This year marks a pioneering occasion of renewed communication between former enemies. Hoping to shake off the Cold War-imposed shackles on warm relations between Cuba and the United States, President Obama arrived in Havana, Cuba on March 20 as part of a larger effort by both nations to create a dialogue of understanding. Obama’s visit was seminal in itself, with over 88 years having elapsed since the last presidential visit to the island nation being Coolidge’s visit in 1928. Despite the excitement around this historic visit, one man on the Cuban Island was not sharing this excitement for the President’s 2016 visit: Fidel Castro.
In a caustic letter published in the Cuban-state run newspaper Granma, Fidel Castro, aged 89 and having nothing to lose, authored an op-ed launching criticisms ranging from President Obama to the history between the U.S. and Cuba to the tourism industry. Titled “El Hermano Obama,” translated as “Brother Obama,” the article Castro voices a pessimistic tone against the efforts of the U.S. “empire to give [Cuba] anything” in regards to President Obama’s proposal of lifting the U.S. embargo on Cuban goods and granting other concessions to Cuba. However, it didn’t end there; Castro continued on with reminding the Cuban populace of past transgressions the U.S. inflicted on Cuba, such as the failed Bay of Pigs attack on Castro’s regime in 1961, in response to Obama’s well-intentioned remark of “forgetting the past and looking to the future.” It seems Castro isn’t ready to bury the hatchet quite yet.
The timing of Castro’s letter, however, shines a revealing light on the former leader’s diminishing influence in Cuban politics. Within his letter, Castro criticizes tourists and the industry that accommodates them as greedy Spanish “conquerors,” alluding to Spanish conquistadors that came pillaging through Latin America in colonial times. His younger brother and current President of Cuba, Raúl, lacked his brother’s distrust of tourism and of the revenue it generates with his recent allowing of commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba and a Starwoods Hotel on the island. A key observation to make is that Castro made his letter after Raúl Castro’s policy decision, which means Fidel Castro didn’t try (or dare) fight the Cuban President’s decision, being more of an afterthought than a persuasion for his brother to reverse his decision. If Fidel Castro were still in charge, he would legislate his political opinion into law, just as he did years before when he overthrew the Batista regime in Cuba and took power. Nevertheless, the times are a-changing and Fidel Castro’s influence, just with his former political power, is fading away; good or bad, it doesn’t look like Fidel Castro can stop Cuba’s new friendship with the U.S.