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Posted December 01, 2007 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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I have been following the blogs and news articles and been thinking about the past several months of Fidel’s Reflections and lack of interest in Cuban politics (and the Cuban people) and am now comfortable to make the prediction that FIDEL CASTRO WILL NOT BE ELECTED PRESIDENT OF CUBA on January 20 2008.

This article below as seen at Cubapolidata is a great summary of the recent comments by officials close to Fidel and certainly gives the impression that Fidel can’t or won’t be a candidate for President of Cuba and there is this article with more information about the importance of December 2.

I said a long time ago that the best thing for Raul would be a page 3 death announcement of Fidel in Granma and not electing Fidel as President would allow Raul to ease into the job. Sure, while Fidel is alive he will still have icon power and Raul’s hands may still be tied but the Cuban people probably understand that, not that they accept it though.

I just have a gut feeling that Fidel will not be a candidate for President. I can’t predict every detail of how he this will be or who will say what and when but the end result in my opinion is that Fidel will not be President of Cuba in less than two months from now and we might find out as early as tomorrow.

So, I think you heard it here first. The last days of Fidel’s Presidency are near.

November’s Latell Report as follows:

  Fidel Castro’s nearly forty-nine year tenure as Cuba’s de facto and constitutional head of state and government may finally be drawing to a close. National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon told reporters in Quito in October that Castro may not “be available” to serve another five- year term as president of the Council of State.

  Occupying that office since it was created in 1976 under Cuba’s new socialist constitution, Castro has served as head of state while simultaneously presiding as head of government in the role of president of the council of ministers. But to be re-elected for another five-year term he would first have to be chosen as a provincial delegate in regime-controlled elections. Last week Raul Castro issued a cursory announcement that delegates to the provincial assemblies and deputies to the national assembly will be chosen on January 20, 2008. Alarcon seems to be suggesting that Castro will not be a candidate that day, and therefore will be ineligible to continue next year as Cuba’s president.

  The assembly president’s remarks stand in sharp contrast to what he has said in the past. Last March, for example, he told a wire service reporter that Castro will be “in perfect shape to run for re-election. I would nominate him. I am sure he will be in perfect shape to continue handling his responsibilities.” This suggests that between March and October Castro’s health, and perhaps his cognitive abilities, have further deteriorated. That would be consistent with rumors that he underwent another life-threatening surgery during the period. Castro has not appeared in public in sixteen months and his most recent taped television interview with a Cuban reporter several months ago revealed him in an obviously handicapped state.

READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE

  1. Follow up post #1 added on December 01, 2007 by Tomas Estrada-Palma

    I do not think he will be a candidate either. The regime is trying to figure out how to stay in power once he’s gone but that is not likely to happen. They are a criminal gang like Al Capone and his mobsters and need to be run off the island. When Cubans can own their time, body and personal property they will be able to aptly care for themselves. I want to show them how to fairly share the island’s resources and land. However, murderers, thugs and those who sell children for sex must be apprehended and justly prosecuted. The fortunes that they have stolen from the Cuban people must be found and restored to the rightful owners - the Cuban people.

    Life takes from the takers and gives to the givers. The end of the regime is near. A new dawn is breaking for Cubans. I want to see to it that they are the wealthiest nation on the planet by freeing the slave on the island.

    Thanks for asking me for this opinion.


  2. Follow up post #2 added on December 01, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I think they use words like “espero” and “ojala”, right?

    Thanks for your comments. I have posted many times here that I do not think Raul can survive the internal and external pressures after they announce Fidel’s death. By having Fidel further eased out of the picture is the best case scenario for Raul and I think even Fidel wants/needs Raul to succeed now.



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  3. Follow up post #3 added on December 01, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    This just out from AFP

    CUBA is expected to make moves today that will either pave the way for ailing leader Fidel Castro’s return to power or make way for him to leave the presidency for good.

    The veteran revolutionary leader must become a National Assembly candidate if he wants to remain president, and recently elected municipal representatives will meet to nominate candidates to both the provincial and national assemblies.

    Then, 614 deputies chosen in January 20 elections will pick the 31 members of the Council of State, whose president is the head of state of the Americas’ only one-party Communist-ruled state.

    Castro has traditionally been proposed as a parliamentary candidate by the city of Santiago de Cuba, which is considered the cradle of the Cuban revolution.

    Cuba watchers say it is possible he might be elected deputy, but then not run for re-election to the Council of State.

    Still, if he is not nominated that could clear the way for Raul Castro to take over Cuba’s presidency indefinitely.

    Or Cuba could move to a sort of generational hand-off of power by picking another regime leader for the top job.



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  4. Follow up post #4 added on December 01, 2007 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    I predict that neither Castro will be the next president!


  5. Follow up post #5 added on December 01, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Now that’s a long shot. Any thoughts as to why?



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  6. Follow up post #6 added on December 01, 2007 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    1. Raul does not seem to be a power hungry man.
    2. His effective years as a leader are very limited to his age.
    3. Raul will have a nice position of immunity as a retired General and be able to enjoy the remaining years of his life in a very comfortable situation.
    4. The Cuban government eliminates America’s biggest gripe. The Castro Brothers. At the same time the younger revolutionaries can carry on the revolution.
    5. Everything has been very ambiguous since Fidel got sick. Raul has been putting in time yet not really doing anything. They bought time for the next generation to take over.
    6. Fidel’s dream would be to have the Revolution continue. Raul or any other Castro family member can’t give Fidel this.


  7. Follow up post #7 added on December 01, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Okay. Good points but I am not sure that either Castro is comfortable letting go. The same old shit is safer than letting “the younger revolutionaries” carry on the revolution.

    I think any government without the Castro brothers is better than the one with them but we should be careful what we wish for. Chavez and the Chinese are serious Players in Cuba’s present and future and either one of them could do something in Cuba just to stick it to the US.



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  8. Follow up post #8 added on December 01, 2007 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    You or I do not know the deals that have been going on over the last year.


  9. Follow up post #9 added on December 01, 2007 by topapito

    I agree Rob. Certainly Cuba has changed in the past year. I believe that whatever is shown to the world in the next few months has been planned for years. They are just following the script.

    Having said that, I personally am ok with Raul, for now. Contrary to popular belief, a sudden change will hurt us more than a gradual change. My belief is that only Raul can carry that change gradually enough to avoid more strife, death, and chaos.

    I am not being anything other than pragmatic. I have family in Cuba. I want what’s best for them, yes, even at the cost of having Raul lead the country for a few years. I realize this does not make me popular in the eyes of many fellow exiles, but it is closer to the reality of our country.

    But I most definitely agree that Fidel is out. At least there is very little indication that he will have a rle in Cuba’s future.


  10. Follow up post #10 added on December 01, 2007 by topapito

    Sorry for a second post, just had to add the following.

    In my opinion, Chavez will soon begin to have a tougher time in Venezuela. He will be too busy trying to stay in power to have any effect on Cuba’s future. If Fidel dies soon, He may lose all his power altogether. He would have lost the political coach that got him there to start with. If anything, it is going to be a very interesting decade.


  11. Follow up post #11 added on December 01, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Topapito,

    I don’t have family in Cuba but I think that chaos for a short period of time might be just what Cuba needs to shake the system up a bit.

    “Give me freedom or give me death” kind of movement when appropriate might just be the trick to set all Cubans free forever.

    The days, weeks and up to one month after the announcement of Fidel’s death will be very telling for Raul’s ability and vision for Cuba.



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  12. Follow up post #12 added on December 01, 2007 by topapito

    I can almost convince myself to wish for chaos. Believe me, I can see the good in a little chaos. Not to mention the need for it.

    But I travel to Cuba regularly, and the people I meet really do not want chaos, their attitude is that they have had 50 years of chaos, they want to see the changes in an orderly way. This includes my family members.

    I think the next few years should be handled in a way that will allow for such changes to take effect. It is common knowledge that the government has erred for 50 years, they certainly don’t need to hear it. They want to get on with their lives and they want to live. And I can certainly relate to that. I say give them their changes with a small spoon, lest we cause them to choke.

