Fidel Castro’s Surprise

By Fernando Ravsberg

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.

Since he was very young, Fidel Castro had mortal enemies in Cuba, however, fate led him to live very hard experiences such as the Bogotazo unrest in Colombia.

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.

Fidel Castro has always been an astute politician and maybe his tug of war with the US is where he’s most succeeded. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz

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.

Interview with Fidel Castro, September 1996. Photo: Alejandro Perez

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.

28 thoughts on “Fidel Castro’s Surprise

  • Fidel Castro’s footprint has been permanently stamped on every downtrodden Cuban.
    It takes a belief in the Devil to regard Fidel Castro’s that “legacy and his example is written in granite for eternity”. Such guff Albert N Jones, ignores his earnest endeavours to persuade Nikita Kruschchev to make a first nuclear strike upon the US which as Kruschchev himself pointed out would have created a Third World War and condemned countless millions to the eternity of which you speak.
    Fidel Castro’s legacy is of multiple affairs, of executions, of persecutions, of hatred, of the insatiable thirst for power and control, of pursuit of nuclear conflict and that over-whelming arrogance that brought about the boasted conviction that: “History will absolve me”.
    These characteristics may be the ones you hold in high regard, but for those concerned about humanity they properly are regarded with disgust!

  • Might have started out as an idealist but very soon became and still remains a maniacal dictator?

  • Such as whom ? The DGI? FAR ? MINNIT?

  • You really don’t know Cuba do you Dan? I share your condemnation of the history of Spanish colonialism which is reflected in the Latin American countries of today.

  • Quite right Dan, just as the Castro regime didn’t prioritize chewing gum, they didn’t prioritize producing food to feed the people.
    Fifty seven years ago Fidel Castro boasted that:
    “Cuba is capable of producing cotton, paper and newsprint.”
    Where is the cotton?
    Where is the toilet paper?
    Enough newsprint is produced to publish ‘Granma’ the pages of which are usually cut into four to serve as toilet paper. But at 20 centavos that’s its best value!

    “There can be no danger if we do what Cubans want, if we provide social practice and solve the substantial social problems of all Cubans, of liberty, of respect for individual rights, of freedom of the press and thought, of democracy, of liberty to select their own government.”
    Fidel Castro Ruz. 16th March, 1959
    So Mark Williams, you say he achieved what he promised.
    Where is the liberty?
    Where is the respect for human rights?
    Where is the freedom of the press?
    Where is the freedom of thought?
    Where is the democracy?
    Where is the liberty for Cubans to select their own government?
    You refer to “the innate creativity and self-belief I saw in every Cuban I met.” In over fifty seven years of opportunity, Fidel Castro and his little brother Raul have failed to provide opportunity for either.
    Obviously as a tourist, your opportunity to study Cubans was very limited. Obviously you did not have opportunity to live in their homes, to comprehend the day to day restrictions upon their lives, to understand that a mother who in her own home instructs her children in anything that is contrary to communism can be jailed for three years, to understand that to criticize the regime is a crime, to understand that under the Constitution the defined purpose of education is indoctrination.
    Go and live in a Cuban home for a couple of months and get to know reality Mark. But remember that your hosts can be fined heavily for having a foreigner staying in their home.
    Raul needs no speech writers for unlike his Big Brother, he does not have verbal diarrhea – (English spelling diarrhoea).
    Remember – A little knowledge is a dangerous thing!
    As Havana Times is about Cuba, I will not comment upon your divergence from a distance into the confused politics of the US

  • Is your penultimate paragraph supposed to be about education? If it is, then perhaps you could re-phrase it to make it intelligible?

  • Were you on your knees when writing this drivelling homage to an oppressive dictator?

  • The handful of Fidel Castro detractors, who are still seeking perfection in a human being, refuse to subject his entire life to an objective, analytic comparison with all other contemporary leaders of his time and who has selectively chosen, to focus their attention solely on his mistakes and failures.

    Contrary to Mr. Moses beliefs, Fidel Castro do not need me or anyone else to come to his defense. His lifetime work is out there for public scrutiny. Brother Moses would likely understand my position, if he like millions of blacks, was born in Banes, Cuba, my Cuban Soweto under the United Fruit Co or if some relative was thrown from a high rise like Steven Biko or had their genitals or eyes ripped off as it was during Batista reign of fear.

    My most difficult task in life as one who suffered unjustly at the hands of the
    Revolution, is to be able to evaluate honestly and fairly, the making of this
    convulsive process that invested more in me than my entire family and prepared
    me for a successful professional life, which low life human grudge nearly

    Fortunately, education cannot be retrieved or destroyed and thanks to the Cuban Revolution,I was able to carry out in Cuba different responsibilities and share my
    knowledge and expertise with them and with the American people.

    As a son of Africa, scarred by 500 years of slavery, illiteracy, racism and marginalization, my last goal in life is to help every minority youth in the US and the Caribbean, to earn in Cuba or elsewhere the education I received, as the only
    way to break the yoke of dependency and crime.

  • Your criticism of the US and praise of Cuba are incorrect. Castro-style socialism is dead. And your speech-writing? Keep your day job.

  • Dr.Jones, you have really swallowed that revolutionary crap whole, haven’t you? Castro has done nothing for the world but lied. As Informed Consent suggests, name one positive thing.

