Raul Castro Warily Celebrates Anniversary of Cuban Revolution

Cuba Flag

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution led by the late Fidel Castro, who ousted Fulgencio Batista, a brutal authoritarian leader who had initially had the support of the United States government.

Six decades after his brother Fidel had organized the 1959 armed Communist takeover of the Cuban government, Raul Castro spoke to his countrymen in celebration of the revolution, though he insisted the revolution was still ongoing and at risk. He offered harsh words against the U.S. government, characterizing the current administration as the aggressors of the recent political tension between the two countries, despite Cuba’s willingness to maintain peace. “Once again, the U.S. government seems to be on the road to confronting Cuba and presenting our peaceful and inclusive country as a threat to the region.”

U.S.-Cuba relations had thawed during the Obama administration, for the first time since shortly after the Cuban Revolution. The New York Times recently shared vintage photos of Fidel Castro’s 1959 visit to New York City, a visit well-managed by a public relations firm and perhaps the only period in which Castro was beloved by the Americans without much reservation. At the time, he was warmly received by the public; only a year later, he would become a divisive figure, vilified for his Communist policies. In the piece, Bill Keller of the Times described Castro as the “pioneer of fake news.”

Castro Taking a Defensive Stance

Raul Castro’s defensive take on the current state of relations between the two countries was perhaps in response to sanctions that the U.S. recently imposed on Cuba. In November, National Security Adviser John Bolton referred to the country as part of the “troika of tyranny,” which also includes the socialist nations of Venezuela and Nicaragua, insisting that the U.S. would not appease murderous dictatorial leaders who endorse torture.

Bolton contrasted that with optimism for right-wing leadership in Latin America.  “The recent elections of like-minded leaders in key countries, including Ivan Duque in Colombia and last weekend Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, are positive signs for the future of the region,” he said in a speech. The Guardian pointed out that Bolton failed to acknowledge President Bolsonaro’s open admiration for torture and political repression.

Sixty Years of Revolution, but Progress Still Marred by Repression

Raul Castro had served for nearly a decade as the President of Cuba until early last year when he chose Miguel Diaz-Canel as his successor, a leader whose record has so far been a mixed bag of progress and repression. In the past month of Diaz-Canel’s leadership, Cubans for the first time have had full internet access on their phones; prior to December, they could only access state-run email accounts from these devices. Cubans have only had home wi-fi access since 2017.

Cuban artist Tania Bruguera
Cuban artist Tania Bruguera poses in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern at the opening of her commission ‘Tania Bruguera: 10,142,926’ in London on October 1, 2018. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Also in the past month, the Cuban government arrested Tania Bruguera along with two other Cuban artists who were protesting a proposed decree that would censor art deemed offensive by the government, requiring artists and musicians to apply for licenses in order to perform or display their work, even in private settings such as homes. The artists have since been released.