Sunday, November 27, 2016

Fidel Castro:The Death of a Revolutionary Giant



I knew something was wrong when Fidel Castro wasn't able to meet with Justin Trudeau, during his recent visit to Cuba.

I knew Fidel had to be very ill not to meet with the young man he helped console while acting as an honorary pallbearer at his father's funeral.

And sadly I was right, for now it is the Cuban people who must bury their legendary leader.



And like millions of people in Cuba and all over the world, I mourn his passing. 

For whatever anyone might think about him, and although he lived on a small island, he was a giant on the world stage for almost fifty years.

So Justin Trudeau was right to praise him, and offer his condolences. 

“Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation. 

 “While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for “el Comandante”.


We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.”

And the reaction of Cons like Rona Ambrose and Lisa Raitt never sounded so petty or so pathetic.

Opposition leader Rona Ambrose said in a written statement that under Castro's rule, thousands of people were impoverished, imprisoned and executed. 

"My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Cuba who continue to endure his long and oppressive regime, even after his death," she wrote.



Rushing out to recite their Republican talking points, claiming he wasn't a remarkable leader when he clearly was one. Lying like thieves or Trumplings. 

And failing to acknowledge the long and great friendship between Cubans and Canadians. A friendship that honours us not shames us.

And the reason I say this is because I know and love that island. I have visited it many times.

And not just because of its beautiful beaches...



I have travelled all over it, I speak fluent Spanish, I understand what Castro meant to his poor but proud people. And this is how I would sum up his legacy.

He was a dictator, but he was not a cruel and bloody one like so many other dictators in Latin America. And unlike them he lived in the heart of his people.

He made many mistakes, but he owned up to most of them. Like his decision to send gay people to to be "re-educated" in labour camps in the early seventies.

Which he soon ended, apologized for, and lived to see Cuba become a place where gays enjoy more rights than they do in many U.S. states.,,



And where unlike on other islands in the Caribbean, they don't have to worry about being assaulted or murdered by violent homophobes.

But the reason I admired Castro the most was because he gave his people free education and free medical care. So Cuba is one of the only places in Latin America where children don't die of disease or starvation, for the "crime" of being poor.

Because even when times were really hard, the Cubans always made sure the children had the best they could give them...



So today they are some of the healthiest, happiest, and best educated children I have ever seen.

And not only did Castro's government provide his own people with enough doctors, Cuba now exports doctors to other poor countries like Haiti and many others... 



Which is a shining example of the internationalism Fidel always promoted.

I also admired him for the way he raised up the status of women, fought the scourge of racism. And sent troops to battle the apartheid regime in Africa.

And of course I admired him for the way he stood up to the U.S. bullies, who crippled his country with their savage sanctions, and tried to kill him over and over again. But never defeated him, or broke the spirit of his people.

I know that because I have seen the crushing poverty many Cubans have been forced to live in because of that cruel 60-year embargo...



I've sat in tin shacks in the countryside and listened to Cubans describe the struggles to get this or that from stores with too many empty shelves. I've heard the young complain about the lack of proper internet access.  

I've seen university students being driven home from school in the back of a dump truck, holding up a tarpaulin to shield themselves from the driving rain, because as the signs by the side of the road explain, the U.S. embargo costs the country the equivalent of five buses a day. 

So there are none for them. 

But never have I ever heard anyone blame any of this on Fidel Castro. Who inspired them to believe that they might be poor, but should be proud of what they had managed to accomplish together. 

And proud of their history of resistance to the giant American bully next door.



Which inspired many other developing countries in the world to do the same thing.

But what I have heard the Cuban people say many times, is how grateful they are to the Canadians who never deserted them, despite all the pressure brought to bear on their governments by the bullies in Washington. 

Which makes me feel proud of my country, and utterly disgusted by the behaviour of the ghastly Cons and their stooges in the media. 

Finally, I offer up this small observation that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere in all the coverage of Castro's death, but I think does say something about the man...



In a country dotted with thousands of murals or roadside billboards commemorating revolutionary heroes like Che Guevara, or Camilo Cienfuegos, or student leaders who were murdered by the dictator Fulgencio Batista, there are almost no posters of Fidel Castro.

