The Castros are gone, but the Queen and Trump are not what the world needs

Saturday April 21 2018

Cuban former President Fidel Castro giving a

Cuban former President Fidel Castro giving a speech at Havana's University. AFP PHOTO | ADALBERTO ROQUE 

By JENERALI ULIMWENGU
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Look, even Elizabeth Regina herself has hinted at her eventual abdication in favour of her son, Charles. So why wouldn’t Raul Castro step down as the president of Cuba and leave the stewardship of his country to someone younger?

The Queen of England told a gathering of Commonwealth leaders in London that “one day” she would decide to let the Prince of Wales continue with the job “started by my father in 1949.”

At almost the same time, President Raul Castro of Cuba was organising a handover of power in what was effectively ending six decades in which the government of Cuba — and everything Cuban — was ruled over by the two Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul.

The heir chosen to inherit their mantle is Miguel Diaz-Carnel, a former vice-president and close confidant of Raul thought to be a staunch communist who is believed will likely toe the political and economic philosophy that has, with minor alterations in the past couple of years, guided Cuba since 1959.

Whereas Fidel was literally forced to relinquish power by failing health, Raul seems to have taken cognizance of the implacable laws of biology that have set up our mortality as an inflexible necessity of life.

Queen Elizabeth is herself no spring chicken, and for a long time speculation has been rife as to whether she would chose to withdraw to Balmoral, or some other such palace, to live out her sunset years, with some suggesting she might decide to “skip” Charles and anoint his son William to succeed her.
When, in 1952, the spritely little princess rushed back home from a holiday in Kenya because her father had died, the Castro brothers and their fellow rebels had not even started the Siera Maestra guerrilla campaign that would eventually bring them to power.

Seven years later, as the armed “barbudos” (the bearded ones) swept into Havana, she was a lovely young lass with a diamond crown on her head, quietly supervising the dissolution of the British Empire at the height of the Cold War.

Her empire was already being supplanted by the boisterous hegemony of the Americans emboldened by the victory over Nazi Germany and intent on lording it over nations whose political and economic thinking they did not agree with.

That American posture was to define Washington’s relations with Havana for the next 60 years. More than just a nuisance on America’s front porch, Cuba became a real headache for the now greatest power on earth.

Cuba taught all the wrong lessons to the Third World. It kicked out, or nationalised, Yankee economic interests, opposed everything the US was doing around the globe, sent fighters, doctors and teachers to Latin America, Asia and Africa for free.

And Fidel made particularly annoying speeches denouncing Uncle Sam.

Assassination attempts on Fidel

The Americans replied by hatching a number of plots. Including an invasion, which failed, and hare-brained assassination attempts on Fidel, some of them sounding like children’s comic book stories, all of which also failed.

Fidel assumed mythical proportions, appearing to be almost immortal. He was known to have no sleeping hours, dozing off only when he had to.

He piloted his own chopper, made marathon speeches lasting eight hours or more, scuba-dived and memorised humongous amounts of information.

Cuba suffered long periods of deprivation because of the economic embargo imposed by the US, which remained sore over losing a playground in which economic super profits were made from gambling and prostitution.

But the Cubans invested in that most natural of all natural resources, the human resource. They have the best health facilities anywhere in the world, and it is free.

Their education, the best in Latin America, compares with the best in the world, and it too is free. They now offer free health services and education to poor Americans.

These are things that a person like Donald Trump will not brook, because he must be thinking it’s a system that rewards laziness, rather than a system that glorifies thieves and brigands.

But there can be very little doubt that the “young” man taking over in Cuba will be encouraged to continue on the path cleared for him by Fidel and Raul.

It will not matter whether Elizabeth II will have abdicated, but it might help if Trump is impeached and removed from power so he does not meddle in Cuba’s affairs.

Jenerali Ulimwengu an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]