Safeguarding Fidel

Armando Chaguaceda

Fidel Castro voting on Feb. 3rd. Photo: TeleSur

HAVANA TIMES — He doesn’t deserve such uncivil treatment …not him or anyone else. In the twilight of his life, Fidel Castro, the octogenarian former commander, was featured in the Cuban media in an awkward interview when he went to vote in the recent elections this past Sunday, February 3.

The visible deterioration of the leader, along with the adulation by those present, gave the event an irrational, surreal and an even pathetic character.

Fidel, with both his high and low points, represents a slice of contemporary Cuban, continental and planetary history. The cult around his image — whether organized or spontaneous — combines the sincere devotion of many ordinary people along with the opportunistic exploitation of his legacy by the bureaucratic elite, who metastasized under his long reign.

In recent years, the “new” leadership of the country has been dismantling, in a gradual and inconspicuous manner, much of Fidel’s legacy.

For the better, these changes have been introduced in a concrete and pragmatic dimension of conceiving the life of the nation and its people, distant from the transcendent — and egotistical — epic of the Comandante.

For the worse, because many of the salvageable follies of fidelismo — having a poor country with an educated and healthy population that feels solidarity with other peoples — fade away under the combined weight of a model that’s taking hold and the mercantilist standards that prevail among the government reformers.

Because of this, Fidel has become a sort of soul that now hangs in limbo, a (still) precarious inhabitant of this world, converted into a mere shadow of the former figure and power that he was …years ago.

In the face of this situation, it greatly irritates me how a government that’s accustomed to fabricating and preserving his image so meticulously has now put him on display — well into his decline — while calling itself the defender of his principles.

It could be because I have a grandfather that same age, someone who I couldn’t bear seeing made an object of derision by some cruel neighbor.

Or, it could be because I can’t stand the hypocritical smiles and fawning by the officials and journalists that surround him during his sporadic appearances, the same ones who must surely scoff in private about “how deteriorated this old man is.”

Then too, it could be because I believe in the integrity of any human being should be preserved from public ridicule as much as possible, especially if that person is a frail senior citizen, helpless and obviously disoriented.

It doesn’t matter that he himself — with his intolerance of criticism from others — sowed the seeds of feigning and brown-nosing in Cuba, or that his opponents and enemies can rightfully feel they can question his work or his person.

What I find ethically reprehensible is that the greatest beneficiaries of the system he created aren’t more careful with him. What they’re doing is turning him into a museum piece, an object for display, a treasure for worship or the morbid curiosity of some Latin American heads of state.

Instead, Cuba’s authorities must honestly assume the direction of their own decisions, advance in the wake of their mistakes, and preserve — without canonization — what’s salvageable of Fidel’s legacy.

But above all, they need to care for their fellow human being…protect Fidel from politically motivated acts, from themselves.


23 thoughts on “Safeguarding Fidel

  • what do you have to say about all the successes of socialist oriented policies in northern europe? do you care to refuste these historical facts?
    soviety union, cuba, and china were all inspired by the right marxists,
    true socialism can be found in Norway, Finland, sweden, denmark and iceland

  • So all you two can do is mock and sneer?

    You may not like Von Mises but what he wrote is true: Marxian support for democracy is a shame. Once in power, they turn to dictatorship and suppress the people. This happened in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Cuba, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Ethiopia…

    Care to refute those historical facts?

  • what are you talking about von mises, ayn rand are our gods, they’re ways should be implemented down to the last word,
    miami herald is the most objective and reliable newspaper i’ve read and fox news is fair and balanced

  • Griffin thank you for you’re intellectually irrefutable response, as i have read many publications of yours that are in par with Noam Chomsky. You have developed many sophisticated theories in linguistics and politics and your worldwide reputation as a scholar of integrity surpasses that of chomsky,
    All hail the wisdom of griffin

  • Yes, yes, Griffin. It was all part of Fidel’s evil plan. ha, ha!

  • I hear you, ac. I hear you.

  • Well said.

  • as, thanks for the “Dialogue.” I’ll try to find it.

    I still think that anything was possible for the Cuban experiment in the early years. But if you go into the kitchen and intend to bake a delicious cake, but have a completely wrong recipe, you are bound to emerge with a flop.

