Helping Fidel Undermine HimselfOver the past month, Fidel Castro has made a surprise reemergence in Cuba’s national scene. The now 84-year-old former President has emerged from his convalescence and exchanged his tracksuits for military garbs and still pictures for public speeches and televised addresses. Fidel appears to be on a mission to protect his legacy and maintain his relevance in Cuba and in the world by replacing four years of images of a frail, defeated old man, with a lucid, worldly leader. If this is indeed his goal, then Fidel is failing miserably. Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez wrote in an August 5, 2010 an article published in the Washington Post following Fidel’s first public appearances in almost 3 years:

“The man who appeared on the anniversary of ‘Revolution Day’ last week bore no resemblance to the sturdy soldier who handed over his office to his brother in July 2006. The stuttering old man with quivering hands was a shadow of the Greek-profiled military leader who, while a million voices chanted his name in the plaza, pardoned lives, announced executions, proclaimed laws that no one had been consulted on, and declared the right of revolutionaries to make revolution.”

Fidel’s August 7 speech to Cuba’s National Assembly was the first indication that the old, powerful leader who everyone feared and whose mere presence had the power to stop any reforms was long gone. His twelve minutes prepared remarks warned of an impending U.S. nuclear attack on Iran and North Korea and read more like a science fiction novel than a foreign policy speech delivered by a former head of state. Last week, Fidel used almost half of the communist paper Granma’s pages to quote from a book that describes how an international group of politicians, intellectuals and businessmen control the world. To close the month with a strong streak of delusional conspiracy theories, Fidel Castro announced this weekend that Osama Bin Laden was likely a CIA agent summoned by George W. Bush to scare the American people at the former U.S. President’s command.

What is most interesting about Fidel’s outrageous conspiracy and delusional claims is not that he actually believes them, nor that he expects the Cuban people to buy them, but rather that his brother Raul and the rest of the Cuban nomenclature have done nothing to protect Fidel from himself. A look at the 12-minute remarks Fidel delivered at the opening of the special session of the National Congress on August 7, 2010 reveals both the delusional nature of Fidel’s conspiracy theories, as well as the willingness of the government of Raul Castro to allow Fidel to undermine his own image. While the hour and a half of questions that followed Fidel’s remarks appeared to be carefully choreographed by the regime, Cuban leaders made no apparent effort to edit or improve Fidel’s remarks. This apparent decision by Raul’s government to allow Fidel to destroy his image with outrageous conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches may very well be his way of undermining what has clearly been an obstacle to the implementation of reforms he announced as far back as July 26, 2007. In her August 5, 2010 article Yoani concludes:

“Instead of arousing the fear that makes even the bravest tremble, [Fidel] calls forth, at best, a tender compassion. After a young reporter calmly asked a question, she followed up with her greatest wish: ‘May I give you a kiss?’ Where is the abyss that for so many years not even the most courageous dared to jump?”

Raul’s government has failed to acknowledge any of his older brother’s conspiracy theories and instead has announced a series of important reforms ranging from the release of 52 political prisoners to the authorization of self-employment, to the possibility that foreign investors may lease Cuban land for terms of 99 years, and for Cubans to sell vegetables independently. This shows that at a time when Fidel has actively worked to undermine his own image, Raul’s government has moved forward with a series of reforms that had appeared to be held back by the presence of the former leader. The question then is how much longer Fidel will refrain from addressing domestic policy issues, thus hurting the possibilities of greater reforms and what effort, if any, will Raul Castro’s government undertake to help protect Fidel’s image by helping control his messages. One thing is clear however, the longer Fidel ignores Cuba’s domestic issues and the longer he is allowed to continue his senile rants, the greater the prospects for reforms in Cuba. Yoani Sanchez concludes her article with the following statement:

 “In recent weeks, he who was once called The One, the Horse or simply He, has been presented to us stripped of his captivating charisma. Although he is once again in the news, it has been confirmed: Fidel Castro, fortunately, will never return.”

 



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Comments 1-1 of 1

  • coxoPinkDon

    03/10/2011 08:21 AM

    Maybe our young people are not as vacuous as we would like to lead ourselves to believe - that all they're interested in is hairdos and looking at other beautiful people. Maybe they're interested in learning something.

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