"The more things change, the more they stay the same," so the famous line in the Bon Jovi song goes.
In Cuba, that certainly will be true. As the baton of dictatorial leadership is passed from a Castro to a non-Castro, one wonders if anything will change in this island country ravaged by revolutionary communism (as if it comes in any other form). I am here to predict that, no, they will not.
The thing about revolutionaries is that they have a tendency of wanting to hold on to the spoils they have plundered. Many revolutionaries are just that first, and decent, logical, reasonable human beings nowhere on the list. If anyone were to believe that a mere, sham election would suddenly soften their hearts to free their people, then I have a bridge in San Francisco to sell to you.
Raul Castro, the younger brother of Fidel Castro and current leader of Cuba until Thursday, said, "We have come a long way... so that our children, those of the present and those of the future, will be happy." Come again? Happy with what exactly? I cannot imagine that it is the nearly six decades of communist rule bringing a once advanced country to ruin. It certainly cannot be that they are giddy that the government became an oppressive and deadly force against its own people.
Perhaps the new, incoming president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, will be different. I would consider that a possibility if it were not for the fact that Diaz-Canal had risen in the ranks to become Castro's right hand man since 2013. Even if he wishes to approach governing differently, I highly doubt that Diaz-Canal is going to turn over the apple cart that Castro has entrusted to him.
Sure, Cuba has a messy history. The leader before Fidel Castro, Fulgencio Bautista, was also a crazed dictator. He did oversee economic growth during his rule, but his grip was also iron-fisted. So while we would think that Castro and his revolutionaries were heroes for overthrowing him, you tend to lose that heroic credibility when you make your country worse. Observers who want to focus on a singular period in time want to ignore the rest in order to maintain his hero cred. Meanwhile, people under his rule flee for their lives.
I do believe that, in no small part, the Castro rule has been so devastating for Cuba because of their commitment to communism, the most destructive ideology in history. Even the horrendous Nazis could not destroy at their level.
"There will be a sense of renewal, and there will be a sense of continuity," said Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez. Talk about a flowery statement containing a threatening promise. It would seem that the incoming President, elected by the National Assembly and not the people, is not signaling any changes whatsoever.
I know there is always a chance that I could be predicting this wrongly, because as predictable as human nature often is, every now and again you get a curveball.
Then again, Castro is to remain the ideological figurehead of Cuba while Diaz-Canal carries out his will as the President. The incoming President even said that they will "continue the triumphant march of the revolution...".
As one unemployed 24 year old in Havana, Ariel Ortiz, said, "they are changing the government, but it's still the same kind, it's always going to be influenced by the Castros. Even if it's another man, it's always going to be a Castro government." So long as that remains, Cuba will not change. To embrace the Castro ideals is to embrace the communist revolutionary ideals that plunged Cuba into the ravaged state without freedom and hope of rights that it is today.