The Practical Moralist

Thursday 28 February 2008, by AIJAZ AHMED

Fidel Castro withdraws from some of his official duties in Cuba at the very zenith of his moral authority in Latin America.

He has the nearly mystical conviction that the greatest achievement of the human being is the proper formation of conscience and that moral incentives, rather than material ones, are capable of changing the world and moving history forward. I believe he is one of the greatest idealists of our time . . .

 Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Marti taught us that ‘all the world’s glory fits in a kernel of corn’. Many times have I said and repeated this phrase, which carries in eleven words a veritable school of ethics.
 From Fidel Castro’s National Assembly address, December 31, 2007.

For those of us on the Marxist left whose lives have been marked profoundly by the fact that Fidel Castro lived in our own time, politics is always conceived as a branch of practical ethics and even communist governments are judged in the light of those ethics. More than any other communist in our time, Fidel reminds us incessantly that what we call “scientific socialism” would be nothing if it were not also what he calls “a veritable school of ethics”. This is the side of him which makes Garcia Marquez, Fidel’s friend for 40 years, call him “one of the greatest idealists”.

Why must Cuba, a little island within firing range of the United States’ armed forces and 84 times smaller than its adversary - a poor little island off the coast of Florida, perennially threatened by the most powerful empire in human history - resist U.S. imperialism? Why must Cuban doctors be dispatched to Pakistan when a terrible earthquake devastates its northern regions, even though Cuba, the beleaguered little country, has no geopolitical stakes in that country - or anywhere else? Why must numerous Cubans give their lives in Angola to secure the freedom of that Portuguese colony against invasion by the Apartheid regime of the South Africa of that time? Why should Cuban health personnel be active in 18 different countries even today, saving numerous lives, without seeking property or even payment, in those countries? Why must the Cuban government do its utmost to ensure, even in the most difficult decade of its revolutionary life - the 1990s - that every child goes to school and every single household receives enough calories and protein intake to meet what the World Health Organisation deems necessary as a minimally healthy diet? And ensure, also, that the nation’s handicapped children have access to education, in special schools - and in homes and hospital rooms if necessary? And why must Cuba offer over a thousand of its doctors and tonnes of its medicines to the U.S. when a hurricane devastates the city of New Orleans, notwithstanding the hundreds of billions of dollars Cuba itself has lost owing to the U.S. embargo?

One of the many things that make Fidel so unique in the history of statecraft is that he constantly connects these practical questions with the moral. A nation that does not send all its children to school (including children born with deficiencies such as autism), does not ensure basic nutritional values for all of its citizenry, or does not eradicate malnutrition and preventable diseases, is in his vision not only a society deeply divided by class or race but also, simply, an immoral nation. The moral resides in the material, and, in his own “school of ethics”, derived equally from Marti and Marx - the nationalist and the socialist - “all the world’s glory fits into a kernel of corn” only when each child is nourished and educated, in city and village alike, and when a nation shares its bounty with other nations, as a gift and to the extent possible.

Fidel is proud of the fact that Cubans no longer die of the many diseases that beset other countries of the Third World but only of causes that prevail in the advanced countries: mainly heart disease, cancer and unforeseeable accidents. But why must Cuba, so poor a country, send thousands of its doctors to the farthest corners of the earth to save lives, for nothing in return? Well, Fidel is fond of quoting Jose Marti, the founding father of Cuban nationalism and anti-imperialism, whose 28 volumes he seems to know by heart: “Humanity is the Homeland.” A nationalism which always had, at its very core, a profound sense of obligation to humanity in general: a “proletarian internationalism” in the very finest sense of that term.

In his original political formation as a very young man, during the 1950s, Fidel was a nationalist (opposed to U.S. exploitation of his island-country) and a bourgeois democrat (son of a rich landowner, lawyer by training, opposed to the Batista dictatorship but also anti-communist). While Fidel was in his youth a member of the left wing of a perfectly bourgeois political party, it was his younger brother Raul (expected now to succeed him to the post of President) who was attracted to communist ideas during student days and who is said to have introduced him, somewhat later, to Che Guevara. Fidel moved further to the left not just in the company of Raul or Che but also in the very course of working among the poorest of the poor peasants during the legendary revolutionary warfare that he led from the mountainous regions of Sierra Maestra, before marching into Havana at the head of the Rebel Army in the first week of 1959. Even the name of the army was indicative: they were “rebels” against the U.S.-sponsored Batista dictatorship. Even at that stage, he was cut out to be a left-wing populist.
Ideological transition

