Thursday, December 1, 2016

Jottings : slice of life - 66 ( Fidel Castro 1926-2016 - a thorn in American Flesh)

Jottings : slice of life - 66 ( Fidel Castro 1926-2016 - a thorn in American Flesh)
A few weeks ago I was watching Brian de Palma's masterpiece "Scarface" again. Perhaps, the best performance ever by Al Pacino, as a young Cuban refugee who lands on the open shores of Miami in early 1980’s to become an undisputed drug warlord. The first few scenes in the movie shows boat loads of Cuban refugees huddled together, sent out by Cuban government to live or rot in America. It was Fidel Castro’s masterstroke to taunt the mighty Americans. He was dispatching Criminals and trouble makers from Cuba as exile into the US, just as the illustrious English, during the 18th century were sending ship loads of petty criminals into the continent of newly found Australia. This comparison is exaggerated, but the audacity of intent remains the same. For nearly fifty years the revolutionary, communist leader of Cuba held fort over a country that is barely a million square miles long with a population of under 12 Million, and proudly stood against the United states of America and all that it represents. It seems a travesty that a country like USA which controls happenings in nations more than half way across the globe; couldn't deal with a small island barely 90 miles away from them. But that's the irony American historians and history would like to forget quickly. One Man stood between USA and Cuba. It was Fidel Castro - the dictator, the revolutionary, the president, the savior - the man who refused to acknowledge the sovereignty of USA over his little country. He was immensely successful in his battle, and for sheer stubbornness, courage and independence the world acknowledged him as a force to reckon in international politics.
Fidel Castro died yesterday after prolonged illness. Successive American government over last two decades have been praying for this day, if not from pulpits, but definitely deep within their hearts. Senior foreign affair commentators Anthony de Palma writing for Newyork times summarized Castro reign in one sentence. Its worth reproducing:
“Mr Castro brought the cold war to the western hemisphere, bedeviled 11 American Presidents and briefly pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war”
He was a puzzle none could solve. Two Popes visited him in the hope they could create a rapprochement between the USA and him; but they failed miserably. He smiled, talked and mesmerized them, but refused to take any political advice from Pontiffs. President Obama broke an 88 year impasse by visiting Cuba in his second tenure hoping to end his Presidency on a high note, considering no other President has come close to entering the shores of Cuba in their wildest dreams.. Once again, an ailing Castro treated him well, but refused to relinquish anything fundamental to Cuba’s integrity. When America stopped economic aid, Castro turned to Soviet union, called himself a communist and and gave the Russians safe haven to build nuclear pile. When oil was denied , he sought support from Venezuela to fill the shortfall. At no time, did it ever cross his mind, that a warm handshake with America would have given all the benefits his country needed. But then Castro would not have been Castro, if he had done that. His entire life has been one single crusade against the USA. In one of his interviews in 1998, He told his interviewer that it was an honor being an adversary of the USA. He also went on to say “ For a small country as Cuba to have such a gigantic country as US live so obsessed with this small island - is indeed an honor for us..”
In a way, what Castro said was true. American was indeed a little obsessed with Cuba. The fact that it did not go an an all-out invasion was only because there was no great commerce between Cuba and America , to push America to in any kind of affirmative action, except the failed CIA sponsored coup of Battle of Pigs in 1961 to overthrow Castro’s government, which of course was a mighty disaster. Apart from this skirmish, there has been no military engagement between them. Cuba , at the most was a drug menace, and the only other thing was Castro’s impudence - which did not warrant a war. The other most important reason that kept America silent was the fact that there were no religious differences between that spilled over to politics. Catholicism was all pervasive, and most cubans belonged to the Roman church. The only thorn in the flesh was Castro - playing the role of a tantrum child, for which every now and then the big brother chastised him, but with virtually no effect on casto attitude or demeanor. Till his last day, he held his stand on USA. He wrote
“I do not trust the politics of the United States, nor have I exchanged a word with them, but this is not, in any way, a rejection of a peaceful solution to conflicts".... This was his last word on American relations.
Well, the man is now dead, and his brother now takes charge completely. Will this see a change of direction in America-Cuban relationship, May be!!
Because Men like Castro are a dying breed. The world doesn't produce militant nationalists like that anymore. For a person like Castro to breed, develop and assume power, there needs certain conditions to be fulfilled : A small isolated nation, not well educated, economically below par, historically never unified except under dictatorship and unconditional willingness to follow the leader who can articulate well. Only if most of these conditions exist can a leader of Castro’s calibre rise, sustain and arrogate power. Otherwise not.
But whatever said and done, the name of Fidel Castro will go down in History, for right or wrong, as the man who defied the USA at the zenith of its power. For that reason alone, he gains immortality..
God bless…
yours in mortality,

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