Time for Change in Cuba

By | December 7, 2021

FEBRUARY 24

In Havana, the Cuban National Assembly, formally ratifying the handover between brothers already underway, elects Raúl Castro as president of the State Council, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and the only candidate. On February 19, Fidel Castro officially announced his resignation from the office he had held since the entry into force of the new Constitution in 1976.

THE RESIGNATION OF A COMMANDER

On Tuesday, February 19, 2008, in a ‘Message from the commander-in-chief’ published in the Havana newspaper Granma, Fidel Castro announced that he would end his long political career by renouncing to run for the presidency of Cuba. On July 31 2006, after undergoing a delicate abdominal surgery, he had already provisionally handed over his duties to his brother Raúl, who was officially elected president on February 24, 2008. For Cuba 2005, please check ehealthfacts.org.

Fidel Castro remains first secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party (CPC) until the next congress, scheduled for the end of 2009 (the last one was held in 1997). Probably on that occasion he will also resign from this position, which is certainly not insignificant in a one-party political system. Up to now, this role has never, in any Communist country, been dissociated from that of head of the executive. It therefore appears unlikely that Fidel Castro will maintain it, having renounced the presidency of the Council of Ministers and the military rank of commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces.

In any case, its influence on Cuban public opinion remains enormous. He is still at the center of the struggle, even if the front of action has changed. As he announced in the message of February 19, if he has left the presidency it is to devote his energies to the ‘fourth estate’: he writes in Granma, the newspaper with the largest circulation on the island and official organ of the party’s Central Committee, and on other media, in particular on the Internet, on the Cubadebate site. In his new secret headquarters, he remains the fighter he always was. His weapons are now words and his battle is more than ever that of ideas. The combat front – as Antonio Gramsci would say – is that of cultural hegemony, on which, moreover, he has always been active.

Journalists who, in the aftermath of the announcement of the abandonment of presidential functions, spoke of his “definitive retirement” have overlooked the importance exercised by the media on public opinion. Fidel, who never stopped writing during his long convalescence, said he would continue to publish his articles regularly. Only the name of the column is different: instead of Reflections by the commander in chief, you simply read Fidel’s Reflections and these no longer appear on the front page of Granma but, more discreetly, inside. The Cubans, and with them the international observers, continue to follow them closely, because no one can replace Fidel in the role of ideological leader of the Cuban revolution.

In the history of his country, his path is unique, not only because of his qualities as a leader but also because of the unrepeatable historical circumstances that have forged him. It went through the attempted insurrection with the assault on the Moncada barracks in 1953, the success of the first Communist revolution in America in 1959, the aggressions of the United States and the Bay of Pigs landing in 1961, the missile crisis in October 1962., support for guerrillas in Latin America (including that of Che Guevara in Bolivia), the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and 50 years of confrontation with the US. To all this is added the commitment to social justice and solidarity with the oppressed around the world. Says Frei Betto, Brazilian exponent of liberation theology and advisor to President Lula: “Fidel Castro has redeemed his people not only from hunger, but also from illiteracy, alms, crime, submission to imperialism.” His renunciation of power while alive allows for a peaceful evolution of Cuban history. Raúl has held the reins of the government since July 31, 2006 and there have been no major upheavals: with pragmatism, he has put the issues that most concern people at the center of his government’s action. Meanwhile, Fidel Castro made sure that the Cubans had time to get used to the idea that he would no longer lead the executive: the decision to retire was anticipated in several articles, before the final announcement on February 19. In December 2007 he wrote: «My job is not to remain attached to tasks, and even less to hinder the growth of younger people, but rather that of bringing experiences and ideas whose value lies in the good fortune I have had of living an exceptional era “. Later, after his re-election to Parliament, he thanked the voters and apologized for not having been able to conduct an election campaign ‘on the ground’, due to his state of health, which allows him nothing more than to write. Finally, in his message of February 19, he added: “I would betray my conscience if I continued to occupy a position that requires being able to move and dedicate oneself fully, which is currently impeded by my physical conditions.” He left the presidency, convinced of the stability of the Cuban political system. he thanked the voters and apologized for not having been able to conduct an electoral campaign ‘on the ground’, due to his state of health, which allows him nothing more than to write. Finally, in his message of February 19, he added: “I would betray my conscience if I continued to occupy a position that requires being able to move and dedicate oneself fully, which is currently impeded by my physical conditions.” He left the presidency, convinced of the stability of the Cuban political system. he thanked the voters and apologized for not having been able to conduct an electoral campaign ‘on the ground’, due to his state of health, which allows him nothing more than to write. Finally, in his message of February 19, he added: “I would betray my conscience if I continued to occupy a position that requires being able to move and dedicate oneself fully, which is currently impeded by my physical conditions.” He left the presidency, convinced of the stability of the Cuban political system. which is currently impeded by my physical conditions ». He left the presidency, convinced of the stability of the Cuban political system. which is currently impeded by my physical conditions ». He left the presidency, convinced of the stability of the Cuban political system.

THE LAST OF THE GREAT REVOLUTIONARIES

Character of rigorous principles and great frugality, Fidel Castro is neither the monster described by certain Western media nor the Superman painted by the Cuban ones. Gifted with incredible energy at work, he was also a shrewd strategist, a commander who lived a lifetime of resistance, without giving in or being defeated. It is a curious blend of idealism and pragmatism. He dreams of a perfect society, but he is well aware of the difficulty of transforming material conditions. Few others have known the glory of entering history and legend alive. Fidel Castro is the latest ‘sacred monster’ of international politics. He belongs to that legendary generation of revolutionaries – Nelson Mandela, Ho Chi Minh, Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral, Che Guevara, Carlos Marighela, Camilo Torres, Medhi Ben Barka – who after the Second World War launched into political action in search of an ideal of justice, with the hope of changing a world of inequality. Like thousands of progressives and intellectuals around the world, this generation truly believed that communism offered the promise of a bright future. At that time, in Vietnam, Algeria, Guinea Bissau and in more than half of the world, the peoples, still largely oppressed by colonization, rose up. Almost all of Africa and much of Asia were under the yoke of the old Western empires, while the countries of Latin America, theoretically independent for a century and a half, were exploited by privileged minorities and tyrannized by cruel dictators (Fulgencio Batista in Cuba , Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in Santo Domingo,

Fidel Castro has stood up to ten American presidents (David Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush father, Bill Clinton, George Bush son). He has had personal relationships, often of friendship, with many personalities who have weighed on the world political scene since 1945: Jawaharlal Nehru, Nasser, Tito, Nikita Chruscev, Olof Palme, Willy Brandt, Ben Bella, Boumedienne, Yasser Arafat, Indira Gandhi, Salvador Allende, Leonid Brezhnev, Mikhail Gorbachev, François Mitterrand, Jiang Zemin, John Paul II, King Juan Carlos, Nelson Mandela.

Under his leadership, a small country of 100,000 km 2 and 11 million residents has developed a great global political weight and has continued for fifty years to challenge the United States, which has not been able to overthrow, eliminate, or change the course of the Cuban revolution.

Time for Change in Cuba