SOUTH Africans never experienced such a proud moment as when, for the first time after five decades, two enemies, US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, shook hands in public at the memorial service of world icon Nelson Mandela.
These are the signs that South Africa can play a tremendous role to facilitate the unity talks between the Cubans and the US to honour the legend.
The relationship between the US government and the Cuban government became strained because of Fidel Castro’s nationalisation of all agriculture and business, and therefore forcing US agricultural and business estates out of Cuba. Castro also kept anti-American rhetoric going throughout Cuba.
He then proceeded to ally and trade with the Soviet Union, thus breeding more mistrust from the island’s democratic neighbour.
The US attempted to overthrow Castro multiple times. However the most recognised is the Bay of Pigs incident. As a result, high anti-American sentiment spread throughout Cuba.
During his alliance with the Soviet Union, Castro traded weapons with his ally. This led to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when Cuba allowed the USSR to place ballistic missiles on the island nation, missiles that could send nuclear warheads to American cities.
As part of the deal to get the nuclear weapons off the island, the US agreed to stop trying to overthrow Castro. Also at this time, Castro created a one party government with power over all the political, economic and social aspects of the island nation’s life.
Cuba’s economy failed to grow beyond its dependence on sugar cane and ultimately the island depended on favourable trade with the Soviets to maintain the standard of living to which the people had grown accustomed. Therefore, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Castro was caught off guard and had to counter the loss of economic assistance by allowing more economic freedoms.
However, Castro was never comfortable with these changes.
Within the last decade, Castro has gone through a number of mishaps including fainting during a speech, and breaking his kneecaps and arm.
He has recently undergone extensive surgery on his intestines. He passed his power over to his brother, Raul, in July 2006, because of his weakened state.
This was meant to be temporary. In February 2008, Fidel Castro formally announced by letter that he would not accept the nomination to be the leader of the nation.
Furthermore if Obama is honest about peace and stability in the international communities, he must consider the release of the innocent Cuban five from American prisons.
Thabang Maseko, spokesperson, EC Young Communist League of SA