He started out a hero but Fidel Castro was the modern-age plague of Cuba. He murdered thousands, maintained poverty, oppressed the population in every possible way and imprisoned those who complained. Now he’s gone at the age of 90. In Miami, Cuban Americans properly threw a party.
This bearded, narcissistic, power-bedazzled dictator, a lover of Communist evil, once upon a time preached liberty. That, he said, was his chief objective as he led a widely hailed revolution to oust the utterly corrupt Fulgencio Batista, succeeding in 1959. The good cheer was everywhere and the wait was on for a constitutional government. Something else quickly happened.
Firing squads took out men, women and children. The complainers did not just go to prison. They were tortured. When thousands tried to flee, many were killed either with or without judicial acquiescence. Life-encapsulating socialist programs were announced, and this being the Cold War era, an alliance with the Soviet Union was soon enough formed. Not to be forgotten were Castro’s hours-long, self-adoring oratorical misadventures exposing his ambitions to mangle us.
Some Cubans did escape to America, and Castro sent others here when he thought they posed threats. He sent armed troops to help the Soviet Union in various of its attempts to expand political enslavement, another means of killing off his countrymen to no humane avail.
Especially given its virulence, Cuba seemed a smelly, threatening piece of the Soviet Union sitting next door. Arising out of this was the embarrassment of President John F. Kennedy in the Bay of Pigs debacle. With ineptness bred by inexperience, he had agreed to back expatriated Cubans attacking Castro’s forces on the homeland. When things began to go sour, Kennedy abandoned an air attack pledged to support them. They were then either killed or imprisoned.
Castro was mostly no fool. He easily outwitted inane assassination plots dreamed up by U.S. intelligence operations. Faced with a U.S. embargo, he traded Cuba’s sugar cane with Russia and received billions in aid. But then, to fight back against another attack and annihilate America if he deemed it necessary, he got the Soviet Union to send him a bunch of short-range nuclear missiles. This led, of course, to the Cuban Missile Crisis that could itself have led to nuclear war.
It didn’t, and, over Castro’s furious objections, the missiles were removed. Here was an island dictator who helped bring the world close to unspeakable tragedy, but hey, some say, look at his great achievements in health and education.
What a farce. As has been reported by alert journalists, the good health care has gone to tourists and the rich in government, not to the people at large. To Castro’s credit, the literacy rate in the country did zoom upwards, but the literate were then taught propaganda of a kind that now has the deceived mourning in Havana.
Castro finally retired some years back, leaving his brother Raul to continue the oppression and compete with Batista for Cuba’s foremost corruption record. President Barack Obama has made a number of deals with him, including a significant one this year. He restored diplomatic relations. Travel restrictions won’t be what they used to be. U.S. banks can help boost the economy.
And the extension of human rights that Cuba agreed to in return? Sorry, but zippo.
Maybe a President Donald Trump can get Raul Castro to do just a thing or two, such as releasing political prisoners. Perhaps, then, the embargo could be lifted. Maybe Cuba would be on a road to prosperity and the liberty Fidel Castro had promised before putting his own power first. I wouldn’t count on it.
Fidel has at least departed, and, symbolically, that is a good thing, marking a time for celebration, and not just in Miami. But sadly, very sadly, Cuban totalitarianism is still hanging on until another Castro says goodbye, at least politically.
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Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at [email protected]