Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/4/2011 (3641 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
CUBA'S Communist party held its convention this week. There were no surprises, but then there hardly ever are at Communist conventions unless the secret police show up.
This year, the big surprise involved former leader Fidel Castro, who ruled the Caribbean country with an iron fist -- Mr. Castro never bothered with niceties such as a velvet glove -- for 46 years until stepping down due to illness in 2006 and passing the crown on to his brother Raul.
Fidel had not been expected to make an appearance, but the 1,000 party faithful who showed up in Havana to nod their heads at all of Raul's proposals gave the old dictator a huge ovation anyway. And so they should have, since they all owe their sinecures to him. At the opening of the convention, Raul Castro had suggested that perhaps it was time for term limits in Cuba, that maybe his brother's 46 years in power was a little bit longer than is seemly in a government that claims to actually represent the people.
He suggested that maybe two five-year terms were as long as anybody really needed to be in power or as long as it was good for anybody to be in power. For a moment, he almost seemed as genuine a democrat as the Americans he regards with such loathing and who only allow their presidents to serve two four-year terms. (Canadian prime ministers, in contrast, can serve for as long as they can keep getting elected, which is perhaps one reason why our governments so often seem more sympathetic to their colleagues in Cuba than their fellow democrats in Washington.)
Even Raul's brother, Fidel, seemed to be in sync, suggesting that term limits were "a subject on which I have long meditated." Now that he is no longer in power -- for the first time since the revolution he no longer holds an office -- it appears that 46 years of meditation is time enough.
Unfortunately, when the leadership of the Communist party was announced at the close of the conference, nothing much had changed. A few younger people got promoted -- Communists in their 50s and 60s -- but when election fever had abated, President Raul Castro, who is 80 years old, was elected first secretary of the party and the No. 2 and 3 spots in the hierarchy went to men who are, respectively, 80 and relatively spring-like 78. Cuba, it seems, still needs another revolution.