(Note: The following opinion is the author’s only and does not represent LocoMag as a whole.)
In the long and grueling year that is 2016, many people known for their brilliance, creativity, and humanitarianism have sadly passed away and have left the earth. But a silver lining that has come from this has been the death of former Cuban president Fidel Castro. After the overthrow of the previous Cuban leader, he had ironically ended up with an even worse legacy than his predecessor. Castro’s Communist regime had led to a horrific dictatorship in the country of Cuba; it destroyed their economy, imprisoned homosexuals, and had placed a gigantic trade embargo with the United States that had only recently been relaxed.
Naturally, the death of such a horrendous human being has been met with much jubilation, as a man who has condoned torture and censored all forms of expression and communication should. However, there is still a small minority of politicians and activists who either find a hint of sympathy or outright glorify Castro. While President Barack Obama’s statement doesn’t sound so terrible, the concluding paragraph is absolutely ridiculous. Obama states that, “we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people,” (1) failing to understand that the Cuban people have been forced to suffer in his regime that consisted of violent censorship and enforcing 20% of his people into exile. Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein tweeted a salute to Castro, defining him as a, “symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire,” (2) while ignoring the reign of terror that he had created for the country. Justin Trudeau had released a statement that was arguably offensive, as he prattles on with key phrases like, “it is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President,” and, “we join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader,” (3) implying that Castro was a remarkable leader who cared for the Cuban people. Even Black Lives Matter had issued condolences for the former leader, praising how his revolution should be learned from, ending their statement with the phrase, “Fidel Vive!” (4)
When reading these statements, I felt many different emotions, but most importantly confusion and anger. While I’m all for the importance for diversity of thought and the tolerance of others’ opinions, including political, there are some very severe exceptions to that rule and that includes the defense of tyrannical rulers who share no sympathy whatsoever with the people he rules over. Why are we giving condolences to a man who had incarcerated more of his own people than most modern dictators? Why are we giving sorrow for a man who has created a school system that provides indoctrination instead of education? Why should we learn from a man who sponsored terrorism and allied with many of the worst dictators? Why state, “Fidel Vive!” when Fidel was a man who has never apologized for any of the crimes that he had committed nor stood trial for said crimes? It is ridiculous that we are willingly and unironically offering condolences and giving appreciation to a tyrant who had destroyed the economy and overall living conditions for his entire country. It’s even more ridiculous considering that Obama and Trudeau actually offer condolences with the Cuban people. While Cuba is grieving and upset over the loss of their former leader, it’s important to remember that Cuba is still run by Fidel Castro’s brother Raúl, and many of the ideals that Castro had incorporated in his regime, including the censorship of free speech, are still intact. In Miami, which is home to a large population of Cuban-Americans, there was nothing but jubilation as they came together in Little Havana to celebrate the death of Castro; Cuban-American Isabel De Lara, who was free from the inevitable Castro revolution at the age of 12, explains, “him dying represents the end of something awful that happened to us. It’s actually him – not anybody else – who caused this.” (5)
What really frustrates me the most however just comes down to the fact that this is likely the first dictator that people have generated sympathy towards. I remember no onewas mourning the loss of Kim Jong-Il, and people have acknowledged that Joseph Stalin was a horrific human being, but we’re giving a pass to Castro? And yes, people may say that as a revolutionary he was pragmatic, or that he has given some benefits to Cuba such as free healthcare, but the very simple fact that he has imprisoned the LGBT community, and that he has allied with many other horrific dictators and has been a sponsor for terrorism discounts all of that. It’s absolutely insane that such an inhumane man is being given a pass for what he has done, and I don’t know if this is just some crazy fluke; but if people end up mourning and sharing condolences for Kim-Jong Un, I’ll be absolutely furious and frustrated at such a ridiculous idea.
1 Obama, Barack. “Statement by the President on the Passing of Fidel Castro.” The White House. The United States Government, 26 Nov. 2016. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.
2 Stein, Jill. “Fidel Castro Was a Symbol of the Struggle for Justice in the Shadow of Empire. Presente!” Twitter. Twitter, 27 Nov. 2016. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.
3 Trudeau, Justin. “Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on the Death of Former Cuban President Fidel Castro.” Prime Minister of Canada. The Canada Government, 26 Nov. 2016. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.
4 Matter, Black Lives. “Lessons from Fidel: Black Lives Matter and the Transition of El Comandante.” Medium. N.p., 27 Nov. 2016. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.
5 Alvarez, Lizette. “Miami’s Cuban Exiles Celebrate Castro’s Death.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Nov. 2016. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.