Cubans around the world are either celebrating the passing of Fidel Castro, or mourning it. Cuban exiles in Miami, many of whom fled over 90 miles of open ocean in makeshift boats, see his passing as a possible new beginning for Cuba. One Cuban-America is reported by CNN as stating that this is “a beginning of liberty that we’ve been waiting for many years.”
“Fidel Castro is dead!” This was the tweet sent out by President-elect Donald Trump shortly after news emerged of the dictator’s passing. Since then, there has been controversy over whether or not this kind of response was appropriate coming from the soon-to-be President of the United States. Certainly there are many who have celebrated the death of one of the cruelest dictators of the twentieth century, according to some, amongst the likes of Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, to name a few. But these world leaders whom we now see in the ugliest of lights had supporters as well.
Some view the revolutionary as a champion who stood for socialism, universal healthcare and education, the environment, and anti-imperialism. Others see him as an authoritarian communist, who wrongfully imprisoned political opponents and sent many to the firing squads by his own judgement. Of course, many of Fidel’s actions stem from his political philosophy, and it is doubtless that he really believed in his own political values as being just and right. Considering the vast spectrum of political philosophies though, it is important to examine some facts:
- Fidel Castro stood as the ruler of Cuba for nearly fifty years, and not by means of democratic election.
- He is a Cuban nationalist, often characterized as a Marxist-Leninist.
- Cuba became a one-party socialist State under his rule.
- He brought electricity to the countryside.
- He expanded healthcare and education, making it more easily available to the citizens of Cuba.
- There have been reports of political indoctrination methods used in Cuban schools.
- Thousands of Cubans risked their lives and the lives of their children by sailing across 90 miles of open ocean in flimsy, hand-made floating water crafts, in attempts to escape Cuba.
- Fidel Castro allowed the Soviet Union to establish nuclear capabilities in Cuba in 1962, well within range of U.S. soil, which sparked the Cuban Missile Crisis, fueled the flames between two competing superpowers, and pushed the world closer to the brink of nuclear war.
- Compared to the world average, there severe limitations on private enterprises in Cuba.
- The Cuban economy is largely State-controlled.
- Cuban media is controlled by the State and journalists must work within confines of the law which prohibit any mention of anti-government propaganda or insults of government officials. These crimes are punishable by prison sentences.
There is no question that Fidel Castro is a highly controversial figure on the world stage. I think that people favor Fidel Castro largely for his charismatic and anti-imperialistic image. The young, bearded, cigar-smoking revolutionary was seen as a freedom fighter who gave the U.S. the finger in his early days, and it is likely that there was an aspect of romanticism in the eyes of his female fans. But to those who view Fidel Castro unfavorably, he was a communist dictator who did not tolerate opposing political views. There are those who now live more enriched lives because of Castro’s regime, and there are those whose lives were destroyed at the same time. This alone is, for some, enough to qualify Castro as one whom they will not miss. Perhaps Fidel Castro wanted what is best for his people, and this provides greater reason to carefully and critically evaluate, ponder, and respect his philosophy, even if his political views were misguided.
Photo Credit: The Gaurdian