Fidel's Frustrating Follies - Obama, Raul and Havana's Mixed Messages

Discussion in 'Politics' started by The BKP, Apr 27, 2009.

  1. The BKP
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    Despite the recent flurry of diplomatic flattery between President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, you may want to hold off clearing out room in your humidor and looking for cheap flights to Havana just yet. While it initially appeared that Spring was bringing a long-awaited thawing of relations between the United States and our erstwhile Cuban friends, an arctic blast courtesy of revolutionary godfather and nemesis of nine American presidents, Fidel Castro, indicates that while there may appear to be cracks in the ice, it is by no means broken and far from being melted.

    Feeling the need to correct the neophyte occupant of the White House last week, the iconic leader of Cuba's Communist Revolution angrily chided Obama in a blog post, saying he "without a doubt misinterpreted Raul's declaration."

    After defending the regime's policy of charging a 10 percent fee on every US dollar sent to island relatives from Cuban-Americans, Fidel went on to blast the latest President to administer the decades-long embargo against the island for displaying signs of "superficiality," and called on him to drop the "blockade" against Cuba. Obama had previously called for the fee to be dropped as a gesture of "good will" that would benefit the Cuban people as much as it would signal Havana's seriousness about opening a direct dialogue with Washington.

    Extolling the virtues of the Revolution, Castro emphasized that the revenue generated from fees on exchanging dollars provides free health care, education and subsidized food to all of Cuba's population. Despite the subsidies and Fidel's protestations to the contrary, 12.9 percent of Cubans identified food scarcity as the country's biggest problem, with 83.6 percent saying they would vote for a free market economic system given the opportunity in a November, 2008 poll.

    Clarifying his younger brother's previous remarks that he was ready to discuss "everything, everything, everything", the elder Castro insisted, "When the President of Cuba said he was ready to discuss any topic with the U.S. President, he meant he was not afraid of addressing any issue."

    "That shows his courage and confidence in the principles of the Revolution," the former president wrote.

    After transferring power to the 77-year-old Raul following a debilitating illness in 2006, Fidel formally surrendered the presidency in February 2008. Nonetheless, the charismatic and incendiary 82-year-old patriarch of the Revolution retains enormous influence and remains head of Cuba's Communist Party. This in addition to serving as inspiration and role model for a new generation of anti-American strongmen and Leftist statists throughout Central and South America like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

    Coming on the heels of a week that saw serious speculation about the prospects for a possible new era of bilateral relations between the United States and Cuba, Fidel's remarks have given pause to many who believed the two were headed towards a thaw in the chilly state of affairs that has existed for nearly half a century. Given the warmth and exuberance of the prior week's exchange between Presidents Obama and Castro and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, one would naturally wonder what exactly is going on behind the scenes in Havana. A number of plausible explanations are possible. Among them are:

    - Though having formally relinquished power to Raul, Fidel's ego is unable to accept the possibility that his younger brother could so easily abandon one of the regime's and it's former leader's core components - a virulent and passionate anti-Americanism.


    In doing so, Raul would not only insult his older brother, but would also be undermining literally decades of caustic revolutionary rhetoric and regime propaganda. Unwilling to add insult to initial injury, Raul has remained silent in the wake of Fidel's angry intransigence and his fiery defense of the revolutionary regime's policies.

    - In a masterful bit of high drama and well-scripted duplicity, the Brothers Castro are delivering an award-winning "good cop-bad cop" performance.


    Though Raul has given a glimmer of hope in his initial willingness to put "everything" on the table, Fidel quickly stepped in and angrily slammed his fist on it. Nikita Khrushchev would be so proud.

    Under this scenario, the choreography is designed to hold out the possibility of progress in the hope of gaining "good faith" concessions from Washington without taking reciprocating tangible steps. Should Washington tire of the fruitless frustration of dancing to Havana's conflicting political beats, the Brothers Castro can then close ranks and condemn Obama as being just another feckless and insincere Yankee imperialist.

    - Raul fell victim to Obama mania and the President's rock star allure.


    After watching literally hundreds of hours of Obama and his supporters chanting "Change!" and "Si se puede!" on the campaign trail on CNN Espanol last year, Raul has fallen prey to the President's hypnotic mantra.

    Imagine Raul walking around with the swirling hypnotic eyes portrayed in the cartoons of your youth; Bugs Bunny, for instance.

    Mesmerized by Obama's hypnotic prowess, the geriatric revolutionary couldn't resist his magnetic personality and sly diplomatic entreaties. Raul had no control over himself, nor any consciousness of what he was saying in response to the young president's silky siren song.

    Uh...yeah. Or as they say down Havana way, uh....si.

    And finally....

    - The conflicting statements coming from the Brothers Castro are indicative of a heretofore unidentified rift within the regime.


    Does Raul long to signal once and for all he firmly holds the reins of power? Is this an attempt to step out of Fidel's shadow? Could this be the first signs of an internal regime power struggle spilling out in the open? Has Raul been influenced by the 68.8 percent and 63 percent respectively in the aforementioned poll that stated they believed the government would be unable to resolve Cuba's most pressing problems in the next few years and would vote in favor of a democratic political system if given the opportunity?

    Is there a "progressive" faction in the revolutionary regime that is willing to substitute pragmatism and reform for decaying dogma and archaic belligerence?

    Did Fidel's statements represent a reaction from the regime's "old guard" or is it the graying revolutionary lion vainly roaring at the tides of change? Washington and millions on both sides of the Straits of Florida will watch closely for further signs out of Havana as to who actually conducts the band and what tune they will ultimately call.

    Havana daydreamin', indeed, faithful readers.

    Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and we see whether or not the President is just dreamin' his foreign policy away.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2009

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