    You have my email address, write to me.


  13. Follow up post #13 added on December 01, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    By chaos, I don’t necessarily mean violence. If there were peaceful protests, work stoppages etc, the island could grind to a halt, no tourists, no transportation, no nothing. Even if people have to go hungry for a few days and sit in the dark, they just might cause some chaos…not to mention what the Cuban exiles and CIA probably have planned (not that I endorse any outside forces).

    What’s Raul going to do, force people to show up to their jobs? They can barely get to work when they want to work.



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  14. Follow up post #14 added on December 01, 2007 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    If Cuba lived in a vacuum, some chaos may do good.  But there are players sitting on the sidelines - as mentioned Chavez and the Chinese.  Not to mention the US and the Miami Cubans. From (limited) political discussions I’ve had with Cubans during my visits, I felt they’d rather have a slow orderly change, knowing the needed changes will take much longer, rather than the unpredictability of chaos.


  15. Follow up post #15 added on December 01, 2007 by Topapito

    Publisher,
    People have been going hungry for 50 years. The kind of chaos you speak of would lead to violence. There are hidden, well suppressed criminal elements who would seriously welcome a stoppage such as you speak of to exact revenge, gain, whatever they could. THIS is precisely what the Cubans fear.

    The government is so involved in the core of everyday life, that it would be nearly impossible to organize a walkout, or stoppage, without the government squashing it and its organizers. Again, although the sudden change appeals to our sense of justice, a gradual change is what the Cubans really want.

    Only exiles without family on the island want a sudden change, trials, more killings, revenge. Leaving Cuba reduces our right to speak as to what we want to happen, I lean more towards what the people who have not been able to leave want, and what is best for them.


  16. Follow up post #16 added on December 01, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    You make a good point but when’s the last time the Cuban people got what they wanted and when’s the last time the Cuban government really gave a crap about the Cuban people?

    I don’t think Raul is considering changes for the good of the Cuban people, he is considering changes for the good of his political life.

    It will be very interesting to see if someone like Raul can orchestrate the change.

    Right now he is captain of a rickety old ship full of 11million passengers. Sure, they probably would rather stay with the captain and ship they know but I’m guessing there are thousands and thousands of passengers who would love to sink the ship and probably can with the right gun powder (simply meaning an event of some magnitude and again, I’m not advocating violence, just trying to make a point that I doubt that the majority of Cubans will get their wish of a slow change.)

    Maybe a Carlos Lage type would be like a Gorbachev and he’ll sink the ship.



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  17. Follow up post #17 added on December 02, 2007 by HMJ

    It would make sense for FC not to submit his name to remain in power.  Yet, assuming that he is alive and in a state of health to do so, why should he bother with it at this stage of life?

    The Cuban Communist Party is consumed with one thing right now and one thing alone, survival.  If this means that the FC and RC must take unexpected, indeed possibly “revolutionary” steps to, in their minds, save the “Revolution of 1959,” then we think they will do so.  Yet, in our view, while those steps may be uncharacteristic of the CCP, FC, or RC, it does not really matter does it?  It is too little, too late.

    We agree with Dr. Latell mostly, but on Cuba transition models we deviate.  The China model - which is what all of this discussion is really about underneath it all - will fail in Cuba.  Why?  Havana just needs to look north.  Unless the glorious “Revolution” has found away to move mountains and put the island in another Hemisphere, there is no way a China model will work when the U.S. economy begins to re-invest in Cuba and the Cuban people interact with Americans, businesses, etc.

    For now, the news is no news.  The Cuban Communist Party has a choice to make for we, the U.S., are not going to act until it does (at least not with a Republican in the White House). 

    The U.S. is not going to give the CCP, FC, or RC what it really craves, attention and recognition.  We are not going to be complicit, like the Europeans and other powers have been, in assisting the Cuban Communist Party subjugate its people and hurt other countries in the Americas.

    We must keep our bearings on the big prize, that in the end, freedom wins and Communism’s last remaining ash tray will be tossed into that ash bin of history.  The Cuban Revolution will end as it began, an abysmal failure.  And those on this side that have sought to coddle, enagage, and change U.S. policy will learn to regret teh error of their ways.


  18. Follow up post #18 added on December 02, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    HMJ,

    Great insight. I appreciate your post. The next couple months could be very interesting.

    I don’t know enough about the China model or the Vietnamese model to have an opinion whether it will work or not but you are right, the US proximity and influence cannot be ignored.

    Also, do the Cuban people want to be more like the Chinese/Vietnamese or more like Americans? The Cuban people love American culture and products.

    I’ll leave off my comment about the Embargo because I want to stay focused on Fidel and the upcoming elections here.



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  19. Follow up post #19 added on December 02, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    With little fanfare, Fidel Castro has been nominated to the National Assembly. I’m curious to see if there will be any statements released by Granma, Alarcon, Raul or maybe even Fidel himself. I doubt it though.

    Anyway, there should be some release. Maybe they are waiting to see what happens in Venezuela.

    My guess is that if Chavez is elected Dictator for life (pretty much the outcome of a yes vote) then maybe Fidel will feel more comfortable retiring.

    If there is a No vote, then Castro will have to make a big stink about how the US is responsible and how the Revolution must fight on.



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  20. Follow up post #20 added on December 02, 2007 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    notice how on same referendum Chavez lowered workday from 8 to 6 hrs.  Am sure a lot of people in Canada and USA would vote someone for life if they promised that,


  21. Follow up post #21 added on December 09, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Sorry about that everyone. That comment spammer has been banned and posts deleted.

    All quiet from Fidel but watch for the Human Right march in Havana tomorrow at 11am Eastern time. Hopefully there won’t be any government intervention.



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  22. Follow up post #22 added on December 09, 2007 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    not sure the governement is ready for such a challenge yet, but can definitely be a litmus test to see if things are changing under Raul.


  23. Follow up post #23 added on December 09, 2007 by topapito

    There is some news about fidel on my blog. I translated the page from the newspaper in Spain called “El Pais”. Care to give your opinion?


  24. Follow up post #24 added on December 09, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Yes but I need a link. Go ahead and post here and we’ll all take a look. If you want just my personal comments, send me an email using the link below.

    Thanks.



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  25. Follow up post #25 added on December 10, 2007 by topapito

    http://averigua.blogspot.com

    You can find the translated article here.


  26. Follow up post #26 added on December 10, 2007 by topapito

    The picture of castro is actually castro, it is a screenshot of the last frame in a short movie clip you can watch here:

    http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=11792533

    It was done in photoshop, but it is a pretty good job. If you watch closely, the blade follows the contour of his face exactly. The beard does change the way he looks, this is how he would look without the beard.


  27. Follow up post #27 added on December 18, 2007 by nacho with 111 total posts

    The prediction might be a reality. On his letter yesterday, as posted somewhere else in this site, Castro hinted he might retire… let’s wait and see. No much will change though because he will be in the shadows but… at least he is no longer in the forefront


  28. Follow up post #28 added on December 18, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    In the shadow for sure. In the ground maybe.

    Fidel is now an icon. This transition has been well orchestrated but the driver is leaving the scene and a new driver will be taking over the route.

    Question is, will the new driver want to get a nice bus and change the route?



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  29. Follow up post #29 added on December 18, 2007 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    to keep the above analogy:
    will the new bus and route change require a fare hike and will the people prefer to drive their own cars instead of taking the bus.
    And will the retired bus company owner (Fidel) really stay out of the picture or still interfere.


  30. Follow up post #30 added on December 18, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Funny. Yes, I suppose he will be in the back seat or at least “in the office” as the dispatcher.

    I think this bus driver thing is a good analogy.

    Yes, I’m sure people would rather take their own cars to work.



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  31. Follow up post #31 added on December 18, 2007 by topapito

    The fact that Castro is hinting he will retire is huge. This is not how his personality works. He would NEVER give u power. I think he is being warned, or is seeing the light. He knows he cannot ever control the government the way he used to. Better to retire than to “die” suddenly.

    He has a lot to offer Chavez, whose country he runs now. That’s where he can be valuable still. It would at the very least buy them a few years worth of free oil. I believe this is the only reason why he is still alive. He would have been dead otherwise.

