WorldFive years after his death, the shadow of Fidel...

Five years after his death, the shadow of Fidel Castro continues to be elongated in Cuba


Five years after his death, the shadow of Fidel is still elongated in Cuba, where the legacy of its top leader for half a century continues to guide the government, but also influence opponents, according to experts.

“The legacy of such a pragmatic politician who remained in power for five decades has to do, fundamentally, with his charisma, his ability to preserve command and his cunning to handle the conflict with the United States”, Cuban Rafael Rojas, professor at the Center for Historical Studies of the Colegio de México and author of “The Tree of Revolutions. Ideas and power in Latin America ”.

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In Rojas’s view, his influence is twofold. “He personifies the enormous capacity to concentrate power and sustain it for half a century“, As well as the” skill in using the conflict with the United States for internal and external legitimation purposes. “

“Due to the angle of charisma, his influence is less and less, because the leaders who succeed him, starting with Raúl (Castro) himself and continuing with (Miguel) Díaz-Canel, are not charismatic. On the other hand, in the second aspect, that of the administration of the dispute with Washington, I believe that it continues to be the key reference for the new ruling elite ”, considers.

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Cuban Arturo López-Levy, assistant professor of International Relations and Politics at the Californian University of the Holy Names, adds other elements of Fidel’s heritage in an interview with Efe. Among them, the lack of consolidated institutions, the social and political need for hyper-leadership and an aversion to market mechanisms – even after the fall of the Soviet bloc – that has delayed the economic reforms of recent years.

A man walks past a huge banner representing the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Havana, on November 22, 2021. (YAMIL LAGE / AFP).


However, López-Levy perceives changes “for the better” in the last five years: a “certain abandonment” of “voluntarism” in favor of increasing institutionalization and the acceleration of the transition towards a social market economy, a trend that “has gained a lot of momentum ”before the failures of the dirigiste system and social discontent.

Cuba It is currently submerged in a major economic crisis where the adverse effects of the embargo have overlapped with those of the pandemic and internal mismanagement, causing shortages and unleashed inflation.

Rojas points out in this sense that “In recent years, social and cultural change has accelerated, as evidenced by various attempts to contest power, minority such as those of November 27, 2020 or massive such as those of July 11 and 12, 2021.” However, consider that “The economic and political change has been boycotted from power” and concludes that “the counter-reform that Fidel promoted in 2016 is still in force.”

In your opinion “Institutionally there is much” to do. From the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) as the sole party to the indirect election of the national leadership, passing through the constitutional definition of the State ideology “as Marxist-Leninist and Martian and Fidelista”. Also “the criminalization of the opposition and, eventually, of criticism”, as well as “the limitation of the rights of association and expression”.

López-Levy perceives in this sense that since Fidel’s withdrawal from active politics “the Cuban discussion has become more down-to-earth”, focusing more on “structures and institutions”, on “institutional and bureaucratic solutions”. Before, everything depended exclusively on Castro: “He was the minimal winning coalition.”

In this file photo taken on December 6, 2005, Fidel Castro delivers his speech during a political rally in Cárdenas, Matanzas province.  (Adalberto ROQUE / AFP).

In this file photo taken on December 6, 2005, Fidel Castro delivers his speech during a political rally in Cárdenas, Matanzas province. (Adalberto ROQUE / AFP).

“On the one hand, Fidel’s voluntarism and his hostility to the market have been abandoned. On the other hand, in the attempt to build a mixed economy that visible controlling and active hand of the government is perceived, in the style of Fidel ”, exposes López-Levy, who believes that the main reforms have always been halfway through.

The new generation of leaders has a “serious problem”, according to López-Levy, because it maintains a “rhetoric of continuity” while it is immersed in a “very important change” and its “main task” is “to make the Cuban economy viable. ”.


A seemingly immovable element is the relationship with Washington. “As long as the conflict with the United States persists, Fidel will be symbolically key for those who govern Cuba,” Rojas emphasizes.

This, he exposes, has important consequences for Cuban foreign policy. This model is “completely out of date in Latin America and the Caribbean,” which has regionally isolated Havana.

His isolation, he continues, is fundamentally due to “internal repression” and “ideological alignment with the most authoritarian regimes in the region, which are the Venezuelan and Nicaraguan.”

The decision of the United States of President Donald Trump to increase sanctions does not contribute to the détente, something that has not been reversed by his successor, Joe Biden, agree Rojas and López-Levy.

File photo dated December 2, 2016, showing people in the town of Holguín receiving the ashes of the leader of the Cuban revolution Fidel Castro.  (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa ARCHIVE).

File photo dated December 2, 2016, showing people in the town of Holguín receiving the ashes of the leader of the Cuban revolution Fidel Castro. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa ARCHIVE).


However, the figure of Castro is perceived as remote among Cuban youth, López-Levy points out. Already in his last active years, a great age gap was perceived: Fidel was 80 years old when the average age of the population was around 35. It is in these age groups that disaffection and political dissent abound.

Part of the current Cuban left also perceives him with ambivalence, according to Rojas. “The young Fidel” may “be an inspiration”, but the one who ruled for 50 years “is, rather, a burden, a symbol of immobility”, he considers.

According to López-Levy, the figure of Fidel even marks – although perhaps unconsciously – the current opposition, which always seeks revolutionary-style blows, radical changes – instead of progressive reforms – and catapult a person to the position of charismatic leader of the movement.


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