Cuba: Life without the eternal shadow | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 27.11.2016
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Cuba: Life without the eternal shadow

Waking up without Fidel: Around 12 million Cubans have just spent their first day without the Máximo Líder.

The morning after the news of Fidel Castro's death, Cuba's best-known blogger, Yoani Sánchez, reached for her camera. Her photograph depicts a still-sleepy Havana at sunrise. For whole generations of Cubans, it is the first morning without the man who determined every detail of their lives. "A strange lightness lies over the city," Sánchez remarks.

Cuba without Fidel Castro. Cuba without the Máximo Líder. Something that was always unthinkable has now become reality. Sánchez writes of nervous security personnel and incredulous Cubans who couldn't believe the news delivered by the head of state, General Raúl Castro, in a televised address to his compatriots.

Sánchez is part of the small section of the Cuban population who dared to publicly defy the leader of the revolution. For this, the online rebel has been threatened, spat on and humiliated by the security forces. Sánchez has paid for her courage with ostracism, official degradation and hatred. Now, her generation hopes that something is finally changing in Cuba. For a few years now, Sánchez has been allowed to publish her blog "". It's primarily popular with Cubans in exile and with foreigners, because Cubans themselves don't have internet.

GMF16 Yoani Sanchez (DW)

Cuban blogger, Yoani Sanchez

Depleted opposition mostly in exile

Little remains of Cuba's opposition. Oswaldo José Payá, one of the most prominent opposition politicians, died four years ago in a mysterious car accident. To this day the Payas family claims it was an assassination. Many others cracked under the tremendous pressure from Cuba's domestic intelligence service and decided, after years in jail, to spend their lives in exile. But whether from Miami or Madrid, they have almost no influence over political developments in Cuba. They aren't present in state media reports, and they can't reach their compatriots because of the lack of internet.

Even the leaders of the civil rights movement "Ladies in White" were in Miami at this historic juncture. They were taking part in a ceremony to name a street after them - Damas de Blanco Way. Many Cubans in exile celebrated the death of their former tormentor, but in the camp of the depleted opposition there is almost no hope, and no united strategy for a life on the island without Fidel Castro.

Kuba Friedensnobelpreisträger Adolfo Perez Esquivel (DW/T. Käufer)

Nobel Prize laureate, Adolfo Perez Esquivel

"Resist foreign domination"

Argentinean Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel also warns people not to expect too much. In an interview with DW Online he said he didn't believe that there would be changes any time soon. "Cuba has a right to self-determination, and I believe the doors are starting to open a little there now as well. Cuba has always had to fend off aggression, and the embargo has still not been lifted," he said.

Pérez Esquivel, who himself resisted a dictatorship during the rule of the military junta in Argentina, sees the communists' fear of intervention from abroad as the main brake on further development: "After more than 50 years of resistance, people have to respect the fact that Cuba still intends to resist foreign domination."

Oppositionelle in Kuba festgenommen (Getty Images/Afp/Adalberto Roque)

Members of the Ladies in White opposition group are arrested during a demonstration in 2013

Sunday: the day of resistance

In Havana, Sunday is traditionally the day when the Cuban opposition expresses its resistance. For years now, the Ladies in White have been demonstrating every Sunday after Mass, for democracy and freedom of expression. This Sunday they will march for the first time in a Cuba without Fidel Castro - if the secret service allows them to. Because in spite of the political thaw, their marches have been taking place recently under increasingly difficult conditions. Just a few days ago, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) reported that "politically motivated arbitrary arrests" had reached a new high. "We predict that the number of incidents of repression in the current year will exceed the 10,000 mark," says the CCDHRN's director, Marti Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz.


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