    This is getting interesting.


  32. Follow up post #32 added on December 26, 2007 by abh with 244 total posts

    The Publisher’s analogy of the Cuban people wanting to “sink” their own “ship” is ridiculous and I continue to be frustrated by the blind predicting and guessing that seems to propel this message board.  At this point it seems to me that you should just admit you really don’t know what’s going to happen.


  33. Follow up post #33 added on December 29, 2007 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    Castro Once Longed to Cling to Power
    By WILL WEISSERT – 14 hours ago
    HAVANA (AP) — Fidel Castro said Friday that as a young man he hoped to cling to power but has long since outgrown the urge, the latest ambiguous statement about his future at the helm of the country he has ruled for nearly five decades.
    In a letter read at Cuba’s year-end session of parliament, the ailing 81-year-old clarified an assertion he made Dec. 17, that he “was not a person clinging to power.”
    “Let me add that I was for a time, because of excessive youth and lack of conscience,” Castro wrote. “What made me change? Life itself.”
    By the time he led Cuba’s 1959 revolution, he had already realized it was his “duty to fight for (socialist) goals or die in combat,” not to stubbornly hold on to power, the letter said.
    Castro’s words drew a standing ovation from 509 lawmakers at the legislature on Friday, where his chair sat empty next to his 76-year-old brother, Raul Castro.
    Castro has not said when — or if — he will step aside for good after emergency intestinal surgery forced him to cede “provisional” authority to his brother 17 months ago. He has not been seen in public since, but remains the head of Cuba’s Council of State, its highest governing body.
    Castro has vowed not to stand in the way of younger leaders, but remains on the ballot in parliamentary elections Jan. 20 — a candidacy the Communist Party supports, Raul Castro said, suggesting his brother has no plans to retire.
    Re-election to parliament is essential for the older Castro to retain his post atop the Council of State.
    Also at the session, Economy Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez announced Cuba’s economy had grown 7.5 percent in 2007, well short of official forecasts for 10 percent growth. He predicted 8 percent growth in 2008.
    Cuba includes state spending on free health care, education and food rations when calculating gross domestic product — an uncommon methodology that critics say inflated its growth figures for 2005 and 2006, which were 11.8 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively.
    Officials have spent months debating how to shape Cuba’s economic future, alleviate crippling housing and transportation shortages, and boost agricultural output, Raul Castro told the assembly.
    “We’d all like to move faster, but it’s not always possible,” he said.
    “Those who occupy positions of leadership should know how to listen and create an environment that is favorable for everyone to express themselves with absolute freedom,” he said. “Criticism, when used appropriately, is essential to advancing.”
    Agricultural production rose nearly 25 percent in 2007, while the industrial and transportation sectors grew about 8 percent each, Rodriguez said. Exports of goods and services rose by a quarter, largely because the island sends so many doctors to provide free medical care in Venezuela in exchange for discounted oil.
    But Osvaldo Martinez, head of the legislature’s economic affairs commission, said the island’s sugar harvest — and a government push to build new homes — had failed to meet expectations.
    He blamed slowing growth on an “intense rise” in the cost of food and fuel imports — the island spends $1.6 billion to import food each year — and on falling tourism


  34. Follow up post #34 added on December 29, 2007 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    “Those who occupy positions of leadership should know how to listen and create an environment that is favorable for everyone to express themselves with absolute freedom,” he said. “Criticism, when used appropriately, is essential to advancing.”

    Wondering if this is another indication that things may be slowly changing after all or just more lip service ....actions will speak much louder than words


  35. Follow up post #35 added on December 29, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Interesting use of the word “advancing”. Advancing within a communist agenda.

    A forward thinking reformer might have said “...is essential to change”.



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  36. Follow up post #36 added on December 29, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    HavanAndrew, I saw that and meant to comment on it.

    This line is interesting “What made me change? Life itself.” means that Fidel died. So the end of his life changed him from clinging to power grin

    Seriously, first Fidel hints that he will retire then Raul comes out and says that Fidel is ready to run then Fidel comes out and says again that he is ready to retire.

    Doesn’t sound like unified leadership to me.

    I read this as instability. Who should the lower ranks be loyal too, Fidel, Raul or Carlos Lage?

    I read this as a sign that things are pretty shaky. Again, I know I keep saying this and maybe I’m reading into it too much but why don’t Fidel and Raul have a unified statement and why won’t Fidel show himself in public?

    Watch January 20, about three weeks from now we might now more about the future of Cuba.

    So far it looks like the my prediction/the title of this post is falling into place.



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  37. Follow up post #37 added on December 29, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I just came to the realization that Fidel does not want to be President of Cuba any longer.

    He hardly ever mentions any current issues concerning Cuba. He now talks about international politics and the “big picture”. Something I cringe at since Fidel is certainly not good for the world.

    Anyway, it seems that he does not want to be shackled with small day-to-day issues like running Cuba. He does not want the responsibilities of showing up for work and actually governing the country.

    Fidel wants to be God of Cuba and he will elect himself to that position.

    So, the question is… Does Raul want to govern Cuba? I’m not sure about that. I think he likes working in the background with less responsibility.

    I think Raul wants Lage to be President or at least Prime Minister who actually runs things. Raul may have to be President in name only thus giving Lage the weight of the country.

    Anyone want to predict that Lage will be elected President or Prime Minister?



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  38. Follow up post #38 added on December 29, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    In this article Raul Castro Closed Ordinary Session of Cuban Parliament, Ricardo Alarcon says:

    “As to the upcoming January 20 elections, Ricardo Alarcon pointed out that it will be one more historic development that will become a new demonstration of patriotic will and revolutionary spirit.”

    Hello people! I think they are trying to tell us something!!!



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  39. Follow up post #39 added on December 29, 2007 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    Has anyone heard of a quote from Lage after the session of parliament?


  40. Follow up post #40 added on December 31, 2007 by GregoryinHavana

    Have any of you ever considered that maybe a large percentage of Cubans might want reform without the system collapsing? It is not historically accurate to describe the last 50 years under Fidel Castro as chaotic or characterized by hunger (as one of the contributers has implied). In fact, a substantial percentage of teh Cuban population has benefited from the Revolution. Moreover, for those of you that have spend some time in Cuba, you will find that there is a bedrock of respect for Fidel, even though people may not agree with some of his policies. I have observed many Cubans expressing a hope that the system survives but opens a greater space for small and medium enterprise, a more transparent press, and more political debate… a large number of Cubans want a system that is distinct from the capitalist model that is being promoted by Washington and the exiles.


  41. Follow up post #41 added on December 31, 2007 by HavanAndrew with 87 total posts

    GregoryinHavana has made some valid points with respect to Fidel being a revered man and the perverse system that enables him to have Cubanos respect him. I remind all of you that we that have traveled and lived in Cuba for extended times realize that there are layers of complex issues. La Systema (the system) and Fidel are commonly referred to as two separate entities, a peculiar situation when the buck or convertible peso should stop at Fidel. Fidel has maneuvered his public persona in such a way that he is in the same predicament as them. Despite the lack of an open press, the people have discovered how bad the system is now and are very tired of the status quo. At the same time they can have respect for Fidel, partially due to fifty years of propaganda telling them how great Fidel is. The people are very scared to openly criticize both the system and Fidel. The real litmus tests are the discussions within the family homes amongst close family members. The people of Cuba have been spoon fed countless fuzzy facts and figures for so many years that they are finding it very hard to grasp the truth.


  42. Follow up post #42 added on December 31, 2007 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    At the same time one should recognize the state of most Cubans when Fidel and co took over.  Bastista was a hard dictator, who was no better to his foes than Castros were.  The American mob controlled much, American corporations most of the rest. Most of the people were poor poor uneducated and poor.

    True Castos basically wiped out the upper class and most of the middle class (those that weren’t lucky enough to flee) to solidify their position. but they also brought up the living level of the majority of the population.

