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Cuba's youth can outsmart aged regime

Cuba's youth can outsmart aged regime
Posted on Wed, Feb. 13, 2008
BY ANA MENENDEZ
amenendez@MiamiHerald.com

The passionate energy of youth is not always wasted on the young —
sometimes it's tragically squandered on the old.

Witness the exchange between Cuban student Eliécer Avila and the
decrepit Ricardo Alarcón, president of Cuba's National Assembly.

Avila's questions — at a forum at the Computer Science University near
Havana — were thoughtful, informed and even wry.

''We know there must be a plan,'' he said, maintaining the guileless
posture of the campesino he identified himself to be. “We just want to
know what it is.''

Avila was full of questions. Alarcón? He was full of the usual evasions,
nonanswers and I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I responses that characterize
his recent ''interviews'' and make me laugh when people claim he's a
master of propaganda.

HALLUCINATORY

On a tape of the meeting that was anonymously turned over to the BBC and
CNN, Alarcón comes off as a tired old man, so far removed from the
struggles and anxieties of Cuba's young that he no longer seems to even
be speaking the same language.

Why can't Cubans go to hotels?

Hey, young man, I suffered, too: “I come from the Camaguey aristocracy,
but I never went to Varadero. Why? Because my dad didn't have the dough.''

Why can't Cubans travel abroad?

“If the whole world — its six billion inhabitants — could travel
wherever they wanted, the bottleneck in the planet's airspace would be
enormous.''

Alarcón's answers were downright hallucinatory. Or maybe just senile. I
recall Fidel Castro indulged the same impulse to magical reasoning in
the last year of his rule.

How or why the exchange took place is irrelevant. If it was leaked by
some twisted logic of propaganda, it backfired. Avila emerged the clear
winner, having delivered a politely devastating blow to not just
Alarcón, but to old cynics everywhere.

''I don't think it was rigged — Alarcón was floored. I truly think that
he couldn't contain his anger,'' said Mickey Garrote, a founder of
Agenda Cuba, the exile group that has supported the dissident and youth
movement in Cuba for years. “These kids are brilliant. I'm very excited
about what's been happening lately. I'll tell you, these students are
giving us all great hope. With young people like these, the country has
a future.''

ANOTHER VOICE

Last year, Yoani Sanchez, a 32-year-old mother, launched a blog,
Generacion Y, that takes on the old order with intelligence and humor.

''There are certain elderly to whom the boldness of youth produces
burnout and a heavy heart,'' she wrote on Jan. 30, before referring to a
recent Castro column. 'They are the ones who figure that those that come
after them will sweep away all they consider `sacred.' They're right.''

So far, Sanchez has been allowed to keep writing. Monday, a human-rights
group claimed Avila had been arrested. But the 21-year-old student
reappeared Tuesday to say he had not been detained and didn't mean his
comments to be “destructive.''

It's a tough thing in Cuban culture: to go against one's elders. It's
the same taboo that keeps many young people here from questioning the
rhetoric of their parents.

That the young are boldly confronting the old guard in Cuba, where there
is so much more to risk, should humble us in Miami.

The best way we can support them is to continue to question our own
homegrown orthodoxies — those tired narratives of bitterness and hatred
that keep us from engaging. And believing.

http://www.miamiherald.com/418/story/417018.html

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