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Fidel: I don't expect to last beyond Obama's first term

Posted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 12:14 pm
by Guysanto
Former Cuban president praises US leader in online column and tells Cuban officials to make decisions without him
Associated Press, Friday 23 January 2009

Fidel Castro has said he doubts he will make it to the end of Barack Obama's four-year term as US president and has instructed Cuban officials to start making decisions without taking him into account.

In an online column titled Reflections of Comrade Fidel, the 82-year-old former Cuban president suggested his days were numbered, saying Cuban officials "shouldn't feel bound by my occasional Reflections, my state of health or my death".

"I have had the rare privilege of observing events over such a long time. I receive information and meditate calmly on those events," he wrote. "I expect I won't enjoy that privilege in four years, when Obama's first presidential term has ended."

He didn't elaborate, but the lines had the ring of a farewell.

"I have reduced the Reflections as I had planned this year, so I won't interfere or get in the way of the [Communist] Party or government comrades in the constant decisions they must make," he wrote.

Castro stepped down in July 2006 to undergo emergency surgery and hasn't been seen in public since. He turned over the presidency to his younger brother, Raùl, in February last year after nearly half a century as Cuba's leader, but his periodic essays have continued to carry weight.

They are diligently read in full at the top of midday and nightly radio and television newscasts before any other national or international story. At times, they have even appeared to contradict the words of his brother, prompting speculation over who is really in charge.

Yesterday's essay came out on a government website shortly before the nightly news, but newscasters chose not to mention it, instead reading a column Castro had released on Wednesday.

The bulk of yesterday's column was devoted to praising Obama, the 11th US president since the Cuban revolution, in part for his decision to close the US prison at Guantànamo Bay in Cuba.

Castro recalled his thoughts as he watched Obama assume the "leadership of the empire".

"The intelligent and noble face of the first black president of the United States ... had transformed itself under the inspiration of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King into a living symbol of the American dream," he wrote.

Castro praised Obama as honest, writing: "No one could doubt the sincerity of his words when he affirms that he will convert his country into a model of freedom, respect for human rights in the world and the independence of other nations."

However, Castro suggested Obama would succumb to threats greater than his own qualities: "What will he do soon, when the immense power that he has taken in his hands is absolutely useless to overcome the unsolvable, antagonistic contradictions of the system?"

Obama has said he will not end the US embargo on Cuba without democratic reforms on the island, but will ease limits on Cuban-Americans' visits there and on the money they send home to relatives. He has also offered to negotiate personally with Raùl Castro.

Before Castro's latest two columns he hadn't been heard from in more than a month, fuelling rumours that he had suffered a stroke or lapsed into a coma. Those rumours were dispelled on Wednesday when he met the Argentininian president, Cristina Fernandez, the first foreign leader known to have done so since 28 November.

Fernandez said Castro wore the tracksuit that has become his trademark since he fell ill.

Raùl Castro, 77, said on Wednesday that his older brother spent his days "thinking a lot, reading a lot, advising me, helping me".

In an interview published yesterday by the Russian news agency Itar-Tass, Raùl Castro said Cuba would insist that the Obama administration close the entire US naval base at Guantànamo Bay – not just the prison camp for suspected terrorists.

"We demand that not only this prison but also this base should be closed and the territory it occupies should be returned to its legal owner – the Cuban people," Castro was quoted as saying, repeating a long-standing demand. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2009

Posted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 1:46 pm
by Guysanto
As is often said, there is nothing certain but death and taxes. This means that Fidel, at 82 years of age and in precarious health, will depart this earth and he will be sorely missed by millions throughout the world. The occasion will also be, vainly, celebrated in the streets of Little Cuba in Miami. The legacy of Fidel Castro, however, will endure, and not just in Cuba. Fidel has surely advanced humanitarian socialist ideas in Africa, Europe, Latin American, and yes, even in the midst of imperialistic-minded North America.

Fidel Castro has survived countless assassination attempts against him and 10 U.S. Presidents, the last being the execrable George W. Bush. Fidel was surely not a saint, but it is quite funny that those in United States government who have consistently rushed to condemn him were themselves guilty of far more serious crimes against humanity than the undemocratic behaviors they pointed to in Cuba.

However diverse our ideological biases may be, we Haitians should be grateful for many of the benefits we have enjoyed from our renewed relationship with Castro's Cuba: the doctors, the agronomists, the veterinarians and other technical experts, as well as their invaluable assistance in various development efforts (fishing, food production, etc) throughout the country.

Last but not least, we should be thankful as well for the education and training freely given in Cuba (the faculty of medicine in Santiago, chiefly) to hundreds if not thousands of our compatriots selected from economically disadvantaged members of our society, with a mission to return after studies to their country of origin and serve those who would otherwise not be able to afford the most basic medical care.

For all of that, I say Long Live Castro and his Revolution, and when his time come, may he depart this earth with the satisfaction of knowing that he has made a tremendous difference in the lives of many... now healthier, more educated, and much less in awe of the reach of imperialistic assassins posing as moralizers, due to his own indomitable courage and unconquerable passion.