Friday, February 22, 2008

Fidel Castro Steps Down, Nothing Really Changes. . .

Here is some news that is kind of cigar related:
The relatively loud silence that greeted yesterday's announcement by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro that he will step down as his country's president after nearly half a century in power may have come as something of a surprise to his most outspoken opponents in the U.S. and elsewhere. They might have been expecting more of the kind of wild-in-the-streets celebration that came with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Instead, Washington and representatives of numerous governments in Europe calmly but firmly issued statements calling for Cuba to move toward a democratic system of government. (La Jornada, Mexico) Publicly expressed reaction in southern Florida's Cuban-American community appeared to be rather subdued. Reuters reported: "The news that Castro would not seek a new term as president sparked no immediate celebrations in the streets of Little Havana, the neighborhood west of downtown Miami that is home to many of the area's 650,000-strong exile community and the heartland of opposition to Castro." Many commentators called for a shift now toward democracy in Cuba - on the Cuban people's own terms, that is; they would prefer to see a transition whose timing and conditions would not be dictated by the U.S. or any other outside power.

In fact, as political analysts in Latin America in particular have routinely noted, the much-anticipated transition Washington has been looking forward to for so long after Castro's death or total relinquishing of power pretty much has already taken place. Ever since the dictator, who was suffering from undisclosed ailments, turned over the day-to-day running of Cuba's government to his younger brother, Defense Minister Raúl Castro, in July 2006, the changeover to a post-Fidel administration has been steadily, smoothly transpiring.

Spanish journalist Ignacio Ramonet, the co-author, with Fidel Castro, of the recently issued book, Fidel Castro: My Life (see "World Views," Jan. 9, 2008), notes in a just-published Guardian commentary: "The Cuban people now accept that the country can still be run the same way by a different team....[T]hey have been getting used to the idea, while Castro remained theoretically president but his brother, Raúl, held the reins. It was Fidel the mentor, as ever....[N]ow he is handing over [complete governing authority] to a team he has tested and trusts."

Fidel Castro's letter to his countrymen ("Message from the Commander in Chief") announcing his decision to step down from the presidency was published in yesterday's edition of Granma, a state-controlled newspaper in Cuba. In it, Castro wrote: "My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath....To my dearest compatriots, who have recently honored me so much by electing me a member of the Parliament,...I am saying that I will neither aspire to nor accept, I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of president of the state council and commander in chief." Waxing philosophical, Castro advised: "The path will always be difficult and require from everyone intelligent effort....We should always be prepared for the worst variable....The adversary to be defeated is extremely strong; however, we have been able to keep it at bay for half a century."

Castro added: "This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas." He indicated that he will continue to write essays for Granma and noted that his articles "will be just another weapon you can count on." He concluded: "Perhaps my voice will be heard. I shall be careful. Thanks. Fidel Castro Ruz."


So the big event people have been waiting for for years finally happened, and nothing has changed. YAWN. Democracy will not suddenly break out in Cuba. The embargo will not be lifted, Cuban Cigars will not become legal. The Cuban Exiles will not be able to re stake claims on their land, nothing will change. Essentially the government will be the status quo moving forward. It is kind of telling about the charisma and his hold on the collective world mindset that anybody cares about this at all.


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