Do you know the one about Fidel Castro and the turtle? Cuba’s commandante was once offered a Galápagos tortoise as a gift. It was a tremendous offering — the creature can live more than 100 years. But Fidel refused. He protested, “That’s the problem with pets. As soon as you get attached to them, they die on you!”
Know even a shred about Cuba, and you’ll get the joke: Castro, at age 86, has weathered a revolution, battles, illnesses, and assassination attempts. He’ll last long, long, past the turtle, it seems. No wonder some call him “immortal until proven otherwise,” according to author, journalist and Cuba-whiz Anne Louise Bardach.
The United States, and many foreign governments, had expected communism to collapse once Castro left office. Well, Castro stepped down in 2008. And virtually nothing changed. Castro’s brother Raúl assumed power, and socialism is still chugging along. Many contend Castro’s resignation was actually his greatest success yet, because it preserved his revolution.
Hoping for drastic change upon Castro’s death is just as useless. As Bardach’s article and a very cool infographic explain, numerous successors are poised to take the reins and keep Cuba on its narrow path.
One thing is clear: there will be no dramatic transition from Castroismo to a market-based economy; but rather a painstakingly slow transformation through myriad small, measured reforms, just enough to ensure the survival of the island nation—and its ruling family.
Like the revolutionaries declare, it’s patria o muerte.
Read the article, then check out Bardach’s book from which it’s adapted — Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington or the recent Spanish version, Sin Fidel: Los ultimos anos de Fidel Castro, sus enemigos y el futura de Cuba.