Fidel Castro the revolutionary icon

A revolution is a struggle to the death between the
future and the past.

The struggle for independence from colonial rule or freedom from oppressive regimes, dictators or military juntas has spawned a strong feeling of kinship among all those across the world who fought or are still fighting to break the shackles of the past to build a better future for all. All these struggles entailed tremendous hardships, sacrifices, relentless battles against difficult odds, setbacks as well as uplifting victories. For all those battling for a better order for the benefit of the multitude, the left across the world and freedom fighters in South America and Africa, Fidel Castro will remain a revolutionary icon.

Despite early setbacks, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and his brother Raul Castro built a guerilla force and led the revolution in Cuba which ousted the US backed dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959. He ruled Cuba for 47 years as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and as President from 1976 to 2006. He converted Cuba into the first and only pro-Soviet communist state near the United States. He defeated the CIA backed attempt to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 and evaded numerous assassination attempts. In 1962, the US imposed a crippling trade embargo which increased Cuba’s dependence on Russia and the communist bloc. The alliance with Russia brought in $4 billion in terms of aid annually to Cuba.

Fidel Castro also backed the setting up of leftist governments in various South American countries and sent some 350,000 Cuban troops to fight in Angola and in various countries to support allies. His legacy in Cuba includes free education from pre-school to tertiary level guaranteed in the Constitution and free healthcare. Cuba has the largest number of teachers and doctors per capita than any country in the world. He thus sent tens of thousands of Cuban doctors abroad to treat the poor in developing countries and helped train their young as doctors in Cuba.

Warrior of freedom

Fidel Castro also developed strong ties with revolutionary movements across the world and had an enduring influence on left leaders in Salvador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia or Ecuador. Despite the US trade embargo and the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Cuba has shown resilience to adapt to the changing political and more liberal trading landscape. The country has gradually opened up to foreign investment in diverse sectors including healthcare, tourism, transportation, construction, agriculture and renewable energy. Fidel Castro survived the tenure of office of nine US Presidents. More importantly, his revolutionary legacy to fight injustice in every form and an undaunted spirit to establish a better socio-economic order for the benefit of all, lives on among leaders in South America and countries in Africa and elsewhere, who have benefitted from his support and been inspired by him and his revolutionary spirit.

While President Obama ended an anachronistic situation by normalizing relations and lifting sanctions on Cuba, President elect Donald Trump has threatened to reimpose sanctions.

Fidel Castro, the warrior of freedom and a better world order is no more. Numerous people and world leaders across the world mourn this loss and have paid moving tributes to him.

If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.

— Che Guevara

* * *

The US Post Election Turmoil

Never before has a US presidential election caused such division and turmoil. Protest marches, petitions, calls for recounts of votes and profound anxiety in capitals across the world have been the hallmark of the post election period. Jill Stein, the US Green Party candidate at the recent presidential elections wants a full audit and recount of votes in the three battleground states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The pervasive post election unease is such that she managed with the support of social media and the multitude of dispirited US voters to swiftly raise the $7 million required to fund the legal and other costs related to the process of a recount. In contrast, she had been able to obtain only some $3.5 million of campaign funds during her own presidential bid.

Her call for a manual recount of paper ballots in the three US States comes amid claims that America’s voting machines have serious cyber security problems and diverse concerns raised by election integrity activists, computer scientists, cyber security experts, statisticians, academics and organizations such as the National Voting Rights Institute who all support a process of recount. Despite emphatically winning the popular vote by more than 2 million votes, obtaining 64.5 million votes against Donald Trump’s score of 62.4 million votes, Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election to Donald Trump when the state victories of each candidate were translated into electoral votes.

The surprising outcome of the US presidential elections highlights yet again an inherent flaw of the electoral system which elects the US President. Instead of a direct voting system which makes the candidate who wins the popular vote become the President of the United States, the founding fathers of the United States decided from the outset that the choice of the US President should be determined by Article Two of the US Constitution through the filter of the Electoral College system. Did they not fully trust the poll verdict of the people based on a one-man-one-vote democratic system and the advent of universal suffrage at a time when only white male property owners, representing about 10 to 16 percent of the US population had the right to vote? A government of the people chosen by the people necessarily means that the popular vote must always be paramount.

Vox populi

Under the Electoral College system, each US State is allocated a certain number of electors based on its total number of representatives in Congress. The candidate who wins a state obtains all the electorate votes allocated to that state. The candidate who tallies more than half i.e. 270 out of a total of 538 electoral votes wins the presidential election. The people’s vote which is paramount is thus translated into an Electoral College vote system which does not always reflect the vote of vox populi.

President elect Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes, Pennsylvania by 70,010 and Wisconsin by 27,257 votes. These narrow victories in the three states enabled Donald Trump to bag all the electoral votes allocated to these states representing a total of 46 electoral votes. These 46 electoral votes widened the difference between the electoral votes tally of the two candidates and determined the outcome of the presidential elections.

No elector is required by federal law to honour his pledge but very few have voted against their pledge during the US political history. However, the malaise over the iniquitous disparity between the popular vote and the electoral college vote as well as the persona of Donald Trump have caused some six electors to support an attempt to prevent Donald Trump from obtaining the required Electoral College majority of 270 votes when the Electoral College meets on 19 December 2016 to formally elect the US President. Online petitions using social media are also being circulated with the same objective. It is however highly unlikely that the required 37 Republican electors will decide not to vote for Donald Trump in order to deny him the presidency.

In general, the popular vote is normally in line with the electoral vote. There are instances when this has not been so. At the 2000 US presidential elections, Al Gore lost the presidential elections on the basis of the Electoral College voting system, despite obtaining some 540,000 votes more than George W. Bush. However, this is the first time that the inequity of the Electoral College system has been so glaringly exposed. Hillary Clinton’s wide margin of victory of some 2 million votes over Donald Trump in the popular vote is far from being reflected in the electoral votes tallied by the two candidates. It must be said that aware of the shortcomings of the Electoral College system, numerous constitutional amendments have been submitted in the past with the object of replacing the Electoral College with a direct popular vote, but none has ever successfully passed both Houses of Congress.

Hillary Clinton, who had already conceded defeat, and her camp have been very cautious throughout the growing campaign for a recount of the votes in the three states. A senior aide advised that they would participate in the recounts “in order to ensure that the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides”.

Unsubstantiated allegations

Amid the divisive rhetoric and acrimony of the US presidential campaign, Donald Trump had made unsubstantiated claims about vote rigging prior to the elections when he was trailing in the polls. Irritated by those seeking a recount in the three states, he has again made tall claims without any evidence that he had only lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because “millions” of people had voted illegally. He also made unsubstantiated allegations of ‘serious voter fraud’ in various states won by Hillary Clinton. The wounds of divisive politicking are yet to be healed.

Unless there is evidence of vote tampering, it is highly unlikely that the recount will change the outcome of the presidential elections. What is much more important is for Americans and legislators to amend the presidential election system to ensure that it assures through a direct voting system prevailing in most democracies, that the will of the people remains paramount at all times.

Mrinal Roy

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