Raúl Castro poses for pictures with the people of Santiago de Cuba
Now it turns out that Raúl Castro wants to be Rihanna. On a visit to Santiago de Cuba for funerary reasons, depositing the ashes of another historic leader of the Revolution at a mausoleum, he seized the occasion to let himself be thronged by crowds, whom he let take pictures of him with their cell phones.
He did not go there because the situation got so bad that local residents were sleeping in the parks, out of fear of a great earthquake. Neither was he visiting the city due to the great drought it is suffering. Rather, he was there because Barack Obama has announced a trip to Cuba, and the polls say that Obama is popular among Cubans, so Raúl has to salvage what he can of his own image.
In the history of the Cuban Revolution there has never been an image makeover as drastic as that Raúl Castro underwent 10 years ago. While his older brother was in power he had a reputation as the killer amongst the two. They said that he was going to roll out the tanks at the first opportunity. But his brother then ceded power to him, and he was able to become a figure of hope for many people in sore need of some. Suddenly he was family man, a strong manager capable of thinking about butter rather than guns. Someone who would bring about changes.
But now there is nothing left of that good reputation he garnered ten years ago. He destroyed it all by himself, with his restrictions and prohibitions. And people, still in need of hope, now pin their hopes on Barack Obama and his policies towards Cuba. This forces Raúl Castro to recover popular support, as soon as possible, by being photographed by the people of Santiago de Cuba, and competing with Rihanna during her visit to the island.
In the regime's collective imagination Santiago de Cuba is not only the destination of ashes, but also where it all started, the cradle of the cause. So Raúl Castro went there to start what might be called an election campaign. Breaching the security protocols followed hitherto, he allowed himself to be photographed by crowds, right and left, in an effort to convince everyone that cell phones exist to document, rather than the regime's repressive acts, the support the dictator enjoys amongst Cubans.