Fidel stands down

Spring 2008

Salim Lamrani, French journalist and professor looks at the contrasting reactions to Fidel’s February statement

February 19, 2008, in a message to his compatriots, Fidel Castro officially announced that he would not seek a new presidential term of office.

After being Prime Minister for almost 18 years (February 1959- January 1976) and President of the Republic from December 2, 1976 to July 31, 2006, the most famous revolutionary leader of the twentieth century retired from official political life four days before the elections, which would designate the members of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers and its president.

The Cuban population received the news without surprise, calmly and tranquilly, but also with certain sadness as shown at several demonstrations of support and solidarity with their leader in the capital and throughout the country.

“Many people are sad today,” reported the Associated Press. “Cuba greeted Castro’s resignation Tuesday with a calm that was stunning [...].It was like any other day [...].no one seemed fearful of sudden disruptions - much less the total collapse - of the socialist system,” added the U.S. press agency.

Reactions in the United States

With respect to the United States, the “meddlesome” comments have multiplied and, as usual, were filled with a whiff of colonialism. President Bush stated that “the international community needs to work with the Cuban people to begin to construct the necessary institutions for democracy.” Republican presidential candidate Arizona Senator John McCain stressed the need “to pressure the Cuban regime.”

Even Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, showed her inability to distance herself from the White House’s obsolete policy. “We need a president who works with the world’s countries, with Europe, with the Western Hemisphere to pressure Cuba.”

The same day as Fidel Castro’s official announcement, 104 U.S. Congressional members out of a total of 435, sent an open letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanding a “tough-minded review” of Washington’s policy towards Cuba. “After 50 years, it is time for us to think and act anew.”

But John Negroponte, deputy secretary of State, categorically insisted that the anachronistic and inhumane economic sanctions on Cuba would not be lifted and that the hostile policy towards Cuba would continues its course.

European reactions

European Union countries did not show wisdom, repeating Washington’s rhetoric and forgetting that Havana does not accept any interference in its internal affairs. French Prime Minister François Fillon demanded “evolution of the Cuban regime towards democracy.” The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, launched a call for “greater respect for human rights” and broader political and economic reforms. In Brussels, Javier Solana, high representative for the Foreign Policy and Common Security of the European Union, also alluded to a “process of democratic transition.”

The nations of the Old World showed their complete inability to adopt a pragmatic policy, independent of U.S. influence with respect to Cuba.

Reactions from Latin America and Africa

In Latin America, the reactions were different. Evo Morales of Bolivia said that it would continue to have excellent relations with Cuba. “It is about a relationship of state to state, of government to government, which does not depend on a single person.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva stated: “I have deep respect for the Cuban people and I believe that they are the most politicized people of the world [...]. Each people choose their political regime and we are going to let the Cubans decide what they want to do.” Lula also recalled, “Fidel is the only living myth in the history of humanity.”

Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, insisted: “The Cubans themselves must be the ones who, through open and peaceful dialogue, and without external interference, find the most appropriate road for the well-being of their people.

For his part, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez stated that Fidel Castro “will always be in the vanguard since men like Fidel never retire.” The Bolivarian leader added, “the Cuban people have shown the world, and above all the empire, that the Cuban Revolution does not depend on one person, a group, or circumstances.”

In South Africa, the governing National African Congress (NAC), offered homage to the Cuban leader describing him as a “living legend.” “The Cuban people, under the leadership of President Castro, got involved in the freedom of the oppressed people of Africa, specifically South Africa, stressed the NAC statement, recalling that close to 300,000 Cuban soldiers contributed to the independence of Angola and the fall of apartheid. “Not only have they contributed to the transformation of our country, but they have continued supporting our reconstruction and development efforts, sending their doctors.”

To speak of the process of transition would be a serious error. Cubans do not want in any way to return to a market economy which would be synonymous with an attack against their social conquests and their sovereignty. In reality, it is about a process of revolutionary continuity, deeply rooted in the heart of Cuban society and, undoubtedly, irreversible.

Salim Lamrani is a professor, writer and French journalist specializing in US-Cuba relations. The full transcript of this article and others can be seen at :

Cuba Solidarity answers Cuba critics in British media

FIDEL Castro’s decision to rule himself out of the running for the country’s presidency sparked a slurry of typically inaccurate reports on his record in the Western press.

Cuba took centre stage in the British media in February and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) strove to secure recognition for the country’s achievements, and press the case for the abolition of the illegal United States’ trade blockade.

From CSC members who appeared on local radio shows through to appearances on national television, the organisation has sought to put the record straight in the face of a barrage of biased media reports about the Caribbean island.

Rob Miller, CSC’s Director, appeared on a string of shows including: BBC Radio Five’s Drive Time show; Sky News; BBC News 24 and the Fox News Business Network - a television broadcast in the United States. Members across the country spoke on national and regional radio shows including: in Wales, Scotland, Manchester, Cumbria, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire. Members also inundated newspapers and media outlets with complaints about reports carrying factual errors about the country.

Natasha Hickman, Communications Manager, said: “The blanket coverage of Fidel’s announcement clearly demonstrated the level of interest in his life, but much of the reporting once again highlighted the media’s frequent inability to report events in Cuba objectively and without parroting US propaganda.

“I am absolutely delighted that so many members worked to put the record straight. The message came through loud and clear that far from Cuba being a terrorist state, it guarantees its people a decent standard of living even in spite of enduring the longest trade blockade in modern history.”

Mr Miller was interviewed by Radio Five Live’s Peter Allen on the show’s Drive Time programme. Mr Allen’s report looked at Fidel’s legacy and stated most Cubans live in “extreme poverty” and “terrible conditions”.

During the interview Rob said: “The US blockade is very, very effective and strangles the Cuban economy by making it illegal for other countries to sell anything containing US components and by disrupting shipping lanes.

“But I’d strongly argue that Cuba is a successful country. In terms of health, education and life expectancy its way ahead of its neighbours.”

Fox News Business Network featured a five minute interview with Mr Miller.

The CSC Director told the viewers: “There are issues the new leadership will have to address so that the revolution can continue, such as: housing, travel, variety of food stuffs on sale, and the availability of consumables. But generally the system of government will continue because it is supported by the people.

“What we want to see is the end of the blockade, and that would be of tremendous benefit to both the economies of Cuba and the US.”

George Galloway and Cuban poet Pedro Sarduy appeared on Newsnight along with Cuba critic Oliver Kamm and former CIA agent and executive director of the Miami-based Centre for a Free Cuba, Frank Calzon. Pedro appeared on the show after being recommended by CSC and forcefully said he was “proud” that black Cubans fought to liberate Angola and dismissed Mr Calzon’s spiteful attacks and remarkable assertion that in 50 years of power in Cuba Castro had “achieved nothing”.

Bob Oram, CSC’s Vice President, appeared on satellite programme Press TV to talk about Rául’s election, and Roger Bevan, from Cymru Cuba, appeared on BBC Radio Wales and Real Radio.

Members of CSC’s Press Action Network rounded off the media activity by focusing on a viciously one-sided report featured in The Independent. The newspaper’s letter page on the following day contained several letters from CSC members who took the report to task.

Listen to the BBC Radio 5 interview here:

To watch the Fox News interview go to the link below, scroll down to ‘search for video’ and search for ‘Investing in Cuba’:


Join the Cuba Solidarity Campaign’s Press Action Network today and provide and alternative to the media myths, misinformation and bias against Cuba in the mainstream British press.

Can you spare a few minutes to write a letter when negative or untrue stories about Cuba appear in the media?

If so, please email your name to and we’ll add your details to our list of Press Action Network supporters.

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