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Cuban “Left” Opposition and Annexationists: Two Wings of the Same Eagle

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In my previous article, titled “The End of Ideology in Cuba?,” I created a fair amount of controversy in stating, “I have always maintained that the most dangerous opposition to the Cuban Revolution comes from the so-called left, and not from the openly right Plattists, or annexationists.”

The majority of readers praised the article; many others participated in the serious debate; and only a couple very strongly objected to it, mainly singling out that particular sentence.

Thus, let us deconstruct the perception. It mentions the “openly right Plattists, or annexationists.” This means that there exists in Cuba both the openly pro-U.S. opposition and the hidden annexationists. The latter comprises these so-called “leftists.” Their narratives are carefully constructed to include some (mild) criticism of the American economic, social and political systems. They do not openly accept capitalism as an alternative, as opposed to the annexationists, who quite frankly do hold the U.S. up as their model. An American who has been living in Cuba as the adopted country for a number of years wrote some thoughtful positive comments on the article and the issue of socialism versus capitalism:

“Up North, in its simplest form, you could reduce it to acceptance of the ‘lesser evil.’ Both systems are flawed, but conveniently, socialism is more flawed, so let’s simply not go there. Any changes to capitalism are purely cosmetic with the objective of avoiding socialism. Here [in Cuba], since we have already arrived at socialism, the argument presented is: capitalism has some good features, let us just add (‘sumar’) those to socialism. Since the approach is to add to (‘sumar’), rather than subtract from (‘restar’), capitalism – that is what makes the objective here reverse to the one up North. Instead of improving socialism with the goal of avoiding capitalism, their idea is to adopt capitalism’s best features, as though both systems were compatible, with interchangeable parts, which of course they are not.”

This is a very good point indeed. One Cuban whom I consulted likened it to “using the spare parts of a Timex watch to fix a Rolex.” In this analogy, of course, the Rolex is socialism, while the Timex is capitalism. Nevertheless, the pieces making up both brands are just not compatible. It may be argued by some of the so-called “left” that Cuba is introducing certain market economy measures that amount to capitalism. However, the market economy existed long before capitalism, even in the most “primitive” systems. It is not an exclusive feature of any one system: capitalism did not invent it. In contrast, Cuba’s changes amount to improving the Rolex but with Rolex brand parts, and not some old pieces from a totally different and incompatible brand.

Thus, the “left” opposition objectively contributes to the American Dream of restoring capitalism in Cuba, even though they of course vehemently deny this. To portray their anti-capitalist image, some of them even define themselves as “democratic-socialists” as opposed to the Cuban socialist system, which is supposedly an authoritarian-type of socialism. The U.S.-centric view of systems specializes in adding hyphenated tickets to concepts, such asdemocratic-socialists. “Democracy” is perhaps the most manipulated concept in politics, an analysis that goes beyond the scope of this short article. Suffice it to mention for the moment that, based on the U.S.-centric view, the term democracy serves as a code word to contradict socialism. In Cuba, when this “democracy” tag is appended by sleight-of-hand, those in the North interested in subverting the Cuban Revolution know that the individuals espousing hyphenated socialism are in their ideological camp.

These and other similar trends within the “leftist” opposition, although seemingly in contradiction with each other, have at least one feature in common. Coming from different angles, they all converge into one common mindset: the Cuban system and government are “authoritarian,” the Communist Party of Cuba and the Army are omnipresent, and the system is centralized whereby the state plays too much of a leading role (even though Cuba has been decentralizing since 2008, but on its own terms within socialism). This opposition outlook ostensibly favours socialism, but their “socialism” is so very democratic. In order to foster this image, every incident in the Cuban system is pounced upon in order to paint Cuba as authoritarian. By relying mainly on some intellectuals, the “leftists” have set their sights on atomizing and dividing Cuban society, with the goal of destroying the unity it has been building since 1959.

In contrast, other Cuban commentators supporting the openly right annexationist trend criticize the Cuban government for not going far enough or fast enough in adopting what they also call “capitalist measures.” The annexationists openly advocate capitalism for Cuba under the tutelage of the U.S. This tendency also blames the “authoritarian” government for holding back what they envisage as Cuba’s inevitable slide into capitalism. Thus, “democracy” is manipulated by both the so-called “leftists” and the openly pro-U.S. and capitalist right.

There is another common denominator linking these two seemingly opposite extremes. There is no doubt that in Cuba today people engage in lively discussion and debate about improving Cuba’s socialism and political system. The attitude toward the U.S. in the new and complicated post-December 17, 2014 context is, of course, tied to these controversies. These deliberations are taking place at many levels and in various circumstances in the Cuban social and political systems. Carrying on a long-standing tradition, these debates constitute a feature of Cuban political culture. If, at this time, one takes the Cuban media as an example, a range of opinion articles is increasingly being published in the official press, such as Granma and Juventud Rebelde. Some of the pieces are written by what one could call “alternative” journalists and writers, such as Iroel Sánchez, Elier Ramírez, Enrique Ubieta, Luis Toledo Sande and Esteban Morales, just to name a few. These intellectuals and many others have their own active blogs and they participate daily through social media to resist the U.S.-led cultural war.

However, when the “left” or right opposition describes Cuba for the benefit of both foreign and some domestics consumption (and make no mistake about it, their views can be found in the foreign press hostile to Cuba), they invariably applaud and highlight what they call “opposition” or “alternative” journalists. The “leftist” opposition forces, supposedly the epitome of pluralism, cite only themselves and like-minded opponents, a very monolithic approach. This is also how the U.S. establishment media deals with debate. They cite only their own kind: a perverse consanguinity. In contrast, the real Cuban alternative intellectuals (only some of whom are mentioned above), those who work within the system for improvements, are blacklisted (or even vilified) by the “leftists.” They bestow these credentials on what they consider bona fide “alternatives,” invariably stirring up a backwash of invitations for both the “left” and right to travel to the U.S. or appear on foreign media in Cuba in exchange for delivering the goods: “Cuba is authoritarian or a dictatorship. Amen.” This quid pro quo is quite flagrant, to the extent that for a Cuban to receive these credentials from them could be considered the kiss of death.

