Six years. So much and so little has happened. Of the seven names mentioned in that “Proclamation of the Commander in Chief to the People of Cuba” only three remain unharmed. As if the text was not only news of Fidel Castro’s illness but also a curse that would fall on those mentioned. José Ramón Balaguer, whom the ailing leader appointed to head up the National and International Public Health Program, would leave this branch of the ministry in mid-2010. Faced with the death from starvation and cold of dozens of patients at the Havana Psychiatric Hospital, the unconditionally loyal functionary was passed to another post, perhaps to avoid ending up in court. Another of those mentioned, Carlos Lage, dramatically lost his position as Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers. Assumed by many analysts as a possible successor to the Cuban “throne,” his ouster was a hard blow to those who were betting on a reformist line within the government itself.
And what to say about Felipe Pérez Roque? Who in that announcement – read several times on the night of July 31, 2006 – was assigned to manage the health, education and energy programs. Only twenty months had passed and already he was accused of having become addicted to “the honey of power.” The spell of the Proclamation was having a contrary effect… instead of sealing the ascent it certified the fall. The same finger that had pointed out these men as faithful choices to carry on his work, later identified them as traitors. The old maxim that proximity to power is as lucrative as it is dangerous, exemplified in a short space of time. Another of the mentioned, Francisco Soberón, president of the Central Bank, would also be replaced; he would leave by the back door to write his memoirs, some said; to avoid public punishment, said others.
Only three of the names mentioned in that foreboding text remain untouched. One of them is José Ramón Machado Ventura who has become the second in command. Nor has Estaban Lazo been ousted, because he learned well the lesson not to let his own light shine too brightly. And the third of the “survivors” is Raúl Castro himself. Principle beneficiary of the “proclamation/will,” the former Minister of the Armed Forces also has been the most cursed. Because his account now carries not only his own sins but also those inherited from his brother: delayed reforms, massive layoffs, the invasive marabou weed that continues to run wild, cuts in the basic ration basket, and that damned glass of milk that never materializes on our tables – no matter how many times it is promised – along with a long list of et ceteras. It would not surprise me to hear a new proclamation any day now, in which the General-President delegates his duties to someone who carries the same name. The next damned president of our national history.