Last Castro steps down. Unfortunately, too many Cuban exiles didn’t live to see it | Editorial

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the Miami Herald Editorial Board
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For the first time in six decades, no Castro will hold an official position of power in Cuba’s government — at least that’s what the Cuban government wants us to believe.

On Friday, Raúl Castro, the late Fidel’s younger brother, stepped down as head of Cuba’s Communist Party, the moral center of the regime that reshaped Cuba — and Miami.

To make a point, the last Castro announced his departure during a Communist congress held at the same time as the 60th anniversary of the doomed Bay of Pigs invasion, a final spit in the eye to exiles.

Sadly, Miami-Dade’s cemeteries are filled with the graves of Cuban exiles, those who fled in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, and whose lives were so brutally interrupted by the Castro brothers’ deceitful revolution. They are the greatest generation of sorts, but they are also dying off — along with their heartfelt declarations of “Viva Cuba Libre!” and “Next year in Havana!”

In Havana and Miami, Raúl Castro’s departure triggers deep emotions, but his leave-taking will be largely symbolic, and not the at-long-last final nail in the coffin of six decades of this regime’s repression. His departure signals little change arising from new leaders on the island, which is undergoing one of its bleakest economic downturns and civil disobedience, in the middle of a pandemic. Cuba has responded to these as it always has — by arresting, harassing and snatching away.

But this last Castro didn’t let go of power without bluster: “I will continue participating as one more revolutionary combatant, willing to make my modest contribution until the end of my life,” said Fidel’s little brother, now 89.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel is the anticipated heir as the party’s first secretary.

Still, the news stings many Cuban Americans who grew up listening to their parents denounce what the Castro brothers had done to Cuba and its people. Castro stepping down feels merely a footnote. Too little, way too late. Too much damage done. Too much time passed.

After all, only Cubans who are about 70 or older now have a first-hand memory of the island — pre-Castro brothers.

One of those whose father fought vehemently to end the Castro regime is Jorge Mas. His father, Jorge Mas Canosa, founder of the Cuban American National Foundation, was one of Fidel Castro’s most formidable and influential critics in the United States. Mas Canosa passed away 14 years ago.

“Today, my father would be asking those Castro followers who remain in power if they want to be remembered for continuing the suffering or for restoring peace, freedom and prosperity to the Cuban people,” he told the Editorial Board. “There’s no victory as long as Cubans continue to suffer misery and repression under the system the Castros imposed.” We couldn’t agree more.

Frank Calzón, former director of the Center for a Free Cuba in Washington D.C., who for decades has spoken out against the Castros and communist Cuba inside the Beltway, suspects Raúl Castro stepped down for show. New boss, same as the old boss.

“Unless he is seriously ill, he is not likely to give up his absolute power. The new leaders will have as much power as Raúl allows them to have,” he told the Board.

Ninoska Pérez Castellón, a well-known Spanish-language radio personality and exile leader who has spent her entire professional career on Miami’s airwaves denouncing the Castros and whose husband was a famous Cuban prisoner, echoes the sentiment.

“Sadly nothing changes, the Castro family is like a drug cartel, the capo retires from old age, but the control is still in the hands of those chosen by him. A celebration would be if Raúl Castro were tried for the many crimes committed, starting with a mass shooting of 72 men without trial the first week of the revolution,” she told the Board. “That would be justice. This is more of the same.”

As a child, Carmen Valdivia’s parents, fearing indoctrination in schools, spirited her and her late sister to the United States as part of Operation Pedro Pan. She lived for months at a camp in South Dade.

Today, Valdivia heads the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora on Coral Way, charged with preserving the history of the more than 1 million Cubans sent into exile, mainly to Miami, by the Castros.

“Raúl Castro may step down, but the dynasty continues to hold onto the real power behind the puppet president,” she told the Board. “In the meantime, a generation of heroic Cubans continues to die in exile in Miami without having witnessed an iota of justice for the horrendous crimes against humanity perpetrated against our people by these diabolical monsters.”

The fact that time catches up with all of us — even the Castros — is the best revenge the exiles will get. Unfortunately, the end of the Castros is not the end of Cuba communist regime, which the brothers succeeded in cementing, as they ruined what for so many was a perfectly good country.