Admirers say goodbye to their totalitarian hero.
Fidel Castro, the ruthless Cuban dictator who considered himself a socialist “revolutionary,” passed away last Friday. The Left wasted no time paying tribute to Castro as a savior to his people, who brought them social justice in the face of U.S. imperialism. Some progressives like President Obama were a bit more muted, choosing to honor Castro’s memory while simply ignoring his atrocious human rights record.
While the Left has turned Castro into a quasi-mythical figure, Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, Castro’s longtime bodyguard, chronicled the real Fidel Castro in his book, “The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Líder Maximo.” Sanchez wrote how Castro “lived in comfort” while “his people suffered.” Sanchez estimated that Castro’s net worth was $168 million. Compare Fidel Castro’s massive wealth to the Gross Domestic Product per capita in Cuba of 6156.62 US dollars, which was last recorded in 2013, and the Cubans’ average monthly wage of $20. Even with the free education and medical care added in that Fidel Castro and his supporters have often boasted about, the discrepancy between Fidel’s own personal wealth and the economic condition of the average Cuban hardly represent social justice in practice.
Upon Castro’s death, President Obama issued a statement that treated the dictator with the dignity he certainly did not deserve. Obama called Fidel Castro a “singular figure,” who “altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation.”
Fidel Castro and his brother Raul surely did alter the course of Cubans’ lives, but in a manner that Obama would like us all to forget. The Castro regime executed or imprisoned thousands of Cubans for just exercising their basic rights of freedom of expression and conscience. According to the Cuba Archive, from January 1, 1959 through December 31, 2014, there were at least 3116 executions by firing squad and 1166 other extrajudicial killings. 315 people died as a result of medical negligence or denial of medical care while in prison or detention.
Obama said in his statement that his administration had “worked hard to put the past behind us” in forging a new relationship with Cuba. That would be all well and good except that Fidel’s brother Raul has not put the past behind him. He is continuing the ways of the repressive regime that Fidel developed to extinguish any opposition. Yet Obama has unabashedly endeavored to improve diplomatic and commercial relations without demanding any loosening of restrictions on the Cuban peoples’ exercise of their basic human rights.
Praise for Fidel Castro poured in from world leaders following news of his death. Some were no surprise, such as President Nicolas Maduro, leader of the imploding country of Venezuela, who said "revolutionaries of the world must follow his legacy." Ironically, Cuba is suffering economically today in part because of its dependence on Venezuela for fuel subsidies, whose own economy is in free fall. Evidently, the legacies of both “revolutionary” socialist countries are leading each to follow the other into the abyss.
However, it was not just leaders of socialist and repressive regimes who regarded Fidel Castro with great admiration. In a statement issued by his spokesperson, outgoing United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the Cuban dictator as an "emblematic figure of the Cuban revolution.” The statement extolled Castro as “a strong voice for social justice in global discussions at the UN General Assembly and international and regional forums.” Of course, such "see no evil, hear no evil" statements that diverge from any semblance of the truth are par for the course at the UN.
The liberal Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was effusive in his praise of the dead dictator. He said, “Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation. I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.”
Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a founding member of the Workers' Party who has been under investigation for possible corruption, said that Castro was the "greatest of all Latin Americans. He encouraged dreams of freedom, sovereignty and equality."
The United Kingdom’s far left Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn extolled Fidel Castro’s "heroism" and said he was a “champion of social justice.”
Not to be outdone by her leftist comrades abroad, Green Party’s presidential candidate Jill Stein tweeted that "Fidel Castro was a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire.” This is the same woman who believes that recounts in the three battleground states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania are necessary, three weeks after the conclusion of the presidential election, because “We deserve elections we can trust.” She apparently sees no double standard in heaping praise on one of the world’s most repressive leaders, who represented the very antithesis of democracy and free elections.
Former presidential hopeful Rev. Jesse Jackson called Castro a "freedom fighter" and "poor people's hero."
Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee, who has visited Cuba more than 20 times, said she was “very sad for the Cuban people” when she learned of Castro’s death. “We need to stop and pause and mourn his loss.”
Former President Jimmy Carter remarked how he and his wife “remembered fondly” their visits with Fidel Castro in Cuba “and his love of his country.” This is the same Jimmy Carter who has gone out of his way to attack the democratic state of Israel and who thinks that the U.S. government should acknowledge Hamas as a "legitimate political actor." Castro apparently was not the only murderer whom Carter admired.
Some of the same left-wing media that have hurled vicious baseless charges against President-elect Donald Trump turned Castro into a virtual saint. In an ABC Special Report during Nightline, for example, Jim Avila said that Castro “was considered, even to this day, the George Washington of his country among those who remain in Cuba.” This is the same Jim Avila who reported on election night “there is a real fear among Latinos in this country right now because it appears that Donald Trump is going to win.” The Cuban-Americans in Miami who voted for Donald Trump and sang in the streets upon learning of Fidel Castro’s death would beg to differ with Avila’s reporting. As for those Cubans still residing in Cuba, their real voice cannot be heard as long as the repressive regime carried on by Fidel’s brother Raul remains in power.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews recalled what a “romantic figure” Castro was when he came to power and how in high school “we rooted like mad for the guy” who “was almost like a folk hero to most of us.” Funny how all of the blood of the Cuban people on Castro’s hands since those heady days did not dim Matthews’ fond memories of his “folk hero.”
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who fled Cuba with her family when she was 8 and eventually became the first Cuban-American elected to Congress, saw nothing in Castro to romanticize. Responding scornfully to the praise of world leaders such as Prime Minister Trudeau, she said, “you did not lose a loved one to an execution squad. You did not lose a loved one to the gulags in Cuba. The only thing that Fidel has been successful in, has not been health nor education, or human rights or democracy, it's been holding onto power -- which is easy to do when you don't have elections.”
Those on the Left who are constantly complaining about the unfairness of the U.S. electoral system and are protesting against President-elect Trump are hypocritically singing the praises of a Cuban dictator who brutally oppressed his own people. That’s the price for achieving “social justice,” they argue. The problem with this argument is that the average Cuban citizen today is living under harsh economic conditions while remaining under severe political and civil restraints. As Winston Churchill once said, “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”