    True the propaganda machine keeps reminding people how bad it was under Battista, something that is easy because it was.  Also their parents and grandparents can confirm this (remember those that had it better are either dead or gone from Cuba)

    So on the one side Fidel is revered for this.  On the other side more and more of the young people are asking “What have you done for me lately” and are somewhat less in awe of this man.


  43. Follow up post #43 added on December 31, 2007 by GregoryinHavana

    Recently I having been debating a bunch of hardline Miami exiles on the net. What strikes me from their rhetoric is that they all think that 100% of the population is just waiting for a chance to rise up against the government and overthrow it (a rather obfuscated logic, because they have had 48 years to do so if they really wanted to). What this reveals to me is a fundamental lack of understanding in the US. Things are more nuanced in Cuba than many on the outside realize and, as has been shown since Fidel’s illness in August 2006, to everyone’s surprise, the system is more than the figure of Fidel. Yes, Fidel is a key element, but one wonders if he is the keystone to the system’s architecture that everyone thought. Whether he dies or retires, the ‘reformers’ in the government will most likely try to be more pragmatic economically but will maintain the essential elements of the system. Are the exiles and the US government ready for this possibility? And with the winds blowing in favor of the Latin American Left, the chances of the Cuban system surviving in some evolved form is more likely.


  44. Follow up post #44 added on December 31, 2007 by GregoryinHavana

    However, I agree with what Manfredz argues. The biggest challenge to the viability of the system will come from the youth. Whereas the older than 40 generation was able to enjoy and benefit from the good years of the Revolution (1975-1989), the youth have only known the Special Period. Many of the youth in Cuba see the Revolution as something that their parents or grandparents did and struggled for, but they don’t feel an intimate connection with it. They take the social benefits of the Revolution for granted and are attracted to the consumerist symbols that emanate from Miami and the Western tourists that come to the island. Somehow, the system has to respond to youth apathy. But maybe this is the natural generationally-based fluctuation of social change. All I hope is that Cuba does not abandon its impressive gains in social development and poverty alleviation in favor of the neoliberal model that has failed in the rest of Latin America.


  45. Follow up post #45 added on December 31, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Gregory,

    Good to hear from you again. I agree with your comments except for the “poverty alleviation” part.

    I guess since everyone in Cuba is poor, there is no poverty.

    As far as the social benefits, I’m sure many people would give up that wonderful health care and free food in order to be self employed so they actually take care of their family without going underground.



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  46. Follow up post #46 added on December 31, 2007 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    pub don’t know about that….  last time they did a survey among former east germans, 37% would have preferred the good old days back…  and cubans are a whole lot freer than east germans ever were (in my opinion).

    Most Cubans I talked to want their cake and want to eat it too.And know they cant have it.  Otherwise the direction to go would be easy…
    They want to keep the social network they have because comapred to surrounding countries, thye’ve got it good there.  Now the problem is how to keep that yet add free enterprise, much better standard of living and yes, for some, political freedom (altho from the ones i talk to, thats the least important).
    Anybody got a magic formula? The Russian, Vietnamese and Chinese models arent ones they’d want to follow apparently.  Maybe they’ll come up with a cuban model.


  47. Follow up post #47 added on December 31, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    “Anybody got a magic formula?”

    Hillary Clinton for President of Cuba. Just her type of uptopia. Free healthcare and no press or other party to criticize her. Bill would love it there too if you know what I mean wink



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  48. Follow up post #48 added on December 31, 2007 by GregoryinHavana

    Rob (Publisher)... When I say poverty alleviation, I mean that Cuba has done a commendable job of eliminating the abject misery that existed in Cuba before 1959 (that that characterizes most Latin American countries). I am sure you know that the Cubans’ standard of living in the 1970s and 80s what beyond Third World standards (albeit partly due to Soviet largess…but the money was at least not sent to Swiss (or Miami) bank accounts like in most countries in the region.) In light of the harsh economic downturn that hit Cuba in the 90s, many analysts are impressed by the fact that Cuba managed to avoid massive malnutrition and social implosion (all we have to do is look at the levels of poverty in Argentina during the economic collapse there after Menem). As you know, I have been working as an advisor for both the Canadian International Development Agency and the United Nations Development Program in Cuba, and thus have been fortunate to have extensive insight on the topic. (I worked specifically on the programs for local development). The Cuban government’s efforts to improve the standard of living of the majority of the population has received cudos from James Wolfensohn, the past President of the World Bank and Jean Ziegler, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. This is not to say that standards of living in Cuba are optimal (I live in Centro Habana, wherer no other foreigners live - except for a couple of Black Panther exiles - and can attest that life is tough.) But in the end, the most vulnerable in Cuban society are better taken care of than in other Latin American countries. What comes to mind is a quote by Mahatma Gandhi: “The best test of a civilised society is the way in which it treats its most vulnerable and weakest members.”
    p.s. One good thing about the debates on Havana Journal is that there is a good sampling of all points of view on the issue. Too many sites either have Revolution ‘cheerleaders’ or Miami hardliners. Diversity is refreshing.


  49. Follow up post #49 added on January 01, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Thanks for the kind words about the Havana Journal. We do enjoy a variety of members with different view points.

    I know you work in Havana and your work is commendable but I just have a hard time giving Fidel credit for feeding the people. They could feed themselves if he would just allow land ownership and open farmer’s markets.

    Regarding history, I hear this all the time… how bad it was pre-1959 and how good it was when Russia was giving Cuba money.

    Fidel gives with one hand and takes away with the other. That’s how I see it.

    I just can’t give Fidel much credit because he won’t allow his people to be free… free to assemble, free to own land and property, free to speak their minds.

    To me, a centrally controlled economy forces everyone to be poor.

    Anyway, good luck with your programs.



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  50. Follow up post #50 added on January 01, 2008 by GregoryinHavana

    Rob… The resto of Latin America has the open markets and political freedoms that you mention, but the poor do not seem to be doing better than the average Cuban. I lived several years in the Dominican Republic and saw this first hand. What Latin American countries do you see as being examples that Cuba should learn from? Personally, I beleive that greater pluralism and debate must be fostered in Cuba (as is being practiced in Venezuela), and market mechanisms should be used to a greater extent, but a transition to a capitalist economy of free markets would allow some to get very wealth and others to become very poor. What are your thoughts of the apparent shift to the Left in almost all of Latin America (with different nuances) with a general rejection of the neoliberal model?


  51. Follow up post #51 added on January 01, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I’m not sure “a transition to a capitalist economy of free markets would allow some to get very wealth and others to become very poor” but I’ll take the freedom of capitalism over the shackles of socialism any day.

    At least with capitalism people have the freedom to work hard and become wealthy. Many choose not to work hard and there are plenty of poor people in the US but I don’t blame capitalism or George Bush for that.

    I will always take individual rights and opportunities over big government. I don’t want to be taken care of by Fidel or Chavez or Hillary Clinton.



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  52. Follow up post #52 added on January 01, 2008 by GregoryinHavana

    Rob…
    But if the majority of society decides, through a pluralistic democratic process, to have an economically interventionist state (as is the case in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, etc and might be the case in Cuba), I assume you would be willing to accept that, right? And in regards to poverty, I think you will find that unregulated markets facilitate both growth and poverty. Even non-radical schools of sociology would posit that poverty is not cause of lazyness or incompetence. This is especailly the case in the Third World, where abject misery has flourished under high GDP growth and the banner of neoliberal economics. (And we have not even mentioned the ecological costs of an unregulated freemarket system…). Don’t get me wrong, I think markets are important, but Scandinavian style regulated markets (to the degree they are applicable to a Third World context) show greater promise, not those being proposed by the US model. There is not historical record of success for the later.


  53. Follow up post #53 added on January 01, 2008 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    our “capitalistic”  system works great when it has checks and balances in it.  Until well into the 20th century our system also didnt do great for the vast majority of the working people.  Only after a whole series of “modifications” did it transition into something that allows a decent standard of living and chances for advancement for the masses.  And even today it looks like teh gulf between the very rich and masses is widening again.
    In Cuba under Battista, the majority of the people had no chance for advancement.  Simply put, they were underpaid and overworked. 
    Under Castro that changed.  Would those same imporvement for the masses have occurred under Battista - not very likely. Could other alternatives have also improved the status of the masses - of course.  Would Battista and the mob have allowed such changes and faded into teh background - not very likely.

