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Fidel calls it a day

Written By: - Date published: 10:09 pm, February 19th, 2008 - 30 comments
Categories: International - Tags:

fidelThe BBC reports that Fidel Castro has retired as Cuban leader. Castro has survived a US-backed invasion, numerous assassination attempts and the fall of the Soviet Union, but after nearly 50 years in power his ailing health finally got the better of him.

His legacy will be a mixed one. Authoritarian rule, human rights abuses and the threat of nuclear terror in the Americas will dog his memory, but he will be remembered by the poor for providing them with education, health and a level of dignity they could not have otherwise expected in a continent where they are often treated like dirt, or worse.

We can only hope Castro’s retirement opens the way for badly needed democratic reforms. So long as journalists are being imprisoned and human rights are being abused, the Cuban revolution will have been a failure.

30 comments on “Fidel calls it a day”

  1. the sprout 1

    let’s hope it also opens the door for the US to stop its petty, anachronistic, draconian embargoes on Cuba

  2. Tane I wholeheartedly agree with your comments in the last paragraph.
    However your claim that castro gave his people dignity is laughable. How many thousands have used anything that floats to try and cross 90 miles of shark infested waters to escape their dignity.
    I have visited Cuba, the poverty is breathtaking and since it stopped being a client state of the USSR it has deteriorated at a frightening pace. if ever a country needed a popular uprising this would be the one.
    Sprout, now that Castro is gone I would hope the USA relaxes sanctions also

  3. the sprout 3

    BB, you’re back! tds at tea?

  4. the sprout 5

    yeah stupid comment, disregard. you do actually make some good arguments.

  5. AncientGeek 6

    Never been to Cuba, although some of my friends have. I remember having some very long conversations with a guy who was hacking the exchanges. Plus of course I’ve read quite a lot about Cuba back to the colonization.

    It will be interesting to see if this does presage change. But I suspect that will depend to a large extent on the US attitudes. Which bearing in mind the forthcoming elections and the importance of Florida, are likely to be slow to happen.

    cap: operating bench

  6. As most of the marieletos and floaters have settled in Florida there is a massive pro cuba but anti castro voting block there. I think diplomatic channels will be running hot to get things moving. The first thing they need to send is vitamins and food. There arre people eating grass in Cuba RIGHT NOW. The infrastructure is hanging by a thread. if migration was free the place would be empty.

  7. AncientGeek 8

    Yes – the economic sanctions have been pretty effective. Not only has the US done a direct embargo, they have also used a lot of pressure on whoever trades with Cuba, including countries like Canada.

    The US has kept them up for over 40 years, not only on direct links, but also on indirect links. To me the real question is if it has been justified. Especially considering that US policies caused a lot of the original issue in the first place. The US actively interfered in the internal affairs of Cuba from the Spanish-American war in 1898 onwards.

    Personally I find the whole standoff one of the most stupid examples of 20th century international politics. The US to my mind has been actively trying to cause starvation in Cuba for 40 years. The question is, how long until the cold war becomes hot.

  8. The Cuban Revolution will always be a mixed bag IMO. Hopefully Fidel’s resignation will see a period of gradual reform which will see Cubans enjoy multi party democracy, the benefits of Western capitalism, AND its universal health and education system. As opposed to the chaos of what happened in Eastern Europe from 1989-91.

    Fidel knew what he was doing. Had he died in office, there would have been chaos…but it looks set to be peaceful period of change….

  9. r0b 10

    I’m no particular fan of Cuba (except for the music). Wouldn’t want to live there. But the accomplishments of that country cannot be written off completely.

    Consider this interesting piece, written soon after hurricane Katrina took out New Orleans:


    Last September, a Category 5 hurricane battered the small island of Cuba with 160-mile-per-hour winds. More than 1.5 million Cubans were evacuated to higher ground ahead of the storm. Although the hurricane destroyed 20,000 houses, no one died.

    The writer compares the Cuban experience with the inadequate preparation, and totally inadequate response of America to Katrina.

  10. East Wellington Superhero 11

    Fifty years as a dictator.

    Seriously, how can you have any sympathy for this guy?
    Please don’t let your rose coloured glasses to blur the fact that this guy allowed nuclear weapons into Cuba so he the USSR could bomb the West.

    I mean do any of you guys believe in democracy? Or is it an end to a means.

  11. Tane 12

    EWS, do try to read the post carefully before launching into your predictable tirades.

  12. East Wellington Superhero 13

    Actually, I did read. And in fact it is your post that is predictable.

    “His legacy will be a mixed one… will be remembered by the poor for providing them with education, health and a level of dignity they could not have otherwise expected in a continent where they are often treated like dirt.”