Thus, both the “leftist” opposition and the openly right-wing annexationists are two wings of the same American eagle. One cannot underestimate their influence on some intellectual sectors in Cuban society – it would be naive to do so. However, it would also be wrong for the two wings to overestimate their appeal to Cuban society, because Cuban socialism is characterized by an exceptionally high level of political consciousness broadly accumulated over many decades. This allows Cuban revolutionaries and patriots to see through their manipulation and thus in the process further enrich the Cuban Revolution’s ideological heritage.

Source Prensa Latina

http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?o=rn&id=8265&SEO=cuban-left-opposition-and-annexationists-two-wings-of-same-eagle

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Cuba and US Hold Cold War Compensation Meetings

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  • A man rides a homemade bike with an advertising banner in Havana, Cuba, July 13, 2016.
    A man rides a homemade bike with an advertising banner in Havana, Cuba, July 13, 2016. | Photo: Reuters
Cuba has said that the blockade has cost the island nation US$125.9 billion.

Representatives of Cuba and the United States held a meeting Thursday to discuss mutual economic compensation over assets lost as a result of Washington’s decades-long blockade and the Cuban Revolution, an ongoing thorny issue since both nations restored diplomatic relations in July 2015.

RELATED: Why the US Immigration Policy Toward Cuba Had to Go

Washington seeks compensation for its assets seized during the Cuban revolution while Havana expects to receive something in return for the damage caused by the U.S. economic blockade on the island, which is still in force after more than a half-century.

The Cuban delegation reiterated that it is essential to consider the claims of the Cuban people for human and economic damages. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in September 2016 said the total cost of the blockade had been of US$125.9 billion.

Meanwhile, Washington said around 6,000 U.S. citizens and companies have reparation claims on Cuba with a total value of US$1.9 billion assets lost after the victory of the Cuban revolution in 1959.

However, these demands have been adjusted to current prices to reach almost US$8 billion, including an annual interest rate of 6 percent.

RELATED: Cuba-US: Obama to End ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot’ Policy

Two previous meetings on the same issue proved fruitless. The first was held in Havana in Dec. 2015 and the other in Washington in July 2016, diplomatic sources said.

The new meeting follows President Barack Obama’s decision to end the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, a longstanding immigration policy that extends automatic residency to Cubans arriving in the country without visas.

The moves come with only days left in Obama’s presidency and increasing uncertainty over how a Trump administration might move forward with the U.S. relationship with Cuba.

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The Cuban Revolution Will Never Be Destroyed

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Fidel Castro, former president and leader of the Cuban revolution, died in November at age 90.

  • Fidel Castro, former president and leader of the Cuban revolution, died in November at age 90. | Photo: Reuters.

“There is no alternative, nor a historical need to change systems, I do not think anything of what the enemies of Castroism are hoping for.”

Fidel Castro’s legacy and the power of the Cuban Revolution will live on, prominent Russian historian Nikolai Sergeyevich Leonov — who once served as Fidel Castro’s interpreter during the late Cuban revolutionary’s visit to the Soviet Union in 1963 — told EFE in a recent interview.

OPINIONThe World Must Learn From Cuba

Leonov, who wrote a book on Raul Castro’s personal life, recalled that “Cuba never reduced the importance of education, science and technology, even in the special period.”

“Fidel did not close off a single school,” he said, “overcoming the difficult years (after the fall of the communist bloc) before us. What can any other political force offer to replace the work of the Revolution?” he said during an interview with EFE.

“There is no alternative, nor a historical need to change systems, I do not think anything of what the enemies of Castroism are hoping for. The hopes of recalcitrant elements in Miami have no basis,” said Leonov, a former deputy director of the Soviet KGB.

ANALYSISAfter Fidel, What to Watch Out For in Cuba in 2017

He stressed that the Communist Party of Cuba approved a new socio-economic plan at its last congress in April to perfect the socialist model, although the island already leads in several fields in the Latin American continent, especially in medicine and science.

“Fidel was a giant who was ahead of his time. His commitment to education, tourism and public health are attainable social achievements. His legacy is indestructible; even the citizens of developed countries go to Cuba to find a cure for their diseases,” he added.

In his opinion, “Fidel, Raul, the party already marked the way,” and “the people fully support the party line, an inheritance of Jose Marti.”

“The party must be the sole guide of the people and must reflect at all times the fundamental hopes of the nation. Fidel did manage to create a strong nucleus, not like his predecessors (Simon) Bolivar or (Augusto Cesar) Sandino,” added the historian.

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The End of Ideology in Cuba?

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In 1960, the American sociologist and academic Daniel Bell (1919–2011) published The End of Ideology. It became a classic book in official political science. The publication was listed by Times Literary Supplement as one of the 100 most influential non-fiction books in the second half of the 20th century. While there were other “end of ideologies” in the 1950s and early 1960s, Bell’s is considered the most authoritative. The many varieties that emerged from this school of thought have a common denominator. While not oversimplifying this important trend, for the purposes of this article one can say that it surfaced out of the perceived failures of both socialism in the former U.S.S.R. and capitalism in the West. It was born out of opposition to “extremism.”

In November 1968, along with other political science students at McGill University in Montreal, I founded the Political Science Students Association. It organized a strike around two basic demands. The first was student participation on faculty hiring committees; the second, linked to this potential student empowerment, demanded a more inclusive faculty and curriculum. This would include writings other than by Daniel Bell (who, of course, was considered mandatory reading and enjoyed uncontested reference in political science), progressive social scientists and the works of Marx and Lenin. These were all excluded at the time. After a 10-day occupation and strike, the students’ demands were finally met by the university.

Bell was blind to the inevitable uprisings that were about to take place in the U.S. among African-Americans shortly after his best-seller rolled off the press. These progressive struggles, like those of the Native peoples, who also revolted, have their origins in the Thirteen Colonies. In the 1960s, American students were also attracted to alternative ideologies and politics. In fact, the youth movement was omnipresent throughout North America and much of Europe. While this inclination in the 1960s was characterized by different left-wing political and ideological features, and experienced its ups and downs, it was the death knell for the End of Ideology hypothesis. However, Bell’s heritage keeps coming back to haunt us.

