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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2614

Castro fades out

By Chandra Mohan - Syndicate Features

When the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, was taken to hospital for an emergency operation in the summer of 2006 the United States immediately began to envision a Cuba without him. Frustrating US hopes he survived a major intestine operation. The Americans, counting on man’s mortality, are probably encouraged again on hearing that after running the affairs of his country for 49 years Castro has decided that he would no longer lead Cuba, just 90 miles off the southern tip of the US.

Of course, the ailing Castro, now in his 81st year, will go sooner than later. But that will not see a quick transformation of Cuba into a US-approved mould, jettisoning its ‘revolution’ for free market economy and embracing Uncle Sam. President George W. Bush’s gratuitous offer of help, made during his visit to Africa, to Cubans so that they could realise the ‘blessings of liberty’ will have to be put on hold.

As an interim leader, since Fidel’s illness, his brother Raul made sure that the army’s loyalty to the regime did not falter and the hold of the ruling (communist) party did not slacken even as he introduced some so-called ‘reforms’ and weeded out corrupt officials.

Tiny Cuba is not going to fall into the American lap the moment the bearded revolutionary kicks the bucket; nor is his shadow about to disappear. This is realised well by the Cuban exiles in the US, forever keen to rid Cuba of Castro and perhaps see the country metamorphose into a new American state. They did not sound very upbeat on learning that Castro is retiring. It may have something to do with a caveat in the midnight message in which Castro announced his decision to quit. Castro said that as long as he breathes he would continue to remain ‘a solider of idea’ by offering his ‘reflections’ in the official Cuban paper, Granma.

The system that Castro built for his country--call it communism, dictatorship or whatever—has not crumbled despite all its flaws and strenuous American efforts to undo him and Cuba. Yes, there is poverty and unemployment in Cuba. There are many dissidents within Cuba apart from those who fled to the US. Not being a ‘democrat’ Castro never hesitated to send his critics to jail. But his critics in the West make a mistake when they ignore or revile some of the gains of the Cuban ‘revolution’ like free medical care and education up to the university level and, above all, a sense among the Cubans that they can face the might of America, the sole superpower of the world that stands at their door.

The US refuses to realise that its decades old policy to force a regime change in Cuba has failed. The utter folly of pursuing that policy should have become clearer now in light of disastrous consequence of similar policies tried out in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, some of the traditional allies of the US no longer seem to share the American antipathy towards Cuba. Britain, for instance, did not care for American protests when it exported buses to Cuba. Most European capitals do not share the hard US attitude towards Havana.

The leadership after Fidel Castro, beginning with his 76-year-old brother, Raul, and others is not very different from him in its approach to the foreign policy. There can be no real thaw in Cuba’s relations with the US which continues to enforce sanctions and embargo on Cuba and refuses to talk with Havana as long as it shuns the values of the ‘free world’. Cuba will not open up its market under threats and coercion.

Decades of strenuous efforts through constant barrage of propaganda and a staggering 634 CIA plots to assassinate Castro have been able to create an army of American fifth columnist inside Cuba that can turn it into an American client state in one swift move. Castro’s survival techniques should perhaps be studied all over the world where the rising tide of terrorism has made threats to leaders’ lives rather common.

Castro may be fading out but his legacy seems to be spreading in Latin America. The continent has seen the emergence of a string of ‘unfriendly’ regimes with Venezuela and its ruler, Hugo Chavez, threatening to even outdo Castro in anti-Americanism. A strong standby support for Venezuela comes from the current Bolivian leadership, though ‘Left’ leadership seems to be becoming the norm rather than exception in a continent, which was till recently an almost exclusive American backyard.

President George W. Bush might have included Castro and his Cuba among the nations he calls the ‘axis of evil’ but a message that has come out from the US during the current campaign for Presidential nomination is that the next incumbent might be more realistic and willing to talk to the Cuban leadership. The Democrat candidate, Barack Obama, has said so openly, disregarding the long US policy of isolating Cuba and throttling it with trade embargo and sanctions.

Castro became such a ‘hard core’ anti-American socialist probably because of the relentless US efforts to eliminate him, almost from the time he came to power in 1959. The US did not like his pro-poor reforms that did not go down well with the pro-US dictators who ruled Cuba till then. In 1961, a CIA-trained army of 1400 Cuban exiles invaded the Bay of Pigs in the vain hope of capturing Cuba. As US threats to Cuba increased, Castro turned to the Soviets who responded quickly, supplying arms and even buying Cuban sugar at inflated prices to help shore up the Cuban living standards. In 1962 Castro, looking to secure his country against a realistic US threat of invasion, allowed the Soviets to install nuclear missiles in the country. The US response nearly sparked off a nuclear war.

The US shenanigans in Cuba only catapulted Castro’s status as an iconic leader of the Third World who was able to stand up to all manner of bullying by his very powerful neighbour. The ‘revolution’ that he had started may eventually yield to something else but that will not dislodge Castro from his place among the top leaders of the contemporary world.

- Syndicate Features -

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