By Rebecca Theodore
“But I do not fear prison, as I do not fear the fury of the miserable tyrant who took the lives of 70 of my comrades. Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.”
In a speech that rang synonymous with Socrates at the portico of Athens for the alleged charge of impiety, or with Dr King fighting for the civil rights of African Americans, or even Saint Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica, Dr Fidel Castro, is still cleverly checking his adversaries, both from within and abroad.
Since that fateful arrest in 1953 for assaulting the Moncada military barracks in the eastern city of Santiago in southern Cuba, Castro still controls his mind although nearly subdued by collapsing health.
Fidel Castro Ruz is the world's longest-serving head of government and the leader of the Americas' only communist country. Since he seized power in a 1959 revolution, El Comandante as he is affectionately called by his countrymen, still commands the admiration of the world.
He endured the fall of the Soviet Union, the culmination of communism in Eastern Europe, antagonized ten American presidents and outwitted dozens of assassination attempts.
It is true that the Cuban Revolution is probably one of the most theatrical, polarizing political events of the twentieth-century. Critics and proponents alike may someday eulogize Castro on the pages of history as a tyrant who suppressed freedom, equality, and social justice.
Nonetheless, education and the intelligence of a human being in a revolutionary society have immensely prevailed over instinct. Castro has without doubt offered every Cuban and many Caribbean citizens the opportunity of an education free from discrimination.
Today, Castro’s 1959 revolution provides a compelling picture of Cuba in relation to the rest of the world. Cuba’s influence on Latin America and the Caribbean, its coalition with the Soviet Union from the 1960s until the downfall of the Soviet bloc in 1989, and its riotous relationship with the United States cannot go by unnoticed.
For someone who has reiterated that “all of the world’s glory fits in a kernel of corn,” Castro is now preparing his people politically and psychologically for his absence through the power of his pen.
Adhering to his own thoughts that “a revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past and that a revolution is a dictatorship of the exploited against the exploiters,” his name will forever be printed on the pages of history and will again be read overtime for “one just man deserves more respect than a rogue with a crown.”
He has justified his point of view by proving that “revolution is the source of legal right” in Cuba and there is indeed, according to French writer, François Hotman, “a bond or contract between the government and its subjects.”
Yet, assuming all this as truth, John Locke, in his essay on government, seems to refute this socio-politico principle with his assertion “that when the natural rights of man are violated, the people have the right and the duty to alter or abolish the government.”
Hence, stunning doubts persist on who will be the leader who brings Cuba out of decades of seclusion? Who will be Raúl Castro’s heir?
Castro’s retirement draws the curtain on a political career that traversed the Cold War, survived US animosity, and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. As one of the most controversial, combative, and charismatic rulers in history, the assessment by political scientist of how his illness and departure will transform politics continues to raise doubts about the future of the western hemisphere's only communist state.
His wishes have always been to discharge his duties to his last breath for he believes that one has to be consistent right up to the end. After all, it is suffering and death that defines our humanity and as mortals we must die.
As to whether his policies will play a major role in a post Fidel Castro Cuba or continue to plague the US beyond the grave remains to be seen.
Notwithstanding, Fidel Castro Ruz continues to fight in the battle of ideas. That’s all he can now offer his people. His pen has become mightier than his sword after so many years of struggle but that too is irrelevant.
The question is - has history finally absolved him?
June 15, 2011