Student leader sees bright socialist future

Campaign News | Thursday, 19 October 2006

From the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper

He likes the sound of Queen, leads 300,000 Cuban university students and is the son of Cuba's third most powerful man after the Castro brothers.

Carlos Lage Codorniu, 25, confidently believes one-party socialism will survive in Cuba for another generation whether or not ailing Fidel Castro re-emerges to run the nation.

But Cuba must win the hearts of its disaffected youth and improve "material" conditions for its people who have put up with economic hardships since Soviet communism collapsed, Lage told Reuters in an interview yesterday.

Struggle and work

"We must struggle and work," reads the slogan over the entrance to the headquarters of the Federation of University Students, or FEU, housed in a mansion with peeling paint that once belonged to a rich Cuban family in Havana's Vedado district.

Those were Castro's last instruc-tions to Cubans when he underwent emergency intestinal surgery in late July, handed over the reins of the government and the ruling Communist Party to his brother Raul Castro and disappeared from public view.

"We were shocked by the news. The Comandante is widely loved," said Lage, an economics graduate whose father Carlos Lage Davila is Cuba's vice-president.

Lage - sporting short hair and faded jeans - is busy organising a student congress in December where the central theme will be the role of Cuba's youth in carrying on the system born of Castro's 1959 revolution.

Cuba's severe post-Soviet crisis, known as the 'special period', took its toll among the new generation, many of whom have little clue of a working socialist society, he said.

Many younger Cubans lost faith in the ideals of their parents and grandparents. Frustrated by the lack of fashionable clothes and music, bored with political rhetoric, they dropped out or tried to leave, drawn by the capitalist consumerism of Cuba's powerful neighbour and archenemy the United States.

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