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Posted December 28, 2005 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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Amsterdamnews.com | by KAREN JUANITA CARRILLO

The latest rumor from Cuba is that the nation’s leader, Fidel Castro, may have Parkinson’s disease. It’s only one of many tales about Castro’s health, his wealth, and his governing abilities.
It’s a CIA assessment that Castro personally refuted by delivering one of his customary five hour long speeches to a group of Havana University students.

Castro has long been the subject of near-death rumors, despite the general health he enjoys at 79 years old. The reports usually originate in Florida’s exiled Cuban-American community, where many have never forgiven the Cuban leader for taking power on the island during the 1959 revolution.

Cuba’s president traditionally dismisses the various rumors of stroke, brain hemorrhage, hypertension and other illnesses as the vengeful wishes of enemies who would love to see him dead. Still, the inevitable reality of Fidel Castro’s true passing is bound to lead to drastic changes on the island nation. And the most striking changes will affect the lives of Afro Cubans.

“Black Cubans continue to lag behind white Cubans,” notes the journalist and activist, Willie Mack Thompson. “Pres. Castro has spoken to this … but this is especially frightening in an anticipated leadership transition.

“My concern is that if Black Cubans enter into this transition with less resources and income – less status – they will not be able to compete and will thus be relegated to their pre-Revolutionary status. It will be a class struggle based on status.”

Castro’s 1959 Revolution took Cuba out from under the control of monied interests strongly allied to the U.S. government. Between the large agro-businesses and Mafia-controlled casinos, hotels and prostitution rings throughout the island, Black and white Cubans had bitterly complained of being treated as if they lived on a large offshore U.S. plantation. Castro’s revolution nationalized island businesses, which led to the end of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States and a now 43-year-old U.S. economic embargo against the island.

Cuba’s survival has been buttressed by the education, employment and social inclusion of its large Black population. But the fact that Blacks are not central to the political structure in Cuba may prohibit Afro-Cubans from playing a central role in controlling the island post-Castro.

“The Black population there realizes that they have made gains since the Revolution,” notes local Harlem activist Elombe Brath. “They understand that it’s to their advantage to maintain the Revolution.” Race-based discrimination was so fine-tuned in Cuba prior to Castro that even the nation’s former president, General Fulgencio Batista, was denied admission to exclusive clubs because he was considered a mulatto, pointed out Brath, who hosts the show “Afrikaleidoscope” on WBAI-FM.

“There has always been a relative silence among Cubans about race and racial inequality,” said Dr. George Priestley, who directs the Latin American Area Studies department at CUNY’s Queens College. “And given the fact that so much has been done to erase the racial problems the island had, and that so much was done to address the issues of structural inequality, racial identification was for a while not encouraged. And a Black identification was particularly not encouraged.”

The popularity of reggaeton, hip-hop and floetry among Afro Cuban youth may spark a higher degree of ethnic awareness, Priestley added. And that ethnic awareness or Black pride should spur stronger political responsibility.

But in the meantime, the political awareness of Afro Cubans remains exclusively tied to the Revolution. “And Fidel is the one sustaining the Revolution: the reason Cuba is so strong is because of Fidel,” said a prominent U.S.-based Afro Latino journalist who preferred not to be named. “After Fidel, the Cubans in Miami will simply pounce on the island,” this journalist contends. “They have connections in Cuba; they have their people in place in Cuba already. When they take over they’re going to be opening up the political arena to the U.S. again.

“The problem is going to be with Black Cubans who are not used to taking orders and won’t stand for it. The white Cubans in Miami are still racists. They’re making preparations for their return, but their plans don’t include concerns about Black people.”

The majority of Miami-based Cubans are right wing and anti-Castro, called “gusanos” (worms) or “vendepatria” (traitors) by Castro supporters. There are left-wing Castro-supporting Cubans also living abroad, but they are not as frequently heard from in the media, because they are generally labeled communists. Cuba has also been branded communist since the Castro-led revolution, but supporters see Castro’s efforts as continuing the island’s push for independence.

Cuba has ostensibly been “independent” since Dec. 10, 1898, following decades of fighting between the nation’s independence army, the Cuba Libre, and Spain. By 1898, the war was between Spain and the United States, but Cubans had declared their independence as early as Oct. 10, 1868. At that time, they’d also called for the island to end its enslavement of Black people, but emancipation from slavery was not made law until Oct. 7, 1886. Afro Cubans took the lead in the fight to end Spain’s dominance on the island, and for three decades they formed the majority of soldiers in Cuba Libre’s ranks. After its independence from Spain, Cubans felt they had to continue their fight to gain independence from the United States. Castro has always termed his Revolution a further battle in the struggle for Cuba’s independence.
“Fidel is a mortal being and as a mortal being he will die one day,” notes the Afro Cuban journalist, author, and broadcaster Pedro Perez-Sarduy. “But Cubans know that Cuba has been transformed into a revolutionary nation over these past decades. And Cuba will remain a revolutionary nation for many years to come with or without Fidel!