In Cuba, in the last year or so, there has been a steady increase in the End of Ideology code words and buzz phrases emitted by some marginal Cuban bloggers and intellectuals. They were timid at first but became increasingly bold. To mention just a few: complaining of what they see as a “sterile dichotomy between socialism and capitalism”; advising Cuban revolutionaries to be “balanced and more profound in offering their criticism” of U.S. imperialism; opposing what they consider the extremist “Fidelista” and “anti-Castro” positions, placing both on the same footing; labelling those who are Marxist-Leninist or Fidelista as “extremists” or “fanatics”; writing about “two major fallacies of what it means to be a revolutionary in Cuba, from the left and right,” both being based on “exclusive dogma”; and, finally, asserting that “life is much more profound than even ideology.”

Reading these pieces, my university days back in 1968 kept piercing through my thought process. How was it possible that we opposed the End of Ideology in the heart of capitalism yet now it rears its head in Cuba, of all places? One can argue that the opposition in Cuba is coming from the “left,” that is, from those who claim that they support the Revolution. Well, where else can it emerge if not from the so-called left? This is Cuba. Let us not forget that Bell had identified as a leftist. His opposition to ideology was ostensibly from the leftist outlook and not the right. This, after all, was how he won his credibility and credentials. Bell became disillusioned with socialism. He could not see an alternative so he decided to wage a struggle against both capitalism and socialism. His work is a reflection of his own personal/political predicament. Objectively, however, this so-called neutrality against extremes consists in throwing a life jacket in support of capitalism. It is no accident that he is so appreciated by the ruling elites of the West.

I have always maintained that the most dangerous opposition to the Cuban Revolution comes from the so-called left, and not from the openly right Plattists, or annexationists. It is a cancer in Cuban society that, if left to grow without sharp ideological resistance, can influence the most naive, especially among youth, intellectuals and artists.

When Bell wrote his essays in the late 1950s, which were eventually compiled in his 1960 volume, Cuba was the scene of the most glaring refutation in the world of his theory: the 1953 Moncada attack, its ensuing program and the Triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1959. Fidel Castro and the July 26 Movement initiated in embryonic form the road toward a new Marxist-Leninist revolutionary ideology for Cuba. Far from being a period characterized by the end of ideology, Cuba provided the world with a resurgence of – and confidence in – the need for ideology. It represented the end of the End of Ideology. The Cuban Revolution erupted at the height of the Cold War yet it dug in its heels against any intimidation from the left or from imperialism. It did not represent the politically correct action and thinking at the time, not of the left and even less so of the right. Thus, in the initial period, Fidel had the acumen to not reveal the entire scenario. However, ideology was at the centre of the action and spirit.

Since 1953, Cuba has been and continues to be the quintessence of cultivating ideological principles. Every written and spoken word of Fidel is impregnated with ideology. It is not stagnant; on the contrary, it is continuously evolving according to the context. Otherwise, Cuba would not have been able to outlast its enemies all this time.

I am convinced that one of the main implicit objectives of the international corporate media campaign against the persona of Fidel right after his passing was imperialism’s revenge against him for not capitulating on ideology. Why, they may ask in frustration, did the Cuban Revolution never buy into the End of Ideology? It should have, according to official political science. Yet, after all these years, from July 26, 1953 to November 25, 2016, Fidel lived and died as he asked of others: a humble revolutionary.

In this historical context today, to try to impregnate Cuban political culture with “neutrality” on ideology, opposition to “extremes,” “equidistance” between socialism and capitalism, and so forth does not constitute a challenge to dogmatism of the left as it tries to portray itself. The real defiance is against socialism and Marxist-Leninist ideology. In the 1960s, Bell’s theory appealed to the ruling circles, who wanted to preserve the status quo. The elites were in power. They were not in any danger of being dislodged by their own capitalism! The End of Ideology critique of capitalism was then just a convenient cover for the critique of socialism. At McGill, in 1968, that was the main argument of the conservative faculty and administration. They were supposedly not in favour or against any ideology. All political options were welcome, but Bell was more welcome. He was supposedly against capitalism and socialism. However, those who favoured the capitalist status quo relied on the End of Ideology. Those who opposed the “extreme” ideology of the left were fully merged with the capitalist ideology, serving to propagate and elaborate it. The purpose of the End of Ideology, in the 1960s and now in Cuba, is to put an end to Marxist-Leninist and socialist ideology.

Source: Prensa Latina

http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?o=rn&id=7822&SEO=the-end-of-ideology-in-cuba

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The World Must Learn From Cuba

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"Cuba’s achievements expose the very limited, and often deplorable, nature of capitalist democracy."

By: Joe Emersberger

  • “Cuba’s achievements expose the very limited, and often deplorable, nature of capitalist democracy.

On the anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, why has the small Caribbean nation outperformed many capitalist democracies in key ways despite fifty years of attack?

According to UNICEF’s most recent statistics (updated to 2015), Cuba, for almost two decades, has had a lower child mortality rate than the United States. That’s an astounding human rights achievement – especially when you consider that Cuba has been under merciless assault by the United States for over fifty years – an assault that has included major acts of terrorism (like blowing up a factory and killing hundreds of workers in the middle of the Cuban missile crisis) not simply economic strangulation.

RELATED: Cuba-Trained Doctors Head to Standing Rock

What Cuba has accomplished while under sustained attack by a superpower shames every capitalist democracy in Latin America. There is no excuse for any having a higher child mortality rate than Cuba today, not even the countries that were the farthest behind Cuba when Castro seized power in 1959. Being stuck with depraved dictators like the Duvaliers or Somozas absolves the people of those countries (their victims) but not the political systems, and certainly not their sponsors in Washington. If every country in Latin America and the Caribbean had Cuba’s child mortality rate, there would have been about 136,000 fewer child deaths in the region in 2015 alone. People who scoff at Cuba’s achievements in health care are being contemptuous of human life, not only human rights.

In fairness, there are times when U.S. imperialists identify health care as a basic human right. Human Rights Watch recently did an extensive report on Venezuela’s struggling health care system but, shockingly, did not cite UNICEF statistics on child or infant mortality because they contradicted many of HRW’s claims.

