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Fidel Castro retires.

category international | history and heritage | news report author Tuesday February 19, 2008 09:23author by ribbid Report this post to the editors

Well nobody saw that coming did they?

Mr Castro has today taken the front page of news organisations the world over rivalling splashes & coverages of the recent past for the historic interest his announcement of retirement will sure be met with.

Fidel Castro announces retirement as Cuban head of state & chief of armed forces 18/2/08
Fidel Castro announces retirement as Cuban head of state & chief of armed forces 18/2/08

If you can read his language, then you can enjoy the letter in which he has announced his retirement here

Of course many people will now start the usual what happens to Cuba after Castro thing. Just before they do that here, might I remind all that Castro isn't dead in any conventional sense nor even undead in the Ariel Sharonesque sense. His regime has already carried on under the "de facto" and "de jure" stewardship of his little brother Raul Castro without notable hitches or land invasions by either US forces or Cuban exiles loyal to Gloria Estaban. Raul has appeared to have enjoyed his stint as the only acting head of state known to have autism in history without encouraging a global change of attitude to either autism or Gloria Estaban. I first reported that Castro was dying when it appeared all but a certainty that he was in August 2006

Thereafter indymedia ireland saw a very interesting feature on the usual what happens to Cuba after Castro thing.

Since then of course we saw him eat yoghurt with Hugo Chavez, drink orange juice with Hugo Chavez, sip a caipirinha with Gabriel Garcia Marquez & generally in most very acceptable terms - not be dead.

Nor is he dead now.

So in short - we ought know by now what will happen after Castro for we have been after Castro for a while now. Maybe some would like to think what will happen to Cubans after-after-Castro. I'll give you a clue - the swamp fascists will come out & neither his wikipedia nor his legacy will be safe, but somehow through it all his iconography, hagiography & achievements will be secured.

author by ribbidpublication date Tue Feb 19, 2008 09:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The man hasn't been seen in public since the middle of last year, but he has been reported as having done an interview with Naomi Campbell as part of her "rebel angel" series which was launched last week in GQ magazine with an interview with Hugo Chavez. But it is most likely Fidel will be taking it easy & not running off to join merchant banks as an advisor or employing staff of secretaries to become possible the least read historian Nobel laureate since Churchill. Which is a pity, I'd like to hear about his dreary steeples. Nor is it probably that Fidel will be running his own thinktank or hanging out with Bono of U2 promoting action on climate change. In fact, he is now going to become a legend in a way which no other retired dictator has ever done.

here's a BBC vid compliation of his life

what will happen to Castro after Cuba?
what will happen to Castro after Cuba?

author by no beardpublication date Tue Feb 19, 2008 10:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Castro has become a living legend indeed. He fought a nationalist guerilla war against the Batista regime, then started nationalising American oil companies, which enraged the US industrial-military complex. (Nasser in Egypt had a similar effect when he nationalised the Suez Canal in 1956 - and Anglo-French neocolonial intervention led to a canal blockade that led to petrol rationing, including little Ireland.} The USA opposition to nationalisation pushed Cuba into the Soviet Union orbit. The USSR supplied oil in return for Cuba's only cash crop, sugar cane, and other food products. As I say, this polarisation between USA and Cuba was the fault of neocolonial US attitudes drawing their quasi-legal justification from the 1823 Monroe Doctrine that defined Latin America as a US sphere of interest.

The US blocade of Cuba has harmed the economic development of Cuba since 1960. It has probably helped to sustain ideological hegemony within Cuba at the same time. Democracy requires economic respect between nations, something the US spitefully witheld.

Legends begin with real people and brave deeds, but as time goes on they acquire an aura that obviates nuanced details. This has happened to Castro and the Sierra Maestra jungle days.

I wish Castro a happy retirement, but think it would have been better for the Cubans if he had gracefully retired twenty years ago and let someone younger take over. People in the contemporary world don't want to be ruled by Great Men, however varnished their images might be by official histories and approved artists. They want fair rule of states by people with technocratic skills. China has been getting technocrat rulers in recent years and the economic boom there is gradually leading to an opening up of society - gradually, with a lot of road to go. I hope Cuba will get qualified capable rulers in the years to come.

author by Scepticpublication date Tue Feb 19, 2008 10:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The last writer “hopes” that Cuba will get more competent leaders which is very noble of him. However if you let the people have a free vote, a free press, free parties, the internet etc there is more of a chance of competent leaders and less of a certainty of the repressive ossification we have seem in Cuba for decades. Above all democracy punishes incompetence. In despotism it will flourish. And there is no greater despotism that that of the Revolution.