It was the utter hostility of the U.S. toward his anti-imperialist nationalism which taught Fidel that nationalism itself had to choose its class content: one could not adhere to capitalism as such and yet defy imperialist domination; to be anti-imperialist, one also had to be a socialist and communist. He began speaking of socialism in October 1960, some 18 months after taking power. However, the open and decisive turn came only in his famous speech of April 16, 1961, just a day before the surprise Bay of Pigs invasion, in sonorous cadences: “The imperialists cannot forgive us because we exist . . . Comrade workers and peasants, this is a socialist and democratic revolution of the humble, with the humble, and for the humble . . . Long live our homeland’s martyrs! May the heroes of the nation live forever! Long live the socialist revolution! Long live free Cuba! Homeland or Death!”

That cry - Homeland or Death (patria o muerte) - was to reverberate across the globe for many years to come. What is most striking - and of great historical significance - is the fact that commitment to socialism had itself emerged as the only possible logical materialisation of anti-imperialist nationalism: socialism arising as something of an ethical imperative from inside the requirements of nationalism itself. This theme was to be made most explicit in one of the historic documents of the Cuban Revolution: Fidel’s speech of December 2, 1961 - usually given the title ‘From Marti to Marx’ - a magnificent oration which said, among other things that “there is no middle way between capitalism and socialism. Those who persist in seeking third ways fall into a quite false and utopian position. This would be like fooling oneself; this would mean complicity with imperialism.” Only after this political and ideological transition did the preparation began for the formation, as late as 1965, of the Communist Party of Cuba as we know it today.

Fidel has never deviated from this position in his own leadership of the Cuban revolution. Yet, thanks to this equal emphasis on socialism and anti-imperialist nationalism, Cuban foreign policy was devoted not only to forming a global revolutionary front of peoples across the globe but also a broad anti-imperialist front of states in as many forums and on as many issues as possible. Thus, even though any chatter about a “third way” between capitalism and socialism was said to be “false and utopian” as well as a “complicity with imperialism”, the actual, material form of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was seen as a significant way for building a broad front of states against the most aggressive forms of U.S. imperialism. And, from Angola to Haiti to Pakistan to Venezuela, Cuban doctors were dispatched to cope with emergencies in diverse countries, regardless of their social systems. Woven into all this has always been the idea that Cuba must inspire the peoples of the world - and even the states of the world - through its own example and its devotion to the idea, enunciated by its national hero, that “Humanity is the Homeland.”

Historic transformation

Serving its own people and teaching the world not through domination but simply by example includes the fact that Cuba is the only Latin American country where there is no malnutrition but virtually hundred per cent education; where infant mortality rates are comparable to those of Canada or Sweden; where there is, as a norm, one teacher per every 20 pupils in elementary and lower secondary schools; which produce more doctors, per capita, than any other country in the world; where women are the majority of the nation’s technical and scientific personnel; where agricultural production per hectare has risen while chemical inputs have declined and ecologically sustainable natural inputs have increased; and which has tens of thousands of its medical personnel saving lives elsewhere in the world while also training doctors from all over the hemisphere, including the U.S. All this, despite all the pressures and sabotage activities of the U.S., whose extra-territorial embargo against Cuba has cost the island-state hundreds of billions of dollars.

Fidel has had the grand satisfaction of supervising these historic transformations in his country, and especially of defending the socialist state during the decade of the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union which resulted in such chaos in the Cuban economy that some sectors of it regressed to pre-revolutionary levels. Substantial recovery from all that has been one of the miracles of Cuban economy, even though at the expense of certain systemic distortions. Fidel also has the satisfaction of seeing some of his heirs come to power elsewhere in Latin America, notably in Venezuela and Bolivia. Hugo Chavez was a nationalist, populist and quasi-leftist military officer, as Fidel himself had been in his youth, but grew to be an audacious revolutionary under Fidel’s tutelage; the great sadness in Fidel’s falling prey to ill-health now is that Chavez may soon have to carry on without instruction from the Grand Old Man of the Latin American Revolution. Evo Morales went for such instructions soon after winning the presidency in Bolivia, and Fidel’s role has been central in working out not only some of the lines of action for Morales inside his country but also for sorting out relationships between Bolivia and Venezuela on the one hand, and Bolivia and Brazil on the other. And, it is always a pleasure to see the heads of states of Argentina and Brazil, the giants in Latin American economy, pay homage to Fidel, again and again in recent years, when even a nodding acquaintance with him is enough to bring down the wrath of the mighty in Washington.