    His legacy won’t be mixed. It will be terrible. The one thing you try and pass off as a redeeming feature, free health and education, is a joke because if Cuba wasn’t so irrationally socialist and anti-capitalist, the standard of living would be higher there than it is now.

  13. Cuba wasn’t so irrationally socialist and anti-capitalist

    Yes they must be punished for their stupidity! I know let’s put an embargo on them. I’m sure if we get the US on board we they can use their economic muscle to make sure those stupid Cubans starve to death.

  14. the sprout 15

    yeah that’ll learn them for rejecting the american dream

  15. DS 16

    Yes, Fidel’s rule has been a mixed bag. On the other hand, so much of what he did needs to be seen in context.

    Castro was not a Communist when he took power in 1959. He was the leader of a populist uprising against the vicious and corrupt Batista, who was pretty much a puppet of the US (people forget that in those days the US used to treat Latin America much like the USSR used to treat Eastern Europe). Castro’s subsequent nationalisation of US/mafia owned business interests really pissed off Washington, and in the Cold War context, this could only lead to Castro aligning himself with Washington’s rival, the USSR. Hence Castro declaring himself a Communist in 1961.

    (The process of nationalisation that Castro undertook makes for quite a funny little story. Under Batista these corporates had been lying about company value on their tax forms. So when Castro gave compensation for the nationalisation, he gave the corporates the amount they’d said they were worth on the tax form, i.e. a minimal amount).

    Anyway, for all the talk of Castro’s tyranny coming out of Miami (made, of course, by pro-Batista exiles, who were hardly embracers of democracy), his violence was directed to a very large extent at the thuggish mafia-types which characterised the old regime, and at US-based groups that are actively trying to overthrow him (how would the US react to foreign groups trying to overthrow the US government?). For half a century, Castro has been ruling a country a mere 90 miles from the most powerful country on Earth. The US has spent decades trying to assassinate him and invade his country, and has presided over a mean-spirited embargo (which becomes even more ludicrous if you remember that the US happily trades with Vietnam).

    Castro’s not a Nice Guy, but you have to understand that he wouldn’t have survived if he had been a Nice Guy: Salvador Allende proved that in 1973.

  16. the sprout 17

    well put DS

  17. MikeE 18

    My issue with Castro isn’t the fact that he leads a socialist state, or anything like that. Its quite simple. He’s a murderer. How many thousands of people were murdered simply for disagreeing with his politics? Free health and education do not justify the murder of a single innocent person, but hey for the standard, I guess the end justifies the means eh.

    How many people were killed by the military trying to escape the basket case/prison that is cuba, how many more drowned in the process.

    Castro doesn’t deserve respect, he deserves a bullet in the back of the head and a shallow grave. Thousands of Cubans would still be alive if this had happened years ago.

  18. Tane 19

    Free health and education do not justify the murder of a single innocent person, but hey for the standard, I guess the end justifies the means eh.

    That’s pretty cheap MikeE. Read the post again and tell me I’m saying the end justifies the means. There are some (libertarians are especially good at this) who view things in exclusively black and white terms. Personally I don’t think that’s a very useful way of understanding the world around us.

  19. MikeE 20

    Thats weird.

    My other post was magically deleted that said I disagreed with the sanctions against.

    And yes, it was there, and yes CAPTCHA did work, as I saw it posted clear as day.

    Why may I asked was this deleted. Am I not allowed to think that sanctions against the individuals of Cuba is a bad thing?

    Why is the standard selectively deleting comments, which are in no way offensive, and actually agree with one of the points that you guys made?

    [Tane: Mike, your comment was not deleted. I’m not sure on the technical explanation for this, but even if you get the captcha wrong it will show up on your browser. When you refresh it will be gone. I’m sorry the system behaves like that, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I know it’s a hassle, but feel free to post the comment again.]

    [lprent: recaptcha uses javascript to put the post on the page after checking, then it allows it through to the database. It does this so you don’t have a full page refresh after each post. It will *usually* give an error of the screen if it fails. But sometimes it seems to drop the save. Not sure why, but I’m still looking for a workable fix. It has caught me a couple of times.]

  20. Matthew Pilott 21

    The US sanctions are a disgrace. There are decent US citizens who operate out of Florida, and flagrantly violate the embargo, transporting vital medicins.

    I’ll have ahunt for a link, think The Guardian had a solid piece but it may have been some years ago.

    The question is – why does the US Government not prosecute those who violate the embargo, or use the Coast Guard to interdict illegal shipments to Cuba?

    It’s becase, to be blunt, the embargo is a bloody disgrace. The US government knows it will be an abominable look if they interdict humantiarian aid shipments because they disagree with they type of government another country uses.

