WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The last Castro in power is retiring as the head of the Communist Party in Cuba.
Raul Castro, who stepped down as President of Cuba in 2018, will now leave the most powerful position on the island. But what does it mean for Cubans?
At his art gallery in West Palm Beach, Rolando Chang Barrero displays three upside-down paintings of the most prominent figures of communism in Cuba.
“It is called US heroes and it’s a critique on liberalism. If you take a photograph of the work and turn it upside down you will see that it is the image of the three assassins on a t-shirt,” said Rolando Chang Barrero, referencing the wide sale of t-shirts with the faces of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and Raul Castro and explaining the lack of acknowledgment of what those faces mean to the Cuban people.
Chang Barrero is also president of the Democratic Hispanic Chapter of Palm Beach County and a son to Cuban exiles.
Chang Barrero has witnessed the pain of the Castro regime in power over six decades.
“I remember as a kid our daily routine was going to funeral wakes in the other people’s families who had lost family members because of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and of course Raul Castro, who was head of the military that was actually implementing the assassinations of freedom fighters,” said Chang Barrero.
For the first time in more than 60 years, there won’t be a Castro leading the most powerful position in Cuba. But, many Cubans feel even though Castro is resigning, his influence will be felt.
“Changing terms doesn’t change Cuba,” said Chang Barrero.
The only political party in Cuba will have a new leader, likely current President Miguel Diaz-Canela who succeeded Raul Castro in 2018.
“I don’t see nothing new. It’s the same person, the same people with different names,” said Elaine Fandino, a Republican in Palm Beach County and a Cuban exile.
Fandino fled the island in 1969 at 26-years-old.
“There’s a little city, Manzanillo, Oriente where I came from. My family I have there now says it’s awful because we don’t have any medication. When you go to the hospital you don’t have any aspirin, you don’t have any antibiotics,” said Fandino.
Fandino and Chang Barrero, both a part of different political parties here in the U.S, feel it’s going to take more than a new face in communist leadership to bring change to the island.
“It’s not a Pu-Pu platter of ‘oh they got internet,’ that is not a human right. Human rights are to be able to speak, to be able to have your own press, to be able to be free,” added Chang Barrero.