No cult of celebrity for a living god, who lived in a modest bungalow, and never lorded his power over his subjects. But did drop in on them out of the blue, to cheer them on, and offer suggestions about everything under the sun. 

So yes, Fidel Castro was a dictator, and his overactive security service did jail too many dissidents. But he was a different kind of dictator, who was shaped by his times and the long war the CIA waged against him, and one who lived in the hearts of his  people. 

And from everything I've seen and heard governed with their consent. 

They did indeed love their Comandante...



So Justin was right to offer the Cuban people our condolences. 

And I am absolutely convinced that history will not only absolve Castro as he once famously declared while on trial for his life, it will celebrate him.

Long live the great friendship between the Canadian and Cuban people.

Viva Cuba. Viva Fidel.

Hasta la victoria siempre...



39 comments:

  1. Although I have never visited Cuba myself, I know many who have and I have never heard one negative comment from any of them.

    People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones!

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    1. hi Kathleen...Cuba is a beautiful island, its people are very friendly. And every winter it's practically invaded by Canadians...

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  2. Thanks Simon for pointing this out, Cuba's problems have always been entirely the making of the US and ironically, treated its citizens better with fewer resources. Most Amercians are left to fend for themselves while the greed embodied by the likes of Donald Trump, consumed the dollars necessary to educate and provide much needed health care to the dirt poor folks in the "fly-over" states. It is they, who have blood on their hands today and directly responsible for the poverty of Cuba's citizens. The flashlight has surely been fully shone on the garbage that is the con-ideology and the shit for brains leaders//whanna-bees that infest its landscape. Trudeau did the right thing and hopefully he does not cower to the pressure, he owes nobody an apology.

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    1. hi bcwaterboy...thanks, I felt I just had to say it. I has always angered me to see what a terrible toll that U.S. embargo has had on the Cubans, and it moves me enormously to see how much they have been able to do with so little resources. I have always been proud that we never broke off relations with them, and I too hope that Justin Trudeau isn't cowed by those Cold War Cons...

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  3. Cons will never grasp the concept that freedom from is more relevant than freedom for. If they looked at the Carribean, Central America and even South America, its clear Castro made the shinning becon on the hill, not the CIA death squad puppets.

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    1. hi Steve...because I have seen terrible poverty in other parts of Latin America, I am always incredibly impressed by what the Cubans have managed to accomplish even though they are a poor country. And they deserve so much better...

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  4. http://albertapolitics.ca/2016/11/come-bury-castro-not-praise-unpacking-conservative-fury-pm-justin-trudeaus-condolences/

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  5. Anonymous9:11 AM

    Well said Simon. The rich and powerful in the US couldn't stand the thought that Cuba wasn't their island to abuse anymore like they do Haiti. He was a great revolutionary and leader.

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  6. The truth is both sides are right, Castro did much on the health and education fronts, but his oppentents are right as well that he committed human rights abuses, and people murdered, committed acts of censorship, and all sorts of things worse then Harper or Trump ever would.

    So yes Castro was a Belevent Tyrant, but he was still a Tyrant, he wasn't a hero, but rather a villian who did alot of good in the world, despite his villiany.

    Antidemocracy Tyrants are never acceptable or excusable.

    That doesn't mean you ignore his achievements such as education and healthcare, but you also should never ignore his victims either or his abuses nor should they be under played.

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    1. all sorts of things worse then Harper or Trump ever would.
      You must be joking. Harper would have done any of the things Castro did, given the chance, but luckily our institutions were "just" strong enough to restrain him.

      The jury is still out on Trump but Castro was a humanitarian driven into a corner by the USA; Trump is likely to do anything for good headlines or a profit.

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    2. hi Gyor...I don't deny that Castro ruled with a heavy hand especially in the years following the revolution. But him and his country were constantly under attack from the CIA and others, so that has to be taken into account. And I consider child starvation an act of violence, so compared to other dictators in Latin America he is no villain...