    Mind you I do not like dictatorships or communism, but have to admit it did improve the life of the majority of the people (same as in Russia in 1917). That having been said - is it time to replace the system - long overdue because the foundation of a social state is now there.  Keep in mind that the percentage of really poor people in Cuba is far less than that of most neighbouring and south american countries who have no medical coverage, chance of education etc.
    Anyway thats the view from here.


  54. Follow up post #54 added on January 01, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    “pluralistic democratic process” sure but not when Fidel or Chavez are in charge. Just like elections in Iran.

    There is no legitimate process in my opinion. Any leader elected without checks and balances (and term limits) is not the leader of a free society.

    Honestly, I don’t know much about Scandinavian or third world politics. We can go on and on about the pros and cons of Cuba, US and other countries but nothing will change my mind that the current system of government in Cuba is far far inferior to an open democracy and free market economy.

    Do I think the Cuban people will become Republicans after Fidel dies? No.

    Will they want freedom and responsibility for their own destiny? Yes.

    Will they want free healhcare, education and housing? Probably but at least they will be free to make their own decisions and pursuit of happiness.

    The Cuban system is a failure and I don’t think you’ll find many people who will argue with that. Is the US economic and political system a failure? Certainly not.



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  55. Follow up post #55 added on January 08, 2008 by topapito

    Just now saw an article on Alberto Muller’s blog. Since it is in Spanish, I translated it to English and posted it on my site. Comments?

    http://averigua.blogspot.com


  56. Follow up post #56 added on January 19, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    This thread will still be open but I am taking the “sticky” off meaning that it no longer will stay on the top of the home page.

    I have started this thread January 20 (S)elections in Cuba so watch that for updates.

    My last comment on this prediction that Fidel will not be elected President on January 20 that I made on December 1 when I posted this article:

    The candidates are chosen on January 20 and thought that maybe there was a possibility that Castro would not put his name in but even though he is on the ballot tomorrow does not make him President. That (S)election will happen in March.

    So, I stand by my prediction that Fidel Castro will not be (S)elected as President in March.



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  57. Follow up post #57 added on January 19, 2008 by topapito

    Hey Rob,

    I am going to make this interesting. I am going to disagree with you on one hand, and disagree with you on the other. I believe he will be elected. It is impossible for Cubans to elect otherwise. The people elect their delegates, it is a given that the delegates will elect Castro.

    What I will give you is that he will be irrelevant to the future of Cuba. I believe he is irrelevant now. Everything they are doing points to his disappearance from the political spheres of power. The transition of power has been carried out peacefully only because of his assumed presence. It almost feels like because of respect for the old man, the power struggles will wait, and the longer they keep his presence going, albeit if only a fraction of his usual presence, the longer Raul can work behind the scenes to consolidate his power.

    But I would give him the elections, he is believed to be alive. I don’t think there is a delegate in Cuba willing, or crazy enough to vote anyone else in. That would surprise me.


  58. Follow up post #58 added on January 19, 2008 by GregoryinHavana

    I respectfully submit that many of you are overlooking several factors. To make this debate a bit more substantive, I will posit several assertions:
    1. Whether Fidel is formally President or not is not that relevant. He will exert an enormous political influence in Cuba that is independent of political formalities. He does not need to be President for people to listen to him, as was the case in the early years of the Revolution, when the political structure had other people as the formal heads of state. You should recall that Osvaldo Dorticos Torrado was ‘President’ of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, not Fidel. This did not diminish Fidel’s power.
    2. To say that Fidel is now ‘irrelevant’ is to disregard the enormous respect he still comands in the population and the political leadership, including the younger cadres. Is he less influencial now, due to his illness? Most certainly. But this is not the same as ‘irrelevant’. The past 50 yeas have shown that people who underestimate Fidel are proven wrong. Not everyone agrees with all of Fidel’s policies, but they nevertheless respect him.
    3. What is for certain is that he will die eventually, and most likely in the next couple years. But it is an error to assume that people (whether the Cuban population or the various factions of the political leadership) are simply waiting for his physical death in order to commence a political power struggle. This conclusion does not logically follow. Of course there are examples of political chaos and disintegration following the death of a charismatic leader. But there are also cases of a particular system maintaining its cohesion following the death of such a leader. The Vietnamese government survived the death of Ho Chi Minh and the Chinese system survived the death of Mao. Did they evolve and change? Of course, but they did not collapse as some are suggesting here.
    In summary, I think many of you are over-focussing on the question of Fidel’s formal political position, or even his physical presence, instead of focusing on the deep political and psychological roots that he and the system have established in Cuba, regardless of the criticisms you might have.


  59. Follow up post #59 added on January 19, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Gregory,

    Well said.

    I for one see a change in Presidency as the first step towards economic and hopefully human rights changes. Do I think all Cubans will become entrepreneurs and Republicans overnight, of course not.

    The China and Vietnam type changes cannot occur while Fidel is alive so I think his transition away from the Presidency must and will come first.

    I have posted my thoughts about chaos in Cuba after the announcement of Fidel’s death but I don’t mean to say that the system will collapse. I mean there will be power struggles and ideological struggles and human rights struggles.

    When the dust settles, I see a transition towards a more internationally acceptable socialism that will be “encouraged” by the US and Europe.

    Time will tell how this all plays out. One thing is almost certain… NO ONE knows how and when it will play out.



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  60. Follow up post #60 added on January 19, 2008 by topapito

    Hi Gregory, kudos on your well thought out comment.

    I give you point 1. You are dead on there.

    I disagree with your point 2. Here is why. I believe fidel, the man, the human body that is fidel today is so far gone, his thoughts are not relevant. There is a reason he has made no further public appearances and has had no further activity in anything bu a few well scripted interviews and I am sure, immensely troublesome film shoots. The idea being, to attempt to show the world he is recovering. I happen to believe he is past the point of no return, thereby rendering him, irrelevant. What may not be irrelevant is his legacy. THAT is what people respect, and if he can be made to be alive, then his brother has a good chance of holding on to power. I also do not believe he writes any of those alleged columns.

    On point 3, I don’t believe in a sudden war for power. But do not underestimate the power of power. There will be a power struggle no matter how subtle to the public view. There are plenty of contenders. Raul being one who is only passing. The real power has yet to be divvied up. And that is where I believe the struggle will come about. Cuba is already a capitalist nation, was capitalist before castro, is capitalist again. The people of Cuba are the ones not being allowed access to capitalism, this shift in the power to the people will be the most difficult facing anyone assuming power after castro dies. Raul will last but only a short time, his age will do him in as well. After that, it is a veritable toss up who will inherit/win/wrench the power. If anything, it will be interesting to watch, hopefully from afar.

    As for the dream many exiles have of a sudden and brutal change to the halls of power and a swift migration into democracy, I believe in that as I believe in the coming of christ. It just won’t happen. There is wisdom in allowing these changes to take time. I see China as a better option than the one offered Russia for example. And as a Cuban with strong family ties to the Island, I would much prefer to see a gradual change. It somehow feels safer.


