Despite a new president – and words and some actions from that leader hinting at greater freedoms – “nothing has changed” in Cuba, Latin music legend Willy Chirino tells Newsmax.TV.
“It’s a sign of desperation,” Chirino, a Cuban exile who lives in Miami, tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview.
Raúl Castro, 81, succeeded his ailing brother, Fidel, 85, as president in 2006 before being elected to the position in 2008. Fidel Castro had ruled the island since 1959.
“It’s probably a combination of some things: A sign of the fact that their economy’s in total shambles, and the fact that they want to make it seem like they’re doing it – but it’s really all cosmetic,” Chirino said.
“It’s not happening. You have to believe me that it’s not happening because we’re in contact with people inside island constantly and there is absolutely no movement to make any type of changes towards opening up the island for the world.”
The Castros have remained in power for so long because they have kept the tiny island isolated from the rest of the world, Chirino said.
“Fidel and his brother figured out from the beginning that the best way to keep power for a long time is to shy away from any contacts with the exterior world, keep the island sealed completely information-wise in every aspect of society and keep the people in need,” he said. “They make a big effort for the people to not be able to get food for their children and stuff like that.
“If you live in a society in which tonight you don’t know what to feed your children, you’ll be looking for that before you figure out a way of taking the government out.”
Chirino was dismayed when Pope Benedict XVI met with both Castro brothers when he visited Cuba in March but not with any opposition groups.
“It’s very hard to understand. Sometimes, you get disillusioned because you see world leaders – people that, for some reason – when they see Cuba, they don’t try to make some type of connection between whatever happens there and the rest of the world and they don’t do anything to help the cause of Cuban freedom.
“If there’s anything that we need, it’s allies,” Chirino added. “Regular folks, government officials, poets, singers, musicians – like it happened during the apartheid system: A bunch of people of different genres and different professions decided to make an effort to bring apartheid down, and it happened.”
But Chirino also isn’t impressed with President Castro’s recent forays to China, Vietnam and Russia – nations that eventually had to open up their societies to its citizens.
“You have to remember that the power in Cuba is held by people who are in their 80’s – probably late 70’s, the youngest ones,” he said. “There’s a new generation that really wants change. Those sons and daughters of those people in power in Cuba have been educated outside the island. They have a different point of view. They have a different idea of how Cuba should be run.
“And they are very aware of that, so all they want to do is hold on to power as long as they can,” he said. “If they give the people the power – remember money is power – if they, the Cuban people, get the power to run businesses and create a lot of revenue, that government is history – and they are very aware of that.”
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