When I wrote the post on the death of Fidel Castro I just did it out of memory and thought maybe I’d research a little and say more, but I think I said all that was worth saying in the original, in fact in its headline, something like a dictator of the left replaced a dictator of the right (that is Castro replaced the military dictator Fulgencio Batista).
But I add a few thoughts here:
I’m not Cuban. If I was I would likely have a more personal or intimate reaction. I know he is both loved and hated among Cubans (in and out of Cuba). The hardliners who fled in Castro’s early days, many of the middle class I think, despise him for his anti-capitalist ways and for the fact he took away the private property of a lot of people and nationalized industries. But those people are either dead or getting quite old and a younger generation does not have the history and may even be indifferent to him. In Cuba, people younger than I have known nothing else.
And in one interview I heard, a Cuban said that although she did not like Castro’s politics she admired his swagger and his brand of Cuban pride (and I am paraphrasing).
But for someone like me, and I imagine a whole lot of others, there is just one thing I cannot get past: the man was a murderer. He shot adversaries, sometimes personally I imagine, and via firing squads without trial, even reportedly people who had tried to support him.
In short he was ruthless.
And he left political prisoners languishing in jail — some are still there, ones who have not died after all these decades.
Oh he had charisma, he had style. Loved to wear 1950s-type olive drab military fatigues and had that beard and big Cuban cigar. In later years he took to wearing track outfits (what’s up with that?)but he was a dictator. Dictators and democracy don’t mix. I mean how come only he was in charge for all those decades since 1959 (until he handed it over to his brother a few years ago)? I think they needed term limits.
I understand his two achievements are supposedly improving education (upping the literacy rate) and health care in Cuba. As far as his state-run economy, a disaster.
If some Cubans want to hail the fallen leader as a hero, well fine. But anyone outside of Cuba who thinks he was, is as far as I can see not seeing clearly.
It is interesting how in this country, as an unknown quantity, he fooled so many with his freedom fighter man-of-the people masquerade (and/or charade). I even ran across a video clip of Ed Sullivan giving him a softball interview and gushing over the dashing young man fighting to save his people from a cruel right-wing military dictatorship.
And I recall a cozy interview with Castro by none other than Edward R. Murrow. Watched that on television as a kid with my family. The young Castro was playing the part of a democracy-friendly-to the-U.S. revolutionary fighting to free his poor land from the grip of a harsh military dictatorship (little did they know Castro’s own harsh dictatorship would follow).
You know, the bullets from a Castro left-wing firing squad are just as deadly as from a right-wing firing squad. And the lack of freedom is just as bad in any kind of dictatorship.
But sometimes in desperation or in uncertain times people think a strongman is the answer. And they often will follow one with charisma or chutzpah. And sometimes if one class of people despises another enough or has fear or suspicions of another group and they think somehow the strongman represents them, that brings on tyranny.
Anyway, like an elderly relation of Castro said of his death: “it had to happen”.
He really was not larger than life, but he was colorful I will admit, and deadly.
They are putting him into the ground today (Sunday).
Not to worry, brother Raúl is in charge these days anyway. But with him it has to happen too.
So Cuba might evolve into a modern democracy or who knows? The trend in the world today seems to be toward so-called right-wing populism, which at times seems close to what was once called fascism (just another type of tyranny).