By Circles Robinson*
Fidel Castro will play the lead role at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Cuban Revolution on New Years Day in Santiago de Cuba, whether or not his health allows him to be there personally.
Fidel and his group of bearded rebels entered the city of Santiago on the first day of 1959, just hours after Gen. Fulgencio Batista fled the country. A week later they would ride triumphantly into an expectant Havana.
From then on Fidel and the revolution he brought to Cuba would become major protagonists of world history. They would inspire many supporters around the globe, especially in Latin America and Africa, along with many detractors – including a string of 10 US administrations that have gone to extremes in their failed attempts to isolate Cuba and eliminate its top leader.
To the chagrin of the old-guard exile community in Miami, on this 50th anniversary, Mr. Castro’s influence and stature as a world leader will overshadow any deficiencies in the Cuban political, social and economic systems that they have combated as passionately as he has defended.
Despite overwhelming obstacles, the Cuban revolution has fostered a well-educated and healthy population; an environment that isn’t overrun by cars and pollution; an economy that functions without commercial advertising or credit cards; a thriving Cuban culture, and a strong sense of history. It has also made important inroads in the long-term battle against racism and sexism. These accomplishments have earned the Revolution praise from around the globe, from people who do not worship the marketplace as the regulator of people’s destinies.
Mr. Castro’s clarity of vision is best exemplified by his forecast several years ago that the bubble of speculative finances in the United States was going to burst and hurt masses of people around the world.
Fidel was also a leading voice among those who predicted the damage foreign debt would cause underdeveloped countries back in the 1980s and warned that the privatization schemes that swept the continent were nothing but a new manifestation of economic colonization.
However, Cuba faces many problems as well. Both supporters and detractors would agree that its economy operates at far below its capacity, for a wide-range of reasons, and that many of the younger generations are pessimistic about their future.
The relatively young Cuban Revolution is clearly an open book, and now other leaders including Fidel’s brother Raul, the current president, face the tough challenges of guiding the country within a world in serious recession while at the same time entering a new era.
When Fidel first set out with his tiny rebel army to challenge the US-backed dictator, only those close enough to know his determination and strategic prowess could have imagined that he would be presiding over such a celebration as the one set for New Years Day 2009 in Santiago de Cuba.