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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

April, 2007



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Cuba after Fidel
By Maurice Lemoine

Reprinted from Le Monde Diplomatique, September 2006
FIDEL CASTRO, who was about to undergo an operation, transferred his constitutional responsibilities as president of Cuba on 31 July 2006 to a team of seven, including his brother Raul. The world held its breath and thousands of exiled Cubans in Miami celebrated the illness and even the death of the "tyrant".
The Florida-based Cuban American National Foundation, which had supported the invasion of Iraq in April 2003 on the principle of "Iraq today, tomorrow Cuba", immediately called for a civil or military uprising to overthrow the regime in Havana. President George Bush assured the population of Cuba on 2 August that the United States would support them in any efforts to establish a transitional government committed to democracy (1): this was a threat to anyone who might support the present regime and oppose the US definition of a "Free Cuba".

The uprising was supposed to be a historic event in which chaos would reign and hundreds of thousands of Cubans would take to the streets demanding freedom. But the days went by and there was no sign of anything out of the ordinary. True, whether or not Castro takes the helm again, the scene has been set for the debate on what comes next: succession or transition. He has been in solo power for 47 years and there is certainly some dissatisfaction and opposition. There are people who do not support his revolution and who may even be against it. Shortages, bureaucracy, loss of freedoms (speech, free association, the right of assembly), and imprisonment of opponents: all these are real shortcomings in Cuba. They are widely condemned.

Some commentators have pointed out that the US has mounted many invasions, assassination and sabotage attempts involving Cuba since 1959 and that its trade embargo has crippled Cuba's economy. Others argue that these are merely excuses, as though history could be divided into watertight compartments and present problems had nothing to do with past interference.

In 2005 Washington appointed a Cuba transition coordinator, Caleb McCarry, who had previously served in Afghanistan. On 10 July this year, the commission for assistance to a free Cuba, co-chaired by the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the secretary of commerce, Carlos Gutierrez, issued a report stressing the urgency of working "to ensure that the Castro regime's succession strategy does not succeed".

The report promised $80m for US aid to Cuba, adding that these resources would be passed directly to dissidents, who will be trained and supplied with equipment. This is both brazen interference in Cuban internal affairs and a sentence of doom for the Cuban opposition. As the president of the Cuban parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, points out, as long as this policy is pursued there will be Cubans involved in plotting with the US and accepting its money. He does not know any country where these would not be regarded as criminal activities (2).

The report notes that the "plan" contains an annexe that is secret for reasons of national security and to ensure its effective implementation. When it come to the US's secret measures, the history of the Americas from Salvador Allende to Sandinista Nicaragua leaves little to the imagination.

However, leaving aside the self-proclaimed supporters of transition, a significant proportion of other Cubans welcome the revolution's advances in education, health and social services, and respect Fidel and his "old-timers", plus the new young leaders who will be called upon to carry on his work.

Is Cuba as isolated from the world as some have claimed? Africa and Asia have relations with Cuba, while the revolutionary changes in Latin America have brought to power new heads of state who are better informed about the real situation in Cuba and the reasons for its atypical combination of one-party system and advanced social policies.

Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia have already taken steps to end Cuban isolation. Castro was feted at the Mercosur summit at Cordoba in Argentina and on 21 July he signed an important trade agreement with the member states of this regional body, including Brazil and Argentina. The agreement openly defies the US trade embargo and pays homage to a small country that refuses to bow to the greatest power in the world.

In shaping its own future, Cuba will seek examples and support in its relations with the Mercosur zone, where people already talk about democratic and sovereign socialism for the 21st century. Cuba will also draw on its own living resources. It will not look to the US, which wants to add it to its list of colonies, or to Europe, which both lectures Cuba and disdains it.


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