EYEWITNESS: End of an era… in Cuba

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Raul Castro has resigned from his last bastion of power – leadership of the Cuban Communist Party that’s ruled the island since 1959. The 89-year-old brother of the iconoclastic Fidel Castro had already bequeathed the Presidency to a protege. With history not even being taught in our university, even some of our educated youngsters mightn’t appreciate Cuba’s influence on the development (or retardation) of our own politics here in Guyana.

So, let’s saunter down memory lane for a while. It was the 1950s, WWII had ended, and the downtrodden nations of the world – not only in the British, French and Dutch Empires – were champing at the bit to get a shot at a piece of the (economic) pie. After all, they’d joined with the erstwhile developed nations to “save the world for democracy” against that dastardly Hitler.

Our own Cheddi Jagan returned from the US – all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed – in 1943, and plunged into the new politics created by the widening of the franchise by the British in their West Indian colonies. In our hemisphere, however, the successors of the Spanish and Portuguese Empires – nominally “liberated” Latin America – remained under the control of dictators supported by the US. But a new element was introduced into the old geopolitics of colonialism – communist USSR, which challenged the new hegemony of capitalist USA. Winston Churchill declared that there was now a “Cold War” launched – with an “Iron Curtain” between the forces of evil (communism) and good (capitalism).

When Jagan, Burnham and company in the PPP won the elections of 1953, their radical rhetoric convinced Churchill they were “communists”, and they were duly ousted from office by diktat from the Colonial Office. Cuba at that time was ruled by a dictator, Batista, who openly allowed the American Mafia to use Havana as a corrupt gambling and prostitution den – even as American corporations ran the dominant sugar industry. Kinda like a less benevolent Bookers!

Here, the British allowed new elections in 1957, which Jagan’s PPP won – even though the British has lured Burnham to form his own party to stymie the “communist” Jagan. In Cuba, a young lawyer named Fidel Castro staged an impetuous attack against the Batista regime – actually an army barrack. He was captured, tried and banished. However, he returned in 1959 with Raul, Che Gueverra and others and waged a successful guerrilla war against Batista, which he won.

He openly chose the communist path of development, befriended the USSR, and of course became the enemy of the USA, which instituted an economic embargo since 1960. JFK approved the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, which was repelled.
The US has never forgiven Cuba for that humiliation.

…in Guyana

Jagan won the 1961 elections – which was supposed to pick the government to lead British Guiana to independence – like Jamaica and Trinidad in 1962. But Jagan convinced JFK he was a communist, and that sealed his fate – and Guyana’s history. The US and British conspired to remove Jagan’s PPP through riots that morphed into an ethnic war, splitting the country into two literally, since each of the villages across the country became segregated and mono-ethnic.

Burnham’s PNC took office in 1964 in coalition with the capitalist UF – which it jettisoned and began rigging elections from 1968 to 1985. Ironically, Burnham soon declared he was a “socialist” – albeit a “co-operative” one – and proceeded to cultivate very close ties with Cuba!! He had the Americans between a rock and a hard place, since the only alternative to govern Guyana was Jagan’s PPP, which had been openly declared to be “communist” in 1969!!

But, finally, the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, Jagan was forgiven, and returned to office in 1992.

To be removed by the PNC in 2015.

…for PNC?

After months of coy silence and seclusion, the Sanctimonious Gangster and leader of the PNC has said his central executive will look at the “feasibility of Congress”!

Don’t hold your breath, y’all!!