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Posted May 09, 2007 by publisher in Cuban Americans

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By Max Castro | The Nation | May 4, 2007 | Original title Miami Vise

Fidel Castro is dying. Or perhaps he is already dead. That, at least, was the rumor in Little Havana over the past several months, where reports that the health of the comandante en jefe was improving were treated with skepticism.

Premature predictions of Castro’s death have been a mainstay of Miami’s rumor mill since long before last July, when the Cuban government announced that the elder Castro had transferred power temporarily to his younger brother Raul. Cuban-Americans who first heard “news” of Castro’s expiration in elementary school are now receiving their AARP cards. Countless Castro opponents who anticipated Fidel’s death have preceded him to the grave.

The demise of Fidel Castro has been part of the Cuban exile imagination for a long time, as evidenced in such works as León Ichaso’s 1996 film Bitter Sugar, which culminates in an abortive assassination attempt. That is especially the case for early 1960s and ‘70s exiles, among them Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and her parents, who consider themselves part of el exilio histórico (el exilio histérico to its critics). Identifying with this exilio histórico signifies a hard-line position as much as time of arrival. Upon hearing of Castro’s serious illness, some of these exiles lamented the possibility that he might die of natural causes rather than being executed. “I would have liked to kill that man to set an example for future generations,” said Orlando Bosch, the man many hold mainly responsible for the terrorist downing of a Cubana Airlines passenger plane in 1976, which killed seventy-three people, to a reporter last August, when asked whether he was “relieved or frustrated” that Castro was seriously ill. “The prospect that he will die in bed really upsets me.”

What is really happening in the exile capital now that Castro no longer wields absolute power in Havana and his death might no longer be just wishful thinking but a real possibility?

After the round of noisy, if lightly attended, celebrations in Miami after the July 31 announcement of Castro’s turnover of power, an eerie calm seems to have settled in. That is largely because an orderly succession in Cuba has already occurred. The popular uprising hoped for by many has not materialized.

“They are depressed. They are in shock,” said Alfredo Durán, a veteran of the Bay of Pigs invasion and the former chair of the Florida Democratic Party. Durán, who has long advocated dialogue and an end to the embargo, was kicked out of the Bay of Pigs veterans’ organization for his views. He says that hard-line exiles “never imagined that a transfer of power could take place while Castro is still alive. Now they don’t have the slightest idea what to do.”

Yet it would be wrong to mistake a temporary psychological setback for a definitive defeat or to underestimate the hard-liners’ power, which has never been greater. It is true that the community has never been monolithic and that more recent arrivals and second- and third-generation Cuban-Americans hold more centrist attitudes on such topics as the embargo and travel to the island; but the conclusion many have derived from these facts—that the Cuban-American community is moving toward political moderation—is at best only half right.

The truth is there are two contradictory trends in the US Cuban community: one involving people, the other grounded in power. The people curve indeed arcs toward the center, but it is long and slow. The power curve has been moving swiftly in the opposite direction. The moderates are growing in number, and their voice is louder today than when dissent in Miami was met with bombs. But meanwhile, the hard-liners have been accumulating power and driving US Cuba policy further right, with a major assist from a President who believes in using US power to change regimes and export democracy. While the Cuban-American community as a whole is slowly drifting toward moderation, its hard-line political elite has become entrenched in the most powerful American institutions.

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  1. Follow up post #1 added on May 09, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I have one copy that I am happy to give away to the best post in this thread. I will mail out on Monday 5/14.

    Here is the other Nation magazine post at the Havana Journal.

    The following articles appear in the issue with the cover date May 14, 2007:

    Editorial - Changing course on Cuba

    Articles - A New Stance Toward Havana by Julia Sweig

    The Changing of the Guard featuring Q&A with experts on Cuba

    Terror and Counterterrorists - about Luis Posada

    This “Miami Vise” article by former CANF director Max Castro

    Double full page center spread ad by FreeTheFive.org Cuban Five support organization

    Ferdinand VII by Gore Vidal

    Watching the Reporters about journalist expulsions.

    A Dangerous Little Behive about La Colmenita translated from Juventud Rebelde

    Misc Cuban related merchandise advertisements



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  2. Follow up post #2 added on May 10, 2007 by MiamiCuban

    If the exile community is drifting steadily towards moderation, I can’t see how elected officials like the Diaz-Balart brothers and Lehtinen can stay in power much longer.  In the last election all three captured barely 60% of the vote, the lowest percentage yet (and that was after a lot of gerrymandering that helped boost their votes).  They’re a dying breed and as the older hard-liners die out, a new generation of Cuban-Americans will step up to the plate with more moderate ideas.


  3. Follow up post #3 added on May 10, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    This is exactly why I said in a post several months ago that these folks secretly wish for Fidel to stay President of Cuba forever. Their constituents hatred for Fidel keeps them in power AND keeps the money flowing to Radio Marti and Cuba “study” programs.

    Who will need them when he is gone and they have no one to hate? They will probably never be allowed into Cuba so they will have no power.



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  4. Follow up post #4 added on May 10, 2007 by J. Perez

    It is true, their intransigence and ties with the Bush White House will undoubtely bring them down.

    U.S./Cuba relations, when they resume, will have to be conducted with the understanding that the Cuban people and its government WILL NOT be told how to conduct their affairs. I believe this will be possible when we elect a person of vision for president of the U.S.A.

    On the Cuba side, the people deserve more basic freedoms and I believe that will also happen, however, not under Fidel or Raul, their resentment for the U.S. is too great to seem willing to give an inch.


  5. Follow up post #5 added on May 14, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Both good posts. I guess I have to give the edge to MiamiCuban. So, if you want the magazine, send me your mailing info using the email link in the footer of this page. If you don’t want it, let me know and I will offer to J Perez.



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