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Fidel Castro Stepping Down as President of Cuba


Cuba's President and Commander in Chief Fidel Castro announced that he's resigning from power and will formally install his brother Raul as President this weekend:

Cuba"'I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of president of the state council and commander in chief.' That means that for the first time since 1959, the 81-year-old will not be officially in charge in Cuba. The world's longest-serving political leader is leaving on his own terms, having survived efforts by 10 U.S. presidents to bring him down, including a disastrous CIA-backed invasion in 1961 and a missile crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1962."

Just who is Raul?

Speaking from Rwanda, President Bush said "I believe that the change from Fidel Castro ought to begin a period of a democratic transition. Eventually this transition ought to lead to free and fair elections, and I mean free and I mean fair. And we're going to help. The United States will help the people of Cuba realize the blessings of liberty."

Recently, Raul Castro invited Cubans to offer their thoughts and to challenge government policies, leading Politburo member and Cultural Minister Abel Prieto to call for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Said Prieto: "I think that marriage between lesbians, between homosexuals can be perfectly approved and that in Cuba that wouldn't cause an earthquake or anything like that."

With the news of Castro's resignation, that seems more likely than ever to be a possibility, however, taking note of Cuba's longstanding persecution of gays, one has to wonder if Prieto's statement is only a pipe dream.

The shot above is from a documentary on Castro by Oliver Stone that was shot for U.S. cable TV but never aired. You can view the first part of it, AFTER THE JUMP...

The rest can be viewed here.

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  1. Hopefully the USA does not help during this transition. Hopefly change is done by all Cubans and not only the exile-Cubanas down in South Florida.
    And about personal freedoms: the politicians of the USA should not take their mouths so full about LEADER of the free world... probably more like Leader of the Christian Taliban of the USA...

    Posted by: Martin | Feb 19, 2008 8:41:34 AM

  2. Lest anybody infer from Abel Prieto's proposal that Cuba is some kind of gay paradise, it's worth pointing out that Castro had a longstanding policy of forcibly sending gays to concentration camps, called the UMAPs. In fact, it's hard to think of a current world leader who has been more hostile to gays than Castro has been. Any "political obituary" of him, particularly on a gay blog, is incomplete if it doesn't mention the UMAP policy.

    Posted by: Jerry | Feb 19, 2008 9:20:20 AM

  3. Thanks Jerry. It bears repeating how institutionally homophobic the Cuban government really was and remains under Castro dictatorship. I made the same point repeatedly and cited personal experience but was taken to task by twinks who focused on spicy Latin food and men. The recent "enquiry" on gay marriage in Cuba is more of the long-standing pattern of lies and hatred.

    Posted by: rudy | Feb 19, 2008 9:39:43 AM

  4. Rudy, you should have also informed those twinks that Cuban food isn't spicy. Its flavors are based largely in a garlic-and-onion concoction called sofrito.

    Posted by: Jerry | Feb 19, 2008 10:11:27 AM

  5. Cuba is a odd place from all accounts, and, the Cubans in South Florida are a total turn off in how they have turned it into a de facto banana republic and, their treatment of the US born blacks and Haitian immigrants is despicable, so, any news about Castro is bound to get them in a tizzy of glee, so, they can get back and set up the segregation and discrimination based on race and sexuality that they left.

    Posted by: John | Feb 19, 2008 10:16:57 AM

  6. Good one Jerry; however, I was trying to stay on topic while they were injecting extraneous rants posing as arguments in favor of Castro's treatment of gays.

    And John, bigot much?

    Posted by: rudy | Feb 19, 2008 10:50:35 AM

  7. Sorry Mr. President but the USA lost ALL credibility in training ANY other country in how to have free and FAIR elections.

    I would also suggest that our current President, with his Patriot Act, his privacy invasions, his wire tapping, his power consolidation, his suspension of habeas corpus and his support for and ordering of torture, is hardly the best person to help the Cuban people realize the blessings of liberty.

    Perhaps the Canadians will be available to step in and do what we USED to be qualified to do.

    Posted by: Zeke | Feb 19, 2008 12:24:17 PM

  8. Turns out Obama released his statment soon after the news hit.

    Some time later Mccain released a statment.

    Hillary finaly got around to releasing a satment later than anyone else.

    Ready on day 1?

    Looks like Obama is ready on the day before day 1.

    Posted by: Jimmyboyo | Feb 19, 2008 2:54:43 PM

  9. Am I the only one who noticed Bushie's remarks about the Castro brothers fixing elections?

    Does Dubya plus Jeb equal Fidel plus Raul?

