When news got out that Fidel Castro was rushed to the hospital and relinquished power to his brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro, at the end of July, people realized the great historical weight the event exerted. Media and citizens in general, especially in South Florida, went into a frenzy, either wildly speculating the future of the island nation and its leader, or flat-out proclaiming the island’s newfound freedom that would come with Fidel’s death.
This reaction, which was essentially a collective sigh of relief for the Cuban community, was indicative of the overly high expectations said community has for the events that will follow this historic change of power. Pundits and community leaders have spoken of a new era of freedom and democracy for Cuba, while others foresee an exodus back to the motherland, and others still look forward, salivating at the thought of being able to buy Cuban cigars in America again.
However, one must be careful to not make a bigger deal out of Castro passing the torch than it actually is. Even though Fidel, who thumbed his nose at the United States and ten presidents throughout his 47-year tenure, is currently out of the picture, there is always the chance he could still recover. Even if he doesn’t, Raul is at least as much of a despot than his brother, as many experts and community leaders have pointed out. He is not likely to stop putting down dissent anytime soon.
And even if Fidel dies and the system collapses under Raul (and assuming a democratic, or at least pro-American government replaces it), the possibility of a mass exodus back to Cuba is still unlikely. The Cuban community in South Florida is very much Americanized, as any expatriate community would become after two generations. News of a new, free Cuba would no doubt be well-received (as evidenced by the scene in Miami that erupted from news that he might be dead), but is unlikely to significantly change much down here.
Looks like the cigar aficionados might have to wait a little longer.