Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

Twilight of Cuba's Patriarch

Forget the Chinese; they haven't been real communists for years, and North Korea's Kim Jong-Il is a pale shadow of his monstrously Stalinist father. The last of the communist giants is Fidel Castro, who had retained his revolutionary charisma despite his tight grip on the reins of power in Cuba — even if the authentic glow of his combat fatigues had given way to the sort of gaudy tracksuits more common among the elderly in nearby Miami. After more than half a century of ultimate jefe-dom, an ailing Fidel in February suddenly relinquished the presidency to his younger brother Raúl, whom many hope will be a moderate reformer, perhaps even opening a détente with their existential foe across the water. Although Fidel remains an influence — not least because he is still the leader of the ruling Communist Party — he is increasingly ill. The age of the revolutionary titan is over; the period of transition has begun. (Feb. 20)