HAVANA TIMES — Already at university, only a few people believed that Fidel had a long life ahead of him. The odds became even more unfavorable when he appeared at the Bogotazo protest in Colombia (1948) and they got worse the day he was imprisoned for assaulting a military barracks in Santiago de Cuba in 1953. And then, in the 1960s, when the CIA decided to assassinate him, nobody thought he would reach old age.
Shortly after his stepped out of the spotlight, sore losers began to announce his death every few month. While eating dinner with a dozen foreign journalists, he teased us saying: “When I really die, nobody is going to believe it.”
He has more lives than a thousand cats. He’s survived a lot of the time thanks to his personal security team; however, there have been other instances where he’s come out alive just because of chance, from the dignity of a Batista soldier who refused to poison him to the cowardice of somebody who was supposed to pull the trigger.
However, he wasn’t able to just survive physically; he was also able to survive in Cuban politics. He managed to last half a century in power without any opposing party or figure within the Communist Party itself able to seriously contend his leadership of the nation.
His enemies claim that he managed to do this thanks to the perfect repressive machine that has ever existed in the history of humankind which he created. Without a doubt, his security system is definitely efficient, however, it’s hard for me to believe that this is the only reason he was able to stay in power as long as he did.
The truth is, the anti-Castro opposition was always a US parasite. Washington organized the invasions, armed the Escambray rebels, planned the many attempts on Fidel Castro’s life and still finance national dissidence even today, giving them 20 million USD a year.
They never thought of overthrowing him themselves but instead created the necessary excuses they needed so that US marines could intervene. That was what they intended to do with the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. However, they weren’t even able to hold out the 72 hours they needed to so that US troops could arrive.
Even today, many Cubans still define themselves as Fidelistas in spite of political stagnation which is representative of so many years in power and so many economic mistakes such as the sugar harvest in 1970, declining cattle and agricultural production, nationalizing small businesses, non-payment of outstanding external debt or instituting two currencies.
Also, there are other elements hanging in the balance such as the creation of the most equal society in the whole of Latin America, with health care for everyone, accessible education for everyone, even further education, driven by a model impetus for all things sport and culture.
The result of his efforts are thousands of qualified professionals who are working in dozens of countries, 209 Olympic medals, a ballet scene which excels and exports ballet dancers to the best ballet companies in the world, artists critically acclaimed worldwide and the virtuosity of its musicians.
However, according to the well-renowned Cuban intellectual, Aurelio Alonzo, Fidel Castro’s greatest legacy to our country and to the rest of Latin America has been Cuba’s independence, living proof that national sovereignty is possible, however close you live to the US.
This idea chimes in with that of Emma, a 50 something year old manager at an Old Havana parking lot, who told us that “we should be grateful to our Comandante for having turned us into a nation.” This sentiment is logical in a country that has been invaded on many occasions and who still has part of its soil occupied by foreign military.
Outside Cuba, a lot of the admiration people have for Fidel Castro lies in his ability to stand up to 10 presidents of the world’s greatest power, even the eleventh has recognized that it would be impossible to force this small insubordinate island to bow down.
In Africa, he has an enormous reputation thanks to the support he gave to anti-colonial guerrillas and to the decisive role Cuban troops played in these countries gaining their independence, including the end of the abhorrent apartheid in South Africa, supporting Mandela, who was accused of being a terrorist by the US.
When he was in the Sierra Maestra, he wrote to Celia Sanchez: “Seeing the rockets that they launched at Mario’s house, I’ve sworn to myself that the Americans are going to pay big time for all that they’re doing here. When this war ends, I will begin my own war which last longer and be greater: I’m going to give them war. I’ve come to realize that this is my true destiny.”
Anyone would have thought he was crazy but he “gave” them this war and lived to tell the story. He lived longer than his enemies wanted him too, longer than the most optimistic of us thought he would, he lived longer than even he thought he would. Fidel Castro is probably one of the most surprised to see himself turn 90 years old.