How’s Raul Castro’s Brother?
When a Cuban or a foreigner living in Cuba travels abroad nowadays they are usually confronted with questions on how things are going in Cuba under Raul Castro.
It is now common knowledge that Raul Castro is the new president of Cuba and that changes are occurring in the country. However, people around the world have been left wondering what exactly is changing and how this is impacting ordinary Cubans.
For those who have an overall positive impression of the Cuban revolution, there is concern that the changes being talked about in the foreign media could mean a penetration of consumerism, capitalism or inequalities, which they hope not to see.
Others ask the question based on an image of a repressed, downtrodden people, without the creature comforts that most people in the industrialized world possess, and that most populations aspire to have.
On a recent trip that took me through Mexico City, I was surprised by the question from an immigration officer as he checked my passport with the Cuban stamps: “How’s Raul Castro’s brother?”
I explained that Fidel has not appeared in public since he had abdominal surgery two years ago, but remains active with the pen, writing commentaries for the local media and continuing to serve as the country’s top political advisor.
I am usually guarded about political discussions when I need the OK to enter a country, so I was pleasantly surprised when the immigration officer volunteered his own comment.
He noted the recent announcement that the Mexican government is considering a joint vaccine production program with Cuba, and praised the island’s advances in the field.
After my passport was stamped, I mentioned that the cooling of long-standing good relations that occurred under the administration of former President Vicente Fox now appears to be a thing of the past.
The officer smiled and nodded his head in agreement.
I’ve always admired how Mexico, despite its own internal contradictions and conflicts, was able to dodge the US pressure on Cuba when much of the hemisphere buckled and broke off relations in the early 1960s.
Today, of course, Cuba now has good relations including cooperation and/or commerce with most countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Judging by the immigration officer’s friendly comments, Mexico is no exception.