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    3. Anonymous9:57 AM

      When you say he "had people murdered", if you're referring to the executions carried out after the Revolution, they were universally mafiosi or Batista collaborators. Really despicable people. Not going to shed too many tears for them.

      The criticisms of organizations like Human Rights watch focus on his suppression of political dissent and censorship. He jailed a lot of his opposition unfairly, which is the most damning thing to me. But let's not pretend he was gunning down protestors left and right. The US was doing that in Cuba's island neighbour, Puerto Rico (read up on the Ponce massacre).

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  7. John B.11:22 AM

    Just Not Our Kind Of Dictator

    Trudeau should understand that there are situations where the human rights record just can't be ignored.

    Meanwhile, from the heart of the Central American non-Communist Bloc:

    From: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/honduras-guatemala-el-salvador-form-block-mexico-deal-trump-1592082

    November 17, 2016

    "The Central American nations of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have said they are to form a bloc with Mexico to deal with president-elect of the United States Donald Trump. The construction mogul's election to the White House has been particularly worrisome for Latin American nations, the US' neighbours to the south. ...

    "Reuters reported that on Wednesday (16 November 2016) – the day after a regional meeting in Honduras – Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras released a joint-statement asking their respective foreign ministries to collaborate on jobs, investment and migration in order to deal with the incoming Trump administration."

    So, have we got this straight?

    While refugees from Communist Cuba have been, and will most certainly continue to be, the most welcomed foreign exiles that America will accept, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador - three of the Latin American countries that the great Saint Ronald Reagan saved from Communism and the three that its citizens seem now to be the most eager to get out of - are now concerned that President Trump will lump their potential expatriates in with the rest of the second class Latinos from Mexico (the drug dealers, criminals and rapists) and assign them to the exclusion bin.

    Well, with the CIA having lost some interest, I guess they'll just have to keep dealing with the labour activists and campesinos practically all by themselves. At least Trump hasn't threatened to stop sending them the bullets.

    As always, those principled and dependable activists - Ambrose and Raitt - sure know how to pick the right situation to get themselves in a lather over human rights. Almost "politically correct", I'd say, if I didn't know that no respectable Con could ever be accused that heresy.

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    1. hi John...Compared to what happened in places like El Salvador and Guatemala where hundreds of thousands were slaughtered by U.S. backed forces, Cuba is a model of human rights. People in that country have been arrested for no good reason, but at least they aren't tortured or killed like they were in other countries in Latin America. The way the Cons talk about Cuba you'd think it was some kind of murderous hell hole,
      when it definitely is not...

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  8. Anonymous11:35 AM

    I think this is one of my favorite posts you've made Simon. My dad keeps trying to get me to visit Cuba but my crippling anxiety has prevented me from doing so. Maybe if I can quit drinking for a bit I'll have the courage to go.

    -MC

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    1. Anonymous6:22 PM

      You sound a lot like me. From my understanding lots of heavy drinking goes on in Cuba by visitors. The Canadians and Europeans must be reasonably behaved though otherwise we'd hear about it. Many of the vacation packages booze is included and a bottle of Cuban rum is only 4-5$

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    2. hi MC...thanks I'm glad you finally liked one of my posts. ;) You should go to Cuba, it's a very relaxing place, and the safest island in the Caribbean. It is however probably NOT the place to quit drinking, because on many holiday packages the booze is free, so I've seen Canadians heading for the bar right after breakfast...

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  9. Anonymous12:03 PM

    Thank you for a very moving post Simon. In spite of years of assassination attempts and a constant effort to starve the country of basic needs, the Cubans under Castro persevered. They would not let themselves become another puppet nation of the USA. Good for them.
    When I see tweets from twits like Rona and Lisa and the other Cons foaming at the mouth with rage at JT's statement, your quote "Rushing out to recite their Republican talking points" hit the nail on the head. These idiots cant think for themselves.
    It reminded me of another Con twit howling with rage when Jean Chretien declined to join the invasion of Iraq. Yes, Stephen Harper would have been all in in Iraq based on the lie that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Thank God that idiot wasn't in power for the death toll of our troops would have numbered in the thousands. And the result of George W's invasion, millions killed, the rise of ISIS and a middle east now at the breaking point. Yet another dismal failure in US foreign policy as was their failure to impose their will on Cuba.
    To Fidel's family and the people of Cuba, my deepest condolences. RIP Fidel.
    JD

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    1. Have you ever considered that George W. Bush was an Al Quaeda agent? I mean, every step he took from 9/11 to the invasion of Iraqi supported the jihadist cause.

