Cuba Without Castro? Well, Almost

You have to be about sixty-five years old to remember a time when a Castro was not the head of Cuba. Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States in 1959.

Castro came down from the Sierra Maestra mountains with a band of guerillas. He overthrew the regime of the dictator, Fulgencio Batista. There was joy in Cuba. There was also much hope in the United States. The U.S. had a large number of left-wing advocates. They thought Castro would bring a progressive democracy to the island.

Fidel Castro turning power over to his brother Raúl Castro.

That was not to be. From the start, Castro said he would take over some of the big U.S. companies in Cuba. At the least, he was a socialist. The U.S. appeared to turn its back on Castro. Castro had a better idea. He declared his loyalty to the Communist government of the Soviet Union. From that point on, the split between America and Cuba was absolute. The U.S. banned doing business with Cuba. The ban remained in place until President Obama modified it.

Fidel Castro was a true leader. The Cuban people followed him through years of hardship. It continues. Those who did not go along with Castro faced a different fate. In the name of the revolution, many went to jail. And there were executions.

Still, Cuba held the imagination of the world. It was a little country defying a big country.

Raúl Castro and the new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel. Photo credit: NY Daily News

Fidel Castro turned the country over to his brother Raúl Castro in 2008. A few days ago, Raúl Castro turned the country over to Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez as the new President of Cuba.

Raúl Castro is not leaving. He is still the head of the Communist Party and the armed forces. But for a world that has seen Castro and Cuba as the same thing, this is a big change.

Who is Miguel Díaz-Canel? He is fifty-eight years old. He has spent his entire life in the service of a revolution he did not fight. He rose through the Communist system. He was the governor of provinces. He was the minister of higher education. He a son of Cuba.

Observers say he is a hardliner on Communist ideology. As a person, he is friendly and willing to listen to ideas. He is also political in what he says and in what does. But he is also a modern man. Cuba needs to join the world of technology. Cubans are weary of hardship. The Cuban economy must grow.

It is not known how President Miguel Díaz-Canel will manage things in Cuba. He says the U.S. remains the foe. He may not have the magic of the Castro’s in the Cuban public’s eye. Many are curious and watching.

Source: The New York Times April 19, 2018

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