The table below shows child mortality in Cuba and other selected countries according to UNICEF’s most recent data.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are two fabulously oil-rich dictatorships that are staunchly backed by the U.S. government. In fact, the United States went to war to re-install Kuwait’s dictatorship after it was overthrown by Iraq’s invasion in 1990. Chile spent decades under Pinochet’s dictatorial rule which was often praised by the international corporate media for its far right economic policies. Costa Rica is sometimes offered as example of what Cuba might have achieved “without repression”. Cuba, without exceptional natural wealth and despite decades of ferocious U.S. sabotage, has outperformed them all in reducing child mortality. Why? There are two general reasons.

Go ahead and blow off steam. We’ll ignore you.

I agree with people who say that “freedom of expression” is an end in itself – not just a way to get good public policy. However, extreme concentrations of wealth “take the risk out of democracy” as Alex Carey put it. If elites can dominate the means of communication then being able to publicly express harsh criticism of the government will have minimal impact on policy. Health care policy in the United States is a striking example. Public opinion has simply been dismissed. A closely related problem is the stunning ignorance that elites impose through control of the media while still allowing some dissent.

Cuba’s government does not tolerate dissent through the mass media, but, as Avi Chomsky observed in a detailed study “Cuban citizens nominate candidates and vote in secret ballot elections; they participate in mass organizations; they participate in neighborhood, workplace, and municipal where real problems are discussed and debated, and decisions made.”

The exceptional health outcomes Cuba has achieved under severe constraints point to a government that actually responds to the public’s concerns – and that does provide avenues for dissent to be expressed. I will anger some friends by saying that this does not make Cuba a democracy, but it does expose the absurdity of governments that congratulate themselves for allowing dissent while also ignoring widespread public dissatisfaction and disillusionment with impunity.

Spend forty hours a week under dictatorial rule – if you’re lucky.

Dictatorial workplaces (a key way to ensure elite control over wealth and investment decisions) are much more crucial feature of capitalism than competitive markets. Capitalists are often opposed to competitive markets as U.S. economist Dean Baker has often explained – most recently in his new book “Rigged.”

If you are lucky enough to have a steady job, even if you are lucky enough have a strong union that protects your income and dignity in the workplace, you are still spending a great deal of your life under dictatorial rule. Unions mitigate the dictatorial powers of CEOs and elite shareholders. Unions do not change the basic fact that ultimate control over investment and productions rests with an elite whose enrichment is deemed the highest priority. The arguments for allowing workplace dictatorship are no more compelling than arguments for dictatorship as a form of government. If workers in capitalist democracies spend so much of their lives under dictatorial rule at work, it should not be surprising that so many capitalist democracies compare poorly with Cuba in important ways. I am not arguing that workplaces are more democratic in Cuba than in most countries. I am saying that capitalism imposes such serious and barely discussed constraints on democracy that the distinction between “democracy” in many countries and “dictatorship” in Cuba is not as great as is typically assumed.

RELATED: When Africa Called, Fidel and Cuba Answered

Cuba’s achievements expose the very limited, and often deplorable, nature of capitalist democracy. That said, leftists in the United States and other rich western countries make a grave error when they exaggerate the shortcomings of U.S. democracy to such an extent that they embrace defeatism. The saying that “if voting could change anything it would be illegal” is quite dysfunctional. However, it is true that one cannot vote corporate power away in a single election.

I’ve focussed on Cuba’s child mortality rate, but, given the threat to human existence posed by the impact of human activity on the climate, it should be noted that Cuba has achieved rich country health outcomes with only a tiny fraction of the CO2 emissions per capita and without using nuclear power. With all its faults, if Cuba’s system spread to the entire world, humans could at least survive to work on eliminating those faults. The same cannot be said for capitalism. Learning from Cuba should be a high priority if we value survival.

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Cuba Marks 60 Years Since Late Fidel Castro Sparked Revolution

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  • An image of late Cuban President Fidel Castro hangs on a building as a replica of the Granma yacht passes by during a march in Havana, Jan. 2, 2017.
    An image of late Cuban President Fidel Castro hangs on a building as a replica of the Granma yacht passes by during a march in Havana, Jan. 2, 2017. | Photo: Reuters.
On Jan. 1, 1959, Fidel Castro and his troops claimed victory for the Cuban Revolution after the fall of the Batista dictatorship.

Cuba celebrated 60 years Monday since the launch of its revolution in 1956, the first anniversary without late former president and revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, with a military parade and march of hundreds of thousands of citizens in Havana’s iconic Revolution Square.

ANALYSIS: After Fidel, What to Watch Out For in Cuba in 2017

The Cuban military, workers, students, children and youth joined in the events, one day after the country commemorated the anniversary of the occasion when Fidel Castro claimed victory for the Cuban revolution on Jan. 1, 1959, after dictator Fulgencio Batista fled Havana.

The march brought together a range of symbols representing Cuba’s long struggle for independence and sovereignty, beginning with a cavalry parade to represent the liberation struggle against Spanish colonization.

Another part of the parade featured a replica of the Granma yacht — on which Fidel and his revolutionary troops sailed to Cuba from Mexico in 1956 to launch the uprising against the Batista regime — symbolically “floating” on a sea of Cuban children adorned with blue. The island marked 60 years in 2016 since Granma arrived on Cuba’s shores on Dec. 2, 1956 with Fidel and Raul Castro, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos and other revolutionary troops onboard.

Cuba holds the military and civilian parade every five years on Dec. 2 to celebrate the anniversary of the Granma landing, but this year it was postponed to observe nine days of national mourning after Fidel Castro’s death on Nov. 25 at the age of 90.

RELATED: Cuba Will Not Go Toward Capitalism Now or Ever: Raul Castro

Cuban soldiers, workers, students and crowds of other supporters followed in the march amid chants of “We are all Fidel, Fidel is the people!” and “Revolution is building!”

The day of anniversary celebrations in Havana’s Revolution Square comes just weeks after tens of thousands of Cubans filled the plaza to pay their last respects Fidel Castro, before his ashes departed for a cross-country tour to be interred Dec. 4 alongside independence leader Jose Marti and other national heroes in Santiago de Cuba.

The anniversary of the revolution also comes just weeks ahead of the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, whose win in the Nov. 12 elections has cast a shadow of uncertainty over the future of the normalization of U.S.-Cuba ties, in progress for the past two years.

During Monday morning’s events, youth leader Jennifer Bello, a member of Cuba’s Council of State and president of the University Student Federation, recognized the strength of the Cuban people in driving forward both revolutionary struggle and the thawing of ties with the U.S.

