Martin Guevara*

Fidel and Raul Castro at the first session of the new Cuban legislature on Sunday, February 24, 2013. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — I think that the timid but significant changes that Raul Castro has been implementing – with a number of variations that any sound analyst would make – are the best thing that could happen to Cuba.

The general-turned president, however, doesn’t exactly have the moral authority to advance these changes as his own, as he was never a dissident, never even a key figure of the Marxist-Leninist project undertaken on the island, within the Politburo or any other political institution established by the “Retrogression”.

In his defense, we can point to the fact that, in terms of awareness of everyday reality and the sympathy and affection awakened among the people, the contrast between Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), Raul’s milieu of experimentation, and any other government institution was something you felt at base level.

It was common, for instance, to see a lieutenant colonel from the FAR heading back home in a public bus, asleep on his seat, totally oblivious to his surroundings, feeling protected, even, or to come across this officer giving someone from the neighborhood a lift on the side-car of his motorcycle.

To see a Ministry of the Interior (MININT) officer or Ministry-level cadre from the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), of the same rank or even three military ranks beneath our lieutenant colonel, do the same thing, you’d simply have to be dreaming.

What’s more, the FAR produced the products they consumed. As an institution, it had a different experience of reality than the rest of the country, an economically healthier existence, even during the long years of Soviet subsidy.

They produced everything they needed in terms of viands, provisions and essential equipment (provided it wasn’t a heavy or arms industry item). I worked as a civilian at a company run by the FAR and I am pleased to be able to vouch for this.

None of the changes Cuba has witnessed run contrary to Fidel’s political vision, as some would have us believe, or have been implemented so as to bring a new, brilliant revolutionary – Raul Castro, the dissident – to the fore.

The changes are part of a plan in which Raul assumes the risk, as the person at the helm, of being remembered as someone who did well, regularly or terribly (and this is something only time will decide).

Fidel, however, has earned an ineffaceable place in world history, as a leader considered excessively cruel by some, a dictator who governed by whim by others, or on a spectrum that runs from being a phoney to being a revolutionary to his sympathizers.

The fact I commend Raul for doing what I believe is right, given the current state of affairs in Cuba, does not, in any way, blind me with respect to his trajectory in power, nor does it make me forget that the man who would eliminate you if you showed the slightest bit of sympathy for any letter of the alphabet other than the “A”, is the same man who, today, assures you his policy is called “Z” and disturbingly intimidates you so that you will adhere to it.

From a pragmatic point of view, this would be beyond reproach. It does not, however, show much conviction. It recalls, rather, the most profound act of self-criticism he was able to muster after green-lighting the execution of his friend and subordinate Arnaldo Ochoa, for having been oblivious, as the general’s immediate superior, to the shady dealings Ochoa was accused of during a less-than-transparent, summary and highly irregular trial.

The confession, “I looked in the mirror and saw tears running down my face!”, left all of us speechless. Then, we had expected something along the lines of “I’m sorry for not having been vigilant enough”, or a “I, his immediate superior, shoulder the responsibility for his actions, I will take the blame, or resign,” or perhaps a “I want to dedicate this hara-kiri to all of the fans who are watching us on TV right now.”

To be frank, no one expected that last one. Raul is not Japanese.

In any event, no one should be at all concerned about future jobs or positions at the top. A new obsequious bunch already took them a long time ago.

Mao’s granddaughter is one of China’s wealthiest women, Dos Santos’ daughter is the richest woman in Angola, Fidel Castro’s son wins golf tournaments in Varadero, Raul’s daughter asks for more and more visas to travel to the United States… all of this makes us suspect that revolutions are carried out so that this vile (but nonetheless much-coveted and sought-after) thing called “money” can change hands.

It remains to be seen where those who once vociferated the grandiloquent “Homeland or Death”, and the fewer and fewer who do so today, will be in a decade or so. Will they take to the Sierra Maestra or Escambray mountain ranges to lead a counter-attack on this return to capitalism, this vile act of treachery, or whether they will rather resemble the daughters or granddaughters of those iron-willed leaders, who are much like those who are in power today?

One thing must remain clear: what makes a person a member of the Left, of a progressive or anti-establishment movement, is not what they say about themselves. As with everything else in life, it is a question of deeds, not of words.

Those who wield power and live like kings are the Right, no matter how they wish to portray themselves, and those who, in some way, seek to bring balance to the equation, are everything else in the spectrum. As in the good-cop-bad-cop trick, there will doubtless be some who will try to convince us that Raul freed Cuba by ripping it from Fidel’s claws.
(*) An authorized Havana Times translation of the original published in Spanish by Martin Guevara.

14 thoughts on “Cuba: A Look at Raul vs. Fidel

  • June 12, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Thanks for appreciating my almost “mission impossible.”

    Marxism has so warped, discredited and sabotaged socialism, that rebuilding the Left on a non-state monopoly basis seems to be the height of impossibility.

    But, Martin . . . what else can one do?

    Good Luck in all your labors. Grady

  • June 12, 2013 at 6:13 am

    Thank you Grady.

    I want to tell you one more thing. I am against the lies that I saw across my life in the middle of an leftish family. But I want to tell you, as I told many years ago to Margaret Randall, Huey Newton, or even Dean Reed ( an american communist rock star that used to visit Cuba), that for me, few things are more respectable than an american communist or left activist, because Grady, you really have a lot of work and suffering in front of you!!! and there’s no time to rest!

    Best regards,


  • June 12, 2013 at 1:09 am

    Well said, Martin . . . and thanks. We’re of the same heart, in many respects.

    And I think you are correct in your description of the Marxist deviation from socialism as a lie. In my view however, socialism, real socialism, is still the only hope for a peaceful and just world.

    The problem I keep running into is that Marxism has ruined almost the entire Left. Most activists cannot think creatively.

    Best regards.

  • June 11, 2013 at 8:59 am


    Oh, so now you tell us to try to be civil?

    In this thread alone you have tossed unsubstantiated accusations at Moses, Martin and myself, while using the the following terms to refer to those who hold opinions contrary to yours:

    “stupid, spewing defamation, waste of our time, money-grubbing, confused, devoid of substance, vapid, shallow”

    If that’s your idea of how to be civil, I can’t wait to see you when you’re rude!

  • June 11, 2013 at 5:43 am

    Thank you for your kind words, Grady.

    Perhaps in some topics we have different points of view, but it never mean that we can’t discuss looking for an agreement.

    The only one thing important in my writing work, more than say the things I am against of, is to say those things that we are in favor of, to find the point of agreement among the people that want peace, people that want the end of the hunger in the world, the end of the poverty, the end of the repression, in short, a new World. To end the belief of -Peace-War” is a natural vicious circle impossible to change and to stop. To end the belief of the absolute Power is necessary to put the society in order. To end the belief of in our world, there is a different kind and levels of human beings. To end the belief of the clean and pure goodness, coming from a kind of God, as Fidel or any dictator ( don’t matter if they say that they are the good ones or the devils) or any democratic president. But in this case I speak about my experience in the middle of the socialist lie ( or “not too much truth” if you prefer it)

    You can find me always taking a walk on that “path”.

  • June 10, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    The Cuban people have no power at all. The Castro regime holds it all. This power is exercised through the party with the FAR providing the necessary muscle when required. The FAR have never fought against the US, not since the Bay of Pigs anyway.

    You like to go on about what you call monopoly capitalism, but in Cuba the monopoly is held by the military. The largest corporations on the island are all owned by the military. All of the tourism business is owned by the military, as are trucking, oil, restaurants, farms and sundry other businesses. As you well understand, money is power. In Cuba, the FAR controls the money.

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