MU group questions significance of Castro's resignation

Tuesday, February 19, 2008 | 8:48 p.m. CST; updated 11:05 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Rick Puig, an MU sophomore from Kansas City, chats with Nicolás A. Jiménez, an MU junior from Miami, during a meeting of the Cuban-American Undergraduate Student Association on Tuesday night in Brady Commons. The two talk about Fidel Castro's announcement that he will not seek a new term as Cuba's leader. "It's just a solidfication of what has already happened," Puig said of Castro's announcement and passing of power to his brother, Raúl. "And that isn't positive at all."

COLUMBIA — In a meeting Tuesday night, members of MU’s Cuban American Undergraduate Student Association discussed their feelings about Fidel Castro’s resignation of the Cuban presidency, pointing out that his removal from power will probably have little effect on the Cuban people.

The association supports democratic change for the Cuban people and educates the local community about Cuban culture.


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Castro announced his resignation on Tuesday in Granma, the Cuban Communist Party’s newspaper. He has held power in the nation since the communist revolution in 1959. In 2006, Castro transferred much of his presidential power to his younger brother, Raúl Castro, because of his ailing health.

The association’s meeting was called to determine the group’s official response to Fidel Castro’s announcement. The group felt that this announcement is not indicative of real change in Cuba and may distract from human rights concerns in Cuba.

At the meeting, MU student Rick Puig said that Castro’s resignation might be more negative for Cubans because it legitimizes the political status quo.

“It’s just a solidification of what’s already happened, and that hasn’t been positive at all,” Puig said.

Erika Navarrete, secretary of the association, said Cuba needs a political turnaround.

“What Cuba needs right now is democracy,” Navarrete said. “Nothing is going to change for the better when his brother, Raúl, takes power. He’s just as bad, if not worse, than Fidel.”

The Cuban government has not named a new president, though a new leader will likely be chosen in the coming days.

Robert Smale, an MU assistant professor specializing in Latin American history, said that Castro’s resignation has historical significance.

“This ends the time of power of a man who has ruled a Latin American country for the longest time in Latin American history,” Smale said.

However, much of the transition of power in Cuba has already taken place in the time since Raúl became acting president, Smale said.

“Many people were surprised by how smoothly things have gone in Cuba in the last two years,” Smale said. “It really has been a particularly calm, smooth transition.”

Smale noted that at the end of Castro’s political reign, his legacy remains open for interpretation based on the political perspective taken. Castro was one of the most influential, as well as one of the most controversial, Latin American leaders in the 20th century, he said.

Nicolás Jiménez, president of MU’s Cuban American Undergraduate Student Association, said the resignation does not mean immediate change in Cuba.

“The focus should be ‘when are things changing for the Cuban people,’ not ‘when is someone new in the president’s chair,’” Jiménez said.

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