Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What do we know about El Chino?

Now that fidel has at least temporarily ceded power to his brother, raul, it's important for us understand the personality of this individual.

He's known as El Chino (The Chinaman) because of his slanted eyes. Many believe that he is only fidel's half brother. fidel himself was the bastard son of Angel Castro, a Spanish thug turned land owner and one of the household servants, Lina Ruz. While raul is certainly the son of Lina, it's not known if Angel was his father. fidel and raul don't share any physical traits.

castro has always painted his brother as being even more strict and dogmatic than himself. A myth that he probably created to instill fear in the hearts of the Cuban people. It can not be denied that raul played a bloody part in the immediate aftermath of the triumph of the Revolution. He along with Che Guevara were fidel's most trusted sidekicks and they carried out fidel's orders for bloody executions. A tearful raul announced the actions the Cuban government was taking against the popular General Arnaldo Ochoa (Ochoa a personal friend of raul was convicted of drug smuggling - something the castro government clearly condoned and that Ochoa was unlikely involved in - and executed by firing squad).

In his book, After Fidel, Brian Latell, a former CIA analyst, tells us that raul has always tried to gain the favor of his older brother by following his orders to the last detail. But that personally raul is a warmer, more empathetic, more practical person. Last night I saw an interview with a former member of the castro personal security force and he said that the agents always desired positions on raul's security team rather than fidel's because raul treated them well and they were permitted nice vacations, etc.

This is in no way and endorsement of raul, but I think it would be naive to think that raul would govern exactly as fidel with fidel completely out of the picture. We can only hope that with raul in power, that there might be a crack that opposition elements on the island could exploit to create an environment of general strikes and the like that could lead to radical economic reform and democracy.

raul is 75 years old and is known to be a heavy drinker. He has been rumored for many years to be a homosexual, a grave insult in a machista country like Cuba. One thing is for sure, people like fidel castro (like stalin and hitler before him) are very rare individuals. By definition a raul-led Cuba will be different than fidel's Cuba. How long he will rule, how much reform he will allow, that is the question. But it would be almost impossible for raul to be worse than fidel, regardless of what fidel said.

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