  61. Follow up post #61 added on January 19, 2008 by GregoryinHavana

    Topapito…
    I found your comments insightful and thought provoking. Regarding issue #2, you might be right about Fidel’s physical state, but I would be more cautious about opining on his true state. I agree that his absence from public view is perplexing and I think there are two possible explanations. First is the one you forward, which is very possible. The other is that Fidel has decided for strategic reasons to keep out of the spot light, completely unrelated to his physical presentability. A conceivable explanation is that he wants to keep the focus (both national and international) on the emerging leadership (Raul, Lage, Roque, Alarcon, etc) to get people used to his inevitable permanent absence. Up until recently, I was more pessimistic about Fidel’s physical and mental condition, but Lula’s meeting with him seemed to reveal that Fidel’s condition (at least his mental condition) has not deteriorated as much as many people have thought. Lula said quite clearly that Fidel was mentally sharp. Of course, some might think that Lula was being disingenuous, on the request of Fidel or the Cuban government. But somehow I don’t think Lula would risk his international credibility by allowing himself to be a propaganda tool of the Cuban government. Thus, my conclusion (as tentative and speculative as it might be) is that Fidel is better off than we think.
    In regards to issue #3, you are right in saying there are many contenders and many different ‘tendencias’ within the Cuban leadership. But there is one thing that I believe will maintain cohesion and prevent any outright schisms: the policy of the United States government and the hardline Cuban exiles in Miami. Washington and Miami have done a good job in sending a very clear message to Havana - if things fall apart, they will clean house and no deals will be cut. Thus, all those connected in any way to the present Cuban leadership have a everything to lose if there is instability, and they are very cognizant of the fact that the US and the exiles (my apologies for talking in generalities, because I know there are moderate exiles who are open to negotiations) will take advantage of any signs of division and instability in Cuba. I recall back in the 90s when some extremist Florida radio stations where talking about the right to “diez dias para matar” in which all Communist party members and those connected with MINFAR and MININT would be hunted down. This message only further alientated those Cubans on the island, because as you know, everyone has multiple family members or friends they care about who are in either the Partido, the armed forces or State Security. In conclusion, the aggressive stance of Miami and Washington will lower the possibility of open power struggles.
    Finally, I am not sure what you mean when you say that Cuba is already ‘capitalist’. I agree that Cuba has introduced market mechanisms since the Periodo Especial, but I would be hesitant to say this is tantamount to capitalism. Nor would I say that capitalism can be inferred from the dual economy and the fact that Cubans with access to hard currency live a very different reality than those who do not. Please define what you mean by capitalism so that I can better understand your argument on this point.
    All in all, I think your contribution to the debate is constructive and meritorious.


  62. Follow up post #62 added on January 19, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Agree on the good state of health of Fidel and that Lula would not allow himself to be a tool of a dying regime.

    He gave them a billion dollars so they can’t expect him to lie for Fidel too.

    AND

    “if things fall apart, they will clean house and no deals will be cut. Thus, all those connected in any way to the present Cuban leadership have a everything to lose if there is instability”

    Right but rational thought, loyalty and unity can be thrown out the window by a couple power hungry people and screw it up for everyone else. I know it might be in the best interest of all those in power to keep their battles behind the scenes and that’s a great point but I have very little faith that any one person or any one group will be able to manage such a monumental change that will happen when the President and hero and leader and God of Cuba for almost 50 years dies. But, you’ve heard me say that before. grin

    AND

    I agree. It’s not capitalism in Cuba. It’s greed and self preservation. Capitalism comes from the people. A capitalist government simply enables and regulates capitalism but the people are the creators and beneficiaries.

    In Cuba, the government is the creator and beneficiary and restrict the people from being capitalists.

    This will change shortly after Fidel’s death. The only question is regarding the scope and time frame.

    Good stuff Gregory. Thanks.



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  63. Follow up post #63 added on January 20, 2008 by topapito

    I’d like to say something before I continue. I have never, ever had the opportunity to have a conversation about this subject and in this manner. I want to thank those involved for allowing this to happen.

    About fidel’s willingness to stay out of the spotlight. If that were the case, and I would not for a second put it past him, I imagine that would have to count as being the toughest thing he has done in his life. His personality traits scream against him ever giving up control. Although I believe him to be capable of doing this, I have serious doubts about whether he can carry it off. Which is what makes me think that there is more to his physical condition than what is being shown. Simply put, if he were physically fit enough, there is NO WAY he would stay out of the spotlight. Just my opinion.

    I totally disagree with the analogy that Lula would not risk his “...international credibility by allowing himself to be a propaganda tool of the Cuban government.” I wholeheartedly believe this has happened already. http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2006/10/22/95438.shtml?s=lh
    I point you to above link in reference to Lula’s statements, where he says “I only regret that Fidel Castro did not carry out a process of political opening while he was alive,”. I can see them now, in a group around fidel, someone saying, “doesn’t he look great?”—“he is doing so much beter!” Lula agreeing while fidel drools. To inject further doubt, Hussein had doubles, why not fidel? Just a question. My whole point is that it is simply not in fidel’s nature to relinquish power, not even to benefit his brother and/or the revolution. To fidel, the revolution was a tool, a means to an end, certainly not the center of his life. The center of his life was always power. Nothing else. Again, I just don’t see him giving it up without a fight UNLESS he was unable to fight. My opinion and call me crazy, is he’s been dead for a while, everything else is smoke and mirrors. Certainly I have no proof, but if someone can convince me about the impossibility of a body double, one that can fool us into thinking he’s alive and well by way of films and photos. Not much work is needed to pull it off in my opinion.

    About capitalism in Cuba. Why do I say capitalism is alive and well? We know there is a dual economic system. The above ground system mimics capitalism in every way in my opinion. Corporate wise, price wise, management wise. Though the system in Cuba is much too complex for us to discuss in a blog comment, there simply are too many facets of the system that mimic capitalism. The black market is totally capitalist in it’s crudest form. Prices are set by supply and demand, and swing according to capitalist rules. Remove the words, the titles, names, explanations and allegations, analyze the systems and what do you have? Pure unadulterated capitalism in it’s most rudimentary form at least. Oh, and Rob, “greed and self preservation” are the cornerstone of capitalism!

    Finally, if my opinion is fidel is irrelevant, it is not much different than my opinion of the hard-line Cuban exile community. I believe it will be very difficult for them to gain a foothold in Cuban politics after fidel. They have shown the Cuban people nothing while they mirror-mimicked him in Miami. I think the end of fidel’s generation will bring us much improvement in relations between Cubans on both sides of the spectrum. And I am certainly glad Miami has not had it’s way.


  64. Follow up post #64 added on January 20, 2008 by GregoryinHavana

    Topapito…
    With respect, I do not find your argument convincing regarding Fidel’s situation. The article you site is from 2006, and all it reveals is that Lula is a long time supporter of Fidel and the Cuban Revolution and that, at that time, he might have thought that Fidel was either dead or very ill. But it does not follow that Lula would go to Cuba and then tell the world that Fidel was surprisingly healthy and mentally sharp when he knew this was not the case. This would be an outright lie that, notwithstanding Lula’s admiration for Fidel and the Cuban Revolution, I doubt he would be willing to make.
    Your argument that Fidel is already dead and what we are seeing is a double is less convincing. Saddam had a double, as have had other leaders, but their utility is for deception from a long distance. I doubt that the Cuban secret service could find another person who looked like Fidel in close up camera shots and who could fool Lula. Anything is possible, but I find it difficult to imagine such a good double, especially due to Fidel’s unique physical characteristics.
    I would also disagree with your analysis that all Fidel is interested in is power, and not the Revolution itself. I have my reasonss to doubt this, based on looking at what Fidel has done over the past 50 years and also my personal friendship with one of his (close) family members and some of his key advisors. This being said, it does not really matter what you or I think on this particular matter and I question the utility of any of us psychoanalyzing Fidel. Neither of us have sufficient information to really develop a substantive analysis of what goes on in his head. I think the most important quesion is how Cuba defines its future following the inevitable announcement of Fidel’s death, be it tomorrow or in 5 years from now. Thinking about the specific policy issues that the Cuban government and people will face is a much more interesting terrain for debate. And I think that both of us will agree that only Cubans on the island, those within the present system, those dissidents who have not allied themselves to the Bush administration, and the general population, will be the ones to work together to define the future of Cuba. The Miami exile leadership has made itself irrelevant with its hardline and alienating policies and it has been my observation that the average Cuban is not interested in the CANF or groups like it. There is always a danger that the exile leadership, in its arrogance and hubris, will try to impose itself on Cuba, but this would be a tragic and violent mistake. Even though I get the sense that you and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum and disagree on most issues regarding Cuba (ie. I personally admire Fidel and hope that the Cuban system does not collapse, but evolves towards greater economic efficiency and greater personal freedoms without sacrificing what I see are the very real and admirable social achievements of the Revolution), I commend you for your pragmatic analysis of Cuba. It is unfortunate that there are not more people with moderate attitudes in Miami because if there were, we might well have a very different situation today vis a vis US - Cuba relations.


