The Last of the Red Hot Leaders

Finally…the embargo worked!

After 49 years of rule (could it have killed him—literally—to hang on for another year for obsessive-compulsive perfectionists like myself?), Fidel Castro, last of the revolutionaries, vanguard of the coming Communist onslaught, standard-bearer for the socialist dream and the editorial board of the New York Times, is stepping down from power. The large intestine managed to do what Dwight Eisenhower, Allen Dulles, Jack Kennedy, Salvatore Giancana, Pope John XXIII, Lyndon Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George Bush, Hurricane Michelle, and four decades of tobacco and rum couldn’t.

Of course, one is reminded of the great philosopher Pete Townshend, who said, “Meet the new boss…same as the old boss.” Then played the synthesizer for about forty-five minutes. The new leader of Cuba is going to be Raul Castro, the current president’s brother. Analysts say they don’t expect there to be a significant change in Cuba’s governmental policy, which pretty much boils down to 1) Go to the sugar fields and help support the socialist state! 2) Boy, this rum is tasty. 3) Ha ha ha.

Granted, there’s a little bit more to it than that, mostly involving throwing olive branches at the Catholic church and expanding free speech by waiting a week before executing political journalists. But the change in power offers a small glimmer of hope to the Cubans, a sliver of light in the darkness interrupted only occasionally by papal visits and below-average health care.

Castro’s retirement—or, sorry, “retirement”—wasn’t exactly unexpected to anyone outside of Langley. He was ill for most of last year, and there was a period of time in which no one was certain whether Castro was still alive or if, in the name of the glorious socialist revolution, they had pumped him full of brine and formaldehyde and was propping him up with some plywood and running him around like Weekend At Bernie’s until his affairs—by which we mean the $900 million he has stashed in Swiss bank accounts and land holdings in Venezuela—could be properly sorted out. But after a few brief medical scares he started to make more public appearances, looking reasonably healthy for a man who spent most of his life dodging both attempts on his life and any acknowledgement that the laws of economics actually exist.

And, of course, Castro has been tutoring a tinpot-dictator-in-waiting Hugo Chavez. Once can only imagine how that particular prep meeting went:

Castro: OK, comrade, we’ve got to get you set up to be the new communist standard-bearer for the world.
Chavez. I’m ready. Hit me with it.
Castro: First off, you gotta be born looking like your mother hit you in the face with a frying pan just for being born.
Chavez: Check.
Castro: It makes you humble, like Lenin said.
Chavez: I’m pretty sure Lenin didn’t say that.
Castro: I forgot rule number two. Agree with what I say or I will shoot your mother in the head with a Russian-built Kalishnikov while I burn the remains of your grandfather over a spit.
Chavez: Got it. Be humble.
Castro: Rule three: Everything is America’s fault, up to and including the metric system and how shitty papayas actually taste despite what we’ve been telling people for a couple hundred years.
Chavez: Down with the USA!
Castro: Good lad. You’ll make it far.

It seems like I write about Castro a lot, and I’m not sure why. I think it’s mostly because I love making fun of communists, and there’s a fair few of them left to target beyond Chavew, Kim Jong Il, and the editorial board of the New York Times. Perhaps I’m also amused by the thought of a dictator managing to outsmart one of the most technologically advanced nations on the Earth. We pretty much devoted the entire Central Intelligence Agency for decades in trying to oust the guy (with occasional asides to expand the merger prospects of United Fruit) and the best they could do was increase the demand for croquetas in Dade County.

Alas, with positive change risks the chance of negative change. While political and economic freedom may be creeping in to Havana, it’s just as likely a grade-A class one four-star crackdown will be on the agenda. When you’re the lone holdout in a hemisphere, your options become largely limited to the logistics of getting dried pork rations evenly distributed amongst the conscripts in time for the soccer match.

Of course, anyone who thinks that Castro is going away is a fool. He’s still going to be around, growing new thorns with which to stick into the side of America. And on his deathbed—which, extrapolating all the information we have gathered so far, will be approximately 2068—we can safely assume that he will be damning the Americans as much as praising the valor and honor of the socialist revolution, right before he launches a tactical nuke at Sweetwater. Che would have been so proud.

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