1 Aug 2006
The 80 year-old president of Cuba Fidel Castro has temporarily transferred power to his junior brother Raul Castro. In a statement read over Cuban radio, Fidel said he would be resting for a couple of weeks. He gave the reason for this decision as “fatigue” that is linked to his recent trip abroad and stress from last week’s anniversary celebration activities. He also said he was to undergo surgery as a result of intestinal bleeding. The fact that the statement was not read by Fidel himself gave room for speculation as to the gravity of his health situation. This is the first time in his 47 years rule that he has ever relinquished power to anyone. There have been increasing reports indicating that the health of the Cuban leader has been deteriorating in recent times.
Raul Castro 75, has been Fidel’s confident since childhood years. He was by his side when Fidel and about 150 others launched an abortive attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba in 1953 in an attempt to seize power. They both served prison terms from 1953 to 1955 for this incident. Both went to Mexico together to start a rebel army that was later to invade Cuba in 1956 and start a guerrilla war against the government of Batista-a perceived American lackey. Raul has served as Cuba’s Defence Minister for several years.
Fidel Castro finally came to power in 1959 when the then Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista was forced to flee to Dominican Republic ahead of advancing rebels led by him and the legendary Che Guevara. He did not waste time to enact laws like ‘The Agrarian Reform Law’ and ‘The Urban Reform law’ that led to the redistribution of land and wealth in a Cuba that was saddled with poverty and embarrassing income disparities. In December 1961, Fidel Castro declared Cuba a Socialist state. The Nationalization of big companies coupled with the fact that Castro was opposed to American hegemony naturally led the two countries on a collision course. Fidel Castro’s Cuba is a small Island nation situated about 150 km from the U.S. Fidel has survived various attempts by successive American administrations to destabilize his country including the Bay of pigs invasion of 1961 and decades long economic blockade.
Fidel’s retreat (if it becomes permanent) will have far reaching impact on the political life of Cuba and Latin America as a whole. He was once quoted as telling Latin American leaders that; “I have nothing to give you but my example”. It is his example that is influencing left-leaning leaders in the region like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez to stand up and say no to America.
Njei Moses Timah