  • As bad as Bush was, he was still elected (barely) and limited in his power. There is no comparison between a bad president of 8 years and a tyrannical dictatorship of more than 57 years.

  • I wonder what might have been achieved if most of Fidel’s time had not been spent trying to survive the 32 attempts on his life from the CIA or the numerous invasions attempts both physical and electronic or the illegal military blockade.
    I wonder what might have become of the dream of the Revolution if Cuba had been given the chance to exist as a Sovereign Nation rather than constantly fighting off the filth to the North.
    Paradise Lost.

  • I guess he will sidle up beside George Bush and his gang of murderous thugs when their time comes, right moses.

  • When I did find some (because sometimes, through a minor miracle, you could) I’d keep the same piece for a week, and re-flavor it with a little toothpaste. And there was no milk to be found either Dan….you know better than that.

  • Cuba probably didn’t make chewing gum in 1959. After the blocade, they couldn’t buy it and wouldn’t have prioritized it anyway. Although you didn’t have your ” chickles”, some guajiro kid was finally getting milk and a little pollo.

  • That book is bullshit. Even well respected Cuba watchers say that.

  • It’s interesting that one thing no one talks about here is how Castro, over a short couple of decades, decimated the Cuban cultural heritage…it didn’t fit with his Marxist ideals.

  • Handful? there are almost 2 million Cuban’s in the US! Quite a handful, especially if you consider Cuba only has about 11 million people. We ALL realize the failure that is Cuba. You don’t risk your life escaping an Island that is prosperous.

    The way you paint it, Cuba should have a net positive immigration rate, as was the case before Castro But today, despite the so called “opening”, and liberalization taking place, more and more Cuban’s continue to flee.

    Fiscal yr 2014* – 24,278 Cuban’s left
    Fiscal yr 2015* – 43,159 Cuban’s left
    Fiscal ye 2016* – 46,635 Cuban’s left (and the year is far from over)

    And by the way, exactly what was his achievement on the world stage? I’m a bit confused about that….please enlighten me.

  • No, Mark. No vacancies. Only Castro’s thoughts are allowed to be heard in Cuba.

    ….And I, and millions of other Cuban’s, are certainly not grateful!

  • …..He also didn’t expose us to very much food, outside sources of news and information, travel, and the right to say whatever I thought. When I was a kid growing up in Cuba, chewing gum was a luxury… know, the stuff you take for granted. When I cam to the US, ketchup was a revelation! meat, other than the canned soviet crap, was sublime! Keep in mind, he also, pretty much, ruined Cuban culture.

  • One thing is unquestionable. Fidel, although under tremendous external pressure, has never exposed the Cuban people to the horrors and humiliation that the people of almost every other nation in Latin America have been subjected to for this past century.

  • I would advise anyone who just read this article to read his former bodyguards memoir

  • Fidel’s African adventures did nothing to hasten the end of Apartheid in South Africa. Cuban troops had left Angola years before Mandela was released from prison. Nothing in the treaty signed between Havana & Pretoria mentioned anything about releasing Mandela or dismantling apartheid. If anything, Fidel’s intervention in Angola prolonged apartheid by a decade.

    And by the way: Angola today is a corrupt oligarchy.

  • Fidel Castro is a lying, immoral, murderous thug. The only reason he has escaped justice and managed to live so long is because the special place in Hell for dictators is crowded. Just the same, it won’t be much longer now.

  • He achieved what he promised, and for that, all Cubans should be grateful. There must be plenty of Cubans who remember the corruption before independence. Sadly, they have been faced with corruption afterwards, and a rigid doctrine which, though necessary, has made the US blockade even more difficult to cope with.
    Cubans must not step back into the past, and accept capitalism, or they will be once again subjugated, this time by power and money. But like China, Cuba must begin a process of compromise with its neighbours, securing inward investment on Cuba’s terms, and galvanising the innate creativity and self-belief I saw in every Cuban I met.
    If you want to avoid mistakes, look at the USA. Look at its fossil fuel dependence; Cuba has plenty of sun. Look at the cruelty of a system which creates such appalling inequality in the USA. Look at its electoral system, which creates monsters like Donald Trump. Look at the non-existent healthcare system which bankrupts the poor, and education which falls well short of world standards.
    Be proud of what you have achieved, and be certain you can achieve more; Cuba is a blank canvas on which Cubans can paint their own destiny. Prove that socialism can extend a hand of friendship to those who are not socialists; that Cuba can set an example to every other poor nation on earth.
    Blimey, where did that come from. I should take up speech writing…! Any vacancies, Raul?

  • With even more mistakes, blunders and failures than those included in this article, no one outside of a handful of Cubans in their 80s and 90s in Florida, who failed miserably in their attempt to keep Cuba under the US tutelage, will attempt to ignore the worldwide footprint of Fidel Castro across the globe.
    The enormity of his historical, cultural, educational and health contribution to the world, had a negative effect on Cuba, because so much of his attention was focus beyond its border.
    Like it or not, it is hard if not impossible to find a world leader in the XX Century, who comes close to the stature and achievements he has garnered for the world. Whatever some may say, his legacy and his example is written in granite for eternity.

  • He empoverished his country with a foolish centralized economy. His central failure as a leader was being in love with his own brilliance. Raul has been a far more practical leader even as he deals with foolish legacy of his older brother. Cuba can be so much more and will be once it is unleashed.

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