By George Saunders / September 2006 issue of Socialist Action
Because of Fidel Castro’s enormous authority and the central political office that he holds, questions of leadership of the Cuban Revolution, and of its stability and survivability, have been posed by his temporary transfer of authority to his brother, Raul, and to others.
In a statement read over Cuba’s mass media on July 31, Fidel explained that a breakdown had occurred in his intestinal system. This was because of his great exertions of the preceding days and weeks, especially at the Mercosur summit and the Summit of the Peoples in Cordoba, Argentina, and the two July 26 celebrations, in Bayamo and Holguin, Cuba—with Fidel giving lengthy speeches at all those events—and maintaining at the age of almost 80 an intense, virtually round-the-clock schedule. Surgery was required to stop internal bleeding and many weeks of recovery would follow after that.
Temporarily, he said, he would be unable to carry out his duties in many important areas, including special health, education, and energy programs he was personally in charge of. Fidel asked that celebrations planned for his 80th birthday, on Aug. 13, 2006, be rescheduled to the first days of December, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the landing of the Granma.
He also asked that the Cuban people give full support to the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (of former colonial and semi-colonial countries), scheduled for Havana in mid-September, the implication being that he himself would not be able to play a central role at that important conference, as he normally would have.
The full text of the official translation of Fidel’s July 31 statement may be read on the website of Granma, the paper of the Cuban Communist Party, http://www.granma.cu/ingles/2006/agosto/mar1/32proclama.html.
For an Aug. 18 interview with Raul Castro, who is temporarily providing leadership of the political and military forces of revolutionary Cuba, go to http://www.granma.cubaweb.cu/secciones/raul_entrevista02.html.
Expressions of concern for Fidel’s health and tributes of appreciation for his extraordinary record as a revolutionary leader came from around the world. More importantly, a statement demanding respect for Cuba’s sovereignty at a time of transition was signed by nearly 20,000 prominent individuals from the worlds of arts, letters, culture, and politics.
For example, an Aug. 26 Prensa Latina news agency dispatch reported that Rigoberta Menchu, a Nobel Prize winner and leader of the Mayan peoples of Guatemala, described as abusive, abominable, and reprehensible the fact that the U.S. government tried to take advantage of the current illness suffered by Cuban President Fidel Castro to push forward its aggressive anti-Cuban plans:
“That is the very first reason why I signed the intellectuals’ declaration in defense of Cuba’s sovereignty,” said the outstanding social fighter to Prensa Latina. In the second place, she asserted, it is abominable that any government arrogate to itself the right to ride roughshod over people’s opinions, interests, and self-determination.
Menchu referred to her love for the Cuban people and their spirit of resistance as the third motive encouraging her to join the signatory intellectuals. “Cuba is an example of dignity—and Latin American dignity is also brought to mind when it comes to crazy presidents like Bush trying to impose their policies,” she stressed.
The demand for respect for Cuba’s sovereignty was prompted by Washington’s immediate response to the news of Fidel’s illness—to call for a transition to “free-market democracy” in Cuba. One is reminded of a remark Russian President Putin recently made to Bush, who had called for more “democracy” in Russia. Putin said that if Bush meant the kind of “democracy” the U.S. was giving Iraq, the Russians didn’t want it.
Of course, the U.S. government officials (who are essentially mouthpieces for the big corporations and banks, the military-industrial complex, and the capitalist family fortunes that own them) in their crocodilian way shed tears that the Cuban people don’t have what these mouthpieces call “democracy.” They weep that the Cuban people are “suffering” under the alleged “dictatorship” of Fidel Castro.
To show their concern for the Cuban people, these crocodiles have published a “transition plan” for Cuba (400-plus pages of it), which details, among other things, how every bit of real estate and other economically valuable categories would be cared for by the monopoly-dominated “free market” if it ever got its hooks back on the Cuban property it used to own before the Fidelista revolutionists nationalized them “down to the nails in their shoes” in 1960.
Dr, Ricardo Alarcón, president of Cuba’s National Assembly, described the U.S. “transition plan” in an Oct. 12, 2004, talk that he gave at Cienfuegos University in Matanzas, Cuba (see http://www.walterlippman.com/alarcon001.html for the full text).
Quoting from the U.S. document, Alarcón said that it “announces that its aim is ‘to bring the Cuban regime to a swift end’ and specifies that ‘the cornerstone of our policy to hasten an end to the Castro regime is to strengthen policies of proactive support to the groups we back inside Cuba,’ and that—for that purpose—the current budget of $7 million will be raised to $59 million.”
