Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Obama and the Empire, by Fidel Castro

Obama and the Empire is a collection of Castro’s Reflections of Comrade Fidel column in the Cuban Communist Party’s daily newspaper. The period covered spans from Obama’s Presidential campaign in 2008 to mid-2010. As an anthology of newspaper features, many of the articles vary in terms of breadth and detail, but Castro provides a compelling critique of Obama and the United States which is not present in mainstream Western media.

Castro dedicates significant time analysing and dissecting Barack Obama’s speeches and contrasting them with Obama’s policies and achievements. Recent Wikileaks revelations have suggested that Castro is enamoured with Obama but – whilst Fidel certainly admires his energy and intelligence – he is fiercely critical of the hypocritical contradiction between Obama’s progressive rhetoric and the practical implementation of reactionary US policy. Castro highlights this by citing the continuing US blockade of Cuba – despite Obama pledging to lift the embargo in 2004 – and demonstrates the collusion of international organisations in this hypocrisy by giving Obama the Nobel Peace Prize when the President was increasing troop numbers in Afghanistan.

Although Castro is clearly impressed by many of Obama’s personal traits, he sees his election as the product of global financial crisis. Obama is inseparable from the imperialist capitalist system and, although he didn’t cause the economic mess, he is guilty of perpetuating the myth that capitalism can solve the world’s ills. The antecedents of Obama’s hypocrisy can be found throughout US history from slavery and colonialism to America’s continuing manipulation of developing countries and their decadent consumption of natural resources.

Ostensibly an anthology examining Obama and the United States, Castro also reflects on the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, the rise of India and China, drug trafficking, nuclear weapons, technology and climate change. For Castro, the environmental crisis eclipses the economic crisis and in no other arena is the hypocrisy of the United States or their desire to disenfranchise developing countries more acutely felt.
As new leaders and social forces emerge across Latin America, this book – focussing as it does on practical examples rather than theory – provides an accessible and bitesize critique of Barack Obama, America and global capitalism.

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