Whither Fidel?

HAVING marked their first Revolution Day without Castro since 1959, Cubans are finally beginning to digest that their ageing and ailing leader will not be with them much longer.

For now Raul Castro sticks firmly to his brother’s work-sheet, just as he stood at Fidel’s side during the rebel attack on Moncada barracks back in 1953, which ‘sparked the revolution’ that overthrew Fulgencio Batista’s government and brought Castro to power. But soon Cuba will have to move on, and it is far from certain which direction the people want it to take.

Ironically, such was Castro’s influence that the road ahead is forever tied to the one behind, as much of what Cuba is today owes to his personal vision. To his credit he made sure Cuban socialism did not crumble, nobody went hungry under his watch and life’s basic necessities were provided to all. Furthermore, he gave Cuba a critical geo-strategic outlook, built ideological alliances with crucial states, even in times when economic interests dictated political alliances.

In doing that he braved assassination attempts, coup threats, American aggression but still managed the distinction of becoming the world’s longest serving leaders. Where he failed Cubans was when he let his personal ideology stand in the way of economic progress, industrialisation and job creation – the essential pillars of the modern economy. And like one-man-rule is bound to feature, his time was not without undue strictness on political dissidents and those who did not completely agree with the one man on the top.

But it is difficult to ascertain how much of the trend will change in the years ahead. No doubt a closed outlook is not possible to hold in the globalisation era, so greater Cuban social, political and most importantly trade interaction with the outer world is definitely on the cards. And the same geopolitical compulsions will make Washington realise that it is simply not possible to sanction disagreeing states ‘to the eyeballs’ as Castro’s influence pushes much of South America to adopt an increasingly confrontationist outlook.

While Cuba will venture into Castro-less territory, Fidel’s legacy will be one of a man whom more of his people revered than reviled, and in whose time the country grew on its own limbs as opposed to foreign interest driven diktat. So many friends, contemporaries and hostile enemies came and went while Fidel went on, till exactly a year ago when he disappeared from public life and hasn’t returned yet.

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