When I was 8 years old, they came into my life and changed the course of my destiny, driving me and 2 million other Cubans out of our homeland and submitting those who stayed behind to the longest dictatorship in modern human history.
And now that I'm 62, the Castro brothers tell us they are ready to get out of our lives — in five more years, just in time for my 67th birthday!
For this, I should be grateful?
Some people seem to think I should be celebrating because Cuban dictator Raul Castro announced Sunday that he will retire in 2018. They think that "the end of the Castro era" — as it is widely being reported by the naive American news media — will automatically mark the end of repression and open the gates to democracy and freedom in my native homeland.
I wish they were right, but they are being terribly ingenuous.
At 86 and 81, the Castro brothers know they are not eternal. All they are doing is paving the way for an orderly transition to another Communist dictator. That's progress?
When Raul Castro announced that "this will be my last mandate" shortly after being reelected to another five-year term by a parliament of Communist puppets known as the "National Assembly of People's Power," he also anointed Cuba's future dictator: Miguel Diaz-Canel, a tried and true commie, handpicked to keep their twisted ideology and the Castro legacy alive.
Castro said Diaz-Canel's "election" Sunday as first vice president of the Council of State marks a moment of "historic transcendence," when Cuba is moving in a "gradual and orderly" manner toward a new generation of leadership.
But if you think this means movement toward free elections, civil liberties or a democratic government, you are listening to the Castro speech very selectively and ignoring his vow to preserve the chains that have bound the Cuban people for more than five decades.
"I was not chosen to be president to restore capitalism to Cuba," Castro declared. "I was elected to defend, maintain and continue to perfect socialism not destroy it."
He wants the dictatorship to live long after he and his brother Fidel are dead, and he intends to spend the next five years making sure that the Castro repression machine keeps functioning for at least a couple more decades. How else could the Castro legacy survive?
Amazingly, in the same speech where he said he and his brother would stay in power for a total of 59 years, Raul shamelessly came out in support of limiting top officials to two five-year terms. In the same speech where he said he would retire at the age of 86, he said future leaders should be limited to a maximum age.
But instead of seeing the irony in his remarks, instead of seeing that he only wants to prop up a new Communist dictator every 10 years, some American pundits already are reporting this as a sign of progress in U.S.-Cuba relations — as if free elections were around the corner!
Is it wishful thinking or extreme naivete?
For the last few days, I've been amazed by the number of times I've seen news TV shows irresponsibly reporting that Raul Castro had been "elected" to another five-year term — without explaining how he was "elected" or by whom. When they fail to mention that Cuba has a one-party system, some pundits are misleading many viewers to assume that the Cuban people chose Raul Castro and his new vice president in free and democratic elections.
In fact, an illegitimate president is retiring from an illegitimate government that has never held free elections! It's a huge farce and the journalists who fail to expose it, when they report on so-called "Cuban elections," are becoming the "useful fools" on which the communists always depend to dupe the gullible.
So here we have a dictator telling us that he has decided to stick around for another five years and that he has anointed a new dictator who has "solid ideological firmness," and you think I should be celebrating?
It's not just the Castro brothers who need to retire, but their repulsive ideology and their cruel system of repression. Until that happens, I won't be hosting the big fiesta.
But when it does, I'm willing to lead the conga line. I hope I won't have to wait until I'm 67.
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.