    Marxism clearly says to convert all enterprise into state property. That’s what Fidel and the PCC did, and it was a wrong recipe.

    What is so sad is that they still cling to the old ideology, and can’t grope their way out of the dark. I’m beginning to think that Cuba’s hope lies in more rational comrades within the PCC coming into power, at some future point, and setting Cuban socialism on a solid foundation. It this should happen, anything, and everything is possible.

  • Von Mises cited, ’nuff said. Who’s next? Ayn Rand? Humberto Fontova? Olavo de Carvalho?

    What an infantile discussion. Like someone said, this is resembling Miami Herald.

  • Castro intended to lead a Marxist revolutionary process from the very beginning. Nothing the US did made any difference, except by the unintended consequence of helping to reinforce the isolation which was Castro’s goal.

    Would Cuba have been more prosperous were it not for the embargo? Probably not: Cuba received billions of dollars worth of aid from the USSR but still failed to build a viable economy. When the USSR collapsed, the flow of aid to Cuba stopped and the Cuban economy collapsed.

    Would Cuba have been less repressive and respected human rights better if not for US policies? Again, it was Castro’s plan from the beginning to ban all other political parties, to make his power absolute and to establish total control over the Cuban people. It would not have been made any difference.

    Certainly, it would have been better if the US had not launched the Bay of Pigs, which killed innocent Cubans, gave Castro the excuse he was waiting for and cemented the distrust between the two countries.

    But it would have made no difference to the outcome.

    Castro followed the ideology he set out to follow and with it he built all the
    institutions and established all of the policies he dreamed of. That the result has been a disaster for the Cuban people is a consequence of his own fatally flawed vision.

  • Noam cited, ’nuff said.

  • The thought that there is a hereafter is as unconnected to fact as the thought that when Fidel dies he will be criticised by the Cuban people..

    It takes a totalitarian mind to believe that eternal punishment can be handed out by a totalitarian God and a totalitarian minded person to believe in things that cannot be questioned.
    In the DRK if any of the Kims metes out punishment for questioning their power, that punishment ends when the ground closes over you but not so when the celestial Kim metes out his eternal punishment .

    You cannot be a believer in all the totalitarian forms that make up the pillars of U.S society: religion, capitalism, the oligarchic government and claim to believe in democracy.

    Even the story of the Moses of the Bible has been shown to never have happened by Israeli archaeologists . No traces were found after a very extensive search of the Exodus .

    You are named for a fiction and believe in fictions .

  • Freedom under capitalism is illusory as well as the thought that the U.S. is, in any way, a democratic society.

    Capitalism is top-down totalitarianism no less murderous in its effects than was Stalinism . The big difference is that Stalinism has gone and capitalism still kills through the dire poverty it creates around the world .

    Noam Chomsky’s ” Necessary Illusions: Thought Control In Democratic Societies fairly well explains the illusion of a free press.

    The U.S. is one big glass house.

  • We will never know how Cuba’s revolution MIGHT have developed had not the U.S attacked it from the very beginning and has persisted in attempting to crush it to this day.

    I always note that Cuba’s critics NEVER mention this 50 year war on the revolution as if hit has no bearing on what Cuba is today.
    Any objective review of Cuba’s revolution would have to include the damage done by the U.S war on the people of Cuba.

    It’s why I can never take many of the the criticisms seriously.

    Compare Cuba to any comparable capitalist country of equal means and population even without the U.S waging war on it and then you’d be talking apples for apples.

  • This kind of trivial, vacuous hate-fest, both the article and comments, is what makes the Havana Times increasingly resemble the Miami Herald.

  • You don’t really believe that fairy tale do you, that Fidel really meant to be a liberal-democrat until the mean old Americans forced him to go to the Russians?

    Fidel & Raul established a relationship with the Soviets back in Mexico in 1956. After the Revolution, Fidel deliberately provoked the Americans, and the US was stupid and short-sighted enough to respond in type, but it was part of Fidel’s plan all along.

  • He didn’t had a choice, once he fell from grace in the US it was either fall into USSR sphere or cease to exist. And that came with certain requirements that he was forced to meet.

    We can speculate that left to their own, the Cuban revolution would have been more democratic, probably closer to Marti’s republic but they didn’t had that luxury and the whole point is moot.