Its pretty difficult to find oneself as a country on the receiving end of a decades long embargo by the US. No nation wants to trade as much as the US. Even Vietnam has long had good economic relations with the US and there is plenty of antagonist history there. Castro did it by goading and incensing the US by turning himself into a staunch ally of the most deadly and dangerous enemy the US had. Not all decisions made in DC were the most enlightened but there would have been latitude even in the early 1960s for a socialist one party type of Cuba to emerge without incurring US opprobrium. This was the time of the Alliance for Progress when there were other governments throughout the region that were far from being US protégées. But inviting the USSR into Cuba and setting up a state on eastern block lines was a step too far. The same is true of the forced emigration of so many Cubans and the execution of so may more in the days following the takeover. This created the irredeemably disaffected and influential Cuban population the US –grass never grows back over a scaffold etc. The Miami exiles are a Castro creation entirely – there was no point in all those six-hour tirades at party rallies blaming the US. Had Castro shaved each morning he would have seen who was really responsible.

Cuba was not really a Monroe Doctrine case – it was more of a case of keeping soviet military hardware including WMD out of the western hemisphere for very real national security reasons. The Monroe Doctrine itself in its original incarnation was more about keeping European imperial interests out of the hemisphere – not about US domination of Latin America as it is so often portrayed by critics with an often-superficial understanding of the dynamics behind it.

author by The eskimo - nonepublication date Tue Feb 19, 2008 13:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

i note the writer above tells us that democracy punishes incompetence. i wonder has the writer observed democracy irish style ?

author by ribbidpublication date Tue Feb 19, 2008 14:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Don & "Sceptic". = what a result, I'm moved to cite the sockpuppetry guideline! I'm so surprised we haven't been presented with images of Gloria Estaban.

Anyway - Sceptic if you had bothered on your penultimate trollfest of one my threads to learn a little & thus had taken more interest in Jackson's presidency, military tribunal & expansion you would now know that the occupation of Florida & its transformation to statehood and the status of Cuba in US history belonged to a vein whose supposed non-military interventionist end was the Monroe doctrine for the rest of the hemisphere. You would also be able to fit Theodor Roosevelt "racial manifest destiny" & the US "open door" expansion policy into it all too. But you're nowhere near that stage & your comments are still useless cliché.


the BBC have translated some of the letter Fidel Castro wrote to the Communist paper of Cuba.

Dear compatriots,

I promised you on 15 February that in my next reflections I would touch on a subject of interest for many compatriots. This time that reflection takes the form of a message...

I held the honourable position of president for a period of many years... Before that I had held the post of prime minister for nearly 18 years. I always exercised the necessary prerogatives to carry forward our revolutionary work with the support of the vast majority of the people.

Knowing about my critical state of health, many people overseas thought that my provisional resignation from the post of president of the Council of State on 31 July 2006, leaving it in the hands of the First Vice-President, Raul Castro, was definitive. Raul himself, who also holds the post of minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces on his own merit, and my other comrades in the party leadership and the state, were reluctant to think of me removed from my posts despite my precarious state of health...

Preparing the people for my psychological and political absence was my primary obligation after so many years of struggle. I never ceased to say that we were dealing with a recuperation that was "not free from risk". My desire was always to carry out my duties until my final breath. That is what I have to offer.

To my close compatriots, who did me the immense honour in recent days of electing me as a member of parliament, I tell you that I will not aspire to or accept - I repeat - I will not aspire to or accept the post of president of the Council of State and commander-in-chief.

The path will always be difficult and will require the intelligent strength of all of us... Always prepare for the worst scenario. 'Be as prudent in success as you stand firm in adversity' is a principle that must not be forgotten. The adversary we must defeat is extremely strong, but we have kept him at bay for half a century.

I do not bid you farewell. My only wish is to fight as a soldier of ideas. I will continue to write under the title 'Reflections of compadre Fidel'. It will be another weapon in the arsenal on which you will be able to count. Perhaps my voice will be heard. I will be careful."

you can of course read the original here - & just in case you don't really trust the BBC & relish the chance to check their translations & monitoring "word for word", the Cuban communists have done their own translation too in the last two hours.