Fidel now withdraws from some of his duties at the very zenith of his moral authority in a Latin America that honours him today as one of its greatest heroes. There was Simon Bolivar, and then there was Jose Marti. Who else, to compare with Fidel’s historical stature?

The global media is abuzz: Fidel Castro - the great revolutionary for most of humanity; the great monster for U.S. imperialism - has resigned. The strongest refutation of such an idea comes from none other than Hugo Chavez, Fidel’s true heir on the Latin American scale. Figures like Fidel “never retire,” he says, “Fidel will always be in the lead.” Truth lies somewhere between these assertions, well summed up in the phrasing of the news agency Prensa Latina: “Fidel Castro’s decision not to be included among the candidates to government leadership opens a road which has been worked with the care and precision of a goldsmith.”

That is just about right. Fidel is undoubtedly the most visionary and audacious among revolutionaries of our age but also a hard-boiled realist, devoted to detail and precision, much like a ‘goldsmith’ working on the most precious but also the most difficult of metals. Some of that difficult metal is of course within one’s own self. In the most recent of his addresses to the National Assembly, at the end of 2007, he remarks: “Deep down, every citizen wages an individual battle against humanity’s innate tendency to stick to its survival instincts . . . We are all born marked by that instinct . . . Coming face to face with this instinct is rewarding because it leads us to a dialectical process and to a constant and altruistic struggle, bringing us closer to Marti and making us true communists.” Some reflection on this passage should give us pause, for it tells us something basic about his philosophical understanding of Marxism, his way of coping with his own mortality, and the kind of political transition he has prepared for Cuba in the face of his own mortality.

Philosophically, human existence is understood here as a passage from the sheer individualism of the survival instinct, rooted in the brute biological need, to what Fidel calls “a constant and altruistic struggle”, rooted in morals and politics, which brings us “closer to anti-imperialism (Marti) and Communism (Marx). In other words, transcendence of self-interest for the greater good. But that same biology that gives us the survival instinct also brings us the fact of our own mortality: how long must even the greatest of leaders cling to office, and how to prepare for one’s own death? Preparation for this transition began not now but during the party congress of 1997, ten years ago, when, referring to Raul Castro, his younger brother and closest comrade since they jointly led the famous assault on the Moncada Barracks in 1953 (before either of them met Che Guevara), Fidel said, “Raul is younger than I, more energetic than I. He can count on much more time.” More generally, referring to a younger set of leaders who had arisen in the party, Fidel said in that same speech of 1997: “Behind me are others more radical than I.”

In the very document that is being interpreted today as his “resignation”, he refers to his “provisional resignation, on 31 July 2006” when he was about to go in for a possibly fatal surgery and therefore withdrew from the practical requirements of high office, transferring his authority to a collective leadership of seven close comrades led by Raul Castro who has been the head of the armed forces since the onset of the revolution in 1959 and serves now not just as First Vice President but also as Vice-Secretary of the Polit Bureau and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba. The collective leadership that was put in place included old comrades (such as Ramiro Valdes, now 75, who participated in the assault on the Moncada Barracks alongside the Castro brothers) as well the younger ones (such as Carlos Lage, 56 years old, who rose to prominence during the 1990s when he played a key role in formulating sweeping new economic policies to cope with the crisis caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union). Thus, for a year and a half, Cuba has already witnessed a carefully crafted transition because, as Fidel puts it in that document, “my first duty was to prepare our people both politically and psychologically for my absence after so many years of struggle.”

Why this document now? The simple reason is that Cuban society has been undergoing an intense parliamentary electoral process since September 2007, which culminated in some 96 per cent of the eligible voters (voting age:16) casting secret ballots and 92 per cent of them choosing the united slate put together by unions as well as other popular organisations - of women, youth, small farmers, and the like. On February 24, 2008, Cuba’s National Assembly was scheduled to meet to elect by secret ballot 31 new members of the Council of State and those members would elect the President. Fidel’s document is addressed directly to this crucial meeting of the National Assembly and begins, “The moment has come to nominate and elect the State Council, its President, its Vice Presidents and Secretary.” He then surveys briefly several aspects of the current situation in Cuba and expresses satisfaction that leading cadres of the party are now drawn from three successive generations, ranging from those who initiated the revolutionary process some 60 years ago to those born after the revolution. In the process, Fidel makes four key, cryptic statements: 1. “I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of the President of the State Council and Commander-in-Chief”; 2. “My elementary duty is not to cling to positions, much less to stand in the way of younger persons”; 3. “It would be a betrayal of my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer”; and 4. “This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas.” Significantly, Fidel says nothing here about his position in the party itself.

