Calm versus hysteria as Fidel temporarily cedes power

On 31 July in Cuba a proclamation by Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro Ruz was read out on television revealing that he had undergone a serious operation for gastrointestinal bleeding and was temporarily ceding power while he recovered. In Havana, where I watched, the response of the Cubans around me was calm concern, coupled with confidence that appropriate steps had been taken to secure the Revolution’s stability and progress.

Fidel temporarily ceded his responsibilities to seven comrades: Raul Castro Ruz (first secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, Commander in Chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and President of the Council of State and government of the Republic); José Ramón Balaguer Cabrera (national and international Public Health Programme); José Ramón Machado Ventura and Esteban Lazo Hernández (national and international Education Programme); Carlos Lage Dávila (national programme of the Energy Revolution and cooperation with other countries on this); Davila with Francisco Soberón Valdés and Felipe Pérez Roque to manage funds for health, education and energy programmes. These individuals are well known and logical choices, For example Raul was already the deputy to Fidel in these areas, Balaguer is Minister of Public Health and Soberón is President of the National Bank.

Such was the calm and optimism on the island that I was shocked to see images of hysterical Cuban exiles celebrating in the streets in Miami, hoping to cheer this revolutionary old man to his death. In reality, it involved 5,000 people out of a Cuban community in Florida of nearly a million. The Cuban press published the range of reactions from around the world. The daily televised round table discussion analysed the reaction in the US Congress, dissected articles and intelligently mocked the hysterical enemies of the Revolution. Rich and powerful right-wingers pressurised the US government for military action, hoping to incite a coup d’état on the island, and demanded the $80 million fund earmarked by the Bush administration for the destruction of the Revolution be allocated immediately.

Without announcement, Cuba mobilised for national defence. Reserves were called up and bomb shelters prepared, all with great discretion and discipline. With preparations complete, Raul announced the mobilisation. By then, Cubans had been treated to televised images of Fidel meeting with Venezuelan President Chavez, and the wind was knocked out of those with imperial ambitions over Cuba.

Fidel’s health is recovering but it remains unclear whether he will resume his previous responsibilities. Regardless, recent events have demonstrated concretely that the Cuban people and their revolutionary motor, the Cuban Communist Party, are well prepared for the future. With or without Fidel, the Cuban people will drive forward the Revolution.
Helen Yaffe

FRFI 193 October / November 2006


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