In Communist societies, the fall of a dictator is often marked by a public statement about the dictator’s failing health that (a) doesn’t make sense, and (b) is not delivered by the dictator himself. That’s what we saw on Monday night, when Cuban dictator Fidel Castro issued a “letter to the people” in which he explains that he had suffered intestinal bleeding due to stress, needed an operation, and would be in bed for several weeks. The missive was coldly Orwellian in how little it said about Castro — and in how much detail it gave about those who were now “temporarily” assuming power.
Meanwhile, it is satisfying to see how perfectly and inevitably Castro’s life is coming to a Stalinesque end. It was on March 4, 1953, that the Kremlin announced that Joseph Stalin had suffered a stroke four days earlier, and that power would temporarily be held by a group of senior leaders. On March 6, it was announced that Stalin had died the night before. At his funeral, three of the new leaders made speeches, the order of the speakers marking the new order of precedence.
Less than two weeks after that, the new premier (Malenkov, the most senior party leader after Stalin) was forced to resign his most important post. By the end of the year, the second (Beria, the head Stalin’s secret police) had been secretly arrested and executed. Two years after that, the third (Molotov, Stalin’s foreign minister) was named ambassador to Mongolia.
Out of nowhere, Nikita Khruschev had emerged to assume complete control of the Soviet Union. And of course, one fine day many years later, it was announced (and not by him) that Khruschev had resigned all political offices, due to old age and deteriorating health.… And on and on went the history of the Soviet Union, until the day it finally died, when a group of would-be coup leaders explained in a press conference that Premier Gorbachev had been taken ill, and some reporters just started laughing.
Loyola also gives us a brief on the four senior leaders who will ostensibly jockey for power. Contrast Loyola's take (he's ex DoD) on Raul Castro vs the New York Times'.