This week's news that Fidel Castro is to step down as President of Cuba was greeted predictably by the US & Europe. The gloating over a relic from the Cold War being forced to acknowledge his own mortality was matched by a sepia-tinted glow of nostalgia from those for whom the fall of the Berlin Wall was a disaster. It was instructive to see George Galloway wax lyrical on Newsnight.
A more nuanced & considered take on the fading force of el Commandante came from Tony Karon on his Rootless Cosmopolitan blog (http://tonykaron.com/2008/02/20/the-guilty-pleasure-of-fidel-castro/ ).
The sneaking regard which many Latin American leaders have for Castro (even left of centre figures such as Lula in Brazil & Bachelet in Chile see him as a symbol of independence from the US) is rooted in the perception that "Castro personifies nothing as such as defiance of the Monroe Doctrine, by which the US had defined the continent as its background, reserving the right to veto, by force, anything it didn't like. Get a Mexican conservative politician drunk in a discreet setting, and you'll probably discover a closet Castro fan."
Tony highlights the irony that had Castro held multi-party elections at any stage in Cuba over the last 50 years (an insistent US demand) the Communist Party would most likely have won most of the votes.
Moreover, there was a blind belief among many older Cubans, as well as the Party faithful, that Castro could be trusted to adapt to the end of the Soviet Union & its economic subsidies. How? In what way? Reasons & answers were vague & sparse, rhetoric winning out over reasoned debate.
The tragic truth is that, Washington neo-cons & Miami nostalgists notwithstanding, the Stalinist mindset has been the Cuban revolution's greatest weakness.