As eight Americans recently graduated from a Cuban medical university hailing the work of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to check the Bush Administration’s move to order them back to the United States, Cuba gets ready to mark its first anniversary without Fidel Castro at the helm. And the loudly predicted political implosion that many said would have happened now that Fidel’s younger brother Raul was at the helm has not materialized at all.
Cuba today remains a steady, stable Caribbean country with its own domestic political regime and economic policies. Anti-Cuban protagonists grudgingly acknowledge that Raul is not the light weight that he first appeared to be. In fact, elements in the Bush Administration dubbed Raul “Fidel Lite” and predicted that the Cuban economy and society was going to collapse, and that that the Bush Administration had made “contingency plans” for the country in the aftermath of Fidel’s death and the ensuing chaos.
So sure were they of Fidel’s impending doom that Miami’s rancid, anti-Castro cabal obscenely celebrated his demise in the streets creating a kind of carnival atmosphere that was covered by such reactionary news outlets like CNN and Fox 5. But Fidel proved more resilient and a tougher 80-year old than many thought and is now on the mend after life-threatening surgery. But that was July 2006 and even though the ailing Cuban leader is on the now convalescing he’s still no spring chicken and the road head is going to be slow and tough.
Economists say that over the past year Raul has kept the Cuban economy steadily growing since his brother was hospitalized. Still, Raul is also no spring chicken either and at 76 years must be looking forward to retirement. But perhaps the most significant thing that occurred this past year without Fidel at the helm is that Cuba has proved its arch-enemy, the United States dead wrong – again.
Last year United States officials were chortling and barely able to control themselves as they spun the yarn that Fidel was stricken with stomach cancer. Infact, none other than the United States National Intelligence Director, John Negroponte, said that the Cuban leader had “months, not years to live.” There were also news clips about what Cuba would look like after Castro and how the United States was planning for his death.
Now one year later Fidel is still very much alive and Cuba is making bold strikes economically and socially. And Raul’s tenure has smashed to smithereens the assumptions of the United States government and the anti-Castro clique in Miami that without Fidel at the helm Cuba would disintegrate into anarchy and implode politically.
So the “sour grapes” crew is now saying – after they wrote off Raul as an effective leader – that they are not satisfied at the pace that he’s kept in dealing with internal reform. They are also braying that Raul’s handling of the Cuban economy while satisfactory could have been more aggressive and effective. In essence, the anti-Castro groups are now criticizing Raul for moving too slow on economic reform after barely one year in office. Perhaps it is instructive to compare the much-touted Congressional Democrats 100 Days in Office record and see just what they achieved to date before one hurls cold water in Raul Castro’s eyes for being slothful.
Still, Cuba has seen a year of internal calm without public unrest, street protests or other activities that would have given opponents of the regime cannon fodder to level at Raul Castro. In fact, the year that Fidel has spent recuperating from stomach surgery has been characterized by an unprecedented internal calmness and a continuation of domestic policies that has remained uninterrupted since July 31, 2006.