If engagement gives Fidel Castro a heart attack, it's good enough for me
Aging dictator's letter to "Brother Obama" has sardonic racist tinge
Some exiles not happy with Obama visit either
Castro, Obama detractors awkwardly on same side of history
BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO
Neither Fidel Castro nor the hard-liners in Cuban Miami liked President
Barack Obama's visit to Cuba and his extraordinary speech.
No surprise there.
The foes also didn't care for the Rolling Stones' blast of rock at the
historic concert. La Habana as venue for a Caribbean-styled Woodstock
with throngs parading wild-haired and covered in body art and piercings
wasn't exactly the counter-revolution early exiles dreamed of. Who could
have ever thought it would be Mick Jagger that would holler from a stage
in Havana to fanatical applause: "Times are changing!"
But now comes the after-party, and no, we didn't have to wait long to
hear from the two entrenched sides adept at operating only under the old
policy of isolation.
After saturating the media with anti-Obama discourse, Cuba unearthed its
ancient retired dictator, a well-worn bait for exiles: Obama's
pro-democracy speech almost gave him a heart attack, Castro said,
allegedly moving the 89-year-old to pen one of his infamous
"reflections," this one titled with a sardonic racist tinge, "Brother
Some exiles quickly responded, as if anybody expected different from a
dictatorship: See, I told you so!
Castro didn't disappoint them.
Rousing the old false pride of the comandante-in-chief, Castro boasted
that Cubans don't need the "empire" to give them anything.
He sure doesn't. Forbes Magazine estimated Castro's wealth years ago at
a mere $900 million. He doesn't pay for his medical care, so no chance
he's blown through all the dough. His family's wealth is also
well-documented. Remember the recent tell-all photos of Castro's playboy
son partying it up in luxury in the Turkish Riviera? The photos circled
Cubans, on the other hand, earn an average salary of $20 a month, not
enough to properly feed their families. They sure do need all that the
new relationship with the United States offers, and more.
Clearly the Castro clan underestimated the powerful charm and eloquence
of Obama, whose speech at Havana's Gran Teatro was broadcast to the
Cuban people. Now they're horrified by the sense of empowerment and
possibility his words have unleashed in Cuba.
Evidence is in videos coming out of the island. In one, a group of
neighbors come to the rescue of a woman arrested for yelling "Down with
the Castros' dictatorship! Respect for human rights!" Men and women rush
to pluck her out of the police car and place her safely behind them. The
police are left empty-handed. In another, as a man is being arrested
also shouting anti-Castro slogans, the wife filming the scene invokes
Obama's name to intimidate police.
As expected, the dictatorship is responding by clamping down and
resurrecting old controls in the new relationship with the United
States. Some American tour operators, for instance, woke up Monday to
unexpected changes to itineraries. Cuban tourism authorities notified
them that they will restrict with whom they can engage to the
government's approved list — a clear sign that Cuban hardliners are
pushing back, post-Obama.
Likewise in exile circles wedded to partisan alliances, Obama's eloquent
case for democracy — leaving the future where it belongs, in the hands
of the Cuban people — wasn't the kind of American intervention
envisioned for decades.
And so, some find themselves awkwardly on the same side as their foes —
the wrong side of history.
If engagement gives Fidel Castro a heart attack, it's good enough for me.
Fabiola Santiago: firstname.lastname@example.org, @fabiolasantiago
Source: If engagement gives Fidel Castro a heart attack, it's good
enough for me | Miami Herald -