Castro brothers say 'Viva la revolucion'

Rory Porter

Cancel that Buena Vista Social Club gig in New York and put the McDonald's back in their containers on the Florida keys because the hated revolution - on an island less than a hundred miles away - is still alive and kicking. Fidel may have stepped down but Castro is still President of Cuba.

Raul Modesto Castro Ruz that is. Fidel's younger brother, who's 76 and the new president of Cuba, divides opinion like few other developing-world leaders today. Is he the pragmatic economic 'reformer' who tried to push through the introduction of market mechanisms in the 1990s, much to Fidel's displeasure? Or is he a grizzled revolutionary steeped in Communist dogma and dedicated to the continuation of a controlled economy and a lack of Western-style political freedom?

There have been some promising signs of things to come. Just days after Raul Castro was sworn in as the new president, Cuba signed two legally binding human rights agreements at the UN in New York. The covenants - part of the UN Bill of Human Rights - commit the country to freedom of expression and association and the right for its citizens to travel abroad.

But despite this wind of change, hard-line American president George W. Bush has been quick to say that there will be no end to the 48-year-old trade embargo despite 81-year-old Fidel's retirement. Couple this with American news networks milking, for all they're worth, footage of Raul and iconic radical Che Guevara arm in arm during Cuba's revolutionary war and it's easy to argue that nothing will change in the relations between the two hostile neighbours .

Yet the hard-line position from the Bush administration will only serve to further entrench the Communism they so despise on the Spanish-speaking, proud Caribbean island. It's true that Cubans have had to endure economic hardship for almost half a century but they have also enjoyed lasting peace and world-class health and education services. Compare this with the US-sponsored death-squads, political turmoil and grinding poverty across the water in south and central America and Castro and Bros.seem like a slightly more appealing option.

America's economic blockade has also given Cuban Communism a perfect excuse for every failing, especially that of an inflexible Soviet-era centrally planned economy. Average Cubans' exasperation at the almost static rates of economic growth has therefore never been directed at their government but at  "Yankee imperialists" in Washington and Miami, base of the powerful right-wing Cuban expats. Some pundits say these scary fanatics were behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy whom they believed was going soft on the Communist Cuba from which they fled.

Raul has a glorious chance to make Cuban politics and society more relaxed without causing the total destruction of the revolution he loves. During his tenure as caretaker president, following Fidel's lengthy illness, he has shown signs, not only of knowing what needs to be done but also of having the courage to do it independently of his revered brother.

This is shown by Raol's attempts during the 1990s to implement an economic model more like that of China (unfettered paternalistic neo-capitalism) while promising to maintaining the strong social services for which Cuba is renowned. He has also released more than 50 dissidents in his time as leader, pointing perhaps to a more politically tolerant era.

Two thirds of Cubans have never lived under any leader other than Fidel, during his 49 years of rule, and while change is both necessary and sought after, its also a wee bit frightening for the revolutionary old guard. This is the reason why America has little chance of succeeding in its goals of making Cuba a new Mexico or an old, corrupt capitalist Cuba.

Cubans have understandably grown attached to their world-class health and education services and as long as the only way to gain America's blessing is the wholesale privatisation of utilities and introduction of a neo-liberal economic policy that would take that away from them, the majority of Cubans will stick with the devil they know. So Raul Castro, is probably saying: 'Viva la revolucion.' For now at least.



1 Response to "Castro brothers say 'Viva la revolucion'"

chris's picture


Fri, 02/29/2008 - 09:29
<p><strong><u>Chris Gaynor</u></strong></p><p>RESPECT MP George Galloway proudly&nbsp; punched the air&nbsp; in relish&nbsp; last night on the BBCs Question Time on the news Fidel Castro&#39;s 76-year old younger&nbsp; brother Raul was sworn in as the new, or not so new president of Cuba.</p><p>The socialist Bethnal Green and Bow&nbsp; outspoken MP, said: &quot;Viva la Castro,&quot; with a pride that may frighten any Tory or indeed Labour socialist supporter.</p><p>Mr Galloway had met Fidel earlier on in his political career, and was also famous for shaking hands with the tyrant Saddam Hussein in the 90s, who was barbarically hanged for war crimes against his own people.</p><p>The Respect MP also said that the British Parliament were to blame for the disastrous invasion of Iraq - and it was not just Tony Blair who took the country into an illegal war.</p><p>He said: &quot;Tory and Labour MPs marched in their hundreds to take this country into the war, not just Tony Blair.&quot;</p><p>He slammed the present UK government&#39;s plan to have&nbsp; everybody&#39;s fingerprints on a DNA database, skeptically claiming: &quot;You can&#39;t trust this government whatsoever.&quot;</p><p>Just over a week ago he had lambasted Channel Four News&#39;s News&nbsp; package of Fidel Castro&#39;s retirement announcement, as Fox News &#39;propaganda.&#39;</p><p>Mr Galloway was interviewed by Krishnan Guru-Murphy because he had met Castro during his reign, as socialist dictator Castro&nbsp; gave the Cuban people improved education, but prevented large groups, including gays,&nbsp; the vote.</p><p>Fox News is a subsidiary of News Corporation owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who is the chairman.</p><p>Murdoch controls the popular UK tabloid press including The Sun, and News of the World.</p><p>But Galloway, said of C4&#39;s NEWS package: &quot;This is Fox News propaganda. I have come to expect this now from...&quot;</p><p>But was cut off at the end of his rant at the very end.</p><p>Earlier on though, Guru-Murphy had asked the MP about whether large sections of Cubans wanted freedom and democracy.</p><p>Gallloway said: &quot;Everyone wants DEMOCRACY.&quot;</p><p>But he slammed the Americans for them trying to impose their so called capitalist democracy ideals.</p><p>And bizarrely, German dictator Adolf Hitler was referred to, as Galloway said large parts of London during the war were&nbsp; alienated&nbsp; if they supported Nazism.</p><p>But Guru-Murphy intervened and questioned: &quot;But they weren&#39;t denied the vote though were they?&quot;</p><p>To which Galloway fumed: &quot;Yes they were actually. If you bothered to read up on your History.&quot;</p><p>He added: &quot;Socialism will survive. Socialism will survive.&quot;</p><p>The Communist leader retired on health grounds, after having a stomach operation months ago&nbsp; - as US President Bush said Cuba must have free elections now.</p><p>Speaking on ITV NEWS Bulletin, President George Bush said: &quot;I have the view that this is going to be a democratic transition.&quot;</p><p>Two courageous Cubans said they wanted freedom.</p><p>One of them&nbsp; said they are living in a prison - and island prison surrounded by water.</p><p>81-year-old Castro&nbsp; said he would not accept a new term as President. </p><p>UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown&#39;s spokesman said Mr Castro&#39;s departure opened the way for a peaceful transition to a pluralist democracy, they HOPE. </p><p><br />&nbsp; </p>