Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Castro's Retirement

It always amazes me that, when Fidel Castro makes an announcement that should have been expected for, oh, about five years now, there is such surprise. Can it be that I am the only person who suspected that Castro would not run for President of Cuba? I don't think so.

Indeed it's very likely that Castro intended to retire in 2003. In May 2001, Castro noted, in a address to the graduates in Social Work at the University of Havana, that he had worked to solve the problems of the twentieth century, while the problems of the twenty-first century would be solved by others. My eyes widened. I thought, holy s**t, the dude done gonna retire. (I don't talk like that most of the time, but occasionally thoughts register in this kind of language.) I was not the only person to note this, and many noted that it appeared that his international travel schedule was a "farewell tour." But then 9/11, and more particularly the decision of the US to use our military base at Guantanamo as an off-the-books prison camp, led the Cuban leadership to decide that Castro should stay through the 2008 election.

But if this failed to register with the major media and the CIA, surely his statement in December was a hint intended to clue in the clueless. In that statement he suggested that he might not run again and, if he didn't run, the next President should be someone "much younger." I noted at the time that this just might be a teeny little hint that Raul Castro was not going to be a candidate. (It also precluded the choice of Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, who had been mentioned as a possibility for the 2003 election, as he is only ten years younger than Castro.)

So his announcement today cannot be a surprise to the people of Cuba. Indeed it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who pays reasonable attention. It's not likely to lead to any of the apocalyptic visions so dear to the Miami Cubans. Nor are the Cuban people likely to decide that neoliberal economics is for them. After all, if anyone there did think it might be a good idea, they have the experience of the rest of Latin America to put them off that notion. I predict that the transition will be quite peaceful, and that the consensus candidate has already been chosen. The Cuban people probably already know who the candidate is so, should AP or the New York Times want to find out, they might just try polling a random sample of Cubans. That would be a scoop!

No comments: