Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fidel Walks Away

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) February 19, 2008 - An essay about Fidel Castro on a Muslim website? Absolutely.

Say what you will about this man. Certainly, among Marxists and revolutionaries throughout the world, he epitomizes the zeal of anti-imperialism and defiance of the "Yanqui" giant to his North. And for the conservative, free-enterprise crowd, Fidel was, for nearly a half-century, anathema to every value they espouse.

But now, after decades of being the undisputed helmsman of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro has, at last, stepped away from the Presidency of his nation. And while he may no longer be the "Maximum Leader", he is, and will be for the rest of his time on earth, a towering figure for many, and an utterly despised one for others.

What did Fidel accomplish in his years as the leader of Cuba? The answer depends on the political orientation of the person who answers.

He led a small, tattered guerilla force that overthrew the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista and rode triumphantly into Havana on New Year’s Day of 1959. Then, to the dismay of the Cuban exiles, the American government, business monopolies and the CIA, Fidel and his comrades established a one-party Marxist state, closely alighed with the (then) Soviet Union. The initial crisis of this nexus involved a near-nuclear showdown between the US and the USSR which, in 1962, culminated with the removal of Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba.

Thus began more than four decades of a continued economic embargo by the U.S. (and hardly any one else) against the island nation of 10 million people. This embargo, and the effects of it, continue to this day.

It is certainly true things in Cuba are far from perfect, and that many of the faults there might be located in the limited freedoms afforded to its citizens and institutions under a one-party state.

There are credible accounts of persons imprisoned for nothing more than their political beliefs, and the proscription of freedom of religion (especially for Jehovah’s witnesses and Evangelical Christians). Defenders of the Cuban revolution, in response, point out the countless North American plots to destabilize and undermine the Cuban state, including countless documented assassination attempts directed against Fidel himself.

But through al of this, Cuba sustained a remarkable commitment to the development and well-being of countless peoples in the Third World, sharing technology and human resources, especially with the developing nations of the African world.

Now, the octogenarian leader is being replaced by his younger (at age 76) brother, Raul.

But as Fidel leaves this part of the world stage, we should be aware that powerful forces calling for "democracy" in the nation have, as a real agenda, the privatization of the Cuban economy and a return to the rule of Capital that characterized the days of Batista. They want the heavy hand of the state to go away; they also, in all likelihood, want to do away with free education, socialized medicine and housing, and the numerous other benefits won, with great sacrifice, by the Cuban working class. They envision a Cuba to become like the African-American population of the District of Columbia: free to vote, free to enjoy limited sovereignty, free to shop, and free to live in disproportionate poverty, dictated by the forces of the market.

But I suspect that, in the sunset of his years (or months), Fidel will live to see a Cuba that is changing to be more plural in it’'s political leadership (and younger), and more economically abundant in a post-embargo environment.

These future possibilities will be engineered by the Cuban people themselves, and not, I trust, by politicians in Washington or business interests in Miami.

The lion may be retiring from the stage of political leadership. But the lion - and his people - will continue to roar.

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