“Cuba is not going to give up a single one of its principles,” she said, according to Cuba Debate.

“We would not have reached this process without the resistance of the Cuban people,” she added, referring to the progress toward normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations.

After negotiations, on Dec. 17, 2014, Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to re-establish long-frozen relations between the two countries. In July 2015, the countries reopened their foreign embassies in Havana and Washington after more than half a century, and in March 2016, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba since 1928.

OPINION: The World Must Learn From Cuba

These and other developments, including the launch of commercial flights from the U.S. mainland to Cuba and several other historic changes, have marked landmark reforms in U.S. policy toward Cuba and bilateral ties between the two nations.

However, Cuba maintains that the normalization of ties will not be complete until the United States lifts the financial, commercial and economic blockade against the island, closes down the U.S. military base at Guantanamo and commits to fully respecting Cuban sovereignty.

But Trump has demonstrated hostility toward Cuba and rejected the thawing of ties, claiming that the normalization process should be scrapped unless Havana agrees to a better “deal.”

Despite the many changes — combined with uncertainty under a Trump White House — Raul Castro has reaffirmed that the socialist country will never head toward capitalism.

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Comandante Fidel: Combatant to the End

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By: Dr. Helen Yaffe

This file photo taken in the 1960s shows then Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro (L) lighting a cigar while listens Argentine Ernesto Che Guevara.

  • This file photo taken in the 1960s shows then Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro (L) lighting a cigar while listens Argentine Ernesto Che Guevara. | Photo: AFP

Fidel’s genius was his ability to meet the need for tactical steps, responding to the day’s urgencies, without losing sight of the strategic direction.

It could have been the armed struggle, terrorism, assassination or the serious illness which, at his own admission, nearly killed him in 2006; but in the end Fidel Castro lived through it all to die in peace.

RELATED: Revolutionary Icon Fidel Castro Dies: Live Updates

His death, at 90, on Nov. 25, 2016, has dominated news around the world. In Cuba, there will be several days of mourning, a procession through the island, and funeral on 4 December. Most Cubans on the island will mourn Fidel and pay their respects. Somewhere, rising up through their grief will be a sense of pride; that nature took el Comandante, and not the enemy. It must have been a source of comfort for Cuba’s Commander in Chief. He was a man that led the call to arms from the front: against Batista’s dictatorship, against US imperialism, against the “Batistiano” – the former Cuban elite who never ceased plotting their inglorious return to power, a group he labelled “worms” (gusanos). Right up to his scathing reflection about “brother Obama” following the U.S. president’s visit to Cuba early this year, Fidel never stopped fighting for the sovereign, independent and socialist Cuba he pledged to build.

Trained as a lawyer and tested as a soldier, Fidel’s genius was his ability to meet the need for tactical steps, responding to the day’s urgencies, without losing sight of the strategic direction. Dismissing him as a “dictator” censors a rich history of debate, experimentation, and collective learning that has taken place in Cuba under Fidel’s guidance.

In the 1950s, Fidel set out the Moncada Program, which committed to bring social welfare and land reform to the Cuban people, and confiscate the ill-gotten gains of the Cuban elite. This was his promise to the Cuban people, who came out in their masses to cheer Fidel on the long road to Havana in the first days of 1959. And in this, clearly, Fidel has been absolved by history. Also in those first years, one million Cubans left the island, most of them for the United States where they formed a pocket of violent opposition to Fidel and the Cuban Revolution. Who were they? They were the landowners, the businessmen, the politicians, who surpassed even previously shocking standards of graft and corruption. They fled the island, temporarily they thought. However, despite the financial, military, political and ideological support they received from successive U.S. administrations and state institutions, the Revolution could not be dislodged: not through mercenary invasions, sabotage, terrorism or biological warfare, not through the threat of nuclear war, not through regional and international isolation, not through the U.S. blockade, not through inducements, nor corruption, nor assassinations.

It is these Cuban exiles, and their allies, who have dominated U.S. policy-making on Cuba – converting Cuba into a domestic political issue. They have established the paradigm for academic writing and commentary on Cuba, controlled the media narrative, and in general obstructed our ability to understand Cuba as a country, Fidel as a man, and socialism as an alternative development strategy. So none of us should be surprised that on his death, unlike Mandela, Fidel is not forgiven his “crimes,” but continues to be lambasted as a dictator, supposedly the oppressor of an entire nation.

Elsewhere, however and well beyond the shores of Cuba, millions in the world will mourn a leader they claimed as their own. The leader of a revolution which defeated a U.S.-backed invasion, who stood up to U.S. imperialism, who sent doctors, educators and development workers to the poorest regions on the earth – almost as soon as they were trained up for free in Cuba. In the 1960s, Fidel railed against imperialism and colonialism in the United Nations, supported revolutionary movements in Latin America, Africa and elsewhere, and hosted the Tricontinental Conference to coordinate anti-imperialist forces internationally. From the 1970s Fidel sent the first of some 400,000 Cubans to defend Angola from the colonial aspirations of apartheid South African. In the 1980s Fidel condemned third world debt as unpayable. In the 1990s he denounced the devastating human costs of neoliberalism and warned the world about the ecological crisis which threatened humanity and the planet. In the 2000s he opened the doors of the Latin American School of Medicine (set up in 1999) to poor students from Africa, Asia and elsewhere, so that they too could study for free and return to serve their poor communities, and the Battle of Ideas he led showed what could be achieved in the field of culture and education.

RELATED: Fidel Castro: A Latin American Legend

Cuba today, is incomparable with the Cuba of 1959; just consider the island’s achievements in health, medicine, biotechnology, culture, art, sport, and combatting discrimination of every kind. They have built a new and alternative system of democracy, without political parties, and political celebrities, in which politics is not a career, and principles are not invented by publicists responding to the latest polls. Yes, there have been mistakes and shameful episodes. But Fidel’s strongest serious critic was always himself, just listen to his interviews with Ignacio Ramonet and Oliver Stone.

