Castro’s Surprise: How Will the Presidential Candidates Respond?


fidel castro twn.jpg
Fidel Castro has just given the world the opportunity to ponder a new direction for Cuba. Castro has issued a statement that is vague but nonetheless signals that he sees himself departing the political front line and making room for a new set of leaders.
As Center for Democracy in the Americas Director Sarah Stephens said today on a journalist conference call, “Cuban leaders don’t communicate by accident.” She said that “change is in the offing.” And that “Castro is writing the script” of his departure as ‘the decider’ on Cuba’s political life and course.
Peter Kornbluh, also on the conference call, says that the smooth fading into the background by Fidel Castro — at his own pace — helps write the final chapter for Fidel and a chapter in which he’s clearly in control of the optics of all of this and hasn’t been compelled or forced out.
Julia Sweig of the Council on Foreign Relations, again on the conference call today, really drilled into the details of Fidel’s statement. She gets Castro’s complexity and sees this statement as a move in a multi-dimensional chess board in which he is both confident and aware of the many political pressures in Cuba’s domestic political scene. She thinks Castro is not only saying that Cuba needs to cultivate a new generation of leaders — but that Cuba needs to yield to them as well. And this may signal a future for a Cuba not run by either Raul or Fidel Castro.
The United States needs to tack now towards a new course. To miss yet another opportunity to change course in US-Cuba relations is a serious mistake. When Russia stopped supporting the Cuban economy, there was an opportunity to move forward US-Cuba relations. That was missed. This is the next chance.
Barack Obama has been supportive of a new course on Cuba. Frankly, Chris Dodd sets the gold standard and thinks that we need a complete overhaul of the US-Cuba relationship and a full opening of commerce, travel, and diplomacy. Bill Richardson just released this paragraph as part of a foreign affairs essay he just published:

The United States of America also needs to start paying attention to the Americas. We need better border security and comprehensive immigration reform. And to reduce both illegal immigration and anti-American populism in Latin America, we must work with reform-minded governments there to alleviate poverty and promote equitable development. We need to strengthen energy cooperation in the region and foster democracy and fair trade. Our efforts to promote democracy must include Cuba. We should reverse the Bush administration’s policies restricting remittances to and travel to visit loved ones in Cuba, and we should respond to steps toward liberalization there with steps toward ending the embargo.

Hillary Clinton needs to tack in a new direction too. This is an opening for her to recast how she would modify US-Cuba relations given what Fidel Castro has done to make the question of whether we promote perpetuation of a US-Cuba relations cocooned in Cold War anachronism — or whether we use Cuba as a template for signaling to the world a new and different strategy for dealing with the world.
And frankly, Mike Huckabee used to be a pro-engagement governor on Cuba but recently denied his past and said that he wants a regime even more strictly constraining than the Bush administration. Giuliani, Romney and Thompson have also not been visionaries on changing the course of both US-Cuban and US-Latin American relations, but all will need to provide a response on what their policy course would be given Castro’s surprise announcement.
— Steve Clemons
Update: To download a transcript of the conference call, click here.


10 comments on “Castro’s Surprise: How Will the Presidential Candidates Respond?

  1. mooster says:

    It certainly would be nice to see a change in U.S. policy on Cuba after all these years of kneejerk kowtowing to the anti-Castro crowd. It’s a shame it hasn’t happened before, but as the cliche goes, better late than never…


  2. Carroll says:

    I get some satisfaction out of the fact that Castro at 81 still has his wits about him while Jesse Helms is trapped in a convalescent center with multi-infarct dementia drooling on himself.
    And that he has a few flashes of mental reality every so often, enough for him to realize he is a vegetable.
    That is what you get for being a hypocritical, rasicst son of a bitch all your life.


  3. arthurdecco says:

    If you took the trouble to read a collection of Castro’s writings or speeches, Mr. Somer, you wouldn’t be wasting your time speculating about the effect of his doctor’s confidences – information that will in all likelihood, have little or no impact on Mr. Castro’s political motivations and/or actions.
    “Giogantic ego” or not, Castro has always demonstrated a caring about the future well-being of his fellow citizens. He will do what he thinks is best for them, his own health concerns notwithstanding. He’s old, not stupid. And moral, not wedded to corruption in the myriad ways his opponents are. He’s always been a clear thinker – not a fuzzy-minded ideologue. I have every confidence he will do the right thing for the right reasons.


  4. john somer says:

    I have the impression that Fidel got some unwelcome news from his physician(s) about his state of health. Remember his giogantic ego


  5. rapier says:

    I have a long time concern that Helm-Burton presents a legal barrier that trumps any strategy that might arise that tries to break the 40 year stalemate between the US and Cuba. As I understand it Helm-Burton indirectly but unquestionably requires the US to honor all pre revolution land and property titles and deeds. Thus US Cubans probably ‘own’ a huge percentage of Cuba as long as they still have the legal documents to prove it and many probably do.
    Any US judge could throw a monkey wrench into even negotiations with Cuba with a ruling based upon my interpretation of Helm-Burton.
    Helms-Burton must be repealed or voided in some way by new law.


  6. Pernicious Pavlovian says:

    Would it be too off topic to offer up a wistful Christmas wish? A wish that actual sanity return to American government? Maybe a little “wise” foreign policy or a manger’s less war of naked aggression or only minimally corrupt politicians or just some basic and radically simple hope? Is such a foolish wish the only last great bastion for fools and patriotic Americans tired of deceit and wholesale abrogation of human decency?


  7. easy e says:

    Castro’s spirit will live on through Chavez.
    Colombian rebels to hand Chavez 3 hostages


  8. easy e says:

    The U.S. is nearing the point Cuba was in at the time Castro ousted Batista.
    14 traits of FASCISM:
    1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
    2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
    3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
    4. Supremacy of the Military
    5. Rampant Sexism
    6. Controlled Mass Media
    7. Obsession with National Security
    8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
    9. Corporate Power is Protected
    10. Labor Power is Suppressed
    11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
    12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
    13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
    14. Fraudulent Elections
    Welcome to the new America.


  9. Carroll says:

    “Uberlackey” …I love it!


  10. arthurdecco says:

    Excuse my presumption but I’d like to go completely off topic, (but for the active participation of Dodd in both stories)…
    Why have you not yet mentioned Dodd’s successful filibuster that has delayed, for now, the latest venal blanket amnesty for corporate and Rethuglican lawbreaking, with all of it’s unapologetic chicanery slithering forward under the shifty, oily, unfocused and rheumy eyes of Uberlackey Harry Reid? (Has a nice ring & rhythm to it, doncha think – Uberlackey Reid? If the situation wasn’t so dangerous for democracy, I’d be laughing hysterically… Not.)
    Don’t you consider Dodd’s temporary success in stopping the fascist juggernaut more important than Castro’s presumed strategy for leaving politics gracefully at this time and place in American history?
    Glenn Greenwald does.
    And so do many other Americans that count.
    Add your voice to the chorus, Mr. Clemons, please. You could make a difference.


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