With Raul Castro confirming that he’s stepping down from all politics, for the first time in decades the island of Cuba is not in the hands of the Castro family. Cuban-Americans such as Horacio Llerena celebrated their homeland being one step closer to moving on from the Marxist reign of terror.
Llerena, a contractor living in New Jersey, fled the communist dictatorship as part of a mass exodus of Cubans, better known as the 1980 Mariel boatlift, during a time when Raul’s brother Fidel Castro was running the island.
“We’re happy. We’ve been waiting for it,” said Llerena, 61, who was enjoying a game of cards with some friends at the Jose Marti Park in Union City. The park is the home of a bronze bust of the Cuban poet and patriot it is named after, who was forced to relocate to New York in 1880 until he went back to fight against Spanish imperialism in Cuba, where he died in 1895.
Llerena is also a Cuban who moved to New York City from Havana to escape an oppressive political regime. Since 1982, Llerena has resided in New Jersey, he stated. Sometimes called “Havana on the Hudson,” Union City and West New York have been a backyard for Cuban exiles going all the way back to the 1940s.
Even though the nearly 90-year-old Castro is relinquishing his leadership position of the small nation’s Communist Party, Llerena says that not much will change for his people back home right away.
“Every single one who’s got to do with the Communist Party has got to go,” emphasized Llerena. “All the remaining people alive, they have to pay for all the crimes of the past 61 years.”
Raul Castro stepped away from the Cuban presidency in 2018 after serving two terms before appointing his successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, to slip into the role as Cuba’s new handpicked, unelected president. In 2008, Raul Castro took control of Cuba after his older brother Fidel Castro, the Marxist dictator who held sway over the island since 1959 following an overthrow of the government run by Fulgencio Batista. In 2016, Fidel Castro died of natural causes.
Even though Diaz-Canel is considered a young up-and-comer among communists in the nation, he is still under the watchful eye of Raul Castro, and it is not expected that he would make any radical changes to the socialist government’s policies, other Cuban Americans reported to The New York Post.
In January, the US labeled the Cuban government a sponsor of terrorism.
The Communist Party newspaper Granma reported:
“Cuba is not a state sponsor of terrorism, a truth recognized by all,” Cuban government officals said. “The official and well-known policy, and the impeccable conduct or our country, is the rejection of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations — in particular state terrorism, against whoever and wherever it is committed.”
“They talk a good talk but I don’t see any difference,” said 52-year-old Tony, a first-generation Cuban American who is in charge of his family’s Cuban restaurant in West New York called La Pola. A Food Network critic reviewed the restaurant’s Cuban sandwich, calling it the best in the United States in 2018, leading to animosity with other Cuban eateries in Florida.
“It’s just one for passing the torch to another,” remarked Tony about the transfer of power in the party.
It is expected that Diaz-Canel will be elected as the secretary general of the Communist Party after this weekend’s meeting of the party congress. In Cuba under the Communists, the presidency and head of the party have typically been held by the same person on the island.