Raul Castro’s Machiavellian Ways

Martin Guevara

Give me some room to maneuver, things in Venezuela aren’t  looking so good.  Ilustration by Onel.

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.

8 thoughts on “Raul Castro’s Machiavellian Ways

  • Before you get all warm and fuzzy about Raul’s ability to sweet talk, consider another perspective. The whole point of the Castro revolution was to extract Cuba from the throes of imperialism. I will argue that the only reason Fidel sucked up to Khruschev is because he knew that Cuba could not resist the influence of the US without Soviet help. Likewise, the only reason that he entertained a thug like Chavez was because he needed his oil. If you believe that 50 years of anti-imperialist rhetoric was sincere, then this newfound rapprochement is yet another compromise born of desperation. Here’s the difference: there is no system, no society, and no country better at co-opting and corrupting others than the US. You can get in bed with the Russians, the Chinese, the Venezuelans, and even the French and get up with only a trace of the relationship lingering. But, when you bend over and let the US give it to you good, you crawl away with McDonald’s, Walmart, and Internet porn. José Marti knew this when he referred to the “belly of the beast”. Fidel knew it. Raul must really be desperate because he knows it too.

    Reply
    • Raul knows, survival at any price better than death spiral of failed socialist model. He looks over at Maduro and laughs. Poor guy has not figured out the model Fidel’s people gave Chavez is a canard. He wanted 60 days to fix economy by decree ?

      Reply
    • Moses, I would say the Soviets were just as effective as the U.S. in leaving their trace even in Eastern Europe. What has happened is that the U.S., through Europe, is bulldozing over those traces and the danger is it will do so in Cuba too. Let us not forget that the Soviets put the first African in space: Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, more importantly they funded Cuba as a matter of principle, recognising its supreme importance as a living museum of African culture. Unfortunately, Cuba was not able to transfer enough African cadres to the Easter Block to allow them to compete with the U.S. demographics. Ethiopia was a willful failure, though some of the responsibility must lie with Selassie and not just Mengistu. Perhaps ultimately the CIA is to blame for destabilising first Jamaica under Manley and then Grenada at a time of crisis and mourning. Russia is a poor substitute for the Soviet Union and China is still largely feudal. Venezuela needs Eastern Europe to throw off the shackles of the empire, but it also needs it to respect Afro-American realities and this can only come through engagement. Far better that engagement is with Cuba than the U.S. The U.S. needs to recognise the land of the free has imprisoned and killed millions of first nation Gods in its quest to flee Satan. Perhaps only an atheist can appreciate the inherent racism in the Bible. Thank you.

      Reply
      • You can say what you will about Soviet culture but you would be wrong. Just ask yourself the last time you saw a Soviet – era fast food restaurant? On the other hand, did you know that McDonald’s is the fastest growing restaurant chain throughout eastern Europe? Putting the first African in space is meaningless. I fail to see the point of your other comments. An atheist, upon reading the Holy Bible, an atheist is likely to call many things “inherent racism” because of atheist biases.

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        • Cuba is Russia’s Israel. My preferred candidate is Ben Carson, but I’ll settle for Trump.

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          • No reply Moses? I thought as much…

          • What the hell is there to comment on? Moses is a democrat. He could care less about Ben Carson or Donald Trump absent a nomination. But if you love me either of those two candidates it speaks volumes about you.

  • Give the Cuban people a chance to decide on their future. The future starts now!

    Reply

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