Monday July 31, 2006

What's up with Castro?

Raul Castro

Holy shit: People have taken to the streets in Little Havana in Miami. Calle Ocho is packed with Cubans celebrating the news. The news, that is, of FIDEL CASTRO’S POSSIBLE DEATH. I’ll go with the guy on Calle Ocho that Balabu quotes: “While we celebrate here, I urge the Cuban people in cuba to take to the streets. This is the opportune moment. Now is the time.”

Image: Raul Castro, currently in control of Cuba.

Update (11:30 pm): Cubans in Miami wait for news on Castro. How would Raul Castro govern?

Update (11:56 pm): Channel 4 is doing online and on-air live coverage of local celebrations and ad-hoc analysis of Cuba’s future, “a nexus of emotion.” Manny Diaz is on the scene. I’m toasting Fidel’s possible death myself. Here’s to your hopefully imminent demise, old man—may you rot in hell!

Update (12:50 am): Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez press confrence: “The Emergency Operations Center is active on level 2 . . . keep your celebrations out of the street [fat chance] . . . 311 is open . . . blah, blah, blah.” Channel 4 just replayed the announcement that Castro’s office manager read, and it’s some crazy stuff. Meanwhile, balabu is still on it: “Behind every smile, behind every feeling of unbridled joy and desperate happiness, there are 47 years of tears . . . Viva Cuba libre coño!

Update (8/1/06 7:27 am): The consensus among news sources is that Fidel Castro is still alive, though probably in very poor health. Raul’s profile has been gradually increased, possibly over the last couple of months. Humanitarian violations in Cuba have stepped up over the last couple of days. Meanwhile, some Wikipedia articles worth keeping up with: July 2006 transfer of power, Raul Castro, and, of course, Fidel Castro. The latter entry is locked up tight to newbie modification.) From the Herald: the Complete text of the proclamation is worth reading. Can’t seem to find the video of the proclamation, which was also very interesting (the guy who read it was very young). Raúl groomed for top job.

Update (7:38 am): Wha? Part of the Herald’s coverage is coverage of Critical Miami coverage. I’d be careful about clicking that link – some weird hypertext feedback loop might result (ok not really – they don’t give my URI, much less link!). And yes, I had to find out about this from Rick, where, truth be told, I first heard about Castro last night. Way to go, Rick! (And check out his frank look at his own feelings about all this.)

Update (7:56 am): A brief report on how Cubans still living on the island took the news of Fidel Castro’s illness (4’s coverage of all this generally has been superb). I’m looking around for more media interviews with Miami Cubans about this, with little success. Val’s thoughts are great: “I should note, for those of you that arent very familiar with fidel castro’s deaths, that this is the first time where actual reports on castro’s health were made publicly to the Cuban people via Cuban media. [. . .] If you guys think last nights imromptu celebrations caused by the news of the relinquishing of power were big, just wait until the news that the old goat is dead top be confirmed. Even clocks will stop in Miami that day.”

Update (8:47 am): At the BBC, a great slideshow of Miami celebrations (which begins with a picture of the Cuban spokesdude that delivered the proclamation), as well as one of those quasi-celebratory Castro bios Val predicted. More quotes: “I’m praying to God to give us a miracle and let that man die.” (Gabriela Burmudez) “My grandfather waited forever for this day and he died in 2000. I’m here celebrating for him.” (Edgar Montegudo) And Conductor says, “As my grandmother has grown older . . . one of the things she frequently repeated was that she only really had one thing to live for anymore, to outlive fidel castro even if it would be by only one minute . . . Hang on Abuelita, hang on.”

Update (9:51 am): Joe Cooper is having a panel to discuss all this on his show today. Participants have not been announced. Listen at 1 pm on 91.3 fm or Bob compares point sizes of the word “Castro” on the covers of the local newspapers. Y No Mas says: Castro’s signature is a fake.


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  1. NicFitKid    Tue Aug 1, 08:21 AM #  

    Not to piss in everyone’s cortadito, but, so what? Even if the “old goat” does kick it, I doubt Cuba will magically revert to its pre-1959 self; although Batista’s grandson does sit on the Florida Supreme court, so maybe he’ll hang up his robes and try to install himself as the leader of Cuba Libre? That would be hilarious!

    Raul Castro has plenty of power and hands-on experience in the day to day running of the island’s miltary, economy, agriculture, etc. The real question is this: Will Cuba’s government collapse without Fidel Castro’s leadership, or do the institutions or rule, creaky and repressive as they are, continue their slow grind for another 47 years? Who knows, they might go for a China model, with increased economic liberalization while maintaining a murderously efficient control over political life.

  2. mkh    Tue Aug 1, 08:48 AM #  

    Who knows, they might go for a China model, with increased economic liberalization while maintaining a murderously efficient control over political life.

    Nic, I think you just described the NeoCons’ wet dream. That’s the most likely scenario for the freely elected government the US will install in post-Castro Cuba.

  3. Barba Blanca    Tue Aug 1, 10:04 AM #  

    What exactly is miami celebrating? The man goes in for surgery, thats all. Bear this is his first sickness in 80 years. Either the cuban health system is first class or he is invincible; perhaps both.

