On Friday, a hospitalized Fidel Castro met with a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo, Wu Guanzheng. It may be no coincidence that Mr. Wu’s specialty is Communist Party discipline.
No coincidence? Ya think?
But there’s more:
Meanwhile, Cuba’s rickety economy is beset by continuing problems. This year’s sugar harvest was well below normal, and tourism is down by 7 percent. Cuba faces a continuing shortage of oil and has been existing on deeply discounted shipments from Venezuela, whose president, Hugo ChÃ¡vez, sees Castro as a leftist brother in arms. Cuba’s own oil is heavy with sulphur, which is highly corrosive.
Some power plants have been shut down as a result of using the damaging Cuban oil. Oil from Venezuela was intended for Cuban domestic use but the Cuban regime is selling some of it for badly needed cash to solve some of its financial problems.
While Venezuela’s Mr. ChÃ¡vez idolizes Castro, nations such as Spain that may once have been friendly to the Cuban regime are expressing concern about its continuing clampdown and imprisonment of dissidents and would-be reformers.
Two former Polish presidents, Lech Walesa and Aleksander Kwasniewski, issued a letter in March to the Cuban people, drawing on Poland’s experience of abandoning communism for democracy. Published in the Miami Herald, the letter said Poland’s example was a “testimony to the victory of agreement over conflict, dialogue over quarrel, good over evil.”
The letter said the “time of change is imminent. The breath of awakening democracy in Cuba can be felt even â€¦ in Poland. Be persistent and in solidarity, be patient and indomitable, ready to construct common future for all Cubans, so that your beautiful country can become a friendly home to all those of your citizens who today inhabit the island and those who have been forced to abandon it.” That last phrase is an obvious reference to the large Cuban exile community in Miami.
In a trenchant challenge to the Castro regime, the letter reminded it that “the time of tyrants and running the country while following ‘the only right line’ is coming to an end. A triumphant march of democracy cannot be stopped. We in Poland know this better than anyone else.”
The letter was timed for the fourth anniversary of a Cuban crackdown on dissenters called the “black spring,” an event that the letter called “yet another blow against the democratic opposition.”