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Remembering the Greatest Third World Leader: Cuba's Dr Fidel Castro
One man who has won the admiration of the third world is Dr Fidel Castro. This bearded cigar smoking Cuban revolutionary is like a brand name. He stood up to the might of Uncle Sam and carved a niche of his own in world history. For the record he is the longest serving President of any country in the world. He retired in 2006 and handed over the reins to his brother Raul Castro. As on date the Castro brothers have ruled Cuba for 54 years and that is a record that will be difficult to emulate.
Coming to Power
Castro came to power in 1959 when he landed in Cuba with a band of revolutionaries. These revolutionaries moved towards Havana and the small group swelled to thousands as people en masse joined them with a one point aim to overthrow the American puppet Batista. This man fled and Castro came to the helm of affairs in Cuba.
The Americans initially supported but Castro, but they soon realized that Castro wanted to chart a separate path. He enforced socialism and targeted the American owned industries that controlled 90% of the Cuban economy. At that time the US decided that it would be better to get rid of Castro. Accordingly plans were hatched to overthrow Castro with the help of Cuban exiles, many of whom opposed Castro
The Bay of Pigs Invasion
The fledgling government now faced its first test in 1960 as the CIA launched an invasion with the help of Cuban exiles in the USA. Kennedy was the President at the time of the invasion, but the plans were drafted and approved earlier during the presidency of General Ike.
The invasion known as the Bay of Pigs invasion began with much fanfare with complete support from the CIA. The USA assumed that Castro would be overthrown easily. But it did not happen that way as the invasion got bogged down. The anticipated popular uprising against Castro did not take place and the Cuban exiles supported by the CIA were defeated. Tens were captured and many surrendered. The US and its citizens were surprised. It showed that Castro had a groundswell of support among the masses.
The 1962 Missile Crisis and the Quid Pro Quo
In 1962 the Cuban missile crisis erupted when the Soviet government started erecting missiles in Cuba. Kennedy ordered a blockade of Cuba and Nikita Khrushchev, the realist that he was agreed to dismantle the missiles. But a secret protocol included a quid pro quo that was agreed to by Kennedy. In this the USA agreed not to destabilize the Cuba regime. In addition as part of the deal the USA dismantled missiles from Turkey. This was a bitter pill for the USA and ensured the survival of the communist government in Cuba.
The US has honored this commitment till date. The result is that Castro remained in power and became a bone in the US throat. Thus despite all the touting of a US victory, Kennedy had to pay a heavy price for it in the shape of a communist government in Cuba. For Castro had embraced Marxism and communism was the de facto economic policy in Cuba.
Castro and Power
The US press and the so called free world regularly publicized ‘news’ of Castro’s atrocities. But independent observers were of the view that the people targeted were mostly the rich sugar barons who were in any case close to the US. Economically also the USA was hit as Castro nationalized all foreign companies. As the USA controlled 90% of Cuban economy, they were badly hit. But the agreement of Kennedy gave them no leeway to attack Castro.
Castro thus thrived and even talked of exporting his revolution to other South American countries. Here he failed as the conditions in Cuba could not be replicated in other South American countries.
Orderly Exit of Fidel Castro
Castro ruled till 2006 till his health failed him and he handed over the reins of power to his brother Raul Castro. Raul has been at the helm of affairs since then and in the 2013 party Congress announced that he would retire in 2018 as he is already 81. This is a magnificent gesture and an appreciation of ground realities as a successor in the 52 year old Miguel Diaz- Cannel is appointed first Vice President. An orderly succession is thus on the line. When Raul retires in 2018, the Castro brothers would have made history by ruling for 59 years. A wonderful achievement.
American propaganda has failed to overthrow the Castro brothers, as even after the collapse of the Soviet Union Cuba has rolled ahead. The lot of the common man has improved beyond measure and an element of pride instituted in the third world. Dr. Fidel Castro’s place in world history is assured forever.
For the USA it has been a bitter pill to have a communist government in its own backyard. Unfortunately the secret protocol agreed by Kennedy with Nikita Khrushchev in 1962 tied the hands of successive American presidents.
For the third world Dr Fidel Castro is a shining light and remains a much respected figure in the Non Aligned movement. Perhaps there may never be another Fidel ever.