    The nation of Cuba belongs to the CUBAN people, not some little schitt from the north. Only they shall decide what is best for them.

    To those who are chilling their champagne bottles, please do, it ought to be less painfull on the hemorroids.

  4. Alex    Tue Aug 1, 02:55 PM #  

    Obviously, guys aren’t cubans…We are celebrating a new character…Prayin and hopin castro is dead…And yes we will chill our champagne bottles and smoke our cuban cigars… Viva Cuba libre Carajo…

  5. gansibele    Tue Aug 1, 03:05 PM #  

    They will try to go for the China model, but I doubt they’ll succeed. For one thing, the China transition was largely the work of Deng Zioping, who was a Castro-like figure himself in terms of absolute power. Nobody in Cuba, not Raul, has that kind of power precisely because Castro hasn’t allowed it. Second, Ziaoping (much like Castro) solidified himself in power during th Cold War decades when it was a lot easier to see the world in black and white, right now the pragmatics in Cuba’s leadership woud rather be aligned with the Western world. I think an Eastern Germany transition model is much more likely.

    The current propping of Raul is too little too late, believe me the guy is not liked at all inside Cuba, even by his closest collborators. His chief of staff for many years, Alcibiades Hidago, defected in the late 90’s and has given extensive testimony to this, also read the writings of Norberto Fuentes, a Cuban writer who was very close to the upper echelons of power in Cba, including Raul. Raul is regarded as a coward, an acoholic and almost certainly a homosexual. The top generals in Cuba only accept him as chief of the Army and second in command because he is Castro’s brother, even back in teh Sierra Maestra times he wa reputed for never putting himself in ower and never shooting a gun in actual battle, which for career military is the ultmate sign of cowardice. I wouldn’t put my stock in Raul at all.

  6. gansibele    Tue Aug 1, 03:16 PM #  

    Fidel has been sick before, and went under the knife at least once (Hidalgo also talked about this) this time they had to announce it so it must be A LOT worse that they let on. And we are all CUban no matter where we are, and we will celebrate big time and sorte the isues afterwards- Barba Blanca, seems t me you are the one ith the bug up your ass about Cubans.

    mkh and nickfit, i got to disagree with you guys; Batista or his family are not a factro and have not been for decades. I don’t even say batista when discussing Cuba. I don’t see the US installing a government in Cuba, after the Iraq half failure my guess is they’ll let the power players sort themselves out and prop the strongest one – in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that plan is exactly what’s on the “classified” part of the recent plan for democracy in Cuba, and I wouldn’t be surprised if contacts and conversations with those people have already been started

  7. NicFitKid    Tue Aug 1, 03:46 PM #  

    Gansibele, my little crack about Batista’s grandson was a joke, I don’t seriously believe that any Batista can return to power in Cuba.

    What I’m really interested in is what happens next, because I think you’re right, things must be pretty dire for Fidel if they’re willing to announce that he’s being hospitalized and ceding power to Raul. My question (and it’s an honest question, I’m not being sarcastic or rhetorical or any of that) is do Cuba’s institutions of rule have what it takes to survive without Castro, or is the whole government just an extension of his cult of personality? I’m always a little suspicious of the analysis here in Miami simply because I wonder how in touch anyone here is with political reality in Cuba. I take you don’t think anyone in Cuba has the chops to keep the system together. If that’s the case, what’s left? What individuals and/or groups have the power or political support to run the country? Who’s going to mind the store and keep everything running on a day to day basis, or will the transition period be characterized by anarchy, political jockeying, and even violence?

  8. mkh    Tue Aug 1, 04:11 PM #  

    Gansibele, I wasn’t even thinking about Batista seriously, or any of his other syphilitic descendents. And I agree completely that there have already been secret talks between the US and “certain people” in Cuba, probably during every US administration since JFK.

    But the Bush administration learning from their mistakes? C’mon, let’s not jump into science fiction here. This is serious.

  9. gansibele    Tue Aug 1, 06:01 PM #  

    I get the Batista joke, I wasn’t trying to correct anybody, my mind is just mushy from working really long hours and now these news… it’s been crazy. My sister is still in Cuba, I’ve been traying to call but the lines are busy, finally we got and email through… it’s just exhilarating madness.

    No Bush won’t learn a thing, but there’s still the rest of Congress etc, and national opinion, and I can’t think the numbers would be up for another Iraq, which is what we’ll have if the US decides to intervene in a big scale fashion. The thing with this processes is that nobody knows what’s up, they have their own ebbs and flows. For example, say Castro is already dead and there’s some kind of understanding among the top leaders to keep things quiet until raul is entrenched; well, that’s fine and dandy in theory but in practice some of those people are more intelligent and will start saying “if this doesn’t work, I’d better have an out” and they’ll start to put their feelers out and hatch plans B, the works, pretty soon you have a secret which is not a secret anymore and you get some unrest and somebody decides to seize the day and be the hero… I have a friend who was studying in east Germany when the change happened and he says there was a whole succession plan in place for egon Krenz to substitute erich Honecker and take over, and in the end the whole thing fell apart in two days because the secondary players (the technocrats, the mid-level functionaries, the people you really need to run the country) flatly refused to participate, and Krenz was forced by the circumstances to declare the intention of reunifying the country. In a matter of days the first political party was constituted – the law allowing political parties had to be written after the fact – and then the momentum just swung towards accelerated and total reunification.

