Well, a very old question -- "How long would Fidel Castro remain in office as Cuba's President and Commander-in-Chief? How long could he?" -- has finally been answered.
In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, February 19th, the official announcement was made on the state website, followed by Cuba's state-run media: the 81-year-old dictator was stepping down, presumably due to failing health, and ceding total power to his 76-year-old younger brother, Raul.
Castro seized power in 1959, overthrowing the former regime headed by Batista. Shortly afterwards, he turned the island nation completely Communist and aligned himself with Russia. Outlasting ten American presidents and a decades-old embargo, Castro was a pain in our side, yet his people (largely) admired him for his gaul and persistence.
The most notorious attempt to overthrow his tenure was the Kennedy administration's botched Bay of Pigs invasion, to this day one of the worst political embarrassments in history. Although John Kennedy redeemed himself completely during the Cuban Missle Crisis a year later, the Bay of Pigs was hard to live down.
However, that same administration was responsible for instituting the trade embargo with Cuba, that, to a great extent, is still in place. Castro referred to it frequently during speeches, including the one regarding his resignation.
Castro temporarily ceded power to Raul in summer of 2006 while he underwent intestinal surgery. He has not been seen in public since, but has been seen in photos and videos released by the Cuban government. Appearing old and fragile, it was evident his days were numbered, despite cheery propaganda from the ministry.
So....what now? Despite the US offers to, basically, bring a little good ol' capitalism down that way and improve the standard of living, the Cuban leaders have steadfastly refused to entertain the notion. My personal opinion is, over time, Raul will soften the official position in an effort to lift the embargo. Then again, he's pretty old, too, and his successor is being chosen soon.
I lived long enough to see Fidel Castro step down. I think I'll live long enough to see Cuba democratized.
An Adorable Encounter at the Village Inn
Last Saturday was going to be special anyway, as I was meeting up with some very old friends. Former PCR writer Lisa Zubek (Lisa's Lambast, Lisa on the Left) was coming to Tampa to re-introduce me to an old friend of hers, Brian Bomar, whom she recently rediscovered, was pretty madly in love with, and was talking of marrying. Moves pretty fast, that girl.
Funnily, I had met Brian before, when he and Lisa both worked at Busch Gardens together, but it had been, like, 25 years ago. My memory sucks for stuff like that and I had to embarrassingly admit my memory was foggy at best. Anyway, they agreed to come to Tampa and we'd meet at the Village Inn restaurant on S. Dale Mabry. (She's been living in Orlando, but has temporarily taken up residence in Riverview with Brian.) I thought about bringing a camera, but decided against it at the last minute.
Upon arrival, I made some hasty introductions (past PCR contributors Count Poffula and Lauré Piper were present as well), and we sat down to eat and catch up.
Towards the end of our meal I became distracted by some activity at an adjacent table -- a precious little girl, I figured somewhere between 8 and 10 years old, obviously out with her family, was in the process of building a huge castle or a fort or something out of loose jelly packets! I laughed to myself and figured she must be bored and this was how she was going to pass the time. I drew my friends' attention to this scene, and noticed that a few other diners were watching this unfold as well. We kept talking, but we'd occasionally look over to check her progress.
About the time she seemed to be running out of jelly packets, Brian decided to donate some of ours! I cheerfully cooperated myself by handing over our remaining table's supply. Now she had two nearly full containers' worth to continue. After incorporating those, she secured more from still another table. Amazingly, and despite several close calls, the pile did not tip over, and Brian was able to get a picture with his cellphone camera. (I'd have a better shot if I'd decided to bring my camera, but how can you know when these things are going to happen?) I believe a member of her family also got the shot.
She eventually introduced herself to me as Samantha Basco and said she is 10 years old. I introduced myself and complimented her on her inspiration and persistence. We asked her mother if we could publish the picture on this website and we exchanged contact information. The Readers Comment that appeared last week from Samantha was an inquiry about the photo that appears here.
In all the excitement, we never thought to take pictures of our reunion! Haha. It's OK, Brian and Lisa are relocating closer to Tampa, and hopefully we'll be meeting up fairly frequently. Last Saturday's encounter, however, has me visualizing a future where Samantha is a master sculptor and I'm the old man covering her escapades for my website!