HAVANA TIMES — For many years, the dance-like maneuvers of Fidel and Raul Castro’s international politics were studied as closely as the works of Machiavelli. This is not unfounded in the case of Raul, who gets much more for far less, having given others lessons in pragmatism since his days at the helm of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR).
Everything that has managed to remain standing over these past fifty plus years, whatever has managed to keep Cubans united behind the immense ruins of the revolution, every pore of this has been filled, in one way or another, by Fidel Castro – thanks only, perhaps, to the divine aura he enveloped his leadership with.
Most Cubans were born after he had established himself as the all-knowing and ever-vigilant Big Brother, as the father of the homeland who hiked up the Sierra Maestra with 12 poorly armed men and came down with the whole of the victorious people behind him (minus the comrades, colleagues and followers he betrayed and sacrificed along the way, not to put too fine a point on it). It may be the fear he inspires, but not even his brother, Raul Castro, his own blood, could do anything that Fidel objected to. Not even him.
Raul Castro was already set on doing away with Cuba’s notorious ration booklet, and slowly letting go of the reins of the market, as early as 2006. He fired the starting round by setting up farmer sales points and granting more licenses to private cab drivers, known as “boteros” on the island. Even after seeing clearly positive results, he had to put a stop to this and take a few steps back because his brother was not “satisfied” (as the public found out through one of the reflections he periodically dishes out through the rag Granma).
It’s not just Fidel who opposes such moves, it’s nearly all of the firmly entrenched cadres who would have a lot to defend and plenty to lose in their power niches, as well as countless things to answer for, if the political game were subjected to true, democratic changes.
Even though it was anything but easy, Raul Castro managed to surprise more than one us between parties. With his moderation, he led the government far more skillfully than most had imagined (to suit his personal and family interests first, those of the dominant classes second and those of the Cuban people last). To be fair, he managed to improve the daily life of common folk considerably in comparison to his brother, though that, ultimately, isn’t saying much.
He was closely watched from different perspectives, sometimes without a magnifying glass. He didn’t get along too well with Chavez and there were fears he would not be too receptive to the proposals advanced by the “breadwinner.” Then, he carried out a series of maneuvers that could teach those who study pragmatic (or daring) politics a thing or to, with strategic aims.
It’s not just a question of how thoroughly he was willing to deny or renounce his position as a symbol and mastermind of the dictatorship of the proletariat, to forget and make others forget the role he played as an active repressor of homosexuals, artists, journalists, writers, rockers and the slightest show of sympathy towards the imperialist enemy (a task that requires bullet-proof cynicism). The important and difficult question was: how was Cuba to find new “breadwinners” it could hustle, as it had done for ages, without being reminded of who Raul was and what he represented?
Well, he did all that, and marvelously, and now Venezuelan President Maduro, squeezed dry, begins to fall from grace. The Caribbean isle not only became the bride of the insatiable US imperialism once again, but also the lover of none other than France, the cradle of human rights and freedom.
The planet’s two oldest democracies, the two standard-bearers of freedom, are sharing the island more than they are fighting over it, and Cuba, proud, in much the same way she used to whisper sweet nothings in Russian and then in Venezuelan Spanish, is now whispering in English and moaning in the French of Fouche, not that of Danton.