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Sunday, October 24, 2004


Grandson of adventurer denounces failed revolution

That Cuban President, Fidel Castro, 87, should fall and break his knee after visiting the mausoleum of the late Ernesto 'Che' Guevara is ironic. While Che has returned as an iconic pin-up boy of western fashion dudes and young wanna-be revolutionaries, Castro is seen, increasingly, as an aging tyrant.

With the demise of the Soviet Union Castro's Cuba has relied on the Peoples Republic of China as its international counter-weight to the 40-year trade embargo imposed on it by neighbouring USA. China-Cuba mutual ties are said to be "experiencing their best period ever", a statement that surely would have amused the Maoist-oriented Che.

It is said that the Soviet Union's prime minister, Alexei Kosygin, disliked Guevara, and probably disliked him more in early 1965 when Che got a better reception in China than he did. Che moved closer to the political views of China's Mao Zedong whose willingness to openly support armed insurrections paralleled his own.

As the ideological bickering between Peking and Moscow during that period divided Communists throughout the world, Che exacerbated Cuba's situation by stating in an interview that "the Cuban people would resist to the last drop of blood any attempt by the USSR to make Cuba a satellite." The leader of Cuba's pro-Soviet group, Anibal Escalante, pressured Castro into accepting Che's resignation from his cabinet in 1965. Escalante blamed Cuba's economic instability and her strained relationship with the Soviet Union on Che's "impractical projects and pathological adventurism".

The Soviet Union and the legion of pro-Moscow communists who dominated the Castro regime saw Che as a radical Maoist who sought to stir revolutions throughout the world without benefit of party leadership …. and so it was, in 1967, that Che, leading an isolated, bedraggled band of rebels in the mountains of Bolivia, was easily gunned down by Bolivian and US rangers.

It is reported that western observers observed Castro's shock at the rapid move to capitalism and growing social differences he witnessed in China last year. "There is no coincidence that a lot of this has happened since he visited China. Many people say he was horrified with what he saw," said a European ambassador quoted by Reuters.

His response was to reassert state control over the Cuban economy; cutting back permits for private traders and small businesses and strengthening the hold of state corporations, especially in tourism, the island's main source of hard currency. There, military officers have moved into key posts.

Which brings us to a remarkable story in the Mexican leftist weekly Proceso in which the dissident grandson of Che Guevara – Canek Sanchez Guevara – recently denounced Fidel Castro as an “aged tyrant” and as “messianic” leader who persecutes trade unionists and poets alike.

Marc Cooper provides a valuable translation of synopsis that appeared, briefly, on cubanet.org:

The Cuban Revolution died some years ago: it had to be killed off by those who act in its name to make sure it didn’t turn against them; it was institutionalized and smothered by its own bureaucracy, by corruption, nepotism and the rigidity of the much-celebrated Cuban ‘revolutionary’ state.

All of my criticism of Fidel Castro come from his walking away from the ideals of liberty, from his betrayal of his own people and his frightening zeal to place the interests of the state above those of his people.

Let’s be honest, a young rebel like Fidel Castro in today’s Cuba wouldn’t be sent into exile. He’s be shot.
This puts China’s Hu Jintau’s recent praise for Castro for "pushing forward the socialist cause" in a useful context.

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