      I must admit I feel a bit like I did at the death of Churchill. A passing of one of the greats.

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    2. hi JD...thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. It really annoys me to see how the Cons are using that Cold War rhetoric imported from the U.S. to make it sound like Cuba is some kind of gulag. I'm proud that we did not abandon the Cubans, and that we parted ways with the Americans on Cuba and Iraq. The good news is that millions of Canadians have visited that island so they know that the Cons don't know what they're talking about. So I doubt their hysterical posturing will get them anywhere...

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  10. Anonymous12:52 PM

    A bit too sugar coated for my liking but certainly a lot closer to reality than the con/gop interpretation. He did some amazing things for Cuba and outlived American Democracy.

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    1. hi anon...I didn't have the space to nuance my views about Cuba, but I did want to point out its achievements, and Castro did inspire his own people and many others all over Latin America to stand up to the Americans. And the fact that he was able to do that in the shadow of the giant next door is remarkable...

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  11. Anonymous5:02 PM

    I wonder about the American companies that were kicked out of Cuba. Sheritt International a Toronto based mining giant was allowed to stay. So obviously they had a different rapport with the communists? The cons are like paper tigers. Watch how fast they shut up if it looks like they are jeopardizing the Cuban\Canadian mining company deal

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    1. This is going from long-ago memory so it's a bit iffy but I believe the US companies were ordered to get out rather than deal by the US government who assured them everything would be back to normal in a jiffy. They were also ordered not to accept compensation for confiscated property (see jiffy above).

      Of course, no foreign company wanted to accept compensation based on book value since under a regime as corrupt as Battista's the correspondence between book value and real value was just a wee bit tenuous.

      Sheritt International presumably under no serious political pressure at home would have taken a pragmatic approach (and may have even paid taxes!).

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  12. Anonymous6:15 PM

    Trump and the "alt-right" scare the hell out of me. Now you people, with your dewy-eyed adoration of the dictator Castro scare the hell out of me too. I'm starting to think I might be living inside a very elaborate but sick practical joke...

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    1. hi anon...I don't think what I wrote is dewey-eyed adoration of anyone except perhaps the Cuban people. Castro was a dictator, but he was no murderous monster. As I said in my post he governed with the support of his people, and despite a cruel embargo he did make the lives of his people better. So that's something...

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    2. Anonymous12:24 PM

      Oh, his regime has killed plenty of people, you can be sure of that. Maybe not as many as Stalin, but certainly more than Steven Harper ever did. And imprisoned plenty more. And kept the rest in poverty. And created thousands of refugees. He no more governed "with the support of his people" than any other unelected tyrant. It's really been quite unedifying to see the Canadian left let its mask slip in the past few days...

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  13. James8:08 PM

    with free education for the children and the people, as well as free health care in a poverty country.most of our provincial so called leaders are purposely undermining our education and health care in this country especially here in BC is a disgrace.our corrupt effing politics can not hold a candle to Castro.
    Thank you for the wonderful blog Simon.I am still disappointed. with Trudeau. he will still sell us out.It seems to be a given, we may end up like Greece

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    1. hi James... yes it's amazing how well educated and healthy the Cubans are despite their lack of resources. I would really like to see some of their medical teams working to help heal some of our aboriginal communities. And even our modern country could learn from the idealism of many of their doctors and teachers. As for Justin Trudeau
      let's hope you're wrong. But we live in crazy times so I suppose anything is possible...

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  14. Castro, probably, was a dictator though most of the people who are telling me this are Americans and I am not likely to believe much from American propaganda about Cuba.