Now, battle of ideas

His role “as a soldier in the battle of ideas” takes the overt form now of virtually daily columns in national newspapers, in which he reflects upon his own life, the revolutionary process in Cuba, imperialist strategies, problems faced by other countries of Latin America as well as the most general problems faced by the whole of humanity. For example, Fidel was undoubtedly the first head of state in the world who said, as early as 1992, that future of the human species itself is now at stake owing to the ecological disaster that has been caused by profit-based industrial production and the culture of consumerism which such production and accumulation entails; this has become a great preoccupation for him in his twilight years and the problem surfaces, in one way or another, in most things that he now publishes, including the most recent documents addressed to Cuba’s own National Assembly.

This, however, is by no means his only role as “a soldier in the battle of ideas”. The collective leadership that has been functioning for the past 18 months has said time and again that Fidel contributes critical advice and judgement in formulation of every policy, while he also sustains practical engagements with other Latin American leaders, such as Chavez of Venezuela, Morales of Bolivia, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, and others. Chavez is thus substantially correct in asserting that Fidel has not retired and continues to “lead”, even though the torch is surely being passed and he himself is supervising a very smooth transition of leadership on the national as well as continental scale. If Raul is likely to be nominated as the next President within Cuba, Chavez is already seen across Latin America as Fidel’s heir and successor in the Hemisphere. Within the nation, though, the process of transition shall continue for some more years, until the veterans of 1959 hand over the torch, finally, to a new generation of leaders who are not the makers of the original revolution but its products.

Each revolution must invent its own originality. The Chinese revolution was not a replica of the Bolshevik revolution, nor was the Vietnamese revolution a replica of the Chinese. Even so, the revolution that Fidel initiated was more original than most, with perhaps the single exception of the Bolshevik revolution. The men who created the guerilla bases in the remote mountain fastnesses of the Sierra Maestra were knit together by a revolutionary solidarity not in a party organisation, even though Fidel was seen from the beginning as first among equals. They survived in those remote zones of sparse and wretched agriculture, fighting off Batista’s armed forces and expanding their bases, thanks to the trust they inspired among the poorest of peasants, but they were themselves mostly urban middle class men and self-taught soldiers in a Rebel Army that included, as its second most illustrious and dominant figure after Fidel, an Argentine national, Che Guevara. Their Rebel Army consisted mainly of cadres, not of peasant masses, as in China or Vietnam.

Fidel had become a legendary figure after his defiant, great courtroom oration in 1953, printed under the title History Will Absolve Me and circulated in tens of thousands of copies. The legend kept getting larger and larger as news of guerilla warfare in the mountains reached the cities, which responded by funnelling much material support through clandestine channels and then arose in a massive general strike when the Rebel Army marched into Havana, on January 8. By then, Batista the dictator had fled the country and guerillas who had fought their way to Havana took over without firing any further shots. Even so, they were at no stage linked to any of the political parties of the cities and could begin their own organisation of state and politics with a clean slate, owing allegiance to none other than themselves.

The Cuban revolution has been perhaps the most thoroughgoing of the communist revolutions but the leaders who led Cuba on a socialist path were not communists or even theoretical Marxists when they actually made the revolution. Their communist party was founded not before the revolution but six years after the seizure of state power. They carried out swift and far-reaching nationalisations in industry as well as agriculture, but for the two key leaders of the revolution, Fidel and Che, communism was less about developing the “forces of production” through some sort of primitive socialist accumulation based on peasant tribute - that is, Stalin’s model during the period of collectivisation - and much more about transforming the social relations of production and creating a new kind of conscience - that is, the creation of what Che used to call “the New Socialist Man”.

Fidel was, since the very early days of his youth, a radical, insurrectionary nationalist but, in the grand tradition of Bolivar and Marti, this nationalism was fused seamlessly, in all the days of his adult life, with what one may call a collective, transnational Latin American patriotism. In 1947, when he was barely 18 and still a student, Fidel volunteered for an armed insurrection against the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic which did not materialise. His next political act was to travel through Colombia, Panama and Venezuela to help organise Latin American anti-imperialist student congress in response to the first conference of the U.S.-sponsored Organisation of American States (OAS). While in Colombia he participated in the April 1948 uprising in the capital city of Bogota. The next few years were spent inside Cuba organising various kinds of opposition to the Batista dictatorship when it arose in 1952. It is significant, though, that when he launched his effort to organise what later became the Rebel Army he retreated for the preparatory period not to the Cuban hinterland but to Mexico.