& now a bumper treat for everyone!
the collated speeches of Fidel Castro in multiple translations
and of course a Youtube vid of his stirring 1979 address to the UN.

Related Link:
author by rjd3publication date Tue Feb 19, 2008 17:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

didn't castro's regime torture and murder hundreds of dissidents when it first got into power? haven't heard any mention of this today, but i do remember reading a book by a guy who was a political prisoner at the time. am i wrong?

author by SAGEpublication date Tue Feb 19, 2008 18:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You are quite likely right, but wrong in mentioning it as terrorists of any flavour, don't like to admit to that sort of thing!

author by comment counselling servicepublication date Tue Feb 19, 2008 22:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"RJD3" piles one rhetorical question & one other impossible to answer question based on intimacy with either his/her reading list, complete life long bibliographic potential memory together with just a dash of indictment. That coupled with the comment heading ought leaving any indymedia regular reeling with guilt for not having mentioned :- * human rights abuses and a book by some bod our critic can't remember written some time & published by some press or other.

There were many who had hoped open publishing on the internet might fill @ least part of such a void. As information or news was presented to the public in the hope of it being refined, expanded, diffused, translated, sourced etc., That void, which though properly termed ignorance in the real world, is not often specified as such considering how regularly barchat conversation may turn from inoffensive cliché to stymied lack of informed opinion. Whence few options are really available to move things on. I'd suggest one of these two responses :-

* gosh you're right! there's been no mention of human rights abuses till you mentioned it today. You must be an expert. recommend us a book to read.

* watch me carefully as break my plastic half litre glass in such as way as to produce a serrated edge & thrust same at your eye.

Because I have not thought to share my opinion on which comment would be appropriate with the great readership of indymedia ireland - you'd be on the wrong side of non sequitur if you expected an apology.

author by Celia Spublication date Wed Feb 20, 2008 14:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Fidel's last laugh

Brian Wilson

February 19, 2008 5:00 PM

With his dignified announcement of resignation, Fidel Castro has completed the inadvertent 18-month transition through which, one last time, he has confounded the United States government and its 50-year obsession with overthrowing the Cuban revolution.

The Americans have nurtured a simplistic game plan for decades, fed by their own self-delusions about Cuba. Castro would die, the oppressed people would rise up and the Americans would walk back in. It was always a nonsensical misreading of what the Cuban people would either desire or tolerate but today it looks even more ridiculous than before.

What the Americans never contemplated was the possibility of Castro giving up power while still alive and presiding over the transition to a new leadership, committed to the same political and social system. Maybe it would not have happened if he had retained good health. But in July 2006, Castro's illness created the conditions for change without any room for dispute.

While his brother Raul, who is only five years younger than Fidel, took over the most senior position as expected, there also emerged a more collective approach to government. Previously, every decision of significance had to pass through the president - as had grown inevitable due to his longevity in office and also his extraordinary grasp of detail on every aspect of Cuban society.

Nobody doubts that the central tenets of Cuban government policy have remained much the same in the intervening 18 months. But the style is significantly different. The Cuban people have not been asked to accept a single successor who was suddenly expected to fill Fidel's role. Instead, there has been growing awareness of the others in the Cuban leadership, alongside Raul, whose roles have been enhanced on the basis of unmistakeable ability.

So life in Cuba will go on without the kind of cataclysm that the Americans were counting on. Life with Castro as revered ex-president will be very little different to what it was with him as formal holder of the office. In other words, transition has occurred according to a script which - from the Miami point of view - could hardly have been worse. They might celebrate his retirement but it is certainly not the victory that they were looking for.

The US and also our own government, which does not do much independent thinking on these matters, would be well advised to steer clear of interference in Cuba's internal affairs over the coming months. Whatever changes follow will come in the Cubans' own time and for their own very good reasons. Pragmatism as much as ideology has always played a significant part in Cuban policymaking and in due course, they will make their own assessments of how things must change.

Cuba is going through a relatively good period economically, with buoyant tourism revenues, a high nickel price and the massive bonus of cheap oil from Venezuela. The American trade embargo is, as ever, a spiteful waste of time. The Cubans are not going to be ground down economically and the Americans would show some common sense by taking this opportunity to acknowledge that fact and call the whole thing off.

It would be an appropriate moment for the European Union to extend a much clearer hand of friendship to Cuba. Countries like Spain and Italy already do huge levels of business with Havana. More generous political recognition of the lessons that Cuba can impart to the developing world on the great humanitarian causes of literacy and health care would also make sense for any country which has in interest in influencing future developments in Cuba.

