13 Sep 2006
Fidel Castro, the ailing Cuban leader is gradually emerging as a reinvigorated icon and global symbol of heroic resistance against hegemony and imperialism. Fidel’s state of health has helped to rekindle people’s interest on Cuba and many more people have come to better understand and appreciate what this old revolutionary has been doing with his Island nation since he and his comrades-in-arms liberated it from “Yankee Imperialism” in 1959. Cuba under Fidel Castro has mobilized her meager resources to improve on the lot of her citizens regardless of the asphyxiating embargo and other destabilizing acts imposed on her by the US.
Many readers will hardly imagine that the following indicators are pertaining to the same Cuba that the neo-cons in Washington are always portraying negatively. The life expectancy at birth in Cuba is the same with that of the US (77 years). The same is for infant mortality (death per 1000 live births)- Cuba 6.3 and the U.S 6.5. There are 289 people per physician in Cuba, and 256 in the U.S. The U.S literacy rate is 99.5% and that of Cuba is 97.3%. The earnings of Cubans may be small but the government shoulders most of the financial burden of health and education of Cubans. It is on record that some poorer Americans that cannot afford the high cost of medical care in their country do turn to Cuba for this service that is relatively cheap.
Cuba has scored significant advances in the educational, health and energy sectors and the Cubans are not sparing any effort to extend their experience and assistance to other developing nations. Thousands of Cuban doctors are scattered all over the world rendering health assistance to the needy.
As the country assumes leadership (for the next three years) of the 116-nations Non-Aligned movement (which she is hosting) this week, all eyes are tilted towards Cuba to see how the event will be hosted with Fidel Castro still recuperating from surgery. Reports had circulated Sunday that Fidel will be hosting a dinner for visiting heads of delegation. Cuba’s foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque later played down such expectations saying only that Fidel Castro will receive some foreign dignitaries. “We cannot say yet whether he will be physically present in the work of the summit.” He said.
The NAM summit will bring together such U.S-bashing countries like Iran, North Korea and Venezuela to Havanna at a time that the international political arena is very charged. Anti-American rhetoric is a forgone outcome of the summit. That is certainly the reason the Americans politely turned down the invitation to attend the meeting as observers.
The leadership of the Non-aligned movement will give Cuba and Fidel Castro the opportunity once more to showcase Cuba and prepare his graceful exit from the political stage. He will be leaving knowing that he has younger comrades wishing to carry on with the struggle. The late Che Guevara, Fidel’s comrade-in-arms had once said this about death; “Whenever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up our arms.” If the end were to come to Fidel today, he knows that hands of younger comrades like Hugo Chavez are stretching out to take up his arms. If and when that happens, Fidel will go down in history as one who successfully stood his ground against a menacing colossus for about half a century. During his trial for the 1953 Moncada barracks attacks, Fidel Castro had concluded his defense with these words, “History will absolve me”. We hope that history will absolve him from the misinformation and the many mischievous allegations fed to the world about this man that has done so much unsung good things for his people in the midst of odds.
Njei Moses Timah