Che, for his part, was born in the Argentine upper class, had travelled all through Latin America on his own before meeting the Castro brothers, flung himself wholeheartedly into the Cuban revolution, fought for revolutions in Africa, and died, much too soon, while trying to organise a revolution in Bolivia. When Evo Morales won the recent presidential election in Bolivia and went to pay his respects to Fidel even before taking office, he said, memorably, that he and his comrades had taken up the tasks initiated by Che Guevara. For Fidel and Che, the Cuban revolution was always the first step in a comprehensive Latin American revolution. But not only Latin America.

Very soon after taking power, Fidel was to start stressing that Cuba was not only a Caribbean or a Latin American nation but had ties of blood and obligation with Africa as well, thanks to the slave trade which had brought numerous Africans in chains to work on the white man’s plantations. When Cuba despatched its soldiers to fight wars of liberation in Angola, Ethiopia and the Congo, Fidel was to say that the willingness to let Cuban blood be shed for the liberation of Africa was a small part of repayment that Cuba owed to the Continent for having once been the country that exploited black African slave labour.

Even beyond Latin America and Black Africa, there was the larger idea articulated by Marti and taken up by Fidel: “Humanity is the Homeland.” One of the earliest acts of solidarity with a former colony was the despatch of troops to fight in Algeria, risking the displeasure of France, and then to defend Algerian territory against Moroccan encroachment. And, few people know that a Cuban brigade was stationed on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights during the 1973 war with Israel. The famous slogan that Che coined - “Two, three, Many Vietnams” - was no empty rhetoric. He seriously believed that the best way to show solidarity with Indochinese people in their resistance against American invasion was to open other military fronts elsewhere in the world, and it was in keeping with this conviction that he went to open just such a front in Bolivia.

No country in the world demonstrates as well as does Fidel’s Cuba - a besieged and beleaguered little island struggling with its own development while embargoed by the U.S. and ignored by international financial institutions - the simple truth that any genuine anti-imperialist nationalism must be, of necessity, a thoroughgoing internationalism. Cuba’s practice of that internationalism is of course framed by socialist principles. Yet, this socialist internationalism also has unique Cuban characteristics, quite different from the various Internationals - the Second, the Third, and the Fourth.

Thousands of Cuban doctors who have served selflessly in 18 countries, out of a sense of internationalist solidarity, are the finest example of what the much abused phrase “humanitarian intervention” can mean if translated into a socialist version of transnational human obligation. Even that pales in comparison with what is now afoot under Fidel’s visionary guidance. A sense of all that can be had from just a couple of passages from a speech that he delivered in 2005, addressing the new medical graduates of that year. He begins:

The number of Latin American and Caribbean students from countries in South, Central and North America graduating from the Latin American School of Medicine, together with the young Cubans who graduate here today, amounts to 3,515 new doctors who will be at the service of our peoples and the world.

This figure will increase until 10,000 doctors are graduated every year, to meet our commitment of training 100,000 doctors from Latin America and the Caribbean in Cuba in ten years, under the principles of ALBA [Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean], signed between Cuba and Venezuela, which will contribute an equal number, in an unwavering attempt to integrate our peoples.

This is followed by a factual summary of the tremendous strides Cuba has made in the field of health care since the revolution (fully attested by WHO) and then refers to his ongoing dialogue with Chavez on Cuba-Venezuela cooperation:
Both of us, in the name of the peoples of Venezuela and Cuba, are deeply committed to supporting health care, literacy, education, Mission Miracles, PETROCARIBE, ELECTROCARIBE, the struggle against HIV and other important social and economic programmes with a strong humane and integration component in our region.

The enormous task of preserving and restoring the sight to no less than six million people from Latin America and the Caribbean [through Mission Miracles], and of training 200,000 healthcare professionals in 10 years, is completely unprecedented.
However, I am convinced that these programmes will be bettered. On June 30, it was suggested that Mission Miracle be extended to other countries in the Caribbean. Today, 81 days later, I can say here that the number of people from the Caribbean who have undergone eye surgery is now 4,212 and the number of Venezuelan brothers and sisters who have been operated on so far this year is 79,450, which combine for a total 83,662 patients.

The great progress made in this field by our country will reach other sister nations in our region by way of the young professionals who are beginning to graduate from the Latin American School of Medicine.

