In response to:

Can Castro Last? from the May 31, 1990 issue

To the Editors:

In his sober appraisal of the Cuban situation [“Can Castro Last?” NYR, May 31] Tad Szulc referred to Fidel’s “grim and defiant speeches.” They can also be bizarre. For example, in the middle of a rambling address on February 20, 1990, he denounced a major 18th century French philosopher whom, it is safe to say, most Cubans have never heard of. “The notorious Montesquieu,” he exclaimed, who advocated the “notorious division of powers…now the fashion once more—prehistoric….” In Cuba, “there is only one power…the Revolution,” meaning, of course, Fidel Castro. What is most important about his speeches, however, is that they project his charisma, which in turn is able to mesmerize the people.

I recently spent a month in Cuba, after an absence of more than twenty years, and can testify that Fidel’s charisma and his personal power are undiminished. I came away with the impression that it would take a worst case scenario of economic crisis to topple Fidel, and until this happens no rational solution to Cuba’s predicament is possible.

Fidel has a keen intelligence, but suffers from a highly inflated ego, bordering on megalomania. This would appear to be the result of an inherited personality disorder manifested since early childhood. It impelled him to strive to dominate—first his parents, then his schoolmates, then his guerrilla comrades, then Cuba, and finally to lead the Third World. The Stalinist model of “socialism,” which he has inflicted on Cuba has institutionalized and legitimized his total power. Reforms along the lines of glasnost and perestroika would threaten his power, hence are vehemently rejected.

Szulc writes that the “American invasion of Panama deprived the Cubans of the ‘supermarket’ through which they were able to import high technology and partially breach the US economic blockade.” The invasion was, in fact, a political bonanza for Castro, a confirmation of his anti-American propaganda, including his repeated warnings of “imperialist” military action against Cuba. It reinforced his call for national “unity,” (i.e. undeviating acceptance of his leadership), for the suppression of dissidence, and for keeping Cuba armed to the teeth.

Maurice Halperin
Professor Emeritus
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

This Issue

October 25, 1990