Cuba Minus Fidel Castro: End of an Era

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As time has passed and things have changed, ideology has taken a back seat, particularly for the young people in Cuba and around the world. Therefore, how the young Cubans — who have hardly seen and realised Fidel Castro’s revolutionary leadership — assess the contribution of El Comandante will matter a lot
The death of the “last” revolutionary leader, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, came a decade after he formally and finally relinquished power in 2008. For more than half a century, he remained a bane for ten American Presidents, starting with Dwight D Eisenhower and ending with George W Bush. Also, he had seen President Barack Obama coming to his homeland, offering a hand of cooperation to put an end to one of the longest and bitterest relations with that country. However, this time, it was not the El Comandante, as he was popularly known, but his revolutionary brother, Raul Castro, who had to deal with Obama. Fidel Castro, for all his life, till the last breath, defied the US in its backyard and the superpower had to simply seat helplessly as all attempts to contain Fidel failed, both physically and ideologically. He had the courage to make Washington feel its worst-ever nightmare in the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis, when the Soviet leadership came to install nuclear armed missiles in his country, just 90 miles away from Florida. However, then US President John F Kennedy agreed not to attack Cuba in exchange for the withdrawal of Soviet missiles from the island. Sources also reported during those days that Kennedy also quietly agreed to withdraw his country’s missiles from Turkey. The most ironical thing is what started as a nationalist revolution against Cuba’s hated military dictator General Fulgencio Batista, finally turned out to be another despised dictatorship in the guise of freeing the Cubans from one.
Let’s explore how the El Comandante survived so long and what made him such staunch enemy of the US throughout his life.
To begin with, Fidel Castro’s journey from a pure revolutionary leader to the making of an arch enemy of the US, the contribution of the latter is even no less. Precisely the Eisenhower administration was solely responsible for pushing him to the arms of the Soviet Union during the heydays of the Cold War. Henry Kissinger was not really happy about Castro’s role in Angola. The bottom line was clear: No American President wanted a Latin American leader to speak the way he came out in public against US policies and actions. Each time a US President desired to mend ties with Cuba, he wanted Castro to either get out of Africa or terminate his ties with Soviet Union. Unfortunately, Castro did neither and remained firm in his position. Thus valiantly he declared, “Why should Cuba have to play by one set of rules, where you tell us what to do and you get to do whatever you want? We’re a sovereign country, and the revolution means that we can act independently, that’s what the revolution was for.” The CIA plotted to overthrow his regime even when he undertook a visit to the US in 1959. Therefore, one can see massive efforts from both the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations to push Castro from power, but he resisted all of them and did perfectly well. Now, with the death of Castro, the permanent resistance to the US leadership has simply gone from its neighbourhood.
When Castro resigned in 2008, the Cuban economy was all in tatters. The manufacturing sector in the country was totally collapsed and shockingly, the debt per capita income was twice that of the entire Latin American average. On the other hand, the way the flow of refugees has landed in America, today Florida has virtually become another Cuba. This was all created by Castro, though subsequently propelled by the successive US administrations. But for all practical purposes, it was Castro who made all of them flee their homeland for fulfilling his political agenda. Sadly, more than 20 per cent of the Cubans today live outside the country, either for fear of political retribution or out of their own choice.
When the world is fast becoming globalised in every nook and corner of the world, the Cubans are still deprived of the same. Reports say that only 25 per cent of the Cubans have access to the Internet. This shows how they are restricted to the happenings of the world. There are no independent media houses, except the ones run by the party. Thus, he made it all possible that there could not be any opinion manufactured against his tall leadership.
His bold proclamation that “I am the revolution” reflected how obsessed he was with his personality cult and propaganda. Also, Castro’s propaganda did not stop even when the revolution became the establishment.
The face of the leader remained central to all programmes across the country. All his speeches were ever dominant with the word “I” on all occasions. He was truly obsessed with massive self-propaganda machinery where only he existed. In fact, this was the normal style of all the communist revolutionaries, including the Soviet leaders.