One thing we can assert is that Fidel stuck to his principles. A recent book by William LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh on the secret history of negotiations between Washington and Havana documents that almost as soon as diplomatic relations were broken, their respective governments pursued avenues to restore or improve them. What is also clear, however, is that at various moments in history Fidel rejected an offer to reduce hostilities, to lift the U.S .blockade for example, because they were pre-conditioned on abandoning some anti-imperialist (or in the case of Angola, anti-racist) internationalist cause: withdrawing troops from Southern Africa, stopping vociferous support for Puerto Rican independence, ending support for the Central America revolutionary movements, and cutting off ties to the Soviet Union. These were demands that Fidel would not countenance. Commitment to international anti-imperialism could not be traded. “Men make their own history,”observed Karl Marx, “but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

Fidel has made history, and history has absolved him, even as, in his death, those ideological enemies continue to rage against his life.

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The Day Fidel Castro Declared Cuba Free of Illiteracy

NOVANEWS
  • Fidel Castro waves at literacy teachers and students at Revolutionary Plaza in Havana after declaring Cuba free of illiteracy, Dec. 22, 1961.
    Fidel Castro waves at literacy teachers and students at Revolutionary Plaza in Havana after declaring Cuba free of illiteracy, Dec. 22, 1961. | Photo: Cuba Debate
“Only a country in revolution would have been capable of deploying the effort and energy necessary to carry out such a gigantic mission,” Fidel said.

Fifty-five years ago today, the Cuban leader Fidel Castro declared the socialist island a territory free of illiteracy, fulfilling the dream of the Cuban Revolution that began with a massive free literacy program for all Cubans.

RELATED: Cuban University Students Commit to Continue Fidel’s Legacy

Fidel’s words on that famous Dec. 22, 1961, in Revolutionary Plaza in Havana, was a result of the hard work of more than 250,000 young Cubans who took part in the volunteer literacy brigades that traveled the entire breadth of the island bringing literacy to the most remote corners of the country.

“No moment is more solemn and exciting, no instant full of legitimate pride and glory than this, in which four and a half centuries of ignorance have been defeated,” said Fidel.

“When we said we would eradicate illiteracy in only one year, it seemed a reckless statement, it seemed impossible,” he continued. “Only a country in revolution would have been capable of deploying the effort and energy necessary to carry out such a gigantic mission.”

Every year on Dec. 22, Cuba celebrates Teachers’ Day, to remember the hard work of its citizens’ unprecedented achievement to become the first Latin American country free of illiteracy.

RELATED: Fidel’s Enduring Lesson Is That, Yes, It Is Possible: Raul

During an event to celebrate the anniversary in Havana, a group of teachers who volunteered during the campaign honored Fidel Castro and his work to improve education in the island.

“It was a task for everyone. Fidel called and the youth responded,” said Zoila Benitez, one of the teachers who participated in the literacy campaign.

Olga Lidia Tapia, a member of the Cuban Communist Party, said the revolutionary education process in Cuba has changed the island forever and inspired others around the world.

“This process transformed realities and made reading and writing a legacy for all,” said Tapia.

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Celebrating the life of Comrade Fidel Castro Ruz

NOVANEWS
Narada News

In the battle of ideas, we inherit from him a wealth of revolutionary weapons of theory and real experiences to defend and guide our struggle against capitalism, imperialism and all forms of reactionary ideas and practices.

In this occasion, when we commemorate the passing on of Comrade Fidel, I have decided to reproduce a poem that I wrote in Kiswahil about two years ago about him. (Unfortunately, the English translation of the poem from its original in Kiswahili published below does not sound poetic.)

Yes, Fidel is no longer with us physically but since he died a hero as I predicted (just as many of us did too) Fidel lives on. And because even Fidel was a human being and therefore mortal, we did not expect him to live forever. We needed him all the time but we always knew that like all of us he would one day pass on. And so he has passed on. But Fidel is not dead. For we can now declare for certain and without any iota of doubt that Fidel has passed on as a hero and heroes do not die.

Fidel is a peoples’ hero, he is hero of Cuba, Latin America, Africa and humanity. Throughout his life Fidel struggled, thought, wrote, taught and dedicated for the freedom, happiness, peace and liberation of the exploited and oppressed and all human beings – for socialism and communism. In the battle of ideas, we inherit a wealth of revolutionary weapons of theory and real experiences to defend and guide our struggle against capitalism, imperialism and all forms of reactionary ideas and practices – and for socialism.

To the people of Cuba, Fidel has left a country that, despite the longest and most brutal economic, commercial and financial blockades ever imposed against any country by US imperialism, remains the most resilient, independent, free, just, principled and inspiring country on earth. So at this day we join the people of Cuba – that include his brother President Raul Castro and his blood family and extended family of comrades and friends escorting him to his final resting place at Santiago de Cuba – to mourn Fidel. We are with the people of Cuba at this solemn occasion to celebrate the 90 years Fidel lived with us. And what a life it was! …….Oh yes, the struggle left by Fidel continues and must continue!

Werugha, Taita Taveta County, Friday 2 December 2016.

 

Fidel Castro Ruz

I love the land of Cuba, its people, economics and politics

The system of love, geared towards socialist development

Of carrying forward all citizens, to participate in social progress

The system of removing the vestiges of exclusion and marginalization –

To enable all to meet their needs, that’s the aim of their economy

Yes, they have a lot of problems, but they courageously struggle with them

How I wish to live in Cuba, but lo! Our struggle in Kenya needs me

 

Comrade Fidel Castro Ruz, he is famous all over the World

The log of revolution, symbol of bravery for a just cause

Champion of the struggle for love on earth, for all to live well

Searching for a good leader? Look in Fidel Castro!

He continues with revolutionary struggle, despite his age

He has retired from state leadership, but he is still in the journey

Revolutionary education, of social justice and peace on our planet

He is still committed to the work, theoretically and ideologically

 

Socialist ideology and theory, he contributes to everyday

He interprets and expounds Marxism, in the present conditions of the World

He thinks about technological development, and science for human security

To Fidel education and health should be prioritized

And in the utilization of natural resources,

Humanity must end greed and waste, conserve the environment or perish!