  65. Follow up post #65 added on January 20, 2008 by topapito

    (ie. I personally admire Fidel and hope that the Cuban system does not collapse, but evolves towards greater economic efficiency and greater personal freedoms without sacrificing what I see are the very real and admirable social achievements of the Revolution)

    Please, without getting into the he said she said. Please provide me with a short list of achievements. I would love to debate that.

    Without looking at the past, there is very little we can actually debate about the future. The past will inevitably shape the future of Cuba.

    Saying that dissidents who have aligned themselves with Bush’s administration cannot or should not have a part in Cuba’s future is not the type of freedom I would like to see for my country. Rooting for one side or the other aside, I want the type of freedom that I found in Canada for example.

    I don’t want the hardliners from Miami involved the same as I don’t want the present government as I find them to be opposite sides of the same coin. Cuba needs a new coin. I find that a gradual change is in the interest of Cuba and it’s people, and pragmatically wish for slow change.

    As a side note for my information, how long have you been in Cuba and in what capacity? Business, personal, diplomatic? Did you live in Cuba before fidel? Just trying to establish the source of your information on “what I see are the very real and admirable social achievements of the Revolution”.

    I have been out of Cuba since 99. And frequently return to visit family. BTW, some of my family is hardcore pro-fidel as well, but they have a real tough time convincing me of achievements while at the same time accepting my money in order to survive. Of course, this by no means diminishes my love for them, it only strengthens my resolve to contribute.

    Looking forward to more…


  66. Follow up post #66 added on January 20, 2008 by GregoryinHavana

    Topapito…
    A short list of the Cuban Revolutions impressive social achievements would be the following:
    1. Arguably the best public health system in Latin America, if not the Third World (an even more admirable fact in light of the economic collapse of the 1990s). These statistics are backed up by findings of the World Health Organization, the Panamerican Health Organization, and even the Harvard School of Medicine.
    2. Arguably the best public education system in Latin American, if not the Third World. These statistics are backed up by findings of UNESCO and UNICEF.
    3. Negligible levels of homlessness and abject misery (which is distinct from poverty, which is present in Cuba), compared with the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean. Cuba before the Revolution was never the poorest country in the region, but it was nevertheless characterised by massive disparities in wealth, homlessness and malnourishment, especially in the rural areas. I think you will agree that in Cuba you do not see street children begging and sniffing glue under bridges like you find in most Latin American cities.
    4. While he was President of the World Bank (not a Leftist bastion by any means) James Wolfensohn stated that in regards to social development, Cuba is a model for the rest of the Third World…and he said this in the 1990s when Cuba had been cut-off from Soviet largesse and was in the midst of its crisis.
    5. Relatively low levels of violent crime and drug abuse/trafficking, compared to pre-Revolution Cuba and to the rest of the region today.
    6. Some might claim that these acheivements (especially the lack of crime) is due to a brutal police state that terrorizes its population. However, the human rights record of the Cuban government, although criticizable, is not characteristed by ‘gross human rights violations’ such as systematic torture, extrajudicial executions, or disappearances. This is in contrast to the record of many regimes backed by the US government, such as Chile under Pinochet, Guatemala, El Salvador, Argentina, etc in the 1970s and 80s and Cuba before the Revolution. This characterization of the Cuban human rights record is based on Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports, which criticize Cuba but place it in a different category than pro-Western military dictatorships which have been much more violent and repressive.
    7. A relatively (for Latin American and pre-Revolutionary standards) honest and disciplined and non violent police force in Cuba. Of course there are examples of police corruption and brutality, as there is in Canada or Sweden, but when it occurs it is systematically punished. The same cannot be said for Mexico, Jamaica, or the Dominican Republic (where I have also lived).
    8. The political leadership in Cuba, including Fidel, cannot be characterized as highly corrupt (at least not in a material sense). Yes, there is corruption in Cuba, but it is found more in sectors outside the politcal leadership and in the economic sectors. I have personally been at the homes of Cuban government ministers, military/MININT officers and high level officials and was struck by their modest circumstances. I am sure you know of government officials and military officers who live simply and genuinely believe in the Revolution in an altruistic way. One only has to see the modest homes of Perez Roque (on Paseo e/ 23 y 25) or Lage (Nuevo Vedado) to see that they pale in comparison to the homes in Coral Gables (or even the homes of many Cubans who are not in the government who live in Miramar or Siboney). Interestingly, when Norberto Fuentes defected to Miami, he admited publicly that people will be surprised by how simply Fidel lives (something that did not win Norberto many points with the exile community.
    Topapito, these are my sincere opinions, from my own observations and assiduous study of Cuban society. (I have done undergraduate and graduate studies in political science and Latin America, and subseqently graduated from one of the top law schools in Canada…so I think I can say I have been well trained in the art of observation and analysis…although I confess that university degrees are never proof of neutrality or impartiality. We all have our biases…) But if I saw or felt otherwise regarding Cuba, I would admit another reality.
    In regards to the other points:
    * Re pro-Bush dissidents: You are correct on this point and I was mistaken to discount them. All factions should have a chance to play a role in the reconciliation process. However, I doubt that they will have much credibility or resonance in Cuba due to their support of the embargo, which most Cubans and moderate dissidents oppose.
    * Regarding your statement that you would prefer not to have either the hardline Miami exiles or the present Cuban government participate in a future Cuba, this might be difficult because the present government is de facto in power and is established on the island. For these reasons, whether they are right or wrong, they will need to be negotiated with (unless one predicts an Eastern European style collapse, which seems more and more unlikely after the government has survived the entire 1990s. I am convinced that the present Cuban government is a reality that moderates in Miami will have to deal with (and I think the Cuban government will be willing to talk to the moderate exiles). The hardline exiles, on the other hand, are in Florida and I am sure that in a future reconciliation the Cuban government will be selective in terms of who it allows back and who it keeps out, thus CANF people will most likely be marginalized.
    Finally, in terms of my background, I have lived in Cuba for more than 12 years. During those 12 years, I lived close to three years without access to hard currency - just like a Cuban (first as a student living in una beca en Bahia, Habana del Este, then as a professor at the University of Havana, earning 450 pesos cubanos and living in a small apartment in Vedado) I got around on a bicycle and ate rice and beans every day. Subsequent to this, I have had jobs as a consultant for sustainable development issues to the Canadian government and the United Nations (but not with diplomatic status. I have always had a carnet de identidad cubano). I live a simple life in a comfortable but modest apartment with my wife and her family in Centro Habana. I plan to spend my life in Cuba, raise my children here, and contribute in any way I can to Cuba’s future. Politically, I support the Revolution but I do not hesistate to criticize it when I think it is necessary (as do many Cubans). I am a trained lawyer and have had very lucrative offers to work either in law firms in Canada or in firmas extranjeras in Cuba. However, I am a bit of a romantic and have made the decision to work in environmental and community development issues, where I make a fraction of the salary (I make enough to survive, but nothing to put in the bank.) I am not sure if you believe me on these claims, but if you were to meet me in person, you would see that I am not a propagandist of the Cuban government, but simply someone who supports the ideals of the revolution and who is willing to walk the talk (which a lot of ‘armchair revolutionaries’ are not willing to do).
    Sincerely,
    Gregory


  67. Follow up post #67 added on January 21, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    1. “I’d like to say something before I continue. I have never, ever had the opportunity to have a conversation about this subject and in this manner. I want to thank those involved for allowing this to happen.”

    This is the type of dialog we enjoy and encourage here and we have to thank Gregory and others like him who regularly offer great insight into the Cuba conversation.

    2. Regarding Fidel’s health. Here’s the video from CNN showing him with Lula.

    3. Regarding his double… you didn’t know Fidel has a twin brother? Best kept secret in the history of politics grin

    4. Cubans in Miami. I agree. They probably won’t have much political influence but remember they send about one billion dollars a year into Cuba so there are plenty of Cubans that will help them out in Cuba when the time comes.

