"If the young people fail, everything will fail."
- Fidel Castro
Since 2000, the Cuban government has acknowledged that they have a big challenge in their hands: "to instill in young people a communist conscience and rejection of capitalism." Those were the words of Cabinet Secretary Carlos Lage last April in front of a group of communist youth leaders, those young enough to not have lived or known of the "moral damage" that Lage attributes to capitalism, and known no other head of government than Fidel Castro.
In 2005, Cuba's Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque further clarified that "[Cuba's youth] have more information and more consumer expectations than those at the start of the revolution." He's referring to nearly 5 million Cubans who are now below the age of 30, of which about two million were born after the beginning of the Special Period, and that means there's trouble ahead.
The Cuban government has fears that it's younger population will not tolerate any more sacrifices on their part to sustain the beliefs of the Revolution. Yet, this past June, Fidel Castro addressed the Communist Youth Union and attempted to convince them about how "[the Revolution's] roots were sustained in every act of sacrifice and heroism of an admirable people, who knew how to confront all obstacles." But, the question remains, I'm sure, if any more sacrifice in Cuba has any value.
"What are you going to do with $10 [a month]," asks Ahmed Rodriguez, 21 years old.
As a reply, the Cuban government launched a campaign called "The Battle of Ideas" (whose origins belong to another historical affair). A brand that encapsulates a broad strategy of propaganda and restructuring of battered infrastructure and increased social services. The Cuban government has boasted "the restoration of 84 hospitals, the expansion of 498 small medical clinics and the installation of 155 high-tech medical machines," as well as training 34,877 new social workers. Only time will tell if such improvements have a positive impact.
But, it seems that the real Battle of Ideas is happening outside of Cuba, where real "fighters" have been placed on the front lines of the ideological war between nations. Recent defections by top Cuban boxers last December, and the recent (and continuing) dispute over two fighters in Brazil has once again brought attention to the main opponents of the Battle of Ideas: Cuba versus the free markets.
Unfortunately, like in most conflicts, it is the soldier who makes the first sacrifice before the leader.