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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Fidel vs. Raul? Brian Latell writes about the reappearance of Fidel Castro

Posted August 04, 2010 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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Latell Report

The Castro brothers’ relationship has probably never been more indecipherable than it has been in recent months. Since 1959 Fidel and Raul have been mutually dependent partners in the Cuban revolutionary experience. Neither could have survived this long—or for very long at all—without the other’s protection and counsel.

They have complemented each other in essential ways: Fidel—mercurial, idiosyncratic, disorganized, and charismatic; Raul—methodical, practical, collegial and dull. They are perfectly matched halves of a governing partnership that is unprecedented in modern times for its durability, and remarkable for the mysteries of its inner workings.

The core traits they share—ruthlessness, temerity, and cunning—have guaranteed that these otherwise very different brothers have survived in power together for more than a half century. It has not been an easy alliance, however. Strong willed and stubborn, each with loyal entourages, they have often clashed. Their disagreements have most often been about the methods and timing for implementing policies about which they agree. But at other times—apparently as now—they are strongly at odds over revolutionary doctrine and strategy.

Raul historically deferred to his brother. But four years ago they switched roles when Fidel yielded center stage because of age and infirmity. Now, the balance of power between them may be shifting again. Fidel’s recent numerous public appearances—walk-abouts, conversations, televised discourses, glad-handing with carefully selected sycophants, a burst of media hype for a new book—have ignited speculation that he wants to reclaim the presidency.

He is manifestly healthier and stronger. In a recent published commentary he wrote in the past tense of his “serious illness.” And, Cuba’s first vice president, the keynote speaker at the national July 26th observance, spoke of Fidel’s “successful health recovery.”

Other straws have also been in the wind, suggesting Fidel is no longer content to play the passive part of back stage convalescent. He is wearing olive green again and has repeatedly been referred to in the official media as the “commander-in-chief,” even though according to Cuba’s Marxist constitution, that title is reserved for Raul, the country’s president.

Another straw is indicative of Fidel’s reemergence in the policy sphere. On July 26 he mentioned his intent to “call for a special session of the national assembly” to discuss the “important matters” that have been obsessing him this summer. They are all oddly dissonant and apocalyptic: his fear of nuclear war originating in the Middle East or the Korean peninsula, or both. “Everything hangs by a thread,” he wrote on July 11, and a week later mused about the “imminent risk of war.” Ten of his “reflections” since June 1 have dwelled on such dark scenarios.

It is highly unlikely, however, that Raul and the management team he has formed around him have any desire to put such issues before the national assembly. Their priorities are domestic and economic. They appreciate how desperate the Cuban condition is today and have been making tough decisions aimed at jump starting the economy. So, Fidel’s call for a special assembly session will now loom as a bellwether of the relative power between him and his brother.

Yet, two things do seem clear. The volume and consistency of Fidel’s anti-American tirades in June and July underline his adamant opposition to any improvement of relations with Washington. He has been venomously, even irrationally anti-American, more so than any time in recent memory.

He alleged that the United States was responsible for the sinking last March of the Cheonan, a South Korean naval vessel. He claimed that the Reagan administration supplied apartheid South Africa with nuclear weapons, via Israel, and that Cuba itself was close to nuclear extinction during the 1962 missile crisis. These are themes that Raul and mainstream Cuban media have essentially ignored.

And, Fidel’s new visibility is also meant to promote and protect his legacy. He, along with some family members and hard-line fidelista allies, probably have concluded that many of Raul’s recent initiatives have undermined Fidel’s historic legitimacy. All of the limited reforms of the last two years have been designed, after all, to rectify the grievous economic problems that Fidel bequeathed his successors.

The grim diagnosis of Cuba’s dysfunction that Raul laid out in a major speech last April must have deeply antagonized Fidel and his associates. Raul’s unprecedented negotiations with the Catholic Church, his decision to release a number of political prisoners, and hints that all of the prisoners may be released also seem to indict Cuba’s predecessor regime in ways that must be intolerable for the narcissistic Fidel.

