Posted on Sun, Aug. 27, 2006
Will cancer render justice?
BY CARLOS ALBERTO MONTANER
The first confirmation came from Lula da Silva: Fidel Castro has cancer.
Later, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry denied the president's statement,
but it was accurate. The Comandante bled, the surgeons opened him up and
found a cancer that had spread and was incurable. Nothing strange in an
80-year-old man, of course. The prognosis is that he will die shortly.
Nobody dares to predict a date. But European diplomats in Cuba say sotto
voce that he will not see New Year's Day 2007, although they then
qualify their opinion: ``At that age, cancer advances slowly.''
Curiously, Castro's calculations did not include that type of death. He
foresaw his disappearance as something heroic, something like a sudden
heart attack or stroke that would take away his life. He never expected
that he might fade away slowly in bed, in the deepening torpor induced
by a merciful morphine drip, incapable of deciding whether he should --
or should not -- prolong his existence with uncertain and devastating
doses of chemo or radiation therapy, measures that would surely remove
the beard that has served him as a trademark for half a century.
Faced with such a desperate situation, Fidel became depressed. It
happens. It is very sad to be dying and, on top of that, be visited by
Hugo Chávez. Suddenly, Fidel stopped being one of the world's most
powerful men and shriveled into a frail and defenseless old man, as the
imprudent Venezuelan, spouting a stream of sweet nothings, held his
hand, enraptured, thinking that he comforted the patient when he was
really inflicting upon him a dark form of condescending humiliation.
Raúl sensed this but couldn't stop it.
Nobody can avoid Chávez's treacly effusiveness. Rául knows that Fidel
Castro hates all expressions of tenderness, much less any public
expressions of compassion toward his exalted person. When their mother,
Lina Ruz, died, Fidel gave Raúl a public tongue-lashing when the younger
brother broke into tears. Those are bourgeois weaknesses.
One of Raúl's first acts was to immediately begin the funeral services.
How? By orchestrating a gigantic national and international campaign of
tributes. The whole world has to weep for Fidel. The diplomats and
agents of influence at the service of the Cuban government received a
pressing order: ``Ask for letters of support, declarations of affection,
poems, sculptures and all kind of expressions of solidarity.''
Outpouring of emotion
In Brazil, architect Oscar Niemeyer wrote a plaintive article. In
Ecuador, supporters of the Cuban dictatorship reproduced the
Comandante's signature on a heroic scale on the slopes of Pichincha
volcano. Uruguayan Mario Benedetti wrote something resembling a poem. In
Cuba, members of the Writers Union signed an emotional document pledging
reverence to the leader of the revolution. Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo
Milanés dedicated songs and concerts to him. A baseball player offered
him his home runs.
However, it is unlikely that any of this will lift from Castro the
feeling of failure he probably feels. When the revolution began, Fidel
Castro was sure that he knew how to convert Cuba into a prosperous and
developed nation while he led the Third World on its violent drive
toward glory. In the early 1960s, Che Guevara vowed in Punta del Este
that within 10 years Cuba would surpass the United States in per-capita
In the late 1970s, Fidel Castro repeated that vow, amplified, to
Venezuelan historian Guillermo Morón: Within a decade, Morón would see
the sinking of the United States, while Cuba would have the Caribbean as
its Mare Nostrum.
He was wrong. The United States is the only superpower on the planet,
while the nation left behind by Fidel Castro is a tattered country that
today lives off Venezuelan charity, as yesterday it lived off Soviet
alms. The inventory of horrors is almost unparalleled: More than 16,000
people dead, executed, drowned and ''disappeared'' have been documented
by economist Armando Lago and Maria Werlau, Lago's principal collaborator.
Throughout the process, tens of thousands of political prisoners have
gone through the island's prisons (more than 300 are behind bars today)
-- among them people punished for being homosexual, having religious
beliefs or simply rejecting the stupid Marxist theories. Two million
people were stripped of their belongings and thrown into exile.
Thousands of young people were forced to participate in absurd African
wars that lasted as long as 15 years. In sum: an infinite material and
Will Fidel Castro, with a foot in the grave, be able to realize the
enormous harm he has caused the Cuban people? I don't know. I would like
to think he will. It would be a peculiar form of justice rendered.