    See, I believe all people in power in Cuba, even the most loyal communists, are looking for their self-interest. They are just waiting to see where the chips may fall and act accordingly. If enough of them tip the balance, if enough of them believe they are better of with a transitional government where they play a part as opposed to more of the same with Raul, they’ll do it. But either way, even a Raul dictatorship will be different, and short-lived, even if it’s only because Raul is just as old. So Nick, to the double question: “do Cuba’s institutions of rule have what it takes to survive without Castro, or is the whole government just an extension of his cult of personality?” the answer is maybe and yes.

  10. barba blanca    Tue Aug 1, 06:13 PM #  

    Batista may be dead, but there are several thousand ex-pats who are still carrying his torch of tyranny. One only needs to read about the actions or comments emanating from certain elements of southern Florida, to include their congressional delegation, to know that some former cubans are much worse than Batista; and Dubia for that matter.

    Cuba belongs to the cubans, not to those who already swore allegiance to a foreign nation, nor any empire.

    Some, with USA government blessings, are already calling for their employees (aka dissidents) to begin making trouble within the island. Like Dubia, they are too chicken to risk limb themselves, so they hire the less intellectuals to do their dirty job.

  11. alesh    Wed Aug 2, 08:23 AM #  

    I tried to wrap all this up in the new post, but I left out any reference to US intervention. No, I don’t think they “learned anything” from Iraq: the US has a very long and rich history of meddling in the politics of other countries (someone on NPR gave the figures recently – something on the order of 100 attempted and successful “regime changes” over the last 100 years, but I wish I had the real numbers). So no, they do not learn.

    Most of these operations are not military invasions, of course. They’re much more subtle. I have no idea what effect such intervention would take. I sort of hope they blast some Radio Free Cuba and leave it at that. (yes I know that’s already happening, and that it’s being jammed) Interference beyond that will always have unintended consequences, often disastrous.

    I’m not sure what I think about Cuban-Americans returning to the island to help hasten change. It could be helpful, but on the other hand folks who’ve been there all along might feel some understandable resentment.

  12. nonee moose    Wed Aug 2, 03:25 PM #  

    Barba, WTF? “Empire”? Who talks like that? I don’t, do you? I don’t…

    I’m not sure anybody should be worried about explicit armed intervention, or even unarmed for that matter… too many balls in the pan already. Besides, the subtle intervention Alesh refers to has been in place, such as it is, for over 40 years. There should be no more cards to draw in this game. There will be an internal referendum on Raul’s power. Gansi has it correct, there are many downline from Raul who have to make up their minds whether they will ride this out or not. Because, though Raul may not have an “out”, these folks still do, and there is your crucible.

    MKH- Syphilitic? You know something? Nah… you just wanted to use the word. Ok.

  13. bobbi    Thu Aug 10, 03:33 PM #  

    This is funny…
    Fidel Castro sees Filmmaker Luis Moro’s movie Love & Suicide – and ruptures his intestine.Castro is immediately hospitalized
    when he finds out Love & Suicide, the movie is screening in Miami at AMC Theatres starting this August 11th.
    Cubans in Miami cheer in the streets.

    Castro said he was delegating power in Cuba to his brother because “he did not want to be around when Cuban’s in Miami see the real Cuba in the film Love & Suicide. They’re going to come and get me when they see Love & Suicide.” Fidel said, holding his guts in.

    “Seeing the movie Love & Suicide caused an acute intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding,” said a statement signed by Castro and read out by his official aide Carlos Valencia.

    White House spokesman Peter Piper said he didn’t want to speculate on Castro’s physical health. “But mentally, Love & Suicide, the movie scared Castro.”

    “Given the films success, we are monitoring the writer Luis Moro closely as Love & Suicide screens around the world.”

    As a country, we continue to work for the day when ‘The Cuban Evolution’ Luis Moro started reaches everyone.” Mr. Piper also told reporters. “Mr. Bush will be holding a private screening to educate congress and the senate on the films theme.”

    Castro, who’s been in power since 1959 and turns 80 on August 13, two days after Love & Suicide opens in AMC Theatres at the famous Coconut Grove in
    Miami, Florida; yelled, “MORO, MORO, MORO!”

    Fidel Castro blamed Love & Suicide’s profound impact on him as the reason for his pre-resignation move. People around the world are overwhelming buying tickets for the upcoming
    screenings in Miami.

    For show times and tickets visit or call (305) 466-0450.

    Visit for opening scene of Love and Suicide, plus updates and additional screening in New Mexico, Ohio and California.

    You’re in “The Cuban Evolution.”
    LOVE & SUICIDE, the movie


    WHEN: Starting August 11th.


    3015 Grand Avenue

    Coconut Grove, FL 33133



    Or Call: (305) 466-0450.