“I think these kinds of worries, so often repeated in recent years mostly by people of goodwill, who don’t live in Cuba is in many ways similar to the wishes of those who don’t want the best for Cuba after Fidel dies,” Perez-Sarduy adds. “Obviously, it would be shameful for most of Cuba if the Revolution does not survive the death of its principal creator. But he is not the only defender of the revolutionary ideals that began in 1868 and re-emerged on July 26, 1953 during the attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba. Cuba will survive with or without Fidel!”

  1. Follow up post #1 added on January 03, 2006 by Chuck Bailey

    If the major investors in the new round of hotel construction are from Spain? Hasn’t Cuba come full circle? Columbus sailed for the Queen of Spain and they did a good job of raping Cuba.
    With Morales growing and supplying “Coke” in Bolivia, Chavez selling U.S. oil and giving oil to Fidel the economy has no place to go but up. Cuba fuels up jets from Canada and Europe carrying men bound for a week of sex and sun. Sounds like a perfect set-up a government run or sanctioned whore house. Now if they can impose tax , they have it made. grin)

  2. Follow up post #2 added on January 07, 2006 by ROLO

    THe reduced participation of black cubans “dentro de la
    Nomenclatura de Poder en Cuba” has been a longstanding problem
    which has affected the image of what Cuba has said it supposed
    to be,just Lazo,has been into the inner circle of power in Cuba.However the government has struggled to reduce racism in
    the cuban society and by the way nowadays the cubans are,generally speaking,no racist people.But what shocked me too
    much is the result of the census,the last one,in Cuba which
    states that the blacks and coloured in Cuba are the 36% of the
    total populations,that is atrocious,it is a slander statement,
    My people is easily more than 50% compounded of Black and mulattos,I am one of these and know what I am saying.Why the
    officials in Cuba lie about that?

  3. Follow up post #3 added on January 07, 2006 by Chuck Bailey

    ROLO - If tourism is the growing sector of Cuban expansion. That is as stated by the Granma news. They say that tourism is more then 50% of the internal cash flow. There is now supposedly employeement of 80,000 doing the work. Can one expect that bus boys,bartenders,waitresses, waiters, cashiers and cleaning ladies are carrying the major financial impacts on your island? Can you look around and see the racial make-up of those in charge relative to those doing the work?
    The question then becomes: Who is more important to the progress of tourism, The government bureaucrat assigning jobs or the pimp providing sex tourists with pleasure?  Chuck

  4. Follow up post #4 added on January 08, 2006 by ROLO

    Chuck:Pins are,sadly,here and there.Yes,as you said the cuban
    tourism is growing up, and it is the major source of hard currencies for the cuban government,as a cuban I become very
    touched when I learn about certain nasty tourism in my Island.
    I lived for years,in Varadero,which is by far the best tourist
    ressort in Cuba,because beyond any doubt Varadero is one of
    the most beatiful beach in the World,in sand,colour of the water and the brilliant sky just cancun is similar and Copacabana has the same,but not in the same degree.On the other
    hand the cuban,more than its 50% are very transparent and friends of behaving good according our Christian values,but
    we have also bastards,prostitutes,pins,homos,cowards,etc,like
    you can see all around the world,but in the cuban tourism there
    are 2 bizarre points,one is the tourist is considered as superior one and the other is hte double standards of the official of cuban tourist industry,who are pins and the same
    time,I remembered 10 year ago,tourist from Chile,very poor
    tourist,who are nothing in Chile but in Cuba I SAW how they
    were delighted with the dance of two young black cuban ladies,
    who dances and eat a banana as a part of the dance,meanwhile
    those zapingos chilenos,laughing at and in the end the gave two
    or three dollars,My goodness me,if the fight against corruption
    would have true in Cuba the first line of the battle is in the
    tourism sector,but not against the simple worker,but the “pinchos,pinchitos,socitos,amiguitos,etc,etc,etc.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on January 08, 2006 by Chuck Bailey

    Tourism is a double edged sword. How to increase volume and cash flow and how to expand the marketplace, at he same time.
    What is the reason people come to an area and are 30% of them planning to return?
    Any area is in direct competition with world-wide tourists and must recognize this or their base will be destroyed.
    Clean water and beaches for Cuba is the fisrt place they must be able to assure their visitors. One small word of problems will doom it’ appeal.
    The excitement of Jin’ may appeal to some but mothers of families will not be drawn to that environment. Females make most of vacation decisions. They control the family money.
    I don’t think most men are willing to spend $1,000 dollars for a few rolls in the hay and consider it a good investment. grin)  Chuck

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