After reading some of the letters to The Nation by readers, including one headlined “Castro a devil to some, a saint to others”, I would like to share a proverb in the Spanish language: “There isn’t a person more blind than one who doesn’t want to see”.
I’m aiming to enlighten readers who are passing judgement about Fidel Castro – a man who made history, in Cuba and in the world. I understand that often these people do it out of ignorance resulting from the at-times disgusting manipulation of information by some mainstream media.
On figures of the stature of Fidel, there have been diverse positions throughout history. These deserve to be respected if they are not based on political cowardice or petty political interests; those in the latter category deserve only the contempt of those of us who have an honest opinion.
In order to judge Fidel’s deeds in fairness, it would suffice to consider that, as a law graduate from a wealthy family, he gave up everything and went to the mountains, risking his life in the fight for the liberation of Cuba from foreign domination imposed by a bloody dictator who murdered 20,000 Cubans in six years (1952-1958), and tortured many thousands more.
It is a point to consider that as a fair-skinned citizen in a multi-racial society that Cuba is, Fidel fought for and granted blacks and coloured Cubans the dignity of equality that was denied to them in pre-revolution days – something blacks do not enjoy even today in most multi-racial societies around the world.
From 1952 to 2016 Fidel turned the struggle against imperialism (“domination of one nation by another”) “the true destiny of my life”, showing solidarity (“sharing” in biblical terminology) with the peoples of the Third World – from Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan or Nepal, to Algeria, Peru, Chile, the Caribbean and much of Africa. In recent years, he also made efforts to raise awareness, in Cuba and outside, about peace and disarmament, and the dangers that threaten to make extinct the human species if we do not stop our destructive, irrational way of life today.
His enemies cast all kinds “mud” on Fidel for 57 years (1959-2016), even when he was no longer breathing. What a feast!
Millions of the giant’s “tyrannised” people came on their own to mourn his death; truth be told, there is no camera capable of capturing the sea of mourners who turned out at Havana’s Revolution Square, and all over Cuba for that matter. This, despite the obvious media policy of introducing him as “divisive” and sought to be evidenced by a meagre number of people who cheered his passing. The reality is that for the two and a half million inhabitants of Havana province, the Revolution Square – with a capacity of about a million people – was not big enough for all those who wanted to be there on that evening, as family and friends let us know.
So “cruel” was the revolution led by Fidel that in 1959, when the torturers of dictator Fulgencio Batista were put on trial, only the most notorious of those assassins were sentenced to capital punishment. The witness testimonies came from some of their survivors or their families, which left them with no option other than acknowledge before cameras their horrendous past. Some of the torturers were even forgiven twice after they were sent back from the US during the Bay of Pigs invasion to sow more deaths in the Cuban population. They were defeated, taken prisoners, treated humanely as they themselves have acknowledged before cameras, and sent back. It makes some sense that none of these deeds of Fidel could be to the liking of his detractors like: the empowerment of every Cuban after illiteracy was wiped out way back in 1961, allowing one-tenth of the population that did not even knew what they were voting for to embark on a road to self-improvement. This has made Cuba a power house in education and culture in the Third World.
It would also not be to the liking of his detractors the implementation of a comprehensive and universal healthcare system, or the care meted out to our elderly and children, that accounts for 54 per cent of the country’s total budget but allows Cuba to be among the first in life expectancy worldwide and the HDI (Human Development Index), among others.
It would also not be to their liking that the blood shed by Cubans, and Fidel, were fundamental architects of the defeat of apartheid in South Africa, in the liberation of colonised Namibia, and in showing solidarity towards a continent most discriminated against – as evidenced today by the wave of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean.
So, it is pertinent to ask, who are the real tyrants and, even more, who are the cruel ones? These are objective truths of the history of Cuba, although there would not be enough space for another good part of them to be included.
Victor Daniel Ramirez Pena, The Nation
December 24, 2016
Victor Daniel Ramirez Pena is Cuba’s ambassador to Thailand