[Marxism] Fidel Castro "horrified by China"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Aug 10 11:03:32 MDT 2004

Castro Turns 78 Rolling Back Capitalism in Cuba Tue Aug 10, 2004 12:16 

By Anthony Boadle

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban President Fidel Castro turns 78 on Friday 
striving to roll back creeping capitalism in the socialist society he 
built from a guerrilla revolution in 1959.

The world's longest-serving Communist leader has belied forecasts of his 
demise since the collapse of the Soviet Union deprived the Caribbean 
island of billions of dollars in subsidies and plunged its 11 million 
people into economic hardship.

"Fidel, like his country, has continued to defy the odds," said Canadian 
historian and Cuba expert John Kirk, a professor at Dalhousie University 
in Halifax.

"Still remarkably lucid at 78, despite slowing down noticeably, he 
clearly remains determined to stay around and protect the revolutionary 
legacy of Cuba," Kirk said.

Ten summers ago, angered by shortages and long power cuts, Cubans took 
to the streets, smashed shop windows and looted central Havana stores in 
an unprecedented outburst of unrest.

Castro, dressed in his trademark green uniform, showed up in a military 
jeep to quell the riots with his charismatic presence. Cubans, who had 
been shouting against the government minutes before, began chanting 
"Viva Fidel."

Castro released simmering social pressures by letting tens of thousands 
of Cubans take to sea in flimsy rafts bound for the United States.

Also in response to the economic crisis, from 1993 he reluctantly 
allowed limited private enterprise and legalized the U.S. dollar to ease 
economic hardship, while opening up Cuba to tourism and foreign investment.

A decade later, Cuba's one-party Communist government is retrenching and 
reasserting state control over the economy. It has cut back permits for 
private traders and small businesses and has begun strengthening its 
hold over state corporations, especially in tourism, the island's main 
source of hard currency. There, military officers have moved into key posts.

Foreign investment has slowed to a trickle, and discouraged investors 
complain they don't feel welcome anymore as officials move to reverse 
market-oriented reforms.


Western observers said Castro was shocked by the rapid move to 
capitalism and growing social differences he witnessed in China last year.

"There is no coincidence that a lot of this has happened since he 
visited China. Many people say he was horrified with what he saw," said 
a European ambassador.

"He is the sort of man who does not want to see his legacy diluted in 
his lifetime," the diplomat said, adding that Castro was probably 
unaware of the extent of social decay in Cuba.

Cuba's free education, health care and social safety net are seen as a 
model by many poor developing countries. Its literacy and infant 
mortality rates are on a par with rich nations.

Castro's critics say that comes at the expense of freedom. Most Cubans 
are forced to scrape a living together, cope with bad housing and poor 
public services. Furthermore, they cannot leave Cuba at will and dissent 
is stamped out, the critics say.

Facing growing discontent over economic difficulties, Castro last year 
ordered the arrest of 75 dissidents who were sentenced to jail terms of 
up to 28 years for conspiring with Washington.

Repression of a budding opposition movement and the execution by 
firing-squad of three men who tried to hijack a ferry to leave Cuba 
brought international outrage that led to a diplomatic freeze with the 
European Union that deepened Havana's isolation.

Increased efforts by the Bush administration to oust the Cuban leader 
and prepare for a transition to democracy have only served to "goad" him 
to dig his heels in, said Kirk.

With the economy in better shape than a decade ago, Cuba's conservatives 
no longer feel the need to make concessions by opening up the economy, 
and retrenchment will continue, he said.


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