The illness of Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, has generated a lot of interest in the West, especially the United States, probably in the hope that after him the flag of 'freedom' and 'democracy' will flutter over Havana. If the locals do not raise this banner, Washington can always be expected to exercise its 'right' that it has already used in some countries to bring about regime change. But the US might have to take a harder look before it sends its forces to Cuba because its troubles that began in Iraq and Afghanistan have multiplied with the Middle East again on fire and Iran paying no heed to appeals for capping its nuclear programme.
To expect Cuba to change overnight after Castro could well be daydreaming. First of all, Castro is still alive even if he has 'temporarily' relinquished power-to his younger brother, Raul. Fidel Castro and the communists who rule Cuba had decided way back in 1997 that Raul would succeed his elder brother. In addition a line of succession is also said to have been set in place to ensure that the Cuban 'revolution' keeps rolling on while Raul himself had once suggested the concept of collective leadership to succeed his brother.
A quick survey by some media agencies undertaken soon after Castro's illness was announced and his subsequent operation to stop intestinal bleeding showed that the Cubans were neither unduly perturbed by the health 'crisis' of their leader nor was there any sign of a counter revolution in the country that the US was praying for. In fact, most Cubans seemed to like Fidel Castro despite all talk of his 'tyrannical' regime.
Of course, the mood among the Cubans in the US, particularly in the state of Florida, separated from Cuba by a Gulf, was different. Many of them 'celebrated' the news of Castro's illness. This kind of perversion infuriated Fidel Castro's sister who lives in exile in Miami. She is apparently no supporter of her brother's political philosophy but loves him as perhaps any other sibling would. The glee among the Cubans in the US, one might suspect, was inspired by the tireless and incessant anti-Castro propaganda that has been unleashed by successive US regimes.
The US spends a lot of money in openly instigating Cuban exiles to plot overthrow of the Castro regime. Early this summer, the US administration had appointed Caleb McCarry as 'transitional coordinator' for Cuba. His job: help Cubans 'recover' their freedom after 47 years of a 'brutal' dictatorship. Surely, the US knows that Castro's predecessor, a brutal dictator called Fulgencio Batista, was no benevolent democrat? But in US diplomacy adopting double standards plays an important role.
Anyway, McCarry has an official budget of $59 million that is meant to 'hasten' a 'transition' in Cuba so that Raul Castro or other 'pretenders' such as vice president Carlos Lage and foreign minister Perez Roque are stopped from replacing Fidel Castro to keep the revolution alive. It may be added here that a US presidential committee has called for an allocation of another $80 million to bolster the Cuban opposition which is more visible in the US than in Cuba.
That much of the opposition to the present Cuban regime enjoys US patronage cannot be denied. The US has also never hidden its intention to install a puppet in place of Castro in Havana. The CIA was entrusted many times the 'honourable' task of assassinating Castro. The cigar-smoking Cuban survived; and has already outlived nine US presidents. Many years ago, the US had even planned to use its nuclear arsenal to wipe out Cuba. Then, for the past 40 years, the US has imposed a strict economic sanction on Cuba.
Nothing has worked against Castro, though the Cubans in the US have managed to create a strong lobby of their own. They thrive only be vowing an intense hatred for Castro. One of these exiles, now a US senator, Mel Martinez, did his faithful duty just after Castro was hospitalised by calling on Cubans to take their country away from the 'tyranny towards a democratic future'. Another Cuban American, US commerce secretary, Carlos Gutierrez, obviously buoyed by the fact of Castro's illness, announced that 'the time has come for a real transition to a true democracy where human rights are respected.'
The Bush administration says it is keenly watching the developments in Cuba, particularly the health of Castro. The state department spokesman has reminded the world that the people of Cuba were 'aspiring and thirsty for democracy and given the choice, they would choose a democratic government.' President George W. Bush himself said at Miami; 'If Fidel Castro were to move on because of natural causes, we have got a plan in place to help the people of Cuba' who, he thinks, 'understand that there is a better way than the system which they have been living under.'
The US and its like-minded allies are so eager to see Castro go that they have encouraging speculation as to why Castro and his brother, who is also the defence minister, not seen in public after Castro's illness became public. The suggestion seems to be that while the 80-year old elder Castro has passed away, the younger sibling is unable to take control of the throne. The US has perhaps reasons to feel even more apprehensive about the 75-year-old Raul taking over from his brother as many consider him to be more hard-line than Fidel.
In his early days, Fidel was more inclined towards nationalism than revolution while his younger brother was already a committed socialist. Raul was kept out of the limelight after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 because he was considered too aggressive a revolutionary. Fidel Castro would not have perhaps made a formidable revolutionary duo with Che Guevara had Raul not introduced his elder brother to the legendary Cuban revolutionary in 1956.
Those who are scheming a regime change in Cuba will do well to realise that slowly but surely, a lot of South America, considered America's backyard, is turning away from the US and all that it stands for. Today, the US sees the leader of oil-rich Venezuela as a kind of Fidel Castro clone who is bitterly anti-US but enjoys popular mass support in his country despite his 'tyrannical' ways.
Bolivia is another country that is firmly in the 'enemy' camp. Some other countries in the region are fence sitters, ready to shake hands with the new 'enemies' of the US. The US needs to ponder over the reasons for its growing unpopularity in not only Latin America but also the rest of the world too before it dreams of regime change in Cuba or anywhere else. Democracy is undoubtedly the best form of government; but it cannot be exported by force nor transfused with the help of some dissidents fattened by US dollars.
Atul- Rama, Syndicate Features