Straight: Not exactly the end of an era

By By Chase Straight and By Chase Straight

By Chase Straight

Fidel Castro is stepping down from his position as the president of Cuba. Can you believe it? Too bad nothing is going to change.

The man who turned back the U.S. at the Bay of Pigs invasion, maintained a stable economy despite U.S. sanctions and survived numerous assassination attempts by the CIA (638 by some counts) is finally saying, “In your face, America!” by peacefully resigning.

World leaders leapt at the chance to laud his resignation as a sign of changes to come.

“It should be the beginning of a democratic transition in Cuba,” President George W. Bush said.

“This is now an opportunity to make progress towards a peaceful transition to a pluralist democracy,” said Gordon Brown, prime minister of the United Kingdom.

These comments are laughable at best.

It seems that no one decided to tell these gentlemen that Raúl Castro, Fidel Castro’s brother, is slated to take his position. If they have been informed, then they are na’vely assuming that Raúl Castro is going to do anything significantly different from what Fidel Castro did.

Fidel Castro has essentially been out of power since July 2006 when Raúl Castro took over as “temporary” president and commander in chief after intestinal problems required Fidel Castro to have surgery. Raúl Castro has been quietly running the America-hating, communist nation ever since. It now looks as if he is going to be running it for quite a bit longer than anyone expected.

Raúl Castro is kind of a scary figure. He is allegedly an alcoholic, rarely appears in public and is widely regarded as Fidel Castro’s enforcer. He is like the Dick Cheney to Fidel Castro’s Bush, if you will. Fidel Castro is the big talker, and Raúl Castro is the sinister, little devil operating in the background.

Try this on for size — Raúl Castro (the youngest of the Castro brothers) was a member of the Cuban Communist Party long before Fidel Castro was. It was Raúl Castro who befriended legendary revolutionary Che Guevara and brought him into Fidel Castro’s circle, creating the guerilla force that ousted the corrupt Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959. It was Raúl Castro who orchestrated the execution of hundreds of police officers and diplomats loyal to Batista. It was Raúl Castro who negotiated the construction of Soviet missile sites in Cuba, leading to the infamous Cuban Missile Crisis during the Cold War.

Since then, Raúl Castro has been Fidel Castro’s right-hand man, ruthlessly enforcing his policies as the minister of the revolutionary armed forces and as the highest-ranking general in the nation. Now, he will be stepping up to lead one of the last communist nations in the modern era.

This isn’t a bad thing. Cuba has one of the highest rates of education and literacy in the Americas. Cuba also boasts a highly successful national health system that covers medical expenses for all of its citizens. The country is a shining example of how communism, when executed properly, can be an effective form of government.

Raúl Castro is rumored to be in favor of adopting policies similar to China’s economic and political model, although he has never publicly confirmed this. Still, it’s not going to be enough to satisfy American hardliners. American foreign policy has refused to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba until a full transition to democracy is made.

In any case, Fidel Castro’s influence is not going to go away anytime soon.

“This is not my farewell,” he wrote in his resignation letter. “I shall continue to write under the heading of ‘Reflections by Comrade Fidel.’ Perhaps, my voice will be heard.”

Additionally, most people in the Cuban government are fiercely loyal to Fidel Castro because they owe their political careers to him.

What it comes down to is that nothing is really going to change. Cuba is going to remain a communist nation, and Bush’s government is still going to be anti-Cuban. Here’s to hoping that when Barack Obama is eventually elected president, he might take steps to pull the stick out of America’s ass.

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