Thursday, August 03, 2006

Time to rebuild relationships, for Cuba's sake

The Miami Herald

Posted on Wed, Aug. 02, 2006



Not the exploding cigar or the hallucinogenic aerosol, not snipers, mafia assassins or contaminated diving suits, not four decades of embargo, travel bans, threats, bluster, bullying or wishful thinking. Not plots, but time's relentless plodding has nudged Fidel Castro closer to the history he hoped would absolve him.

A bleeding stomach. In the end, removing Castro from power was easier than imagined. All it took was a serious case of common mortality.

''Acute intestinal crisis,'' is how Castro described his usurper in a note to the nation Monday. And not 24 hours later, Miami crackled with speculation that the message was delivered from beyond the grave.

Fidel might be dead, incapacitated or just testing the Styx's waters. But after years of failed predictions and premature announcements, he is -- by his own admission -- no longer in power.

We are at the beginning of the end, the moment Fidel himself unconsciously described when he said that revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past.

We in Miami know a great deal about the past, having steeped ourselves in all its comforting trappings for the better part of half a century. What we're still unsteady on is the future. What that future looks like and who gets to shape it depends on the choices we make today.

First, the rhetoric of hate and bitterness has to die with Fidel. Time is passing all the old demagogues by. Acknowledging the pain and terror of Castro's rule does not grant license to wallow eternally in victimhood. Now is the time to apply creativity and understanding to the problem of Cuba so the country can begin to escape the cycle of dictatorship and exile.

''We are witnessing a new chapter in Cuban history,'' said exile Silvia Wilhelm. ``I pray to God that we have the discipline and common sense to tread very lightly.''

Wilhelm, a bruised and battered veteran of Miami's ideology wars, wonders: ``Can we for once in our life look at something and make it an opportunity instead of a fiasco?''

We can begin by banishing the word ''transition'' from the discussion. What took place this week is a succession, one the Cuban government has obviously been planning for a long time, as evidenced by the amount of detail in Fidel's (or his ''ghost'' writer's) letter.

What happens now in Cuba is not up to the United States -- the Bush administration's condescending fairy tale of a ''Cuba plan'' notwithstanding. Cuba's future is up to the Cuban people. And that's exactly as it should be.

Not ''transition'' and not ''reparation'' -- what should immediately concern us in Miami is rebuilding the relationships that the politics of paranoia and vengeance worked so assiduously to destroy.

I propose a series of town hall meetings (perhaps sponsored by this paper). Not for politicians, but for all those who haven't been heard. Let's trade ideas, dream, argue. Rehash the past and move on. Let's open up travel to Cuba, pair young students with one another. Let's begin the reconciliation. Even if Castro returns, his rule won't be the same. For the first time in 47 years, we have a real chance to shape the future. Let's not blow it.

Speaking of the future: A few months ago in this column, psychic Elaine Ferretti predicted Castro's demise in 2006. I caught up with her again Tuesday.

''I'm not surprised at all,'' she said. ``He's a Leo, and Saturn is in the sign of Leo. Saturn is the lord of karma and it's his time now.''

Not the CIA or exiled voodoo dolls. With apologies to Ms. Ferretti, not even the planets. What will finally bring down Fidel is just ordinary old age, the one enemy that all the rhetoric and black magic in the world cannot defeat.

May the future continue to triumph.

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