Only fools will proceed on the basis of malign wishful thinking. Fidel Castro will go down in history as the man who defied the world's greatest superpower for almost half a century. He could only do so because the vast majority of the Cuban people supported him in that fundamental objective. That is not going to change.

author by Nikita - CYMpublication date Wed Feb 20, 2008 19:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Connolly Youth Movement has paid tribute to the former Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Fidel Castro has been an immense figure in international politics for the cause of socialism. He has worked tirelessly with the Cuban people to bring about living socialism in his country and his leadership has brought about many successes. Castro will always be remembered in Cuba as the leader who helped construct a first class health and education system free and available to all Cubans. It was also with Fidel Castro’s international leadership that the spread of apartheid to Angola was stopped. One must remember it was Cuban soldiers who fought shoulder to shoulder with the Angolan people against this oppression. Castro also led the campaign for cancellation of debt for 3rd World Countries in the 70’s when no one would listen.

While Fidel Castro's resignation will be a blow to Cuba and the world, Cuba will continue to be a leading light for socialism and a focal point for the continuing world struggle. The Connolly Youth Movement salutes the superb leadership he has shown and wishes him well in his retirement.

For more information contact: Gareth Murphy, General Secretary, CYM 087 7540547

Related Link:
author by no beardpublication date Thu Feb 21, 2008 03:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The CYM talks about Cuban forces fighting to prevent 'the spread of apartheid to Angola' an interpretation of the Angolan miserable civil war that I find hard to accept. When Angola got its independence from Portugal the struggle for power between the marxist MPLA and the western-favoured nationalist forces of Jonas Savimbi split the country tribally as well as regionally. South African forces based in Namibia/South West Africa supported Savimbi because the apartheid regime believed that communism was in danger of spreading from MPLA-ruled Angola to neighbouring states - a slightly paranoid belief since the MPLA was willing to let western oil interests have carte blanche in the offshore oilfields around the Cabinda enclave and elsewhere. But other states also supported Savimbi, Kaunda's government in Zambia for instance, and that state constantly opposed apartheid at the UN, meetings of commonwealth leaders and other fora.

Savimbi was a reactionary tribal warlord whereas the MPLA had a whole nation vision. In the end Savimbi died and his movement along with him. The irony is that Angola's rich oil resources do not today benefit the ordinary millions of Angolans, in spite of the professed ideological hue of the ruling party. Oil has made some leaders and their favoured business backers rich, a story similar to Nigeria and Algeria.

I think Castro may be better remembered by ordinary Africans for the practical grassroots help Cuban volunteer doctors and nurses gave when they worked (and still work) in urban and rural clinics. The Cuban military heroics stymied South Africa's support for Savimbi but the peace dividend from the war was never shared out among the common people. China and western states are buying up oil while malnutrition is endemic.

author by Feudal castratopublication date Thu Feb 21, 2008 03:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Nasty hatchet job on castro in the daily mail. Thats the message most people in society will end up absorbing about him. Considering cuba is the only country with a reasonably ok yet sustainable lifestyle, its funny to hear people talking of changing them. We should be adopting their ways!!

author by emmetpublication date Thu Feb 21, 2008 18:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Castro allowed for the torture, imprisonment, and execution of hundreds of dissidents throughout his regime.

He helped bring the world to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

He and his comrades have denied democracy to three generations of Cubans so far, and have forced hundreds of thousands of Cubans into emmigration through failed economic policies.

Yes, Cuba has a great healthcare and education system, but the cost of this is, in my opinion, just too great when looking at his regime's abuses.

author by robertpublication date Fri Feb 22, 2008 00:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ha ha ha, it wasn't censored. Must be some dangerous liberals running the website here. So far I have read the above debate about Castro with interest. It seems he has his good and bad points. I wonder about the future of Cuba when the exiled dissidents return from Miami.

author by Max Powerpublication date Fri Feb 22, 2008 01:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Here some advice emmet - Don't beleive everything you read in the Daily mail and O'Reilly press. Cuba has been economically blockaded by the US and its Western allies for over 4 decades. You don't have to be an economist to see how that might cause economic problems - Indeed it is simlar to the British policy towards ireland for much of the 19th and 20th centuaries. Despite this as has been mentioned elsewhere they have a superior health and education system compared to many more "developed" countries including the mighty US and dare I say it - our own!!

author by Celia Spublication date Fri Feb 22, 2008 15:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Rene Gonzalez, one of Cuba"s five anti-terrorists jailed in the US since 1998, called President Fidel Castro a humble soldier of honor whose example will inspire endless generations of combatants around the world.