He stands by the status quo. On June 24 he wrote that “most revolutionary dreams are coming true and our homeland is firmly on the path to recovery.” Raul is saying nothing of the sort.

Member Comments

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On August 04, 2010, publisher wrote:

and this just out by the Associated Press…

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro is expected to address the communist country’s National Assembly for the first time in four years on Saturday.

State media reported Wednesday that a special session, requested by Castro, would be held this weekend.

On July 26 Castro said that he would ask for the meeting to warn of an imminent nuclear war involving the United States, Israel and Iran.

On that day, the aging leader told a group of Cuban intellectuals that he had formally requested “a meeting of the National Assembly ... to explain all of the information that I have gathered on this.”

The meeting, to be held one week after the first of the two annual National Assembly meetings, and will focus on “analyzing several issues of the international situation,” read the brief official statement that appeared in state media.

END

So, Raul continues to be Fidel’s bitch.

Harsh words but true right?

Time for the implosion to begin.

I ask again, who is running Cuba?

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On August 04, 2010, manfredz wrote:

well hopefully Fidel will be so concentrated on the international scene,  small behind the scene changes may continue on the internal level….

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On August 07, 2010, publisher wrote:

The sad old man made his first appearance at the National Assembly in many years to talk about nuclear war.

Fidel Castro has lost his mind and his followers.

Not sure if he said it today but he said it on the Roundtable TV show that the US bombed the South Korean war ship in order to start a war with North Korea.

Even the left wingnuts that work the Internet promoting Cuban propaganda can’t even say that without cringing because it’s so ridiculous.

Fidel’s appearance is a sad last attempt to try and be relevant. He’s trying one last big move to be relevant by trying to say the Evil Empire is going to kill us all.

What’s sad about this is that NO ONE in the National Assembly actually believes Fidel’s crap.

They all want to live their lives without having to worry about getting fired for some stupid reason… live their lives without having to worry about their next meal and other the other hardships that Fidel has created over the decades.

Sadly, even Raul Castro has to sit there and listen to Fidel’s bullshit.

I can’t believe that there is no one in Cuba with any power and balls to stand up and stand up say enough is enough. Sure, he will be fired and probably arrested or at least blackballed and degraded, his family would suffer as well as so many others before have suffered.

In this day and age, is there no way for at least a few high ranking officials to say in a respectful way “Enough is Enough!”?

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On August 07, 2010, manfredz wrote:

look how long it too in nixon-era america, and thats is a much freer society.
Think most cubans feel the best solution is to wait it out; theres not enough people watching their back.

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On August 09, 2010, gallofino wrote:

Brian Latell and Julia Sweig are amongst the most credible Cuba observers out there today.  I enjoy their books and speeches as they both have their feet planted firmly in the Cuba reality and their knowledge of it is second to none.  And if you ask either of them, no big expectations while Fidel is around.

Fidel seems to be on his goodbye tour.  Wrote his memoirs, published them, now its his book tour.  No hint of him coming back to rule and he completely avoided questions having to do with domestic issues on Saturday.  For the first time ever I heard him say “I don’t know.  I don’t have an answer for that question”.  He is not back to rule, just to reign in essential change, cause confusion, undermine the current administration and yes, sell books.  Once he is gone and if Raul is still in charge, the pace of change will accelerate but not as dramatically as many want it to.  Whatever adjustments made to the Cuban economy and laws will be slow and measured.  And if you ask anyone other than Fidel, they will tell you that is the best way to go about it.

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On August 09, 2010, publisher wrote:

Maybe Raul is dying so Fidel had to come back?

Now that would make for an interesting twist.

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On August 09, 2010, gallofino wrote:

Wishful thinking.  Just look at the two;  Raul is in much better shape and is much more coherent.

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On August 11, 2010, pipefitter wrote:

Just on the North Korean item, take a look at the photo of the torpedo that supposedly sank the South Korean ship, it has barnacles growing on it, sorry but they don’t just grow in a couple of weeks. There has to be another reason why it sank.

