"Dear Sir: Can you answer some questions about Fidel Castro..."

Everyone is just waiting for the viejo to die!

At 04:58 AM 4/29/97 -0400, you wrote:
Dear Sir:

My name is Jonathan and I am a Sophomore at Radford High School in Honolulu, Hawaii. I am writing a term paper on Fidel Castro for my world history class and I feel that an interview would better enhance my report. I found your page while surfing the net and figured that you would be a good candidate for the job. Below are some questions that I would greatly appreciate if you would answer. If you could answer them rather quickly I would appreciate it even more because my paper is due in about a week. If that proves to be impossible, please still send your answers because I am actually curious about the differing opinions of those that I am attempting to interview. Thank you for your help.

      Dear Jonathan,

      You owe me!

1. What is your full name and job title?
Richard James Geib and I am an English and social studies teacher.

2. What college degrees do you hold, and what is your area of expertiese?
I have a teachers' credential and an BS in Political Science with a specialization in International Relations. I also speak Spanish fluently and know many Cuban-Americans.

3. How do you feel Fidel Castro's leadership has allowed him to remain the political leader of Cuba for so many years?
He is a classic old-time "caudillo" who can use his considerable charisma to appeal to the people on a cultural level. In this sense, he is a master politician. For example, stories of his supposed sexual prowess get around and people start saying to each other, "Yep, that ol' Fidel has what it takes!" Furthermore, he has significant support among the poor and the Afro-Cubans because they identify him with their interests against the lighter-skinned Cubans up the middle and upper-classes who he deposed in the late 1950s. I hear people say that his support even among them has ebbed since the fall of the Soviet Union and now many people are simply through inertia waiting for a change.

4. How do you feel that the civic legislation that Castro has enacted have effected the people of Cuba?
Not much. He is trying to buy time. The Soviet Union bankrolled the whole country during the Cold War because Cuba was a major embarrasment for the U.S., as well as a military base only 90 miles away from Florida. Now that the Soviet Union is defunct, he is scrambling for anything he can get while conditions in his country are abysmal. He is trying to open up the country to limited capitalism and foreign investment, but nothing essential will change until he dies.

5. What role does Cuba play in the world today as a result of Castro's leadership?
Ever since his patron the Soviet Union withdrew support, his role has become much smaller. During the 1960s, for example, he was a symbol of opposition to the United States internationally and in Latin America. Now he is virtually the sole non-democratic leader in Latin America and appears an anachronism in the region.

6. What leadership qualities do you feel Castro displays?
His machismo, his independence, his appeal to Cuban patriotism, his traditional appeal to the Cuban poor and stance against the rich. He is a Latin-American "caudillo" - a strongman, a boss.

7. To what do you credit Cuba's status as one of the few remaining communist countries in the world today?
Inertia, a totalitarian government which will put you in jail or worse if you dissent, utter poverty... Everyone is simply waiting for the viejo to die!

8. How does the United States view on Castro differ from that of the people of Cuba?
The United States views him as a troublemaker and a dictator. I think many American people simply see him as the enemy from the bad ol' days of the Cold War and hopes he rots in hell. Yet there are leftists politically who for ideological reasons support him. On the other hand, there are many Cuban exiles and their children who are now affluent American citizens who hate his guts.

I think most Americans could not care less about either Fidel Castro or Cuba.

9. How do you think Castro's ability as a leader play a role in Cuba's defiant nature to the United Sates?
It is virtually his raison d'etre! He played the role of the independent Latin American leader who could successfully stand up to the giant of the north - the hated United States of America. Now, in the post-Cold War free-trade era, Castro is an anachronism. Everyone is waiting for him to die so that real change can occur in Cuba.

10. To what do you attribute Castro's success as political ruler of Cuba?
Massive infusions of Soviet money, his leadership skills in pitting the poor against the rich, systematically snuffing out any dissent, and making certain changes which made life tolerable for people. For example, until the fall of the Soviet Union one supposedly did not encounter the utter poverty and misery that is all too in evidence in most Latin American countries; there were supposedly little prostitution and kids running around naked and hungry. The educational system functioned and the medical care was decent. Cuban atheletes from the government run organizations won medals in the Olympics. Cubans could rightly feel proud of certain things, even if they had to sell their soul to obtain them.

11. In light of Castro's recent visit to the United States, do you feel that the popular or political views the U.S. holds on Castro's regime have changed?
No. The average American could care less about Castro or Cuba. Moreover, the American foreign policy with respect to Cuba is enormously influenced by Cuban exiles in Miami. I doubt if there will be any significant change in Cuba until Castro dies. Those who suffer, of course, will be the Cuban people. America can live without trade with Cuba; Cuba cannot live very well without trade with the United States - at least, now that the Soviet Union is not their ally.

Castro betted that communism under the aegis of the Soviet Union would win the Cold War. He was wrong, and now he and his people are paying for it. The situation is so intractable that nothing probably will change until he dies.