In letter to Fidel, Gonzalez, serving hefty US jail sentences ranging to double life in prison, said that "an imperial society, morally decaying, cannot understand a decision dictated by the sense of duty of a life-time revolutionary." For 55 years, a humble soldier of honor, aware that ideals cannot be killed, he preserved his life for posterity, said Gonzalez who recalled that Fidel Castro led the attack on Moncada garrison in 953, then the number two military fortress in Cuba.

"Those who count with their fingers the successive emperors humiliated by our people's resistance under your leadership, will not have enough to tally the imperial servants to be buried by your ideas," he stressed.

author by DigDugpublication date Fri Feb 22, 2008 20:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

septic said: "Above all democracy punishes incompetence"

please explain fianna fail to me septic!

unless, of course you are saying we are not a democracy

author by ribbidpublication date Fri Feb 22, 2008 22:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Odd that no? Every military coup d'etat in history has seen some sinister bloke say how democracy was incompetent and that's why the people have to accept dictatorship. Gosh, even Hitler mentioned the incompetence of liberal bourgois democracy (sic) in his acceptance speech when elected to chancelor, needing only a short while for his enabling act.

Sceptic really is dim, he appears to genuinely believe some of the things he writes, others he obviously just adds to "present" another side of the story, but alas - most of the time even the front bench of Fine Gael would blush at his ignorance when presenting right wing opinions. You'll notice how sheepishly he avoids subjects or threads where events in the wider world discredit him. He won't stop trolling or flair-baiting simply because anyone else argues cogently against him. But when after a week of supporting Mc Cain and claiming GITMO tribunals are just, Mr Mc Cain includes a promise to close GITMO, ban torture and discontinue GITMO military trials - sceptic trundles off to another thread.

Maybe because I am the chosen contributor who attracts more "sceptic" drivel than any other, I've gleaned these insights. I don't know. But I must admit, that his curious blend of bar-stool cliché, rightwing crap, historical oversight or blatent revisionism & imperialist apologetics have provided me with material I use in my real world life which includes classes on US historical development. So, behind it all, I'm sort of fond of Septic.


now an update to this article

500 elected members of The national executive of Cuba will decide the succesor to Fidel Ruiz Castro this Sunday. Cuba is of course a one party state, and one party states are different to two party states such as the USA or UK and infinitely different to dictatorships like Libya or divine absolute states like the Vatican or the worst option of state organisation of all - Italy.

Castro has written another letter to the Cuban people in which he has made it clear he will retain the position of head of the Cuban communist party & has harshly criticised the US embargo & recent US decisions to not lift it.

Lastly but not least for those who actually take Septic Sceptic & his Mc Cain for presidency campaign seriously - Mc Cain has quipped on his election trail that he prays "Fidel will join Marx soon". Interestingly for those into religiosity, Mc Cain stopped short of specifying whether or not he thinks Marx (a jew) is with Abraham or in Hell. That would be thing with jewish theology and the jewish lobby. You could get in big problems claiming jews were in christian heaven......... so don't do that Sceptic.

author by Scepticpublication date Sat Feb 23, 2008 15:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well let’s put it at its simplest and broadest. Why was FF returned to Government last year? Despite everything like disclosures tribunals? Because the people trusted them more with the economy than what was on offer from an opposition coalition. The people are prepared to overlook and tolerate a lot once they feel prosperous and have money in their pocket. They are more concerned about that than the health service despite all the negative press there is on that. By contrast the FG-Lab collation lost power in 1987 because it was perceived as incompetent on the economy. Ditto the FF government in 1973. Across the water Jim Callaghan lost power in 1979 because of the woeful state of the economy. Major lost power in 1997 because his credibility on the economy had been ruined by Black Wednesday.

In the US Carter lost to Reagan in 1980 for the much the same reason. So did G.H.Bush in 1992 to Clinton. One could go on.

In a democracy a government can be put out and the alternative tried. There is no machinery available to get rid of the North Korean or Cuban regime as there are no opposition parties, no free press, no free elections, no points around which opposing can be rallied and a culture of informing and enforcement by the secret police. The party monopolizes all the political space to itself.

