Fidel Castro, the bearded rebels who led a victorious communist revolution in Cuba, an island off the US southern Florida in 1959, died at the age of 90 at 10:29 PM Friday Cuban time.
Castro governed Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and then as President from 1976 to 2008 to defy and survived 10 US presidents.[Read AP report here]
The announcement was made by his 88 year old brother, President Raul Castro on state television. Raul ended the announcement by shouting the revolutionary slogan: “Toward victory, always!”
CNN feature report described his death:
"Fidel Castro's death is the end of an era. He has gone not with a bang, as he arrived, nor with a whimper, but a simple fading away. Laid low by serious illness, his iron grip on the island nation had loosened over the past decade, with full power passing to his brother Raul in 2008.
"Castro's communist impulses were imprisoned by his increasing infirmity. In his failing years, he witnessed much of what he stood for slip away. Diplomatic relations with the US -- that 50 years ago had the world on the brink of nuclear war -- are on the mend. Whether he backed his brother in this detente is unclear; what is clear is that a quarter of a century after the collapse of their principal sponsor -- the Soviet Union -- neither of the brothers could stand in the way of their people's wishes any longer."
There is more US media propaganda. With Fidel gone, NY Times posed the question: With one Castro gone, questions about what will the other Castro do?
88-year old Raul Castro negotiated a 50 year diplomatic stand-off with US. Today, Cubans can communicate on-line with their cousins in Florida.
He has a hold on power, secured military trust and slowly brought in private enterprise.
Tourism was revived with 3.5 millions arrival last year and it was a mainstay of the economy before the revolution. It was Fidel's initiative but Cubans complained of food and other resources diverted to the sector.
Raul grumbled on the bloated state bureacrasy, and corruption and said there is need to cut public workforce.
Will Raul dismantle the ailing state run economy of Cuba?
Reform and change after the end of any era of strong leaders like Fidel come with political cost. It could dismantle the grip on the power structure and lead to regime change.
Washington Post reported: "there were no signs of unrest but, perhaps just as tellingly, not much spontaneous mourning either. Cubans went on with their lives in a world that is very much Castro’s creation".
"The socialist system affords Cubans access to health care, education and food rations but has failed for decades to provide them with more than the essentials. And the country’s economic outlook appears to be going from bad to worse."
Raul is expected to pick on reform with the brother gone. The younger Castro had quipped, “We have two parties here, just like in the United States. Fidel’s and mine.”
Fidel’s is the Communist one, Raúl added, “and you can call mine whatever you want.”
Al Jazeera reported University of Miami professor Jaime Suchlicki saying, "My analysis says no - he's not a market economist, he doesn't believe in capitalism, so he's not going to open up Cuba to the market."
Suchlicki added Cuba is run by the millitary and communist party. He said, "It doesn't make any difference if it's Joe, Pepito, or Louis in the presidency - the institutions of Cuba are the ones that are controlling Cuba."
Richard Feinberg of the University of California, San Diego believed that in the short run, "political continuity rather than rupture is the more probable course".
Cuba is at a crossroad. To quote from Al Jazeera:
But there is much more the country must do in the years ahead to help heal its ailing economy, noted John Kirk, an expert in Cuban history and international relations at Dalhousie University in Canada.Resistance to change
"Cuba is at the crossroads of potentially very significant change," Kirk told Al Jazeera.
"The primary economic challenge is how to turn an oil tanker around in a very short time - it takes a lot of time to do it, and Cuba doesn't have that much time."
Foreign trade with Cuba has suffered because the country is considered a bad risk, unable to pay its debts, Suchlicki said, noting Cuba should focus on developing more products for export.
With ample farmland, the country could become a major agricultural export hub, he said, but that would require large-scale farming as opposed to the smaller enterprise permitted by Raul's reforms. One minor step came this year, when a US company was cleared to build tractors in the country.
Currently, one of Cuba's top exports is medical personnel; the country rakes in billions of dollars annually by shipping its doctors across borders.
In many aspect, Cuba is at a similar crossroad with Malaysia in 2003.
There is much to be done and reform or transformation needed, but it is held back by a past leader insistent to maintain his legacy, dynasty, and crony.
The economic and political conditions may not be the same. Another difference is one has left and the other still around. Where Fidel was 90 last August, he was 91 last July.
Fidel was too sick to interfere but the Malaysian former leader is pursuing to topple any successor carrying out reform plans not in tune with his legacy.
Malaysians wanted the reform or transformation but significant segment are too selfish or unwilling to appreciate the need to swallow the bitter medicine that come with change.
There are segment of Malaysians willing to follow the former leader blindly and forgot the reform they once seek. His supporters failed to realised he is willing to destroy his biggest legacy and that is the party that put him into power and the platform to implement his ideas for 22 years.
If successful, hs supporters will place the opposition they do not favour and do not believe in to be in power. Out of blind trust, in-denial of his past misdeeds and his refusal for change, they willingly support the former leader.
The former leader no longer wield any fear factor. and his former enemy turned allies maybe beginning to turn their back against him. He is merely repeating past habit of toppling existing leaders with no intention to embrace the opposition's vision and aspiration.
This time around, he has no plan and no credible successor to be put in as replacement. His proposed replacement is neither acceptable to the ruling party nor his opposition partners.
And, he lied on his true intention to topple the existing leader. It is purely personal vendetta and personal greed that is driving his delusional quest for power. Any success to topple the current leadership will not revert the country to the direction he wanted it in the first place. A lost-lost situation.
Cuba have the chance to move forward.