Fidel Castro was born on August 13, 1926. He has been an incredibly polarizing world figure. Just mentioning his name around some retired C.I.A. officials and Cuban exiles living in Miami could cause their blood pressures to jump off the charts. Most leaders of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean disapproved of his form of government, but admired Fidel as an historic figure who stood up to the “Bully of the Western Hemisphere”—the United States.
It is relatively easy to pick and chose uncontested facts about Fidel, include them in an article, and “prove” just how wonderful or how evil he was. Today he is in poor health, but still alive (to the amazement of any friend or foe following his career). He was alert enough this morning to fire off a demand that the U.S. pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Cuba for damages caused by the Embargo.
Younger Cubans in Havana and younger Cuban-Americans in Miami tend to view Fidel more as an historical figure than as the Devil. A 35-year-old good friend living in Havana explained his feelings to me this way: “It’s not that most of us hate him—we were just tired of him. Could you imagine having Bill Clinton or George Bush in charge for more than 50 years?”
Tomorrow, Friday August 14th, John Kerry will be the first US Secretary of State to visit Cuba since 1945. He will participate in ceremonies where the U.S. flag will be raised above the newly re-opened Embassy of the United States (same building, same functions, different name,). Afterwards he plans to walk around Havana, “talking to everyday citizens.” I just hope he doesn’t hop on another bicycle for a ride along the Malecon.
There are reports that dissidents will be kept away, but this is not something I am personally too concerned about. Most of my friends in Havana are not thrilled with the government, but they want Normalization to move along as quickly as possible. They want to quickly get to a point where they can expand their businesses, make more money, pay taxes, and have the government leave them alone. They just don’t see the point of unnecessarily antagonizing their government, which is modernizing the economy about as fast as it possibly can without tearing itself apart. Most Cubans don’t want another revolution, but they DO want rapid evolution. At this point in time, it is happening much quicker than anyone could have imagined 5 years ago.