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On August 11, 2010, Marek wrote:

For what it’s worth, here’s an item relevant to the topic:

“El ex presidente cubano Fidel Castro afirmó que su tarea es pensar y aconsejar, para que “cada cual decida”, en alusión al gobierno de su hermano Raúl Castro, según una entrevista televisiva difundida el lunes.

“Esa no es tarea mía”, citó Castro como ejemplo al ser interrogado por un periodista de la cadena Telesur sobre la repercusión de una posible liberación de cinco agentes cubanos presos en Estados Unidos en las relaciones ambos países.

“Lo mío es decir las cosas y los acontecimientos para que cada cual decida, tú debes comprender que los compañeros (equipo de gobierno) no son gente que yo deba llevar del dedo, de la mano a hacer las cosas, y lo que yo quiero es que piensen”, dijo Castro, quien cedió a su hermano Raúl el poder tras haber enfermado en julio de 2006.”

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jWX3-_ZCOASQ4hM4XydTUQhnLmRA

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On August 11, 2010, publisher wrote:

pipefitter, so now you are an expert on exploding ships? I know you have to go around repeating what your boss said about the US sinking the South Korean war ship but you’re not too good at it.

Are you happy to have Fidel back?

You think he is good for Cuba?

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On August 11, 2010, pipefitter wrote:

No Pub, I’m not an explosives expert but I have worked in the marine industry all my life and I am smart enough to know that barnacles that size don’t grow in a couple of weeks. How the ship was sunk we will probably never know but I doubt it was with the torpedo displayed as the culprit.
Marek,
I wish someone would translate the Sunday interview to english so Pub could learn something other than what he picks up from the Miami Herald etc. The part you printed above along with his interview seems to me to indicate that Fidel doesn’t want to get involved with Cuban domestic policy , he wants to leave that to Raul and the rest of the Government. He sees his area as Foreign affairs as he has the time to do so and Raul and others don’t.
By the way Pub, Isreal wanting to start a war with Iran, as Fidel said, seems to have some credability now that you have former military, CIA, FBI people sending a letter to Obama about it don’t you think? (aparantly signed by, Phil Geraldi, Larry Johnson, W Patrick Lang, Roy Mcgovern, Coleen Rowly and Ann Wright, all x military and intelegence people)

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On September 01, 2010, miguel wrote:

As far as I know, administrative decisions at all levels in Cuba must – as a routine procedure – have acceptance from the communist party representation at the corresponding level.

That means that government decisions must have acceptance from the national party leadership – normally the first secretary. This was very simple while Fidel Castro was both president of the government and first secretary of the party.

Now Raul Castro is president of the government, but Fidel Castro is still first secretary of the party. So major government decisions will according to normal procedure need his accept.

Where is then the basis of Brian Latell’s and others’ displacement speculations? Not to speak of some people’s tall talk of “who is running Cuba? – no one.”

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On September 07, 2010, miguel wrote:

Another observervation, which Mr. Latell seems not to have made: Fidel Castro is again seen wearing his traditional olive green uniform, right, but WITHOUT the commander-in chief insignia on the shoulders.

He has been referred to in official media a few times as “commander-in-chief”, but it is not uncommon to refer to retired dignitaries with their titles before retirement (bishop, general, professor, etc.). Mostly he is referred to with the less formal “leader of the revolution”.

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On September 08, 2010, Yeyo wrote:

I wonder if Fidel Castro “doesn’t want to get involved with Cuban domestic policy” why he is still the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC)?
If he really wants to retire he could do so as Nelson Mandela did, giving up all his powers. Obviously that is not the case here; Fidel Castro still is the Cuban master.
According to the Cuban Constitution the Party leads the government and therefore he is still the big boss even when many and even himself are trying to portrait the contrary. He does not want to give up his powers and at least until today he is the one moving the strings.
Nothing would change radically in Cuba as needed until Fidel Castro is gone for good.