By Conor Holohan
Fidel Castro, has ended his single-handed ownership of Cuba in the only way he ever would have done so – by dying. Outside of the western world, Fidel Castro is often lauded as a great emancipator. His rule is seen as a stunning victory against US imperialism. However, these two parts of his legacy are hard to reconcile. In emancipating and defending the Cuban people from what he saw as an imperialist capitalist US, he embraced the USSR, and not just in their principle of redistributing wealth, but in their practical element of operating in tyrannical and oppressive way.
Castro led a revolution to overthrow the Bastia regime in the 1950s, which resulted in him becoming Cuba’s Prime Minister in 1959. The promise was to overthrow an undemocratic regime which controlled Cuba like a mafia, but once the revolution had happened, Castro never called a general election again. It is hard to see how replacing one anti-democratic regime with another is progress, but that is the narrative Castro’s defenders would have you believe as they somehow manage to distort the revolution into something which freed the Cuban people. It is clear when you delve deeper into Castro’s rule, that freedom was never awarded; merely, one set of shackles were exchanged for another.
The reality of Castro’s Cuba is actually of political suppression, taking the form of torture, political murder, and other grotesque human rights abuses. His socialist, autocratic regime outlasted nine US presidents, and in an attempt to elevate himself from low-level revolutionary thug to a figure on the world stage, he brought the world to the very brink of nuclear warfare when he agreed to harbour Soviet nuclear warheads in Cuba in 1962.
The flourishing of thought and debate is incompatible with socialism in practice, this is why we see the human rights abuses of Castro’s regime and of the Soviet Union alike. Castro’s defenders point out how he has brought about a revolution of education, whereby many universities and schools were opened and provisions were made for all. Not only is this unjustified when it is at the cost of political violence, but I also fail to see what use any historical or political education would have been to Cuban’s when dissent was a punishable offense.
Needless to say, the university would become just another tool of indoctrination. 54% of Cuba’s national budget was allocated to public services, according to UNICEF, Cuba has the lowest child mortality rate of any of the Americas. I do however struggle to use these points to justify torture, but I suppose in the views of Castro’s lauders; the ends justify the means.
In reality, Fidel Castro was a second rate dictator who brought the world population to the brink of extinction for his own fame and vanity. He made the world a more dangerous place and oppressed his people and expected thanks for it. This was an egotistical regime in principle and in practice, and the reason his funeral will have so few world leaders in attendance, is because they do not – and should not – want to be seen mourning a despotic, autocratic dictator and thug such as Fidel Castro.
Cuba announced that there would be nine days of mourning after Castro’s death.