    5. Gregory, another great comment. I don’t agree with some of your thoughts but commend you for living the life you want to live. I hope to meet you in Havana some day.

    So, to both of you, thanks for contributing to the Havana Journal and I hope that people reading your comments are better informed because of your words and maybe we can get just a few more people thinking rationally about Cuba and US Cuba relations.



    Cuba consulting services

  68. Follow up post #68 added on January 21, 2008 by topapito

    Hi, sorry I have not replied, two things prevented me from doing so. One, I did not have much time, and two, I wanted to think about how to reply to something like this. You see, for too many years, Cubans have been suffering daily from the onslaught of bad governance. So much so, that the only hope we develop is to leave the Island. Once we get out of the Island, we attempt to tell the stories of how we suffer in Cuba, only to be handed statistics from the UN and other supposed serious Organizations who produce statistics that say everything is hunky-dory, not only are things great, we have the best of everything according to statistics.

    As of yet, I have failed to see a rebuttal to these “statistics” that makes sense. For example, I could tell you that my sister in law had a baby in this health care paradise and they left the amniotic sack inside of her and she nearly died from the infection. Her second baby, was delivered via c-section while the doctor smoked a cigar in the operating room, (I have the pictures). Then you would proceed to tell me that even in the US there are cases like this. This is worse than discussing religion. There is a retort to anything and any problem we can think of.

    So I have decided to ask the following questions:

    1- Please give me the name and address of one of these clinics or hospitals from heaven where I can take my family because to be honest, this utopia of health care is extremely well hidden from the Cubans without a passport and without CUC in their pockets. All I see is total lack. Lack of this, lack of that, lack of service, lack of cleanliness, lack of, lack of, lack of.

    Please do not bring up the embargo. Plenty of nations do not have an embargo on Cuba and this can be very well seen in the pharmacy at the airport, as well as in the tourist clinics. If it can be obtained for the tourists, it can be obtained for the people of Cuba.

    2- Ditto for the schooling systems. Please provide me with an address of the store where supplies can be bought using the Cuban peso, not CUC. You see, I can guarantee two things with this. i can send everyone I know to these stores, (they all have Cuban pesos) as well as I can stop worrying about school supplies for the kids in my family. The same goes for food and other items. An address of a school where electricity is to be had everyday, and where the building doesn’t look like a war survivor would also be very useful.

    3- The fact that Cubans are a proud people and would not let a family member sleep on the street in no way justifies the lack of housing in Cuba. This is a very callous and false statement on the part of the Cuban government. Half the population is homeless and relying on the other half for shelter. Numerous families split a small house into a plethora of made up rooms in order to avoid living on the streets. Homelessness in the US occurs because people are not willing to help their fellow man. This has always been this way in Cuba, there was no homelessness before either for this very reason.

    4- I am sorry, but parrots of government supplied statistics don’t impress me.

    5- I would say relative low reporting of crime statistics. When have you ever read about a robbery or a murder in a Cuban newspaper? And of course you won’t. Maintaining statistics is part of the governments agenda.

    6- Must we have systematic torture and brutal treatment in order to qualify as a repressed people? Isn’t it enough to go to jail for 30 years for possessing meats? Being arrested for possessing chicken, fish, lobsters, or for that matter, nearly anything that is in the long list of “not allowed’s”? Isn’t it enough to be kicked out of a hotel because you can’t produce a foreign passport? Isn’t it enough to have to submit to house searches at the police’s whim? Isn’t it enough to be told you have to demolish your house because you built it and cannot supply them with a valid receipt for the materials? Isn’t it enough to be accused of prostitution for attempting to visit a foreign friend at their hotel? Isn’t it enough to have to submit to checkpoint searches at numerous road checkpoints for no reason? Isn’t it enough to be told you cannot stay at a hotel even if you can afford it? Take a national flight within the island? Isn’t it enough to be told you cannot stay at a friend’s house in Havana if you are from another province or city without reporting your stay to the authorities? I can keep going, but I think you get the point. The fact is that criminality does exist, and a lot of it, it just happens that the victims are Cubans, and these very same Cubans are not valuable enough to the government to include in any statistics of crime, they don’t count.

    7- Again comparing Gregory. I want the good things available to anyone from any other country to be had in my country. I don’t really care if another country has problems. I want the ones in mine to be taken care of, and they are most certainly not. “Let’s NOT and say we did” is the motto in Cuba. And if we are accused of not doing, we’ll talk about Haiti or Santo Domingo, or some other place that has problems. This is not enough to satisfy me Gregory, I want to see a government make at least a half-assed effort at raising the value of its people. Not a 100% effort at accumulating statistical numbers and impressing the organizations which never bother to check these statistics and take government offered numbers at face value.

    8- About corruption in the higher echelons in the Cuban government. I have this to say. When you absolutely and completely own a country, why would you need to worry about money? When you have absolute power over a whole country, don’t you find it easy to build a reputation for not wanting money? Why go after money when you own the whole thing? People included? Of course there is no evidence of corruption at the highest level, they own it all, lock stock and barrel. Including the banks. I would not be corrupt either. And of course, from this point of view, living in modest homes is really not a problem. I happen to know several multi-millionaires who don’t have, nor want extravagant homes. They claim it is more trouble than they are worth. When you can have anything you want, you happen to want less. Besides, how can you keep a following when you don’t seem to practice what you preach?

    I have no doubt that those are your sincere opinions. And I commend you for putting them forward. I really just wish it was possible to show you the side of Cuba that you will never see from the cover of your Canadian passport. I wish it was possible to show you the desperation in people’s lives, the destitution, the resignation in the fact that neither they or their children will have any kind of a future in Cuba. The tearing of the heart knowing your country can be so much better. The perpetual helplessness which is a part of everyday life, while we are not allowed to have, and do, and sell, and buy, and go, and come, and act or transact, and finally, the non-existent right to life, a normal life. And you know why? Because we have this enemy from the north which no one can tell us why they are an enemy. The embargo? Do you know why it was placed? I do. I also know why it is still in place. But that’s fodder for another story.

    It was truly painful to write all of this. It hurts that the Cubans have no rights. Not to mention, the unsurmountable wall of statistics that hide the real and everyday lives we lead inside the island. The daily suffering. And for what Gregory? What pray tell is the reason for this? To prove fidel right? To prove the US wrong? And meanwhile, our lives are being run through the grinder? Our sons and daughters are dying in the straits of Florida trying to run from the helplessness, hunger, disillusionment, lost hope, endless invisible war Cuba has been in for the last 50 years. A war that has no reason or sanity. “The US hates our way of life”. Really? A whole country waiting for an invasion for the past 50 years, an invasion that would never happen simply because there is nothing for the US in Cuba. No oil, nothing.

    And meanwhile, people like me who get out have to read statistics about how great my country is, a country I love so much that I would not have ever left it were it not for the endless impossibilities facing us there.

    “Cuando un pueblo emigra, sobran los gobernantes” Jose Marti


  69. Follow up post #69 added on January 22, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    So, back to the predictions…  The Cuban “elections” took place and , to quote the publisher “everybody won” 
    No surprises… do you think that there’s a “surprise” in store for later when the goverment positions are decided by the “Parliament”?
    Do you guys think that Raul will be officially annointed president and Fidel will be given a nomnal post .. I don’t know: King of Cuba or something? LOL
    So what are the chances of that happening?


  70. Follow up post #70 added on January 22, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    I just created a post titled Will Carlos Lage be elected President of Cuba on February 24?.

    I think that sums up my thoughts.



    Cuba consulting services

  71. Follow up post #71 added on January 29, 2008 by topapito

    I am saddened that I lost Gregory. I sure hope I did not offend you Greg. I had no such intentions.


  72. Follow up post #72 added on January 29, 2008 by GregoryinHavana

    Topapito…
    No, you have not lost me nor offended me. I have been overwhelmed with litigation cases here at the law firm where I work. Although I profoundly disagree with your argument, I commend you for your equanimity and fact based analysis. This is a rare characteristic amongst the Cuban exile community. Hopefully I will get a chance sometime this week to send a rejoinder.
    Regards,
    Gregory


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