Fidel condemns capitalism and imperialism, while exposing its injustices

He advocates for socialism, the system worth struggling for

He has made a contribution to revolutionary struggle, he continues to do so

 

They have tried to assassinate him, the US imperialists

They have targeted his life over hundred times, capitalists are evil

Because Fidel has prevented them from continuing to colonize Cuba

Exploiters and oppressors hate Fidel they wish to bury him in the grave

But to the wretched of the earth Fidel is their beloved hero

Hundreds of millions of people pray for him that he lives a long life

Yes, Fidel motivates, he lights the fire of revolution in us

 

In the freedom and liberation war, the two Cuban people’s heroes met

Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, believers of the same ideology

Through the revolutionary struggle, the comrades united

The brothers in combat committed themselves to the work,

The members of the party struggled together

Until Cuba was liberated, and the whole World witnessed

From then on the roots of socialism continue to grow and grow

True, the Cuban revolution lives and will continue to live

Fidel Castro Ruz, we thank you Cubans for him

 

Socialism marches on triumphantly, in spite of the neighboring enemy

US imperialists hate Fidel with a passion, they are still bitter of the past defeat

Because they invaded and occupied Cuba, exploiting the country as colonialists do

Even today they still conspire against Cuba, they are strangling it with blockade!

But Cuba insists on going forward, forward ever

Cuba will not give up or turn away from the true path of freedom

Fidel maintains: socialism is the hope for Cuba and the World

We cannot liberate ourselves, by returning to the past, capitalism!

Yes, we hear you Fidel we hear you clearly,

Yes, the masses listen to you even in Kenya and Africa

 

It is not in my habit, listen to me, it is not a good habit

To praise as a hero a person who is still alive

Fidel does not like it either, I am aware

For as long as you are alive you have not grown fully,

Our ancestors taught us, I remember

Still I shower praises on Fidel, many big praises, he is a hero

He has embraced being humane, he does not worship money

As for remaining firm in the cause, I do not doubt Fidel for a second

He will die fighting for the common person, whatever come may!

That is why I dedicate this poem to him, long live Fidel!

Your life is an example to follow, Fidel Castro Ruz

Good health, dear comrade!

Nairobi, Dream Hotel Ngara, Thursday 17 May 2014

 

Fidel Castro Ruz

Ninaipenda nchi ya Cuba, uchumi na siasa zao

Mfumo wao wa mahaba, ya kijamaa mandeleo

Ya kila raia kubeba, ashirikishwe kwa nchi yao

Ni mfumo unaoziba, pengo za kimapendeleo

Ili kila mtu kushiba, malengo ya uchumi wao

Na viongozi wa kuiba, hawacheki na watu hao

Wana matatizo si haba, lakini wapambana nayo

Ningeliishi nchi ya Cuba, ah! Kenya bado ukombozi

 

Fidel Castro Ruz, duniani ni mashuhuri

Gogo la mwanamapinduzi, jazanda la uhodari

Wa mapambano ya mapenzi, ya wote tuishi vizuri

Sifa za mwema kiongozi, soma kwa Fidel nahubiri

Akazana na mapinduzi, pamoja na wake umri

Ameng’atuka uongozi, lakini bado anasafiri

Elimu ya kimapinduzi, ya haki kwa yetu sayari

Bado afanya hiyo kazi, itikadi na nadharia

 

Itikadi na nadharia, kila siku anachangia

Umarx aufafanua, kwa hali ya leo dunia

Amani anafikiria, haki na usalama pia

Kwa Fidel elimu na afya, ni ya manani kutilia

Mazingira tukitumia, tufanye kuyahifadhia

Ubeberu aukemea, dhuluma zake afichua

Ujamaa anatetea, unafaa kupiginia

Mapinduzi amechangia, tena bado anachangia

 

Wamejaribu kumuua, mabeberu wa Marekani

Tena zaidi ya mara mia, mabepari ni mashetani

Mana Fidel amezuia, Cuba kubaki ukoloni

Wanyonyaji wamchukia, wataka awe kaburini

Bali kabwela wa dunia, ni shujaa wao mwandani

Halaiki yamuombea, aishi sana duniani

Fidel anaendelea, anaishi ulimwenguni

Na motisha hutupatia, tushikilie mapinduzi

 

Kwenye vita vya ukombozi, mashujaa walijuana

Che Guavara na Ruz, itikadi ilifanana

Harakati za mapinduzi, komredi wakaungana

Ndugu wakaifanya kazi, wanachama wakapambana

Cuba kukawa ukombozi, hata dunia ikaona

Ndipo ya ujamaa mizizi, imeshika imeshikana

Kweli ya Cuba mapinduzi, yamedumu yanakazana

Fidel Castro Ruz, Wacuba twamhongerea

 

Ujamaa waendelea, ingawa adui jirani

Marekani yamchukia, wang’ang’ania ya zamani

Kwani Cuba walikalia, na kuinyonya kikoloni

Na leo hila waifanyia, Cuba waikaba kooni

Bali Cuba yaendelea, haitoki msimamoni

Fidel ameshikilia, ujamaa ni matumaini

Hatuwezi kujikomboa, tukirudi ubeparini

Fidel tunakusikia, Kenya na Afrika pia

 

Mtu alo hai sikia, si kawaida kumsifu

Hujakufa hujatimia, ni wahenga waliarifu

Bali Fidel namumwagia, sifa kuu tena sufufu

Utu ameukumbatia, wala haabudu sarafu

Msimamo kushikilia, kwake Fidel sina hofu

Kabwela atapigania, bamvua na maji mafu

Ndipo heri namtakia, na shairi la kumsifu

Ni maisha ya kuigia, Fidel Castro Ruz

Nairobi, Dream Hotel Ngara, Alhamisi  Mei 17 2014

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Homage to Fidel Castro: Important lessons for humanity

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In his 20s, Castro already attempted to liberate his country from the grip of a military dictatorship. Eventually he succeeded. And once in power, his single agenda was to serve the Cuban people – and humanity through internationalist solidarity. What are the masses of young people languishing in poverty and hopelessness under misrule throughout Africa and the Global South waiting for? Arise!

As El Comandante Fidel Castro’s ashes are interred today (4th December 2016) in Santiago de Cuba, the place where the July 26th rebel movement began its journey to overthrow dictatorship and capitalism, there are many lessons that Kenyans and the whole of humanity can learn from the life of this great legend.