Fidel then discusses the earlier formation of the International Contingent of Doctors Specialised in Disaster Situations and Serious Epidemics, consisting of over 1,500 medical personnel, which drew from the experience of Cuban doctors from countries as diverse as Haiti and Pakistan, and which was now to be renamed as “The Henry Reeve Contingent” to honour an American who died fighting for the Cuban revolution. He then specifies the expansion plans:

This brigade will be primarily composed of members of the current force bearing this name. Successive members will be 200 volunteers from the current graduation of doctors, 200 from the previous graduation of 2003-04, 600 students in their sixth year of Medicine from the 2005-06 course, and 800 in their fifth year from this same course. Later, others will follow. Nobody should feel left out. The tens of thousands of specialists in Comprehensive General Medicine, as well as Cuban Nursing graduates and health care professionals who are presently on missions abroad, or who have completed them, represent an infinite reserve for the Henry Reeve Contingent.

No country in the world puts such a large part of its own resources for the good of humanity beyond its borders. The conception itself puts to shame the concept of “humanitarian intervention”, which is so widely discussed among the geopolitical strategists and moral philosophers of the capitalist West but always in terms of the justifiability of military intervention, in regions as far apart as the Balkans and the Horn of Africa, not to speak of Iraq or Afghanistan.

Limitations of space does not allow us to discuss myriad other achievements in Fidel’s Cuba, in such diverse areas as food sovereignty, mass education, gender and racial equality, the development of sustainable alternative technologies, especially in agriculture, the great recovery from the crash of the 1990s.

Suffice it to say that the magnitude of these achievements and Cuba’s inspiring role in the life of nations is such that we tend to forget that Fidel is the national leader of a small little island and think of him, almost instinctively, as the iconic world leader, on a scale no one would wish to confer on the leader of the day in India, Brazil or South Africa. In Latin America at least he is revered almost universally, and few are the Latin American leaders who do not seek his advice.

Yet, no real measure of the achievement is possible without taking into account the sheer animosity and constant aggression that Cuba has faced from its imperial neighbour, which imposed a partial embargo against it in 1960 and full trade embargo in 1962, which is estimated to have cost the Cuban economy more than $89,000 million; in 2006 alone, Cuba lost nearly $4,000 million as a direct consequence of this policy. The genocidal intent of these policies has been clear from the outset, as outlined by Lester D. Mallory, Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, on April 6, 1960, in a memorandum to Roy R. Rubottom Jr., then Under-Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs:

Most Cubans support Castro. There’s no effective political opposition (...) the only foreseeable means to alienate internal support is by creating disillusionment and discouragement based on lack of satisfaction and economical difficulties (...) We should immediately use any possible measure to (...) cause hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the Government.

Causing hunger in another nation is a genocidal act and is expressly forbidden in the international protocols. “Regime change” has become a fashionable phrase during the Bush presidency but it has been a determined U.S. policy for very many decades, and the intent has been pursued most ferociously with respect to Cuba. More than 20 CIA plots to kill Fidel have been documented; none succeeded, luckily. In the process, Miami has acquired scores of the world’s best-trained and best-equipped assassins. Strangulation of Cuba has included invasion as well sabotage of all imaginable kinds.

The U.S. State Department even has a senior post of Cuba Transition Director, whose sole responsibility is to plan the overthrow of the Cuban government.
The U.S. Congress has recently allocated $89 million for this task alone, and some of these funds are distributed openly to fund anti-Fidel groups inside Cuba.

Indeed, as the Cold War ended and the Cuban economy went into a full crisis in consequence of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. tightened its embargo and speeded up internal sabotage, sensing a great opportunity.
The 1996 Helms-Burton Bill, which greatly extended all the draconian practices, was signed into law by Bill Clinton.

In 2005, just as Fidel was giving his inspiring speech on Cuba’s role in securing health and sight for the Latin American masses, the National Intelligence Council of the CIA added Cuba to the secret list of countries where the U.S. may have to intervene militarily in the near future.

The list goes on and on, and one could write volumes on the subject. It is in the eye of this imperial storm that Fidel has stood, head high and the moral imagination unwavering, for close to 50 years. In the process, he has survived 10 U.S. Presidents and 23 U.S. Congresses, not to speak of countless heads of the CIA.

Within Latin America, meanwhile, numerous governments and leaders, from Allende to Aristide, from the Sandinistas to Hugo Chavez, from Morales to Kirchner and Lula - from countries small and large - stand in awe of him, as the Grand Old Man of the Latin American Revolution, even though quite a few of them simply lack the guts to follow in his footsteps.

Taken from The Frontline of March 2008

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