The Seven Phases of Fidel Castro / Iván García
Ivan Garcia, 10 December 2016 — In a country sculpted by slogans,
intolerance and symbols, the departure of Fidel Castro — absolute ruler
and founding father of the Cuban Revolution — changes the rules of the game.
Nothing will ever be the same again. No future autocrat will be able to
summon a million people to a public square, call for enormous sugar
harvests, tell huge lies or launch wars of emancipation far from our shores.
Fidel Castro’s death is the signature on the death certificate of his
Revolution. Castro himself perverted it in 1976 when the country
formally adopted a Soviet-style system. The whole process can be divided
into seven different phases.
The first phase was romantic. Fidel and his bearded soldiers were like
the Three Wise Men bearing a simple political message: democracy, free
elections and social justice.
Most people applauded the deception. Fidel deceived the public by
appearing to distance himself from communism and seducing a large swath
of the world’s intellectuals.
Then there was his own version of the Storming of the Bastille. Red
tides, confrontations, executions of opponents, a phony civil war in the
Bay of Pigs and seven years of uprisings in the Escambray Mountains.
Large industries were nationalized as an astute Fidel Castro entered
into a strategic geopolitical alliance with the Soviet Union. It was the
most violent phase of his rule, with 50,000 political prisoners. He
governed the country as though it were his private estate and
transformed Havana into the Mecca of anti-colonial guerrilla movements.
One day, when the secret archives of the state sanctum are opened and
their contents are dispassionately examined, we will see how
irresponsible Castro was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Urging Nikita
Khrushchev to launch the first atomic missile strike, thus condemning
his own people to extermination, was no small detail.
The years 1968 to 1976 marked Fidel Castro’s most radical phase. He
confiscated small businesses, anesthetized art and culture, and
accumulated total power.
From that date until 1991 he began building Soviet Cuba. The army grew
to a million men, four thousand tanks and two-hundred-fifty MIG fighter
Espionage became professionalized and social control began to be applied
with scientific precision. Cuban intelligence services ultimately had
agents operating in half the world’s countries and about five thousand
in Florida alone.
The arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Kremlin, along with his policies
of perestroika and glasnost, heralded the decline of Castro’s personal
empire. Already in the fifth phase, Cuba suddenly found itself face to
face with reality. It was a nation that had been impoverished by
economic delusions and Fidel’s wars in Africa and Latin America.
Thus began a painful period of deprivation. People fainted from hunger
in the streets, oxen replaced tractors in the fields and daily blackouts
lasted for twelve hours or more.
In spite of thousands of Cubans fleeing by air, land and sea, as well as
an attempted popular uprising in 1994, Fidel Castro was able to govern
without major disruption due to the efficiency of his propaganda and
The sixth phase was a gift from Santa Claus. Hugo Chavez — a former
parachutist from the Venezuelan city of Barina, a man of disjointed
speeches with the obsessions of a visionary hero — attempted to revive
socialism by combining a handful of theoretical inanities by Heinz
Dietrich with a bogus religiosity and odes to Simon Bolivar.
In his twilight years Fidel Castro achieved his crowning achievement:
Venezuela. It was perhaps as significant as the victory at Cuito
Cuanavale, a key battle against the South African army, which he had
commanded from ten thousand kilometers away.
The Venezuelan case is worthy of study by political scientists and
instructors in espionage. Castro conquered Caracas without firing a
shot. His recipe? Ideology and backroom consultations.
Fidel remade himself into a kind of Caribbean Rasputin. Never in human
history has a nation with an army of has-beens managed to colonize
another nation with three times the population and four times the GDP.
The symbolism and message it offered were enough. Chavez opened the
doors of his presidential palace to Cuban military advisers and the
South American country got thirty thousand doctors and medical personnel.
Half of this aid was paid for with petroleum, the other half with
dollars. The current Venezuelan crisis, a perfect storm, arose from the
fall in petroleum prices but was aggravated by interference from Cuba.
The seventh and current stage began with the political death of Fidel
Castro on July 31, 2006. His brother and hand-picked successor, Raul, is
trying to dismantle the operation and get the machinery of production
back in order.
In the international arena, Cuba put away the pistols and began the
diplomatic dialogue. Raul Castro, always operating from behind the
scenes, negotiated the release of a handful of political prisoners with
the Catholic church and the Spanish government. Cuba held secret talks
with the United States, which made possible the reestablishment of
diplomatic relations with its old enemy. It helped mediate an end to the
civil war in Colombia. It alleviated burdensome international financial
debts and it allowed Cubans to be tourists in their own country. Believe
me, all this was no small feat.
It did all this while still repressing dissenting voices. The repressive
model of the Raul era is different and probably more efficient.
Opponents can travel overseas and, if they are detained, it is often
only for a few hours in police holding cells except in unusual
By the time Fidel Castro had died — from causes still unknown — on the
night of November 25, a quarter of a million Cubans had emigrated over
the previous four years, the economy had run aground, corruption had
become endemic, the country faced an eminent demographic time bomb,
apathy and discontent were widespread and an amateurish dissident
movement was as disorganized as it was distracted.
With the death of Fidel Castro, things are bound to change in Cuba. One
cannot continue to expect good results from the same old economic,
political and social recipes.
Fidel Castro was the past. When he came to power, there were no such
things as cell phones, the internet or gay marriage. Some nations were
still colonies and electronic commerce was something out of science fiction.
The European Union was but a dream in the head of the French president,
General Charles de Gaulle, and no one foresaw the end of Russian
communism. Raul Castro announced that he will retire in February 2018, a
year and two months from now.
According to Cuba watchers, the possible subsequent scenarios range from
neo-Castroism to state capitalism to a family dynasty. And any of the
three, they predict, could lead to democracy in the not too distant future.
The reason is simple: we have already hit bottom.
Marti Noticias, December 7, 2016
Source: The Seven Phases of Fidel Castro / Iván García – Translating