Forgetting Castro. While covering the breaking story on Tuesday of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s decision to step down from power, various “Good Morning America” anchors and reporters soft peddled the communist leader’s crimes. In a profile piece that narrated a brief history of his life, co-host Diane sawyer enthused, “Castro knew life is a stage and played the part of the dashing revolutionary coming to New York, getting rock star treatment.” Now, she did add that many people overlooked the “ferocity of his communism, even as he bankrupted his country and history passed him by.” But over the course of five segments, GMA managed to completely ignore Castro’s record of firing squads, jailing dissidents, imprisoning AIDS patients and other crimes. Instead, Sawyer found time to romantically state, “The world’s longest-serving political leader is leaving on his own terms, having survived efforts by ten different U.S. presidents to bring him down…” Note the use of the term “political leader” rather than dictator. — Scott Whitlock, NewsBusters

What a joke! Marco Rubio, the first Cuban-American to become speaker of the House, does not share the celebratory feeling over the news from Cuba. It only “confirms that Fidel Castro is increasingly senile and out of touch with reality.” “It’s a joke. This is a complete joke, guys. He’s not the president of Cuba. When was he elected?” Rubio told reporters. “He has nothing to resign because he’s a dictator. … What he’s done is he resigns so people can say ‘Oh look in Cuba they actually have a legitimate system of government.’ ” He continued, “The only news in Cuba that will ever matter is the day that they announce they are having free democratic elections.” — The Buzz

Castro, Cuba and serious charisma. For a long-haired liberal in his late twenties, there were a few things to love about Cuba in the 1970s. For example, if you were going to be poor and living in Latin America, you wanted to live in Cuba. You’d get decent housing, medical care, and schooling for kids like nowhere else in the region. And there was also the music, the beaches, and for me, then, the fact that I was a 29-year-old American journalist getting paid to study business in Cuba for about six weeks.

However, by the time I left, I couldn’t wait to get out … I developed a claustrophobia of the mind. I liked these people we worked with. And with time I realized that they were spouting slogans and phrases to each other — for example the ubiquitous “companero,” meaning “comrade” — because that was important. Of course they were watching us, and that was off-putting but expected, but when I realized they were also watching each other, and spouting slogans as a protection, that gave me that special intellectual claustrophobia…

Fidel, however, was like a human magnet. Everybody hung on his every word, not because we had to, not because it was good business, but because he was the kind of leader that attracted attention and admiration. His warmth, his sense of humor, his dedication to ideals, all of that made his personal power obvious. In his presence, it seemed only reasonable that an entire nation could depend on his one-man rule. Even though it was easy to see that Cuba wasn’t working, it was also easy to believe it wasn’t because it didn’t have a great leader. To this day I’m convinced that Fidel would have risen to power almost anywhere. His ideals weren’t working, and Cuba wasn’t working, but Fidel Castro was. — Tim Berry, The Huffington Post

Bush weighs in. George W Bush has taken the opportunity to comment that the US will ‘help’ (force?) the Cuban people to “realise the blessings of liberty”. Coincidentally, I feel something similar for the American people at the thought that Sergeant Stupid will leave office within a year. By liberty, of course, he means capitalism. Bush’s comment comes with extra stab reflex if you bear in mind that Cuba is where America keeps its illegal prison and torture camp. — Robin Johnson’s blog

Primary contenders weigh in. Some Key Statements on US-Cuba Relations and the News from Fidel Castro. I will grade the statements later made by the various national leaders below. But I think it’s important to create a semi-central repository of some of the more important leadership responses. — Steven C Clemons, The Washington Note

Castro facts. Fidel Castro is retiring after almost half a century as leader of Cuba, leaving in his wake some fascinating facts … ASSASSINATION PLOTS: Castro claims he survived 634 attempts on his life, mainly masterminded by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. They involved poison pills, a toxic cigar, exploding mollusks, a chemically tainted diving suit and powder to make his beard fall out so as to undermine his popularity …  RECORD-BREAKING COW: One of his pet projects was a cow called Ubre Blanca (or White Udder) that produced prodigious quantities of milk and became a propaganda tool for Cuba’s collectivized agriculture in the 1980s. Ubre Blanca is in the Guinness Book of Records for the highest milk yield by a cow in one day – 110 litres (29 U.S. gallons). — The Independent

The end of a (very long) era and a question, “what next?” With the deterioration of the Soviet Empire in the late 1980s, Castro suddenly found himself adrift both ideologically and economically. Years of favorable trade agreements with the Soviets had helped prop up the Cuban economy during a number of difficult periods. But when Moscow fell, Cuba was left without its primary benefactor. In the years since then, the situation has changed very little, by most accounts: the economy has struggled, dissidents continue to be jailed, and through it all Castro has railed consistently against the evils of capitalism and “Yanqui” influence.

Castro’s retirement raises serious questions about the future of the island over which he has held sway for so long. Cuba now faces a power vacuum, one fraught with challenges and opportunities. Although Castro’s brother Raúl is the logical heir to the throne, it is unclear whether he has the temperament to continue where his brother left off. Nor is he the only one who has waited for this moment. Many of Castro’s opponents have looked forward to the end of his regime with great anticipation, eager to see Cuba shed its former ideology and embrace the tenets of an open society. Whatever comes next for Cuba, Castro’s legacy will cast a very long shadow. — Jonas Clark,

More “what next? “So what’s next for the degenerate workers’ state in the Caribbean where dancing and copious amounts of recreational s-x are pretty much the only forms of creative self-expression allowed and encouraged by those in power? — Drink-soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for WAR

Don’t let Raul get his way. While Fidel’s prolonged illness has been useful to Raul (by allowing him to consolidate his power and get the Cuban people comfortable with the idea of life without the Maximum Leader), it has also served to create mounting expectations of change — and not just among everyday Cubans but also those in the upper echelons of power. Self-proclaimed “Cubanologists” in the United States have made it fashionable to refer to Raul as “the pragmatic one” and “the reformer.” Of course, in contrast to Fidel who was notoriously capricious, arbitrary, egomaniacal, and stubborn, anyone short of Stalin could be legitimately labeled as pragmatic. Even Raul, who as Fidel’s right-hand man since the days of the rebel insurgency and head of Cuba’s armed forces, has just as much blood on his hands — if not more. What Raul wants is for the world to see his succession to the throne of the house of Castro as legitimate. That’s why the regime went to such great lengths to stage its kabuki production of parliamentary “elections.” If the world accepts the succession without objection, then Raul would have accomplished the primary goal of keeping international pressure off, at least temporarily. And that’s what this has always been about: buying time. — Henry Louis Gomez, Pajamas Media

Cuba the next China? Many analysts say that Raúl Castro hopes to emulate the Chinese model of development, in which the Communist party maintains tight political control while experimenting with economic liberalization. That would require a degree of decentralization and market incentives well beyond what the Communist regime has ever allowed, and would entail severe political risks for Fidel’s successors. China was able to work out its reforms in isolation over many years, but Cuba is just 90 miles from the U.S. and there are 1.5 million Cuban Americans who have the skills, cash and desire to quickly remake the island into a capitalist and democratic country. — Jose de Cordoba and David Luhnow, WSJ

Plus ca change. If there is, as the international media conglomerate seems to think, real change coming to Cuba now that fidel has stepped aside, does that mean: Cuban high school students are free to wear white plastic bracelets embossed with the word CAMBIO without fear of arrest? Does it mean that state security thugs will no longer assault dissidents because they ask for human rights? Does it mean that the Cuban military will never again attack and sink a boat carrying children? Does it mean that Cubans will be allowed to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? I didn’t think so.Babalu blog