    Besides, the same issues are not specific of socialism. If you have the time, try reading the “Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu”. If anything, it makes for a fun afternoon reading :p

  • I don’t call it particularly tragic, as with anyone else, his current situation is a reflection of the decisions he made thorough life. My main beef is that even now, he doesn’t know about the struggles of regular Cubans that lived to to that age. He does not know about trying to live with only the ration book as source of food, he doesn’t know about old folks lining up early in the morning to get the Granma at $0.20 CUP and selling it later at $1.00 to meet ends, he is never going to know about mending his old clothes because there is no money to get new ones, he is never going to be trampled by a crowd desperate to take into a bus and so on.

    My point is, he surrounded himself by people willing to preserve his cherished alternate reality and by doing so, made a disservice to their fellow citizens because when a leader operates on wrong assumptions he always makes poor decisions, specially when the situation becomes critical.

    I have no doubt he genuinely tried to do the best he could for the Cuban people, but his growing disconnect from reality coupled with the unwillingness to adapt to changes made him a bad leader for the Cubans in his late years.

  • “The Marxians love of democratic institutions was a stratagem only, a pious fraud for the deception of the masses. Within a socialist community there is no room left for freedom.”
    ? Ludwig von Mises

  • Thank you, ac, for this perspective on Fidel.

    What is so tragic to me is not that Fidel is frail in his last years, but that he did not take a look–when his intellect was still youthful–at the theoretical foundations of Marxian socialism, and see that the state monopoly ownership formula is incorrect and utterly destructive.

    It’s hard to blame his for this however, for every wooden-headed Trotskyist and Maoist in the world clings to the same politico-economic formula and Marx-cult religion, and can’t see the reality right before their eyes.

    But what do you do when your economic system and political ideology are the opposite of scientific, and are destroying socialism from within, and yet you have to keep up a good face? You resort to personality cultism, in this case around Che and Fidel.

    Perhaps our beloved Fidel will live to be 100, and is able to witness the full results of his Marxian deviation from real socialism.

  • I agree with the comments posted by ‘ac’ and ‘griffin’. You reap what you sow. I believe in a hereafter and so I’m guessing that when Fidel gets there, he “will have some ‘splainin to do”. The long-silenced chorus of Cubans, who out of fear, have been silent and withheld their criticisms from the public square will finally be heard and the roar will be deafening.

  • Well, IMHO, he is in the limbo he deserves. As you mention, he IS an old man, and in his last years in power his thought process was too rigid to adapt to new circumstances He favored ideology over pragmatism regardless of what would be better for the people and ostensibly, he is the main reason the reforms aren’t going at the speed they should.

    But his main shortcoming was that he thought he knew better about everything that everyone else and systematically removed people with different opinions. This resulted in a lot of spineless people surrounding him and reinforcing his false notions about Cuban reality, not daring to disagree or to stray from the path he would like.

    In all honesty, before the “special period” he was right to think that way and in any case it didn’t matter that much. Back then, security would “leak” his potential scheduled destinations, triggering a frenzy of activity to make the potential place as pristine as possible and the only thing he would see is a shining Cuba where everything was fine an happy people hailing the virtues of Revolution.

    But after 1990 things got out of to toilet and Cuba reality grew worlds apart from his perception of it. He never knew about the crazy inflationary process that made peoples’ salary worthless, he never knew about people struggling to meet ends, or people having to pick between eating or dressing, or medical shortages or well, almost anything the day to day life of most Cubans had to endure.

    In short, all he knew of the struggle of his fellow citizens was cold stats that show a growing economy while the main indices where kept balanced, ignoring that the dual currency introduced made any planing pointless (they can;t even know if economic activity X is profitable or not) and any growth fictional (a can of beer sold in CUC adds around $0.05 to the GNP, while selling the same bear in CUP currency adds $2, so what is this year’s target?), while all public services deteriorated very quickly and to make things worse, his new education paradigm put a bonus on mediocrity, creating generations functional ignoramuses.

    Regardless of his unquestionable influence in the lives of Cuban people, his late years have been notoriously negative to the Cubans and he should have stepped out long before he did.

  • The mixture or emotions and accusations tossed about in reaction to Fidel’s recent appearance (which would not have happened without his permission, by the way) is nothing more than the rage of Caliban at seeing his own face in a mirror.

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