Cuba: Fidel followers remain nervous of US thaw


Will Grant, Cuba correspondent for BBC News, writes that the reopening of Museo Girón [the Bay of Pigs War Museum] is slated for April, which marks the 55th anniversary of the landing on the shores at Playa Girón of “hundreds of CIA-trained Cuban exiles in a doomed attempt to bring down Fidel Castro and his socialist revolution.” He uses this bit of news as a springboard from which to examine the many fears Cuban nationals face regarding the reopening of U.S.-Cuba relations. See excerpts here and the full article at BBC News.

The failed invasion was a low ebb in the US-Cuba relationship, only surpassed by the Cuban missile crisis a year later, and remains a watchword for Washington’s covert intervention in Latin America.

Many of the original Cuban fighters – both militias and regular army troops – are still alive today. But in Playa Giron itself just a handful are left, and several of those are in poor health. 83-year-old Dolores Vic Hernandez might not have fought the invading forces, but she can recall in vivid detail having to escape from them, fleeing her home in the little coastal town into the surrounding hills with her sister-in-law and their children. “We only had the clothes we were wearing and the babies were in nappies. We collected our friend who had six children and whose husband was in Havana and we took her with us to the mountains.”


Dolores can’t move as freely as she used to and her sight is failing, but it isn’t hard to imagine how determined she must have been as a young mother trying to protect her family from the escalating conflict. “I’m a person who’s never been afraid of anything,” she says with defiance as she describes entering an abandoned house to take “a little coffee and sugar, some biscuits for the children” for their journey. Eventually of course, Fidel Castro took control of the revolutionary forces at Giron and masterminded a famous victory, one which would embarrass Washington for decades.

Since the thaw with the US was announced, Fidel Castro – the elder statesman of the Cuban Revolution – has only made the shortest of pronouncements about the new relationship: “I don’t trust in the United States’ policy nor have I exchanged a word with them,” he wrote in an editorial in the state-run newspaper, Granma, published a little over a year ago. His lack of trust is not surprising, considering he survived scores of assassination attempts by the CIA during his time in power. He continued to say that the president, his brother Raul, was taking “the pertinent steps in accordance with his prerogatives and the faculties bestowed on him by the National Assembly and the Cuban Communist Party”.

To some readers, it didn’t sound like a ringing endorsement. But Cuban academic, Esteban Morales disagrees: “That didn’t mean to say he doesn’t support the process,” argues Dr Morales who has written extensively about Cuba’s relationship with the United States. “I think Fidel is someone who’s wise enough to know that this is the only possible path. What is the alternative? Stand against the US canons firing across the bow like we did in the past? No. That’s why Fidel intellectually understands that this is a moment to advance.”

Rather, Dr Morales believes that Castro was “alerting” the Cuban people to Washington’s true motives: “Fidel knows perfectly well that international relations is a wide battlefield. “We don’t expect the United States to turn into our best friends or allies overnight, not by a long way. But perhaps in time they might become trusted neighbours.” [. . .]

But it is not only Fidel who has his doubts.

“There are Cubans who are nervous about (the opening),” says Jon Lee Anderson of the New Yorker and author of the definitive biography of Che Guevara. “They seem to be people who were already of a certain age when the revolution came along and this has been their life, the true believers in Fidel Castro’s long project of socialism.” Their concerns for Cuba are as much social and cultural as economic and political, he argues. “They worry about what will happen to their way of life. They worry about ‘will the Miami Cubans come and buy everything and shut them out?’ And they worry about the influence of capitalism in eroding their values.”

But they may already be too late in that regard: “Most people in Cuba are aware that in the 25 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the changes that already began in Cuba, that erosion began some time ago.” [. . .] While it might seem improbable to many of Fidel’s generation that the relationship with the US could move so far so fast, the vast majority of young people in Cuba are impatient for even quicker change. [. . .]

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