Still his head re­mains un­bowed

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Peter Josie

My first thought on the pass­ing of Fidel Cas­tro, for­mer pres­i­dent of Cuba, was that he died with his head un­bowed. The man who led a suc­cess­ful rev­o­lu­tion against the cor­rupt Batista regime had every reason to be proud. He had gone where no other Cuban had dared to go. Suc­cess to me is to defy the odds – to ac­com­plish that which no one ex­pected of you. I saw Fidel through the lenses of the Catholic Church where I grew up. When I ex­am­ine the hu­man con­di­tion in the world it leads me to com­pare rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies like Fidel to what Je­sus did. Did Fidel chase the money lenders and gam­blers from his beloved home­land? Did he help the poor and raise the Mag­da­lene of Cuba to a new place of dig­nity? It is im­pos­si­ble to have grown up in the church as Fidel Cas­tro had, and not dwell on such ques­tions. The church was cow­ardly and weak in the face of the ex­cesses of Batista and his for­eign ex­ploiters, hence Fidel’s prob­lems with it. That wink­ing col­lu­sion be­tween church and state can turn a con­scious na­tion­al­ist against the hypocrisy. But the Cuban rev­o­lu­tion was never about Fidel Cas­tro, the man, or the church. It was against Batista’s rule and a more pro­found the­o­ret­i­cal un­der­stand­ing of how a coun­try’s econ­omy ought to work for the ben­e­fit of all its cit­i­zens. Fidel and his com­rades saw Cap­i­tal­ism hid­ing be­hind the façade of free­dom and called it as they saw it.

In the fifty years he ruled Cuba no one ques­tioned his sin­cer­ity or his wealth. Com­pare this to the lit­tle tin gods that peo­ple the rest of the Caribbean and the third world. Fidel most likely died poorer than when he first en­tered politics. The rev­o­lu­tion was about per­sonal sac­ri­fice, the type which sets peo­ple like Fidel apart. This is what qual­i­fies him to sit among ti­tans, such as Je­sus and a hand­ful of oth­ers.

Sadly, those Cuban/ Amer­i­cans who cel­e­brate the death of Fidel have never re­pented their ex­cesses over the Cuban poor, un­der Batista. They are not pre­pared to let go of the past. They there­fore can­not expect the peo­ple of Cuba to for­give them. Their dream to make Cuba the 53rd. State of the Union, so that they can fly be­tween pros­ti­tu­tion clubs in Mi­ami to oth­ers in Ha­vana as their grand­par­ents did once, will not soon hap­pen. The dis­play on the streets in Mi­ami was noth­ing short of vul­gar. A be­hav­ior some of us un­der­stand. We also un­der­stand why of the hun­dreds who Fidel helped to re­gain their eyesight and health, so few re­turned to say thanks. We un­der­stand be­cause a long time be­fore Fidel some­one else had cleansed sev­eral lep­ers of which only one re­turned, to say thanks.

How was Fidel able to out­last so many pow­er­ful and hos­tile US ad­min­is­tra­tions, a mere three hun­dred miles from Ha­vana? That ques­tion will be de­bated by stu­dents of politics for a very long time. I of­fer his ‘le­git­i­macy’ as a pos­si­ble an­swer. Fidel had the backs of the Cuban peo­ple and they had his. In fact, Cuba be­came Fidel and Fidel Cuba.

Can Cuba re­lax its strict fis­cal and mone­tary pol­icy (and laws), with­out invit­ing the freefor-all greed and the ex­cesses of the Batista era? The Cuban regime knows bet­ter than most that Amer­ica has the ca­pac­ity to pur­chase any elec­tions, in any third world coun­try. The world has learned that Amer­ica can em­brace the vilest and most cor­rupt dic­ta­tors as long as they do her bid­ding. There is no coun­try that talks more free­dom, and yet so quickly de­prives its cit­i­zens of that free­dom.

Some may ask why Fidel chose this time to leave us. Per­haps the great I-AM has de­creed that pres­i­dent Obama should out­last him. It may be po­etic jus­tice that the only US pres­i­dent who made a gen­uine ef­fort to nor­mal­ize re­la­tions be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Ha­vana should have out­lasted Fidel. Can any­one deny that the Democrats lost Florida in the last elec­tions be­cause of that rap­proche­ment? Fidel had pre­dicted that he would not see an African Amer­i­can as pres­i­dent of the USA in his life­time. He was wrong. He was also wrong for not find­ing an orig­i­nal and cre­ative way of deal­ing with those in Cuba that did not sup­port him.

On the an­nounce­ment of his death last Fri­day, some pun­dits have pre­dicted that pres­i­dent elect Trump will re­turn to the hard, stub­born re­la­tions be­tween the US and Cuba. This is still an open ques­tion as Trump’s only agenda in my view is to spread the Trump business brand. If Trump were to fall back to the pre-Obama US/Cuba re­la­tions, he is in for a rude awak­en­ing. He will dis­cover that the Cuban rev­o­lu­tion (and peo­ple), will out­last him, the Trump brand and the next ten US pres­i­dents com­bined.

Fidel Cas­tro was a keen stu­dent of Amer­i­can his­tory and politics and he un­der­stood that coun­try. He was aware of the deep racism and anti-black sen­ti­ments in the US; hence his earlier pre­dic­tion about a black man be­com­ing pres­i­dent of the US. Clearly, he had un­der­es­ti­mated the prag­ma­tism of US cap­i­tal­ism.

I was one of the first cit­i­zens from Saint Lu­cia to have vis­ited Cuba (1971), in the mod­ern era. I was in Ha­vana to at­tend an In­ter­na­tional Congress of Work­ers. Fidel was at the congress and made a point of meet­ing every del­e­gate. But the man of the Cuban rev­o­lu­tion who I most ad­mired was Che Gue­vara. To me Che was Je­sus Christ, Al­lah, Yah­weh all wrapped into one. Fidel, Che and their com­rades cov­ered them­selves in glory by lib­er­at­ing Cuba from the ex­cesses of cap­i­tal­ism.

Fidel Cas­tro left be­hind him an im­per­ish­able name that will long be re­mem­bered by the peo­ple of Saint Lu­cia. No other coun­try has done more to ed­u­cate the youth of Saint Lu­cia than Cuba. No other has pro­vided the quan­tity and qual­ity of health care to Saint Lu­cia. Few have em­braced Saint Lu­cia as tightly as Fidel did. I pre­dict that Fidel Cas­tro will be more hon­oured in death than in life. His head may be bloody, but it re­mains for­ever un­bowed. Fidel is dead; viva Fidel! The au­thor is a for­mer gov­ern­ment min­is­ter and a long-time ad­mirer of Fidel Cas­tro.

Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet pic­tured earlier this week at the post­hu­mous trib­ute of Cubans to Fidel Cas­tro in front of José Martí Me­mo­rial of the plaza of the rev­o­lu­tion in Ha­vana.

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