To take the Cuban analogy the Irish people would quickly vote out a government that found itself economically isolated from the US or Europe.

author by ribbidpublication date Sat Feb 23, 2008 16:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Anyway the 2007 election saw 2,063,700 first preference votes cast of a registered 3,066,517 equating to a voter turnout of 67.29%. The majority of first preference votes were not for FF or its junior coalition partner the PD's. Still, Sceptic you're trying - give you that. Exactly what the 2007 Irish election has to do with Cuba, I don't really get - but I'm encouraged you're sticking to what you think you know. By the way, for most of the history of the state & its predecessor, governments were isolated economically from Europe & the USA. Indeed at one stage they were in tariff war with Britain too. Didn't stop them getting re-elected. Quite similarly one party states & dictatorships have changed style, substance, personel & move into or out of political isolation as is quite obvious considering the history of Salazar's Portugal, Franco's Spain (from Falange domination to Opus Dei, from non UN to US ally) or if you prefer non-European states - Libya.

Oh! but you want new faces on a more regular basis?
just like America. I suppose you can list the changes in ministries in Cuba since the revolution?

author by Celia Spublication date Sun Feb 24, 2008 21:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Raúl Castro elected president of the councils of State and Ministers

RAÚL Castro Ruz was elected on Sunday as president of Cuba’s councils of State and Ministers during the constituent session of the National Assembly of People’s Power (Parliament), held in Havana’s International Convention Center.

After the Assembly went back into session in the afternoon, Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, reelected as president of the National Assembly, also announced that José Ramón Machado Ventura was elected first vice president of the councils of State and Ministers, and Juan Almeida Bosque, Abelardo Colomé Ibarra, Carlos Lage Dávila, Esteban Lazo Hernández and Julio Casas Regueiro were elected as vice presidents.

José Millar Barruecos was elected secretary of the Council of State.

The other 23 members of the Council of State were also announced.

author by Whinger - Vanguardists of Opportunitypublication date Mon Feb 25, 2008 11:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

From the postings here and elsewhere on el jefe maximo's stepping-down, it seems likely that the future of Cuba is going to be decided by people whose entire imaginations are in thrall to the past - and that's true of the mainstream communists for whom the Maximum One was an unalloyed plaster saint of the best kind as it is for the neoliberal younglings who've been deceived by the advertising into misunderstanding the true nature of the force. It's a kind of five minutes hate thing going on here directed a formerly-powerful old man (cf Pinochet - question: where's Fidel's Carnival of Death? another question for the neoliberal younglings: how come if PinoShit was so much better (more 'democratic') than Fidel he needed the active help of the CIA to get into power? At least Fidel's coup was DIY in origin) and often ignoring the real achievements of a besieged people in favour of the interests of ex-corporate scum like the Bacardis. In condemning Castro lots of people forget that Cuba was once subject to the vile and murderous occupation of United States capital and organised crime. Good bad or indifferent Castro facilitated a relative increase in economic liberty and personal dignity for the Cuban masses.
There are those who would attend Castro's funeral with the hopes of burying the Cuban people, and if Fidel weren't a marxist they'd really have loved him. His tyranny was never an issue with them - they were always more opposed to the ideas (even though they are badly flawed ideas) he espoused and acted on.
Well done to those posters who didn't neglect to mention the ten-million-odd people whose futures are hanging on that drip line.

author by Tom McGurkpublication date Fri Feb 29, 2008 17:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

How Castro showed up Uncle Sam

24 February 2008
By Tom McGurk
Sunday Business Post

Castro has left Cuba with real status among Latin American countries, in spite of the relentless coercive efforts of the United States.

For half a century now, the iconic figure of Fidel Castro has been at the epicentre of the great debate of our times - the competing political merits of socialism and capitalism. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, western capitalism and the free market seemed messianic and triumphant. Against this backdrop, Castro�s solitary experiment, that persisted on a small island off the coast of Florida, became even more tantalising.

Now, as Comrade Fidel steps quietly away into the wings of history, his significance and his political legacy deserve, at least, a non-partisan and non-propagandist analysis. To measure his achievements or otherwise, one has to look first at what has been the fate of large areas of Central and South America since Castro came to power in Cuba in 1959.Fromthat time, Cuban communism became the overriding obsession of the United States - and subsequently dictated its foreign policy towards these regions.

