The President’s Birthday: Cuba’s Raul Castro Turns 85

June 3, 2016 | Print Print |

By Fernando Ravsberg

Raul Castro

Raul Castro

HAVANA TIMES — With fanfare in the media, Cuban President Raul Castro turns 85 on Friday and is approaching the end of his mandate, scheduled for 2018. His birthday comes at a time of a profound transformation of the economy, in complex negotiations with the US and paying billions of dollars to international creditors to attract investment that the country needs.

His personal history includes almost 70 years of political activity. Linked to Marxism since adolescence, he took part in the 1953 attack on the Moncada Cuartel, he was a political prisoner, exiled in Mexico, then the leader of a guerrilla front, and later the builder of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. As president of Cuba, [since his brother Fidel fell ill in July 2006 and elected in 2008] he is the father of economic reforms, architect of generational change and is credited with bringing Washington to the negotiating table.

Many Cubans call him the Chinaman for his eyes but he also qualifies for the nickname because of his relationship with time. His slogan for reform is “slowly but surely” and the government plan extends until 2030, well beyond the time of his mandate, limited by himself when he proposed that no leader should be in office more than 10 years .

The main objective of his government seems to be to create a sustainable economic model, which would improve the living conditions of Cubans, while also maintaining universal health coverage, free education and culture accessible to all citizens. It is an ambitious goal for a Third World country with few natural resources but possible in a nation with huge human resources.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    Fernando has written a eulogy but in the present tense. He left out the part about Raul’s well-known brutality in dealing with dissidents. He also forgot to mention that Raul’s primary purpose in developing a “sustainable economic model” is to maintain political control over the Cuban people. The difference between ‘sustainable’ and ‘successful’ should be noted. In two months, Fidel will celebrate his 90th birthday. Unbelievable that Castro sycophants still believe that the Brothers from Brian remains the best choices for the Cuban people.

    • Ermle

      That choice is up to The People of Cuba. They stand with their President, obviously. A new era is about to begin. The People support the Revolution. You may not like that, but it’s not up to you is it!

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        Let us all hope that the new era which you forecast sees the end of the repressive communist dictatorship of the Castro family regime and at long last brings freedom to the people of Cuba.
        You are obviously sitting in comfort in the US unaware of the realities of the daily life of the average Cuban, unable to assess the reality but determined that they should not know freedom.

        • bjmack

          Well there are some changes that I support, especially the fact that my personal hero, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia was permitted to travel to the US. I follow every word this man writes and he stated that President Obama’s visit was a tremendous positive toward the cause of freedom. Families allowed to rent out their rooms and from what I’m reading some very fine restaurants in the major cities. When the internet is cracked for the people, watch out.

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            Barack Obama held to the principles of freedom when he spoke in Cuba, both at the press conference following his meeting with Raul Castro (which included Raul fiddling with his earphones to avoid answering questions) and in his speech at the Alicia Alonso Teatre.
            Obama clarified that if change was to be pursued in US policy towards Cuba, there would have to be reciprocity. Unlike Francois Hollande of France, unlike the EU Italian Foreign Minister, unlike the British Foreign Secretary all of whom rolled over in the unsupported belief that ‘change’ was occurring in Cuba, Obama stuck to the principles of freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of information and in particular access to the Internet for all Cubans.
            Raul Castro has demonstrated masterly political manipulation in fooling so many in the free world into believing that change is occurring in the lives of the people of Cuba. They however cannot respond as criticism of the regime lands them in jail, being a criminal offence. Within the country at large no improvement in living standards is perceivable.
            Casa Particulars and Paladars have existed since about 1998 when it was realized that they could attract tourist hard currency. For example in Trinidad de Cuba there are over 300 casa particulars and more than two dozen paladars. All are taxed!

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        Ermle, you slipped up. I think you intended to put a question mark rather than an exclamation mark at the end of your comment.
        As an addendum, you are totally unqualified to speak for the people of Cuba, many of whom would undoubtedly be your intellectual superior.

      • Moses Patterson

        Of course the choice SHOULD be with the Cuban people. The Castros have taken that choice away from them however. How do you know that the Cuban people “stand with their President, obviously”? Who told you that? I don’t like dictatorships. You are correct about that. Do you?

      • No they don’t and if you believe what you’ve just written, you have either never been there or never left the tourist areas. And if you have then open your eyes.

  • Bee1936

    Happy Birthday President Castro! … I am proud of Cuba.

  • Ermle

    Happy Birthday Mr. President.

  • Gerard Matthews

    Next you will be telling me that the pope is going to make him a saint? Wake up and smell the corruption people, you have suffered long enough!

  • Olgasintamales

    The King Castro turn 85. The Castro monarchia that turned 11 million Cubans in misery, that is why we throw ourselves in the ocean escaping oppression,lack of free press,repression,one party “election” lies, demonization of anyone who dare to criticize a dictatorship not one had electe,censorship, control of the population, and Please DO NOT mention the Embargo because I didn’t mention hunger, buildings falling, poverty, economic and social crisis infrastructure falling even the sidewalks ( get out of tourists area) Hell.

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    This is the same man who on January 12th, 1959 at Santiago de Cuba executed 78 people without trial. When questioned later about his action, Raul Castro replied:
    “They had nothing to complain about, they had the services of a priest.”
    The living standards of Cubans have not improved one iota during Raul Castro’s eight years as President, nor is that the prime purpose of his regime. The main objective of the current policies is the retention of power and control over the people of Cuba who continue to be denied full human rights, to be denied freedom of expression, denied democracy and the right to choose any form of alternative to communism and denied the right to teach their own children anything which is contradictory to communism.
    There are admirers who write in these pages approving such oppression, but they are careful to live where they have the rights denied to Cubans.

    • Dan

      And who were those 78 individuals ? Let’s see if you know or acknowledge. BTW, how many individuals, including toddlers and old geezers like yourself have been executed by predator drone without trial or priest at the hands of liberal President Obama who lectures the Cubans on human rights ?

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        The introduction of irrelevant dead cat material inevitably about the US where you choose to live, shows a callous disregard for life and for those executed by Raul Castro. As a lawyer you ought to be concerned about legality but obviously your professional standards don’t rise to that level. Do you belief in the right to trial? It’s a simple question. If you don’t, then how do you justify your profession, if you do then you have to deplore Raul Castro’s actions.

        • Dan

          If you were on the stand, the judge would order you to answer my question. You obviously cannot.

          • Carlyle MacDuff

            If you are questioning whether the executions occurred or not, you are questioning the veracity of Raul Castro himself. Do you question whether Hiroshima was the target for an atomic bomb just because you cannot list the names of the victims?
            I note you did not answer whether as a lawyer, you approved execution without trial! I suppose that the question of morality is of little consideration?

    • Ben Weaver

      I don’t think its healthy for you to be carrying all that hate around with you. The Revolution is successful and Socialism is firmly in place. Get over it!
      Happy Birthday President Castro and many more. I too, am proud of the Cuban peoples accomplishments. No going back. .

      • Informed Consent

        Successful? Tell that to all those Cubans who still fling themselves into the sea to escape the isla. They must not share your definition of “successful”

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        Not hate, detestation for dictatorship and the regime that supports it!

      • Moses Patterson

        How do you define “successful”? Are you sure Socialism is “firmly in place”? After the Castros and their cronies die off, I am not so sure.