Fidel Castro is one of those leaders who always seemed to be on the news when I was growing up. Other names that I grew up hearing on the news were Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat, Ronald Reagan (and later George Bush Sr), Margaret Thatcher, Mikhael Gorbachev, Helmut Kohl etc. I guess they all in one way or other shaped the world we live today – especially those that were in the thick of “Cold War” and the end of it. Anyway, hearing about Fidel Castro’s retirement this morning suddenly reminded me of my years in Nepal as a kid growing up listening to news on radio, hearing all those names without having any idea whatsoever about how powerful the people behind those names were.
I think the first time I realised how powerful an American president could be was seeing George Bush Sr on CNN at the start of the first Gulf War, and then watching the war that followed his speech – “live on CNN”!! I also remember being late for school after staying in front of the TV set all morning watching those fireworks of missiles, rockets and what not. And at that time we didn’t have TV set at home either, so I had to go to one of my uncles’ house to watch “live coverage” of the war!!
I think I became more aware of the issues surrounding those names only after having access to television, and seeing Mandela freed, or Berlin wall fall or Castro giving a lengthy speech at the UN – seeing is believing I guess! And somehow only Castro seemed to be able to stand up to the US (not with military might of course) while the rest of the world seemed to come closer towards the only remaining super-power. Well, now the man has decided to call it a day and the US president is talking about helping Cubans towards a “period of a democratic transition“. The man who “helped Afghanistan and Iraq towards a democratic transition” has less than a year to do the same for/to Cuba!!!