“With those measures,” Alarcón continued, “and the intensification of the economic blockade and their aggressive actions, they’re confident that they will defeat the Revolution and install here what they call a transition government that would be directed by a U.S. functionary who would begin to work starting now, and whose job description is Transition Coordinator.
“The nature of that transition and its content are described in minute detail in the plan. The first step, which must be concluded in less than one year, will be the return of properties—homes, land, etc.—to their former owners, which they describe as ‘the Gordian knot’ of the transition….
“The nation’s economy, all its branches and all social services—among them public health and education—will be privatized. That enormous task also will be handled by Washington. The plan describes it thus: ‘The government of the United States will establish a Standing Committee of the United States for Economic Reconstruction.’”
On hearing of Fidel’s temporary indisposition, the Bush administration reaffirmed its elaborate “plan” for turning the socialized economy in Cuba, which now serves the needs of the majority of the Cuban population, back into a capitalist economy, which would serve only the profit-gouging intentions of the rich.
In addition, the Bush administration announced that there was a “secret annex, or appendix” to its published plan. Why announce something that’s secret? What was the point of this?
A Venezuelan commentator, Arthur Shaw (www.vheadline.com), seems to have a good explanation for what might be in the “secret annex.” He points out that word about the “secret annex” was accompanied by news that a special official has been assigned to be in charge of “intelligence” relating to both Cuba and Venezuela.
The Venezuelan observer speculated that the “secret annex” might consist of the names and addresses of all those who should be tracked down and eliminated by counterrevolutionary forces when, or if, they can reestablish a presence in Cuba and Venezuela.
That speculation is not so far-fetched. During the Vietnam War the CIA and U.S. Special Forces carried out a program called Operation Phoenix, in which tens of thousands of Vietnamese were tracked down and killed. (A quota of 1800 a month was assigned. And some reports say the massacre at My Lai—of more than 500 Vietnamese villagers, men, women, and children—was part of Operation Phoenix.)
Likewise, Washington carried out its Operation Condor throughout Latin America in the 1960s and ’70s, working with local military regimes to murder, kidnap, jail, “disappear,” etc., thousands and thousands of leftist opponents of “free-market democracy.” Washington also had its Cointelpro right here in the USA. The assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were probably connected with that program for “democracy.”
This very month, in Oaxaca, Mexico, the same technique is being applied. A website called “Peace in Oaxaca” is posting the names of trade unionists and others active in the social movements that since May of this year have paralyzed the state of Oaxaca, demanding the resignation of the state’s corrupt and murderous governor.
The authorities’ reply is to post these names and addresses, so that plainclothes police and hired thugs can find them and kill them, and they have already claimed many victims.
Obviously, monopoly capitalism—whether in Cuba, Mexico, Iraq, Vietnam, or the United States itself—no longer offers either economic “freedom” or “democracy.” The only prospect offered by Wall Street, Washington, and their Latin hirelings is to subjugate and kill in order to suck the wealth from what Eduardo Galeano rightly called “the open veins of Latin America.”
This is a time of challenge for the future of the Cuban Revolution, and for revolutionary movements worldwide who have been inspired by the decades of steadfastness, self-sacrificing devotion, and inspired leadership of Fidel Castro and his team.
It is a time when militant workers and supporters of genuine democracy must redouble our efforts to defend the Cuban Revolution, support the spreading movements for radical social change throughout Latin America and in many other parts of the world, and hasten the defeat of U.S. imperialism, the “last empire,” whose dream of dominating a unipolar world must go the same route as Hitler’s Thousand-Year Reich.
Fidel’s birthday message
Dear compatriots and friends in Cuba and the rest of the world:
Today, the 13th, I have arrived at the age of 80. To say that objective stability has improved considerably is not to invent a lie. To affirm that the period of recovery will last a short time and that there is no longer any risk would be absolutely incorrect.
I suggest to all of you to be optimistic, and at the same time to be always ready to confront any adverse news.
To the people of Cuba, [my] infinite gratitude for your loving support. The country goes on and will continue to go on perfectly well.
To my comrades in the struggle, eternal glory for resisting and defeating the empire, demonstrating that a better world is possible.
Today, Aug. 13, I feel very happy. To all who wished me good health, I promise that I shall fight for it.