He remains a great inspiration to the young people of this country who are disturbed by the ever rising levels of poverty, greed and corruption. In his 20s, Fidel’s conviction for a just society led him into organising two attempts to overthrow the then military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, and he was eventually successful at the young age of 32.

Fidel disembarked from the Granma boat with a rebel army of 87 men and got to the Sierra Maestra mountains with less than twenty guerrillas. Through such actions, he continues to inspire those working for a better society but are few in numbers. He was never discouraged by the loss of combatants or the greater fire-power of Batista’s army; he understood that what he needed on his side was the support of the masses and not bigger guns.

Fidel teaches us to always be prepared. It was through preparation and working with the masses that Fidel Castro was able to defeat the U.S-trained soldiers who invaded Cuba in 1961 at the Bay of Pigs. It is this preparedness that has deterred the U.S from militarily invading Cuba since then.

Unlike the primitive accumulation tendencies that we see with our African leaders, Fidel Castro and his leadership never sought material riches for themselves. They worked hard to ensure that every Cuban had equal and unlimited opportunities to achieve what they humanly could. That is how Cuba was able to achieve unparalleled successes in the fields of education, preventive and curative health, sciences, gender and racial equality, housing and employment among other aspects of human development. All this was achieved in spite of the existence of the most brutal economic, commercial and financial blockade from the U.S that has been in place for over 50 years.

Through Fidel, a lesson on resilience and being true to self is learnt. Not many countries can survive a blockade such as the one that has been imposed on Cuba. Through resilience, Cuba has not only survived that blockade, but has managed to mobilize the whole world into condemning this U.S aggression. Every year at the UN General Assembly, virtually all countries except the U.S and Israel vote against the blockade. Fifty-four years into the blockade, the U.S President Barack Obama admitted that its policy had failed and he began the process of normalization of relationships between the two countries. However, the blockade still remains in force.

After the fall of the USSR, Cuba lost its closest trading partner and the Cuban economy was brought to its knees. Many countries abandoned Socialism; many Socialist political parties across the world dropped Marxism-Leninism as their ideology; and many Marxists intellectuals and politicians no longer wished to be identified with Socialism. However, Cuba’s Socialism did not fall with the fall of the wall. The country instead diversified and realigned its Socialist economy by moving towards green energy, popular organic farming, pharmaceutical and biomedical technology and other niches that are today the envy of many.

Out of this resilience and inspiration, Socialist countries began to rise a decade later in Latin America, from Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua to Ecuador. Leftist governments also came into power in Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American countries. Throughout Africa, the old ‘Marxist’ intellectuals were replaced by young Marxist revolutionaries whose understanding was/is not pegged on Mother Russia but on the principles of equality and prosperity of humanity, just like Fidel Castro did.

Under the leadership of Fidel Castro, Cuba taught the world the most important lessons on giving and solidarity. Cuban universities have awarded thousands of full scholarships to youth from developing countries who are now serving their countries as doctors and other professionals. Cuba does not award these scholarships because it is a rich country. In fact, Cuba’s GDP is smaller than that of many developing countries, including Kenya. Cuba gives because sharing is a human responsibility. This poses a challenge to countries like Kenya that are surrounded by worse off countries. How many scholarships does Kenya give to young people from Somalia, South Sudan or the DR Congo?

Cuban combatants have fought alongside their African compatriots in their struggles against colonialism and imperialism. Cubans assisted Algeria, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Ethiopia and South Africa either in their struggle for independence or in their wars against external aggression. And as Raul Castro once said while in Angola, Cuba fought alongside Africans and left not with coffee or minerals, but with the body bags of their heroic soldiers. Cuba’s internationalist policy is unlike the U.S globalization policy; Cuba did not sacrifice its children so that they could exploit and dominate others, but it did so to fulfil its internationalist duty to humanity.

Western Sahara, continues to be Africa’s last colony up to this day. Are African countries waiting for Cubans to come and fight for the decolonization of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic? Do we think petitions and African Union commission reports will convince Morocco to leave Western Sahara? Haven’t we learnt anything from the sacrifices of the Cuban people?

Today, Cuba continues with this internationalist practice, but now by sending humanitarian ‘combatants’ wherever humanity needs them. From hurricane crises in Asia and the Americas, to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, Cuban doctors have always been on the frontlines of fighting and containing these disasters. While commenting on the Haitian earthquake, one Haitian expressed his gratitude to the Cuban doctors by stating that “After God, Fidel.”

Fidel gave us lessons on how to fight today’s emerging crimes like terrorism. In the 1980s and the 1990’s, terrorists from Miami (supported by the CIA) tried to destroy Cuba’s tourism industry by bombing hotels, Cuban airplanes and other economic interests, even going to the extent of using bio-terrorism on innocent civilians. Rather than terrorise and alienate innocent civilians like the Kenyan government is doing today, Fidel sent his security personnel to infiltrate the enemy and unearth terror plans before they happened. That is how the world famous Cuban anti-terrorism heroes, popularly known as the Cuban Five came to be (They were arrested in the U.S and given harsh life sentences for espionage, but were freed by President Obama in December 2014).

Throughout his life, Fidel has survived hundreds of assassination attempts on his life and worst still on his character, but this never dampened his resolve. They lied about his wealth but he continued living a simple life. They lied about human rights violations but he continued to provide the highest attainable human rights for his people. Even at his death, reactionary media continues to desecrate his name by publishing lies about this great revolutionary. Fidel has taught us to ignore the liars and detractors and instead soldier on and do what is right.

I therefore reiterate the homage that Carlos Aznárez paid to Fidel Castro when he wrote:

“So, when difficulties seem too much, and we believe we’re running out of strength, when we lack answers and when confusion makes us doubt about who the enemy is, when times are dark and without hope, let’s go back to Fidel, to his ideas, to his ethic, to his audacity, to his courage, to his revolutionary power, and let’s rise again to continue this wonderful adventure to take the skies.”

A little heartbroken but never defeated, we salute you, dear Commander. We will turn back to you every now and then and ask you: “Are we doing well, Fidel?”

An avid reader, a sportsman, an arts enthusiast, a teacher, a great leader, a prolific writer, an environmentalist, an orator, a thinker, a fighter, and above all, a Communist.

Hasta Siempre Comandante,
Long Live Fidel Castro!
Long Live Socialism!
We shall be Victorious!

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