END OF CASTRO ERA


Image credits: the National Interest


They taught the language of revolution to the people. Fidel Castro, the hero of the revolution, passed away three years ago. This time his brother Raul Castro also announced his retirement from politics. He decided to relinquish allresponsibilities to the Communist Party of Cuba. He officially left the leadership of the party on April 19. He directed the party to elect the most qualified person of the new generation as its leader. On 16th April, the eighth session of the Communist Party of Cuba began. The four-day session concluded on the 19th. Raul resigned from the post on the same day. Raul said, "I finished my job as the first secretary. I feel satisfied thinking that I have done my duty. I am ending my journey with the dream of a bright future for my fatherland".


”However, Raul had announced his retirement five years ago. He informed in the 2016 session that he is leading the session for the last time. He did not recommend anyone as his successor. But his affection for Miguel Diaz-Canel is well known. When Raul stepped down as president on April 19, 2016, Miguel was elected president. Miguel was elected through parliamentary elections. But even then, the team's rush was in Raul's hands. Diplomats believe he played a crucial role in Miguel's election. They argue that Miguel is much more realistic even though he is 80 years old.


He has tried to open up the country's economy without resorting to the one-party system. However, Raul retired with the end of the Castro era in Cuba, which began in 1959 with Fidel's hand. However, many are worried about what will happen next. According to them, the pandemic has changed the whole world. It remains to be seen what awaits Cuba at the end of the Castro era. After overthrowing Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and establishing socialism in the country, Fidel became the head of the Communist Party in 1975. He has handled that responsibility till 2011. After that, the responsibility went to Raul. From 1976 Fidel was also the country's president from that year till 2008. He left the Presidency to his brother Raul due to physical illness. Raul continued his struggle as his shadow companion even on the day of the revolution.


However, he did not make any mistake in trying to establish his separate identity after gaining power. In 2014, he was able to come to an agreement with US President Barack Obama. However, the country is facing a lot of criticism for pushing it towards the economic crisis. However, there is no clear answer as to why 89-year-old Raul is moving away from active politics. "No one is putting pressure on me," Raul said. I am not making a decision under pressure. As long as I live, I will defend my homeland, revolution and socialism. "


Raul Castro’s retirement coincided with the 60th anniversary of Cuba’s military triumph over the U.S. at the Bay of Pigs. On April 17, 1961, Cuban nationals aided by the CIA began an invasion designed to overthrow Fidel Castro. The Cuban army quickly defeated them, humiliating the Kennedy administration.


Cuba soon allied itself with the Soviet Union, then America’s greatest enemy. The Cuban Missile Crisis, also known as the October Crisis of 1962 or the Missile Scare, was a 1 month, 4 day (16 October – 20 November 1962) confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, which escalated into an international crisis when American deployments of missiles in Italy and Turkey were matched by Soviet deployments of similar ballistic missiles in Cuba. The confrontation is often considered the closest the Cold War came to, escalating into a full-scale nuclear war.


In the six decades since, U.S.-Cuban relations have alternated between hostile and icy, with a brief thaw under President Barack Obama. Fidel Castro’s Cuba supported leftist insurgencies and Soviet allies across Latin America and the world, from Nicaragua to Angola. In 1962, Castro permitted Soviet missiles to be set up in Cuba and aimed at the U.S., about 100 miles away, leading the U.S. and Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war.


Image credits: PBS


Today Cuba is still communist, and it remains on the State Department’s list of countries that support terrorism, alongside Iran and North Korea. But bereft of patrons like the Soviets, it presents no danger to the U.S. mainland or its allies. Cuba can do little more than irritate the U.S. presidents by supporting Latin American leaders who resist American power, like Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro and Bolivia’s ousted former leader Evo Morales.


The Cuban people have changed just as much, according to two decades of research on and travel to the island. Unlike their parents and grandparents, Cubans in their 20s, 30s and 40s never enjoyed a sustained, functional contract with the regime: We provide you a living, and in exchange, you give us support or at least acquiescence.


Cubans who came of age during or after the so-called “Special Period” of the 1990s – when Cuba faced economic collapse – rely on the government to deliver certain services, primary health care and education. But they know it cannot feed, clothe and house its people in any but the most basic way.


Young Cubans have to hustle to survive – or “resolver,” a Spanish verb that means “to resolve”, but which in Cuba refers to providing for one’s family. And the Cuban hustle has a capitalist bent. In 2008 Raul Castro’s government cut public payrolls and allowed Cubans to earn private incomes, hoping Cubans would earn more money and generate more tax revenue. Previously, all jobs in Cuba were government jobs, whether you were a grocer or an architect, with government-regulated salaries.


Today, official statistics say that a third of Cubans are privately employed. But the real proportion is almost surely higher. Almost all the adult Cubans have their own business – whether cutting hair or renting their home as bed and breakfast – along with a traditional government-regulated job.

CUBAN RESOLVE


Meanwhile, the government has begun to eliminate the subsidies that long defined Cuban life. Ration books for staple foods are disappearing, and with them, subsidised prices.


Food and clothing costs have doubled or tripled in Cuba in the past year. Utility prices have increased by factors of four or five. Cuban state salaries have risen since economic liberalisation, but not that much. Consequently, many Cubans operate outside of the law, trading everything from clothing to scrap metal or gasoline stolen from the state. Cubans call people with illegal businesses “bisneros.”


Whether legal restaurateur or black-market bisnero, Cubans operate businesses not to become rich but to “resolver.” They hope to improve their lots modestly, allowing their families to eat a broader range of fresher foods or save for a child’s birthday party.

Cuba “forces us to be criminals just to make a living,” said 26-year-old Carlo Rodríguez, a server at a Havana restaurant.




GENERATION GAP


Older Cubans remain faithful to the Castros’ vision of Cuba as an anti-imperialist, anti-American outpost. But revolutionary slogans like “socialismo o Muerte” – “socialism or death” – do not resonate with young Cubans. Young Cubans also want more free speech. While Cubans can and do complain privately, the Cuban government has long restricted civil liberties. Journalism is primarily state-sponsored, and the country’s few independent newspapers run into trouble when stories criticise the regime.


Social media only recently became legal and relatively widespread in Cuba. Last year, a dissident artists movement organised via WhatsApp and gained enough popular support to force the government into unprecedented negotiations about expanding freedom of expression in Cuba. A crackdown followed, with some dissidents jailed. But calls for free expression persist among younger Cubans.


Most Cubans also want closer ties to the U.S., according to a 2015 poll. Since the adoption last year of a single currency pegged to the U.S. dollar, American money is “like gold” on the island. The U.S. embargo and former president Donald Trump’s tightened restrictions on travel to the island – not the Cuban government – prevent Americans from spending their dollars on the island. Cubans know this, and they resent the embargo for making their lives miserable. But younger Cubans recognise Cuba’s ailing centrally planned economy as a problem, too. Cuban Americans, on the other hand, largely supported Trump. Recent polling showed about 45% support keeping the embargo, up 10 points from two years ago.


Such sentiments make it more difficult for Biden to initiate his own Obama-style “thaw.” But they cannot stop the changes at work in Cuban society. It is hoped that with the end of the Castro era, there will be many changes in the economy, freedom of expression and the relationship between the US and Cuba.

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Souvik Biswas

Guest Writer

B.A. Honours History First-year

Hindu College, University of Delhi


Souvik is a first-year student from Hindu College, pursuing History Hons. He is also a writer and coordinator of The Statesman Paper, Kolkata edition from the year 2016 to the present day. Being marked as a bibliophile and cinephile, Souvik states that he hates billionaires and dreams of a casteless and classless society.




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