The biggest drawback of Castro was that all his life he lived in a
closet. He even refused to see the world beyond Havana. His world view was limited by a dogged commitment to socialism, at times branded as Cuban revolutionary socialism and sometimes, as Soviet style socialism. Whatever it is, he failed his countrymen to realise the taste of freedom that he enjoyed uninterrupted in his lifetime, without even a single opposition to his rule. He was totally obsessed with countering an impending US and Western ploy to eliminate him and his revolutionary regime. Unfortunately that did not happen till date and he led his all weapons and means of repression against every single person about whom he had an iota of doubt. His merciless tactics to contain enemies across the island literally made it a fortress of a unique type.
When he left his office in 2008, then US President George W Bush rejoiced and declare, “The United States will help the people of Cuba realise the blessings of liberty.” Alas! That has not happened so far. After his brother came to power, much of the policies designed and implemented by the great revolutionary leader hardly changed.
Cubans have no right and freedom to choose their leader and a Government of their own.
Political and media freedom are extremely limited. A Human Rights Watch report stated, “Many of the abusive tactics developed during (Fidel’s) time in power — including surveillance, beatings, arbitrary detention, and public acts of repudiation — are still used by the Cuban Government.”
So then where is the change that many people expected to come down to Cuba? The malaise of the Cuban nation is prolonging.
Hence, the international community must not allow the same to happen. It is better to bring the country to the international mainstream. Its pariah status should come to an end with the demise of the revolutionary. Also the global leaders and institutions must initiate prompt actions to welcome Cuba to break the ice. Raul Castro’s time begins now. He has to offer his countrymen a chance to open up their abilities to realign with the globalised world.
The best ever but sort of a revolutionary change that landed in Cuba was no other than the beginning of the rapprochement with America beginning in 2014. Obama nominated an ambassador to the island for the first time since the Eisenhower establishment. He also initiated prompt actions to lessen Washington’s five decades old trade embargo over Cuba. This was a historical gesture shown by Obama, but unfortunately all actions were put forwarded from the American side. And his visit to the island in 2015 made a history as it was never imagined that a US President will come that closer to the Cuban leadership. This was made possible through the help of the Pope, and it finally paid good dividends. That means more assertive actions are expected from the Cuban leaders to roll back the US-Cuba relationship to the normal level.
It seems and probably will haunt the island nation by his longstanding life, image, authority and style of governance that he practiced till his death. Though he gave up his office in 2006, his larger than life persona, will certainly have a large impact on the future of Cuba. It is time for Raul Castro to bring his nation out of the isolation as the country suffered from various American sanctions for nearly half a century. The Cubans deserve a free life. They all should be allowed to be connected to the rest of the world. It is a country in surviving amid ruins for years now. Most of the young people do not want to live there.
With the news of Raul Castro leaving office in 2018, political pundits say that Cuba may see a new face and a new future. What will follow, no one knows. It will again be a mystery, but hope the Cubans will unveil a new road in their long march to freedom!
While saluting Castro’s capacity to stand to the US, many feel that he must remain as “yo soy la revolucion” (I am the revolution). His all powerful message to the Cubans was “venceremos”, meaning “we will win”.
Although he failed to win many things for his fellow Cubans, he could assure them a fine system of health and education for sure. At least he was capable of making their life much more honourable than what it was under Batista, the dictator who was overthrown by him.
People started paying their respect to Cuba as a citadel of world revolution, and judged the country’s strength, not by its size.
And it was made possible by the El Comandante! As time has passed and things have changed, ideology has taken a back seat, particularly for the young people in Cuba and around the world. Therefore, how the young Cubans assess the contribution of Fidel Castro, who have hardly seen and realised his revolutionary leadership, will matter a lot.
But, his style of leadership and persona will certainly pass on to the long list of world of legends.

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