As Castro era wanes, Cuba youth have doubts, dreams

Alexandre Grosbois –

They are the children of the new millennium. Like their parents, they have known no leader but the Castro brothers. Now, on the eve of a historic generational change, Cuba’s young people hold conflicting opinions about a future they will help to forge.
The island’s youth tend to see the announced departure of President Raul Castro, who will pass the mantle of leadership to a new generation on April 19, as natural and necessary.
“Many generations have passed since the revolution (of 1959) triumphed,” said communications major Hayla Torres, evoking 86-year-old Raul Castro and other members of the revolutionary old guard.
“But they are people of another time, and society is demanding change,” added the 19-year-old from western Matanzas province.
For the first time in more than 40 years, the Cuban president will not be named Castro and will not come from the generation that spearheaded the revolution. For now, the government’s current number two, 57-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, is expected to assume the top role.
“Time has passed,” said Yoendris Alarcon, a 22-year-old student at the aptly named University of the Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) in southwest Cuba.
“I believe that despite everything that has been happening, one can see the results of things.”
She praised the first reforms undertaken by Raul Castro to “update” the Cuban economic model.
Others, however, were quick to express their reservations about Raul Castro’s legacy and the changes that can be expected ahead.
“At the rate things are going, I do not think we’ll see improvement,” said Marlon Borrero, 19, who is doing his compulsory military service.
Yoel, a 24-year-old unemployed youth in Havana, said he, too, is sceptical of promised change, and he rejects Cuba’s indirect voting system to elect a new president, saying it was designed to keep power in the hands of those who already have it.
“The people play no part in that vote, so we continue on the same path,” he said. “We will never see change.”
“The Cuban economy has declined, but nothing will lower the spirit” of the island’s youth, who are ready to “play their part,” Hayla said. “Nothing is impossible,” added Yoendris. “We are going to keep fighting. Everything depends on us putting our heads down and staying in the fight.” — AFP