, the battle for the big picture begins.
How great the nervousness is in Havana is shown by the reaction of the official media in which Afro-Cuban artists are insulted as “rats”, “traitors” or mercenaries financed from abroad. The ACN news agency even called the song “annexationist vomit”. “In the past, the citizens were afraid of the state, now the state is afraid of its citizens,” said Documenta artist Tania Bruguera in December WELT.
Break with basic socialist principles
The causes for the creeping bleeding of the revolution are complex. With the death of Fidel Castro in 2016, the charismatic figurehead died, now ruled by Miguel Diaz-Canel, 60, a president who, in contrast to Fidel and his brother and successor Raul Castro, did not himself fight the cruel Batista dictatorship (1958), but – because born afterwards – instead of revolutionary glamor, has only a less electrifying career as a functionary to offer.
The corona pandemic also caused a severe economic crisis because the tourists were absent. And more and more Cubans lack the belief that – as explained from above like a prayer wheel – the US embargo should be solely to blame for the economic crisis if Castro’s grandchildren apparently have easy access to iPhones or luxury cars. Or everything is available in the tourist strongholds for foreign guests, but the locals have to queue for hours for basic food.
The recent turnaround towards a more private and market economy makes the break with the basic socialist principles obvious: Guerrilla icon Ernesto Che Guevara, as Minister of Industry, did unpaid Sunday work in the euphoric early years to promote his idea of voluntary work for the people.
First observers, such as the Catholic priest Alberto Reyes, are now speaking of an imminent “Cuban spring” that can no longer be stopped. The balance of power, apparently carved in stone for six decades, with a single state party that is permitted but dominates and controls all areas of society is increasingly being publicly called into question. Alexander Delgado, one of the artists who recorded the song “Patria y Vida”, went one step further, according to the New York Times: “I think this is the beginning of the end of the dictatorship.”