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"The changing of the guard is not significant of and by itself," deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters, repeatedly referring to Raul Castro as "dictator lite" or "Fidel lite.""It will be significant if in fact it leads to greater openness and freedom for the Cuban people and ultimately to a democratic transition," he said. But, he cautioned that "the general analysis is that Raul Castro is 'Fidel lite.' He is simply a continuation of the Castro regime, of the dictatorship."
There is no freedom in Cuba, nor will there be, as long as the Castro family is steering the ship of state. And the recent arrests of dissidents simply buttress what all but the most deluded have known for 50 years. But those who gasped in horror that America's elections were rigged in 2000 and 2004, that warned against a sinister plan afoot in 2008—think Greg Palast, Robert Kennedy Jr., Gore Vidal—seem not to mind systematic and acknowledged voter intimidation in Venezuela or, in the case of Cuba, the total absence of democratic elections. Why must cretinous celebrities such as Penn insist that Cubans remain guinea pigs in a failed social experiment in which he isn't required to participate?
And while it is perhaps unfair to beat up on a credulous, self-important, and solipsistic vanity journalist like Sean Penn, it does serve to remind that the Hollywood narrative of revolutionary Cuba—perpetuated by, among others, Oliver Stone, Danny Glover, Harry Belafonte, Benicio Del Toro, Steven Soderbergh, Naomi Campbell, and Michael Moore—stubbornly, like Fidel himself, refuses to die.
Michael C. Moynihan is an associate editor of reason.