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When Reds turn gray

Fidel Castro, left, and his brother, Cuban President Raul Castro, talk during the opening session of the National Assembly in Havana on Sunday. Raul Castro said he will step down in 2018.

Associated Press

Fidel Castro, left, and his brother, Cuban President Raul Castro, talk during the opening session of the National Assembly in Havana on Sunday. Raul Castro said he will step down in 2018.

Now there's a Jeffersonian moment of democracy for you. Cuba's Raul Castro has suddenly decided the time has come for election reform, which is a bit like Al Capone supporting the temperance movement.

It seems the Cuban president wants to establish term limits and age caps for officeholders. This is absurd, of course.

Cuba always has had term limits. They simply happen to be 54 years in office — and counting. By the Brothers Castro standard, these guys are just getting warmed up.

Raul also wants to set an age limit on those holding positions of power on the island nation. Considering the younger Castro is 81 and his brother Fidel is 86, there appears to be some … flexibility on this point.

In fact the Castro Axis of Depends has lasted so long, the two siblings have managed to make the old Soviet era of wheezing, dottering, addled leaders, who held onto their offices until the last drool, look like a bunch of precocious whippersnappers.

The duo of aging revolutionaries have proved to be so adept at cooking the ballot box, would anyone be surprised if they decided to spend their golden years in the Florida Legislature?

Perhaps Raul and Fidel finally figured out if it is okay for Pope Benedict XVI to break hundreds of years of Vatican tradition and step down for a younger prelate, say someone in their jaunty 70s, then maybe no harm will come for two card-carrying CARP (the Commie Association of Retired Potentates) brothers with a combined age of 167 to contemplate a post-tyrant life tending to their antique thumbscrew collections.

But you can only take this reform stuff so far. It seems the term limit cap won't go into effect until Raul completes his current five-year rule in 2018 at 86, and Fidel will be 91 (if you're keeping a tally), which will also mark the Castros' 59th anniversary of bungled governance, making Cuba the North Korea meets Freedonia of the tropics.

To be sure, it is probably not a bad idea for a leadership team with prostates the size of a beer keg to create some sort of succession path for the next generation who never knew Che Guevara's nickname, which was Stinky, by the way.

Raul came to the presidency after his brother fell ill and gave it to him, perhaps to make up for short-sheeting his bed when they were kids.

The younger Castro won unanimous re-election to the presidential mansion in a nail-biter of a vote by the Vichy-esque National Assembly, since he was running against Clint Eastwood's empty chair.

Still, you have to wonder when Fidel was in his crisp fatigue-wearing prime and Raul served as his brother's grape-peeler, what would have happened if someone had proposed letting the body politic participate in open presidential elections as well as imposing term and age limits on those running the government. Nothing very good — or healthy.

Just as Fidel turned over the presidency to his brother, Raul anointed his eventual successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, a virtual toddler at 52, who was named vice president.

This sort of vote rigging spares us the frustrating effort of trying to figure out how Nate Silver's Electoral College handicapping system works.

Five years before Diaz-Canel takes over the sugarcane codes from Raul can be an eternity in Cuban politics. Much can happen.

After all, Diaz-Canel is only one of the Cuban government's five vice presidents. It's entirely likely the other four also hum "Hail to the Despot" and have their own designs for the top job.

It's always possible Diaz-Canel could contract the Kremlin "flu," for which there is no known cure beyond sharing quality time next to Vladimir Lenin.

He could accidentally fall down an elevator shaft, if there is one in working order in Havana.

Or maybe the president-in-waiting could do something that offends Fidel and Raul, like getting caught sending iPhone videos of himself doing a very bad Hugo Chavez impersonation and find his career sidetracked to the night watchman shift at the Guantanamo gate.

Or — by the time 2018 rolls around, a tanned and rested Fidel Castro could decide that he's not that close to checking out and reclaim his old job. Any doubts he would have the votes?

Imagine the snappy campaign slogan — "60 More Years — He's Not Dead Yet!"

When Reds turn gray 02/25/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 25, 2013 5:33pm]
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