("Mr. Castro's apparently voluntary departure means the longest-running U.S. bent toward
regime change didn't work. And it offers the opportunity to work on a new Cuba policy.")

COMMENT on Wall Street Journal article
by Walter Lippmann, CubaNews editor

February 19, 2008

This is good news because Fidel obviously could not perform the functions he'd been assigned for so many years in the past and he decided not to maintain the position he no longer could conduct.

A man who can't attend public meetings can't be the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces nor the head of state of a government in any kind of normal manner. His role as the organizer of the struggle to overthrow the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship was vindicated long ago. His role as the inspirer of people all over Latin American to fight for national and continental integration and independence from Washington has been confirmed and re-confirmed in recent years.

Isn't it a shame that Washington isn't as politically astute here as Cuba's Commander-in-Chief? His sense of timing is so prescient that he has put the question of U.S. policy toward Cuba, one which is never on the table where U.S. politicians are concerned, right on the agenda in the middle of the U.S. presidential election campaign.

Washington succeeded in isolating Cuba in the 1960s. Today Washington is isolated and Cuba has normal diplomatic relations with every single country on the continent with the exception of El Salvador. Washington and its propaganda machinery had told the world, and perhaps assumed itself, that "the Castro regime" was a one-man dictatorship which was not destined to survive Fidel's departure. But Fidel has been away from the levers of power for a long time already, and there's been no crisis. For better or for worse, life goes on in Cuba with about as much normality as you could expect in a blockaded country

The idea that Fidel Castro would stubbornly cling to power until the Grim Reaper forced him out, a notion which I used to believe myself, has been refuted now. Lots of people will speculate now about what is going to happen now. Will Raul stand aside? Will Alarcon, Carlos Lage, or someone else assume one or several of the positions which Fidel held? Obviously, no one can fill Fidel's shoes. When they made him they broke the mold. Sure, I have a few personal speculative ideas, but I've no urgent need to rush out in public with these. When I have something to say, I'm not shy with my opinions.

Fidel's political record, his accomplishments, which include both positive and problematic elements, will be analyzed and debated as they should be, from here on, and after he leaves this earth in a physical manner. He has been and he remains, a man of his time, of OUR time, and a visionary ahead of his time, and of this time, too.

Cuba's independence, its national sovereignty, which Fidel led and which continues, is a principal legacy of Fidel's position as Cuba's top leader. Cuba's role on the international scale, from it's timely aid to the overthrow of South Africa's apartheid system, to today's role in educating the world about the need for education and health care as a human right, not a privilege, continues and will continue.

It was Fidel who educated the world about the Third World's debt as being unpayable. It was Fidel who helped inspire a revolution in' human energy conservation measures. Just think about that when you next replace an incandescent lightbulb with a compact fluorescent.

Furthermore, Fidel's role as an intellectual force, as an educator to the Cuban people, and to people everywhere who reject the idea that private ownership of humanity's productive capacity is the only way human society can or should be organized, will continue.

Ideas are stronger than weapons. All the world's glory can fit on a kernel of corn. Patria es humanidad. The ideas of Marti, and their contemporary expression through Fidel's thought and action, should inspire and educate thinking people everywhere. Without seeing Cuba as a model to be copied, Cuba remains an example from which those who seek a better future for humanity can get a lot of food for thought.

As long as Fidel Castro can think, can write, and can meet with people, his presence will continue to be felt in the battle of ideas over humanity's prospects for survival and development.

History has absolved him.

Walter Lippmann
February 19, 2008

p.s., back in 2002, on the eve of President Carter's visit to the island, this same newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, editorialized for an end to Washington's failed policy of isolating Cuba in hopes that the Cuban people would rise up and welcome back the capitalist system. That editorial was called "Bush's Cuba Pickle" and it gave some advice which Washington has stubbornly refused to take up:

"Fidel's era is passing, and tomorrow's Cuba belongs to its Elians. Ending the travel ban and embargo will make it harder for the post-Castro era to be controlled by the same gang of thugs. Even if we have to wait until after the Florida election to hear a Bush official admit it." (Updated May 9, 2002)

Wall Street Journal


So far, Washington has refused to do the right thing by ending the blockade. When will they finally wake up and smell the cafecito? Washington unilaterally imposed the blockade. Washington can now lift the blockade. It really needs to do that.

Sometimes I like to joke that it's the historic task of the Cuban Revolution to drag the Unite States, kicking and screaming, into the twentieth century. Yes, the twentieth century.

Pete Seeger posed the question, so many years ago: "When will they learn? When will they ever learn?"


I am in daily danger of giving my life for my country and duty for I understand that duty and have the courage to carry it out -the duty of preventing the United States from spreading through the Antilles as Cuba gains its independence, and from empowering with that additional strength our lands of America. All I have done so far, and all I will do, is for this purpose. I have had to work quietly and somewhat indirectly, because to achieve certain objectives, they must be kept under cover; to proclaim them for what they are would raise such difficulties that the objectives could not be attained.

(Letter to Manuel Mercado, the final words Marti ever wrote.)

Jose Marti, May 19, 1895


February 19, 2008 -- 7:04 a.m. EST
Exit Fidel Castro, And Cold War Too?

Fidel Castro's formal resignation today is likely to bring little immediate change for Cuba and its nearly five-decade stand-off with the American superpower to the north, but it may eventually provide an opening for a rapprochement.

Citing surgery needed to treat a colon ailment, the now 81-year-old Mr. Castro temporarily handed power in 2006 to his brother and long-time No. 2, Raul, who is now 76. In a letter posted today on the Web site of Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma, Mr. Castro says that as his government prepares to nominate and elect a new leadership -- a de facto formality since the 1959 revolution -- he needed to deal with the "uncomfortable situation" of speculation about his health and the power structure in Havana, especially from "an adversary which had done everything possible to get rid of me." Thus, "to my dearest compatriots, who have recently honored me so much by electing me a member of the Parliament where so many agreements should be adopted of utmost importance to the destiny of our Revolution, I am saying that I will neither aspire to nor accept, I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief," the statement says.

The current status of Mr. Castro's health isn't clear, nor is his current role in Cuba's governance, though the New York Times reports that he remains active in directing policy behind the scenes. But his central position in Cuban rhetoric for nearly five decades -- and his role as villain No. 1 to more than one generation of anti-Communists in Washington and Miami -- makes his formal exit a potentially transformative one for Cuba and the lingering Cold War relationship it has with the U.S. In the statement, Mr. Castro acknowledges that his death could "bring traumatic news to our people in the midst of the battle" and that "my first duty was to prepare our people both politically and psychologically for my absence." After being briefed on the news, President Bush -- during a press conference in Rwanda -- expressed hope that it would lead to a democratic transition in Cuba, though he added a knock toward "these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as true democracy." But Mr. Castro's apparently voluntary departure means the longest-running U.S. bent toward regime change didn't work. And it offers the opportunity to work on a new Cuba policy.