    Posted by: Joe Bua | Feb 19, 2008 3:36:39 PM

  10. Raul is no spring chicken, so hopefully this whole sad saga will wrap up in a couple years.

    Posted by: anon | Feb 19, 2008 4:32:48 PM

  11. I just hope this doesn't mean the beginning of Starbucks & Mickey D's in Old Havana!

    Posted by: mathieu2510 | Feb 19, 2008 6:37:35 PM

  12. Rudy and Jerry are in danger of becoming right wing apologists for the US government. When you find yourself in 100% agreement with George Bush you ought to have the sense to backtrack and figure out how your thinking got so screwed up. Keep it up and they might offer you a job with the Voice of America. Talk about embarrassment!

    Political democracy is valueless without economic democracy. Economic democracy is the result of the expropriation of the wealth of the uber rich without compensation. That’s why our elections, based on the twin party shell game, always give us worthless choices between lesser evils. That’s why we face a looming economic crisis and have to put up with union busting, a crappy health care system, a genocidal war and crumbling infrastructure. Our lack of economic democracy and our sham political democracy are why this country is a cesspool of bigotries.

    The Cubans, on the other hand, long ago achieved economic democracy and have far better health and educational systems than we do. Their problem is that the implacable hatred of the US meant that for decades they had to kowtow to Moscow Stalinists. Raul Castro was a Stalinist even before the Revolution and responsible for injecting Stalinist policies into the Fidelista movement which became the Communist Party of Cuba. Their system, with the prerequisite of economic democracy can be reformed and recent events indicate that’s occurring, especially in relation to GLBT rights.

    Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela Castro, is challenging and defying Stalinist dogmas about gays and lesbians but the old prejudices of catholic and patriarchal Cuba are slow to die.

    Mariela Castro administers the Cuban government’s National Centre for Sex Education and actively promotes GLBT rights, a huge change from the antigay witch hunts of the 1960s and ‘70s.

    According to Reuters news agency her department campaigns better AIDs prevention and endorsed a free gender transition law. She told Reuters that she is aiming to extend the Cuban Revolution to sexuality, "I want to bring the revolution's humanity to those aspects of life that it hasn't reached because of old prejudices." She insisted that she has the support of her father, the Cuban Defense Minister Raul Castro, but admitted President Castro is harder to persuade, "Of course, I talk with my father whenever I have the chance. He is one of those in the party that supports our work. He thinks it is useful, good, just.”

    Things are getting better there. But not here. We just watched as the Democrats scuttled the Matthew Sheppard hate crimes bill and ENDA, which had already been gutted by Barney Frank and the Republicans. And they pigheadedly refused to repeal DOMA and DADT. All this was to prevent the Republicans using our agenda as a wedge issue to deny bigot votes to the Democrats.

    Posted by: Bill Perdue, RainbowRED | Feb 20, 2008 3:47:57 AM

  13. Bill Perdue,
    Gay life is ILLEGAL in Cuba. I just came back from there. True, it's not the hell the US says it is nor is Castro the Hitler the US has portrayed him to be, but everyone I talked to was very candid about how much they hate the system. The gays in Cuba congregate around a movie theater on weekends to discuss where that night's illegal party will be. I went to two, both on the outskirts of the city. One behind a parking lot and another I had to get to by walking through a small tunnel. There are no gay bars. Some in the gov't may promote gay issues, but it is still illegal there. My friend kissed a Cuban guy on the street and the Cuban got a $20 ticket (two months' salary at the time) for homosexual behavior. This was a few years ago.

    The health system has great *doctors* but no supplies. So my Cuban friends told me that hospitals there suck. One Cuban told me his wife's leg got infected after an accident cutting sugar cane and they had to amputate, but they didn't amputate enough so the infection spread and the amputated more, but it spread again and she died. There ARE hospitals designed especially for foreigners, but they are not free and they are nicer. Also, yes, the education there is top notch, but my cab driver from the airport was a doctor. I paid him $25 for the ride, almost two months' salary now. Doctors find it more profitable to drive cabs than to be doctors.

    There is NO freedom of the press. and the leaders' kids own multi-million dollar companies in Spain. That's not what communism is supposed to be about. and Cubans get simple food rations, which aren't enough, according to them. There *is* hunger, albeit not on a massive level.

    Yes, Bush is a dick...but so is Castro.
    and yes, prejudices are slow to die, but in a socialist society where the government decides it won't open a gay bar, that is not society speaking but a gov't that doesn't give a crap about gay rights. (or the rights of their people generally).

    Posted by: Brad | Feb 20, 2008 12:40:32 PM

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