The Imponderables of History, Fidel Castro and Diaz-Canel

The fall of the Castro regime has been announced since he proclaimed his Marxist-Leninist character and Díaz-Canel may have to bury him. (Escambray)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, 18 November 2021 — The imponderables make historical predictions difficult, but from the moment, in April 1961, when Fidel Castro proclaimed the Marxist-Leninist character of his revolution, the collapse of the regime began. The collapse may still be delayed, but it is inevitable, as it was in racist South Africa, Pinochet’s Chile, and in the European communist regimes.

In all those countries, where fundamental human rights were denied for years, the levels of repression soared before citizen mobilizations that, without violence, demanded a national dialogue in search of solutions to the political, economic and ethical crisis that their nations were suffering.

The response of the authorities in those countries was to declare martial law, that is, take the troops to the streets, imprison many without presenting them in court, persecute national journalists and foreign correspondents, cut off communications, try to discredit opponent leaders, use blackmail and intimidation and blame foreign powers.

The result was that international human rights organizations, democratic governments, intellectuals, artists, union and religious leaders from around the world defended the activists and obtained restrictive measures against dictatorships. And, within those societies, disenchantment and opposition within the Armed Forces, the bureaucracy, the Party and the mass organizations grew.

The regimes fell into the classic vicious circle: the peaceful opposition urged a dialogue demanding internationally recognized basic rights — freedom of expression, assembly and association — and the government responded with more abuse, beatings, rigged trials, violent arrests against protesters who were trying to exercise rights guaranteed by law, while the authorities violated their own constitutions. While the opposition presented a message of hope and tolerance for all, the authorities insisted on the continuity of an obviously failed system.

The opposition responded against Pinochet in Chile with the No Campaign in the plebiscite; in Poland with the workers’ strikes and the sermons in the churches; in Prague with concerts, performances and banned songs at the Green Lantern; in Lithuania with the chain of thousands of people shaking hands from one end to the other of their small country, which had suffered the Nazi and Russian occupation.

The Polish general Wojciech Jaruzelski understood in time what was good for his country as well as for himself and his family. He sent to the prison for Lech Walesa, the leading electrician of the Polish workers, to talk and seek solutions. Some accused Walesa of treason for meeting with the tyrant.

Years later, Walesa himself told me in Warsaw that, when he arrived at the meeting, the dictator general asked him why he did not sit down. His response was that he could not hold a conversation until the political prisoners were released. That was the beginning, and when the dictator, believing his own propaganda, agreed to call elections, convinced that the opposition would get no more than 30% of the vote, the Polish people overwhelmingly chose the opposition. Later, Walesa became president and received the Nobel Prize. Poland won and Jaruzelski did too, as he remained in his country undisturbed; where he died years later.

In the case of South Africa, something very similar happened. Nelson Mandela, a Marxist and promoter of revolutionary violence, was serving a long sentence on Robben Island for his terrorist activities. When he opted for non-violent struggle (which Mahatma Ghandi had used to defeat the British Empire in India), the demonstrations in Soweto and international sanctions led South African President FW de Klerk, leader of the South African apartheid government, to give in, realizing that the situation was untenable.

South African leaders and their families were already outcasts who could not even travel to the world’s most important capitals, and the world’s leading artists boycotted the Pretoria regime.

Then, the two enemies met. The racist dictatorship ended with the repeal of the apartheid system. Multi-party elections were held. The world suspended sanctions against South Africa. The transition was not easy, and South African politics remain difficult. But de Klerk and Mandela made the change. Together they received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Mandela was elected president of South Africa in 1994. When he served his term, he retired and other younger politicians were elected to direct the destinies of the country. Mandela died at the age of 95 in South Africa, in 2013. De Klerk lived the rest of his days quietly in Pretoria and has just died (on November 11th) at the age of 85.


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