Monday, November 28, 2016 at 6:09 PM

Fidel Is Dead. His Revolution Is Not

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

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Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday…

He dominated his country with strength and symbolism from the day he triumphantly entered Havana on Jan. 8, 1959, and completed his overthrow of Fulgencio Batista…

The power of his personality remains inescapable, for better or worse, not only in Cuba but also throughout Latin America.

(New York Times, November 26, 2016)

No doubt the most significant thing about Fidel’s 50-year dictatorship is the notorious failure of 10 successive U.S. presidents to overthrow it. The New York Times affirms this by duly noting their failure in the first sentence of his obituary.

screen-shot-2016-03-20-at-8-31-54-pm-230x300Remarkably, Fidel lived long enough to see the eleventh, President Obama, end this string of feckless folly by normalizing relations with Cuba. Obama even sealed the foreign policy plank of his legacy by becoming the first U.S. president to visit the island nation in nearly 90 years.

Apropos of legacy, the highlight of Fidel’s will surely be the system of totalitarian governance that is now so embedded in Cuba’s DNA, it will probably survive another 50 years; this, despite the efforts of President-elect Trump and another 10 successive U.S. presidents to overthrow it. Indeed, just as emulating the Soviet Union’s totalitarian regime helped Cuba survive the past 50 years, emulating China’s will help it survive the next 50.

Which brings me to the Miami-Cubans – whose voting bloc in presidential elections is the only thing that explains America’s post-revolutionary/pre-Obama relationship with Cuba.

The 10 successive U.S. presidents referenced above pandered to them for over half a century – complete with bungled CIA assassination attempts, the humiliating Bay of Pigs invasion, and a plainly hypocritical economic embargo.

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But nothing betrays their forlorn hopes quite like the way they’re celebrating Fidel’s death as if it represents reclamation of their paradise lost.

Thousands took to the streets cheering, dancing, waving Cuban flags in celebration of the former Cuban president’s death. Many remembered Castro not as a heroic revolutionary, but as a ruthless Communist dictator.

In every corner of this Cuban-American city, people waved Cuban flags, honked their horns, banged their pots and pans and hugged each other late into the night.

(USA Today, November 26, 2016)

As it happens, I’ve written numerous commentaries on Fidel’s Cuba … and the history (of American imperialism and perfidy) that gave rise to it. But the titles to just a few of them should explain why a revered leader like Nelson Mandela praised him as readily as one like Ronald Reagan condemned him:

  • “President Bush, Seal Your Legacy, Lift the Embargo Against Cuba,” January 24, 2006
  • “CIA’s Exposure of ‘Family Jewels’ Intended as a Titillating Distraction,” June 25, 2007

  • “Raul Pledges to Continue Fidel’s (50-year) Cuban Revolution…Duh!” February 26, 2008
  • “Castro Admits His ‘Cuban Model’ Has Failed,” September 10, 2010
  • “Castro’s (White) Successor Highlights Racism in Cuba,” March 1, 2013
  • “For Miami Cubans, Hatred of Castro Trumps Respect for Mandela,” December 16, 2013
  • “Cuba: Obama Has Landed,” March 16, 2016

Incidentally, this list of titles should also explain why, despite my socialist affinities, I felt so conflicted about his leadership….

All the same, there’s no denying the central role Miami Cubans have played in framing America’s relationship with Cuba for nearly all of the past 60 years.

Therefore, the best tribute I can pay to Fidel is to share an excerpt from “Dancing on Castro’s Grave Is Not Only Unseemly; It’s Premature,” August 2, 2006. I wrote it when rumors of his death had them celebrating way back then (i.e., over 10 years ago).

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Reports that emergency surgery forced Fidel to transfer power to his brother Raul a few days ago had Miami Cubans dancing in the streets yesterday. Their reaction did not surprise me. But I was stupefied. After all, their celebration not only betrayed their naiveté about the implications of this transfer, but also indicated how much wasted emotion and misspent resources they have vested in this man’s eventual death…

fidelblacks-796302Let me hasten to clarify, however, that I am no Fidel (or Che) groupie. After all, I am all too mindful that the people who have suffered most under his dictatorship are black Cubans who – like black Americans too poor to escape Hurricane Katrina – did not have the means to flee the revolution…

In fact, the vast majority of black Cubans live in more squalid conditions today – 47 years into his socialist revolution – than they did under the Apartheid-style dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, the man he overthrew. This is a damning indictment not only of Castro’s leadership, but also of the political judgment of those who praise him unconditionally – most notably influential blacks throughout the Americas and the Caribbean…

It is precisely because black Cubans have suffered most from America’s 44-year embargo against Cuba that I condemn Miami Cubans for misusing their political influence to keep it in place. Not to mention that they voice support for this embargo while shedding (crocodile) tears about Cubans having to depend on remittances of everything from hard cash to soft toilet paper. Alas, they are too self-righteous to appreciate the brazen, unconscionable contradiction inherent in their support.

screen-shot-2013-12-14-at-8-38-11-pmMore to the point, though, here is why I dismiss these Cuban exiles as a bunch of hopelessly misguided zealots:

Their dancing is premature not because Fidel might survive. It’s premature because all indications are that his brother Raul will be every bit as ruthless a dictator, even if less vain.

I predict the pragmatic Raul will emulate his new Chinese patrons by pursuing liberal economic policies under strict political and military control. And I fully expect him … to groom Fidel’s handpicked protégés to lead the next generation of the revolution.

Mind you, only unbridled conceit and arrogance among Miami Cubans can explain their support for continuing the embargo … until kingdom come if necessary. Nothing betrays this quite like them presuming that — once the Castro brothers die off — they’ll be able to return to Cuba to inherit the political power and social privileges they and their families abdicated decades ago. And they presume this prerogative without any regard for the Cubans who have been toiling at home, waiting for their opportunity to govern their country.

Except that, at this rate, a well-indoctrinated Elian Gonzalez will be Cuban dictator before Miami Cubans are disabused of their antic pining for their paradise lost.

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Of course, dancing Miami Cubans have nothing on pandering Republican politicians — who are competing among themselves to tweet the most offensive denunciations of Fidel, blithely ignoring the proverbial admonition against speaking ill of the dead. Never mind that they are merely parroting the anti-Castro rhetoric others have been spewing to no avail for over 50 years, which clearly fits the Einsteinian definition of insanity.

Indeed, you’d think they would be a little more chastened — given that such hostile rhetoric has done nothing over all those decades to advance the cause of democratic freedoms or human rights in Cuba.

But their spineless, inconsequential denunciations are not worthy comment; even less so their antic condemnations of Obama for properly offering condolences to the Castro family and “a hand in friendship” to the Cuban people.

As his transfer of power to Raul indicated, Fidel had been battling terminal illness for over a decade. Therefore, the surprise is not that he is dead; it’s that he survived for so long, which I suppose is a testament to Cuba’s much vaunted healthcare system. He was 90.

Farewell, Fidel.

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Related commentaries:
President Bush, lift embargo
Dancing on Castro’s grave
CIA family jewels
Raul pledges to continue revolution
Castro Cuban model failed
Castro’s white successor
For Miami Cubans, Hatred
Obama has landed

*  This commentary was originally published on Saturday, November 26, at 1:39 p.m.

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