So finally Fidel Castro of Cuba is dead. He was a dictator of the political left persuasion who replaced a dictator of the political right. He was a major world figure if for no other reason than he brought the two world super powers of the early 1960s, The United States of America and the Soviet Union, to the brink of nuclear war over the placement of soviet nuclear missiles just 90 miles off the shores of the USA.
I should know more about Castro, who was 90, than I do, although I have seen images of him, often smoking a cigar, and have heard and read some things about him nearly all my life.
I think I was in fifth grade when he took power in 1959 and my memory was that our teacher seemed to think it was a good thing. He soon turned Cuba into a communist test case (I don’t have any reason to believe my teacher was a commie, it was just thought by many that he might free the Cuban people from tyranny — seems like they were wrong). By most accounts I think the test case failed. The nation spent the next half century impoverished. Did life get better for anyone? I don’t know really. Perhaps it is difficult for communism to thrive in a predominantly capitalist world. I know the capitalist world of which I am part was always fearful it could not survive in a world where communism was spreading — and by spreading I mean more by outside force than a natural will of people. And that is why we had the Cold War.
Recently, the Obama administration moved to normalize relations with Cuba and lift trade restrictions that were a vestige of the Cold War, a tactic that was meant to force Cuba out of its communism and punish it for trying to spread communism throughout Latin America and even Africa.
President-elect Donald Trump has previously indicated he would slow that process down and leave restrictions on.
Okay, I did not intend to write a news story here or a recap of Castro history, I just wanted to comment on the death of Castro. It’s a big thing in world politics.
When I have more time and when I have reviewed all the stories I might write more. But for now I will say that democratic (small d) government is preferable to dictatorships, but when people want to hold on to what they have or are fearful or want to get what they don’t have, they move to dictatorship, to a strong man.
Castro’s predecessor was and army officer who protected the wealthy. Castro came in under the banner of empowering the poor. But I think maybe he mainly empowered his elite inner circle.
It is said that Cuba has good medical care. I don’t really know about that, except the nation offered the George W. Bush administration help in the Katrina disaster, which it turned down, no doubt partly in embarrassment at its own ineptness in a crisis.
(They say the right-wing, fascist dictator Mussolini of Italy made the trains run on time).
And enough people are so dissatisfied with the status quo in the U.S., on the right and left, that we have wound up with what is perceived to be a strongman headed into the White House.
God save us, and say hello to Fidel (or send him south, whatever).