Well into the 20th century, it seemed that governments in Latin and Central America had never heard of the French Revolution. The concepts of individual rights and notions of liberty, equality and fraternity had apparently never affected the rulers of the old Spanish and Portuguese empires. In 1959, as Castro began a revolution to sweep away the last vestiges of Spanish American feudalism, the United States responded to the threat by setting out to preserve it, in its various forms.

The Kennedy administration set up the infamous College of the Americas in Panama, out of which, for a generation, Latin America�s dictators, armies and torturers were secretly trained and equipped. America�s secret wars began in Brazil, then spread to Chile, Uruguay and Argentina - and finally ended up with the savage wars in Central America, that consumed, in turn, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras.

Dictators came and went, thousands died or were �disappeared�, and torture and mass murder became commonplace, as Washington sought desperately to pull the political and economic strings across the southern part of the Americas.

While the world concentrated on the goings-on in Soviet eastern Europe, the unimaginable political slum that was Latin and Central America seemed off the radar, except for the left and liberation theologists.

But to those people who did not swallow the State Department�s line, it seemed incomprehensible that Castro could constitute so great a threat that tens of thousands should have to suffer and die in countries huge distances away from his �infected� island in the Caribbean.

History will record that, in the beginning, Castro actually sought a close relationship with the US. However, spurned by Washington and under the constant threat of invasion, he turned towards the Soviet bloc.

That initiated the 1963 missile crisis, which took the globe to the edge of nuclear war and eventually resulted in a secret agreement - that the US would never invade Cuba.

So began a remarkable experiment, in defiance of a United States economic boycott that, given Cuba�s geographical position, would have reduced most countries to ruin.

Despite what propagandists say, the Castro revolution proved hugely popular with ordinary Cubans.

What many forget was that the country that Castro seized in 1959 was akin to a slave colony - with mass starvation, huge ethnic divisions, 90 per cent illiteracy and grinding poverty widespread. Most Cubans were descended from slaves brought in to work the sugar plantations. Castro set about constructing a unique Third World experiment in social architecture.

Today, the average Cuban has a long life expectancy, free education up to university level and levels of public health services and literacy better than the average citizen of the US. This speaks volumes for Castro�s experiment. Any predictions about what will happen to Cuba must now take account of the huge pride Cubans have in this, their truly remarkable achievement.

Of course, the average Cuban has little material wealth, and the Party remains at the centre of everything. But, then, this is a society where, with food, housing and transport so cheap, and education and health free, material wealth is largely irrelevant. Anyway, since the state owns all the shops, goods are the same price everywhere.

To be in Cuba is to experience the wonder of a society where the tyranny of consumerism does not exist. There is no advertising at all and individualism comes second to the common good. Cuban television is like a community channel - devoted to education and sport.

Unlike the Soviet empire, there is no evidence of either party corruption or the power of apparatchiks - communist party officials seem to live in much the same manner as everyone else. And, of course - importantly, in the greater scheme of things � unlike much of the rest of the Americas, Cubans have enjoyed half a century of relative peace.

Central Havana early in the morning is quite unlike any capital in the Americas: thousands of children marching off to school, and buses and lorries packed with workers. The indelible signs of most Latin American cities - the street children, beggars and the thousands arriving wearily from shanty towns - are nowhere to be seen.

Of course, the Castro revolution has had its victims and it continues to provoke a debate - particularly across the left - about notions of democracy and individual freedom. But, then, I suspect that both Castro and monetarist thinker Milton Friedman had just about the same respect for democracy and its wider demands.

Today, a new generation of young Cubans enjoys average levels of education, health and society beyond anything that the rest of the Americas can boast, and nothing can disguise or hide that remarkable achievement.

And what will happen, now that the bearded revolutionary icon is slipping away?

Certainly, the US will find a changed situation. For the first time, Cuba has genuine friends in Latin America, in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua and Bolivia, whose governments are not particularly pro-American. It is in the United States�s interests to redefine its relations with all of them- as non-colonial, non-exploitative and based on respect.

Cuba, meanwhile, has developed closer relations as part of ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the People of Our America) - an EU-like economic and political organisation - and in agreements with the Mercosur trade area.

How ironic, given all those who died across the Americas as the US fought what they regarded as the scourge of Cuban communism, that today, in Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia and Nicaragua, leftwing democratic governments are popular and in power.

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