    I can see the story now: “Yes sorry, the people who need that medicine have to die. Yes, I know it’s rough, but they chose to be Communists… Yes sir, I know that, but there’s this Domino theory, first Cuba, then maybe Haiti, Jamaca could go next and suddenly the US will be surrounded with well armed, dangerous communists – how long do you think our Democracy would last then?”

    I sincerely hope that the US uses this as a face-saving opportunity to relax their embargo.

  21. Ag 22

    Democracy in Cuba would be a waste of time. The openness of such a system would be used against the Cuban people, just as it was used against the Guatemalans, Chileans and Nicaraguans in the past, and probably against Venezuelans recently. It’s all very well to talk about free elections and a free press when you don’t have a hostile superpower with a bad record next door.

    I had to laugh at the comments regarding Cubans leaving on boats. Sure, a lot of Cuban people have attempted to leave for the US. People from poor countries are constantly trying to leave for rich countries. There’s nothing interesting or new about that. However, the number of Cubans leaving pales in comparison to the tidal wave of illegal immigrants from so-called “free” Latin American countries like Mexico, which people conveniently forget when they bring this up. I’d rather be poor in Cuba than in any other Latin American country.

    I’d take Fidel over any of the cretins we’ve had as leaders in recent years. While our country (and other so-called “free” countries) was busy appeasing apartheid South Africa, Fidel was sending soldiers to fight against racism, something that has never been forgotten by his great friend Mandela.

  22. Santi 23

    “Fidel was sending soldiers to fight against racism, something that has never been forgotten by his great friend Mandela.”

    Fidel was only doing the Soviet Union’s (his master) dirty work by sending soldiers to Angola and other African countries. He was nothing but a puppet of the Kremlin.

    His disappearance from the main stage can only be good for the long suffering Cuban people. He’s another fine example of the complete defeat of communism.

  23. DS 24

    “Fidel was only doing the Soviet Union’s (his master) dirty work by sending soldiers to Angola and other African countries. He was nothing but a puppet of the Kremlin.”

    Applying the same logic, New Zealand and Australia were American puppets for sending troops to Vietnam.

  24. Ag 25

    “Fidel was only doing the Soviet Union’s (his master) dirty work by sending soldiers to Angola and other African countries. He was nothing but a puppet of the Kremlin.”

    You obviously don’t know much about the guy.

  25. Only the wackos on the left, could call his legacy a mixed one.

  26. Santi 27

    “You obviously don’t know much about the guy.”

    I know about Castro and his communist regime that mortgaged Cuba to the Soviet union for years. He was a despot, a murderer and a dictator who deserves no recognition.

    I say good riddance, but if you like tyrants …..

  27. DS 28

    “I know about Castro and his communist regime that mortgaged Cuba to the Soviet union for years. He was a despot, a murderer and a dictator who deserves no recognition.”

    Give me a break. If Castro were a rabid free-marketeer a la Pinochet, you’d adore him. The US doesn’t embargo Cuba because Castro’s a dictator (the US has gleefully backed far worse individuals than him – Pinochet for starters), they embargo Cuba because Castro had the nerve to nationalise American business interests. How dare those Cubans get uppity when the US had (quite literally) bought and paid for them!

  28. Santi 29

    If you are driven by a hatred of the US, you’re welcome to like Castro.

    Pinochet was also a brutal dictator (as criminal as your beloved Fidel). I can tell you I don’t admire Piochet either.

  29. DS 30

    “If you are driven by a hatred of the US, you’re welcome to like Castro.”

    I’m not driven by a “hatred of the US”. I just happen to be aware of what Washington used to do to Cuba between 1898 and 1959, and how that shaped the nature of both Fidel’s regime (he wouldn’t have lasted five seconds if he weren’t a dictator) and Washington’s ridiculous embargo. I recognise that Fidel is a deeply flawed individual: what I am doing is placing him within the context of the political environment in which he was operating. You, on the other hand, have simply leapt in and castigated him as a tyrannical left-wing bogeyman, ignoring the complexities of the situation. Do you really think that Fidel (who wasn’t even a Communist in 1959) was some sort of Soviet-controlled robot that overthrew a glorious and prosperous democracy? If so, you are kidding yourself.

    “Pinochet was also a brutal dictator (as criminal as your beloved Fidel). I can tell you I don’t admire Piochet either.”

    Oh, how charitable of you. Imagine admitting that a right-wing hero like Pinochet, who really did overthrow a democratically elected government, and who used to do things like torture poets, chuck people out of helicopters, and perform mass executions in football stadiums, is “as criminal” as Fidel, whose violence has been largely directed at Batista’s thugs (who, frankly, got what was coming) or alternatively at foreign-based and backed groups that, you know, have been actively working to overthrow his government.

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