The Castro To Castro Transition In Cuba

by SOC Okenwa

The ailing Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro is a living legend from every indication. So much has been said and written about this strong man that history has recorded him even in his lifetime as one of the greatest political figures ever to bestraddle the global leadership stage. Historically Castro led other comrades-in-arms to launch a revolution in Cuba in 1959. The 81-year old Castro has since become a hero at home and abroad for his survivalist inclinations and charismatic fiery anti-imperialist speeches.

Comrade Castro in his youthful radical exuberance, five decades ago, toppled the corrupt regime of President Fulgencio Batista in 1959. The Cuban revolution immortalised heroes like late Che Guevera. Comrade Castro for decades defied American-led political machinations and called the bluff of many American Presidents. Their many efforts to either topple him or kill him failed as the bearded Communist immortal marched on.

And in April 1961 America through the CIA masterminded an invasion using Cuban dissidents (mostly based in Miami) in the famous “Bay of Pigs” which collapsed disgracefully as Castro’s revolutionary Army humiliated the invaders, killing many and taking about 1,000 prisoners. Attempts to lace Castro’s beloved cigars with deadly explosives did not work neither did the plot to cause him some embarrassment by causing his beloved beard to fall off yield anything.

Almost ten American Presidents, a whole generation, has come and gone with Castro defying every of their sinister plots to dismantle his entrenched communist regime. Some of these Presidents of the free world had died in natural circumstances but Castro has survived the odds though age and revolution-related weariness are having their toll on him right now.

Under Castro Cuba has had mixed fortunes. At least in the areas of health and education Castro has succeeded in bequeathing to the Latin American nation a nation of above-average literacy rating and sound health sector. The Cuban academic infrastructures are in good hands and they produce quality materials while their health sector (manpower and facilities) are reputed among the best in the world.

Castro’s fifty-year reign did encounter economic recession in the early 90’s leading up to many fleeing the island for America and elsewhere. Even Castro’s own daughter joined the bandwagon of self-exile! As the economic fortunes of the citizenry nose-dived with hunger and starvation gripping many Castro’s regime appeared to be at the end of its tethers but it managed to survive. The two national parallel currency policy went a long way to pauperize the masses creating a room for the rich and poor to be further polarised.

Trained as a lawyer Fidel Castro launched the revolution to free poor Cubans from the Batista dictatorial stranglehold; he risked all to be in control in order to help the downtrodden regain their dignity and have a better life. But things did not quite work out as he had planned with opposition from America distracting him most of the time.

Two weeks ago Fidel Castro, indisposed, used the Communist Party’s ‘Granma’ newspaper to convey an important message to his compatriots. According to the great man: “To my dear compatriots, who gave me the immense honor in recent days of electing me a member of parliament … I communicate to you that I will not aspire to or accept — I repeat not aspire to or accept — the positions of president of the Council of State and commander-in-chief….This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas. I shall continue to write under the heading of ‘Reflections by comrade Fidel.’ It will be just another weapon you can count on. Perhaps my voice will be heard. I shall be careful”.

Last Sunday, true to his promise of quitting power definitively, his younger brother Raul Castro was “elected” the President by Cuba’s National Assembly, a rubber-stamp legislature. The 76-year-old former Defense Minister, Fidel’s brother and designated successor Raul Castro has been acting as president since emergency intestinal surgery forced his brother to delegate power on July 31, 2006. Raul Castro has raised hopes of economic reforms but he is not likely to make bold political steps or changes to the one-party state. Fidel Castro will remain influential as first secretary of the ruling Communist Party.

Famous worldwide for his long speeches delivered in his green military fatigues, Castro is admired in the Third World for standing up to the United States but considered by his opponents a tyrant who tolerated little dissent and suppressed freedom. At home, supporters point to Cuba‘s advances in health and education for all its citizens. But critics, led by the United States and the hundreds of thousands of Cubans who left home to live abroad, say he turned the Caribbean island into a police state and that his policies wrecked the economy and brought untold hardship to the masses.

The Castro to Castro transition in Cuba has surprised only a few given the fact that Raul was an insider in the revolutionary regime of Fidel. As powerful Defense Minister he provided the security network and blanket with which the Castro regime was covered and immunised from external aggression. Besides he was favoured by an elder brother conscious of the past and present. Now as President the young hawks in the government like the Foreign Minister will have to wait for the old generation to be incapacitated by ill-health or natural death before grabbing power.

As the “Maximum Leader” retires befittingly from politics this is not only wishing him many more years on earth but long live the socialist revolution in Latin America. Cuba has survived many foreign plots because of Castro and post-Castro the country will definitely survive some more. As the mystic man in Havana said in his quit message to the nation: “Fortunately, our Revolution can still count on cadres from the old guard and others who were very young in the early stages of the process”.

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