Friday, February 22, 2008

Viva La Revolución!

After 49 years, Fidel Castro stepped down as leader of Cuba. Gaining power in a 1959 revolution, the dictator outlasted his own communist counterparts of the former Soviet Union and nine U.S. presidents. In recent years, the communist-held island, though only 90 miles from the United States, seems a bygone and forgotten product of the 20th century in light of the “Axis of Evil” and “War on Terror” – akin to a Presidential hopeful having to remind people that three people are involved in the debate.

For Cuban exiles, Castro’s resignation is a potential first step toward the dream of a free, democratic Cuba. It is a small one at best. All of the potential successors – Raúl Castro, who has served as interim president since his brother became ill; Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque; and Vice-President Carlos Lage – are more than likely to uphold the status quo that will do little to change the internal state of affairs or American policy. Less charismatic than his camouflage-wearing sibling yet touted as a reformer, Raúl Castro has been a committed socialist militant since his youth. Infamously known as “Castro’s Executioner,” he has overseen the executions of countless numbers of those opposed to the regime. Undoubtedly, “elder statesman” Fidel will still play a role no matter who is leader, but even more so if it is his own brother.

Castro’s relinquishing of power comes decades after the death of one of his Revolution’s most recognizable symbols, Che Guevara. Yet, Guevara’s spirit, at times overshadowing even his mentoring sponsor, continues to motivate and inspire leftist activists and academics – particularly on college campuses across the United States, no less. Alberto Korda’s infamous photo of the guerrilla insurgent undoubtedly has contributed to this lasting phenomenon, in all probability more so than any statements or actions by the subject of it. As these self-anointed ambassadors of enlightened thought smugly protest the Bush Administration and the detainment of al-Qaida terrorists at Guantanamo, they should remember how the Castro regime – Guevara in particular – treated prisoners. Torture was the least of worries – and never alleged, but in fact occurred with impunity.

The Guevara idolatry has even crept into the current U.S. Presidential campaign. Just recently, a Cuban flag with his superimposed image hung at a new campaign office in Houston, Texas, for Democratic hopeful Barack Obama. The same Guevara who said North Korea – a founding member of the “Axis of Evil” – is a model to which revolutionary Cuba should emulate and aspire. The same Guevara who combated American and anti-Castro forces around the world, most notably at the failed Bay of Pigs invasion ordered by President John F. Kennedy – a fervent anti-communist member of the family that now backs Obama. Certainly, Kennedy would applaud a black man vying for the Presidency, thanks in large part to civil rights reforms initiated during his administration. Nevertheless, he must be rolling over in his grave, at Arlington National Cemetery, from the duplicitous indignity in the display of an iconic symbol of communism by the campaign of a candidate from his party.

In retrospect, perhaps the exportation of the “Cuban Revolution” was more successful than anyone was aware, including its own founders. The frequent call for global social justice and economic equity by the Left does make one wonder if the United States’ triumph in the Cold War against such Marxist doctrine was merely pyrrhic or even a victory at all. Even more, many pundits have stated that the “Reagan Revolution” is over, the last vestige of an era that seemingly has no importance in current world affairs. Whether that is true or not, let us hope that another revolution – under a banner of “change we can believe in” – that ostensibly espouses principles against which President Ronald Reagan fought does not replace it.

©2008 Steve Sagarra

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