    But, conceding that he was that rather than the autocratic head of government, I wonder if he would have been if his Revolution had not been under attack from the USA almost immediately. The country has remained in a state of siege for 50 years with US presidents and politicians vowing to destroy Castro each election cycle. Some little things like this may encourage autocratic behaviour in defence of oneself and one's country.

    It was clear that the USA was out to destroy the Revolution and return the island to US peonage. And, on a personal note, the CIA ineptly continued to try to assassinate him.

    Putting all this together he may well have been driven in both the defence of the Cuban Revolution and his own self-defence to start becoming more dictatorial until it stuck.

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    1. hi jrkrideau...I would describe Castro more as a caudillo than a dictator. Part of the problem is that the state security service was at war with the CIA and its agents for so long it still operates with that mentality. And I truly believe that siege mentality also pushed Castro to be more authoritarian than he otherwise would have become. How many countries could have survived a 60-year war and emerged unscathed? And the tragedy is that the Cubans are the most American of all the people in Latin America i.e. their love of baseball instead of soccer. So it was all so unnecessary. If the U.S. hadn't been so fixated on dominating that country it could have been a much happier story...

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  15. In 201, the US military budget was 585.5 BILLION dollars.

    If you even cut the US military budget by 10%, that's 58.5 billion each year that could be used to reduce the US national debt (presently closing in on $20 trillion), job creation, education, health care, infrastructure, roads & bridges, etc.

    Healthcare would be FREE for every person in the US. It boggles the mind that the richest and most powerful country on earth still had over 40% of its citizens WITHOUT any health insurance at the time Obama became president (2008). However imperfect Obamacare is, he at least made a start, despite the push-back from the Republicans, who really have no detailed health care plan at all.

    I laugh when Republicans say "We need to rebuild our military". Spending $585.5 BILLION per year isn't enough?

    Eisenhower's "Military-Industrial Complex" Speech Origins and Significance
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gg-jvHynP9Y

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  16. In 2015, the US military budget was 585.5 BILLION dollars.

    If you even cut the US military budget by 10%, that's 58.5 billion each year that could be used to reduce the US national debt (presently closing in on $20 trillion), job creation, education, health care, infrastructure, roads & bridges, etc.

    Healthcare would be FREE for every person in the US. It boggles the mind that the richest and most powerful country on earth still had over 40% of its citizens WITHOUT any health insurance at the time Obama became president (2008). However imperfect Obamacare is, he at least made a start, despite the push-back from the Republicans, who really have no detailed health care plan at all.

    I laugh when Republicans say "We need to rebuild our military". Spending $585.5 BILLION per year isn't enough?

    Eisenhower's "Military-Industrial Complex" Speech Origins and Significance
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gg-jvHynP9Y

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    1. hi David...as you know my heroes are healers not killers. So seeing a country that can spend more than $500 billion on its military, but may be about to throw 20 million people off medicare, horrifies me beyond belief...

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  17. Trudeau's Castro comments send mixed message on human rights
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-castro-human-rights-message-1.3870396

    Amnesty International uses different language. While also praising increased access to public services, it notes "Fidel Castro's 49-year reign was characterized by a ruthless suppression of freedom of expression." Hundreds of people have been detained just for expressing dissent or defending human rights, Amnesty said.

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  18. Thank you for this post. I was shocked at the sheer ignorance of historical fact the Cons have coupled with their determination to make statements equivalent to that of a spoiled brat where name calling is their mantra. Arrogance mixed with stupidity breeds contempt.

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  19. hi Adam's Dad... you're welcome. I too am shocked by how ignorant the Cons are sounding. And how American. We Canadians should march to the sound of our own drum, and the Cons should stop reciting their Republican talking points...

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  20. Anonymous7:33 PM

    I eagerly await the death of the next superannuated monster, one Robert Mugabe of Harare. Though not so eager to read the accompanying saccharine eulogies that will no doubt issue from Montral Simon and friends.

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  21. e.a.f.8:00 PM

    I am truly saddened by Fidel Castro's death. He accomplished much providing free health care and education to the citizens of his country. something not many countries in the world have been able to do.

    he stood up to the U.S.A. and was still standing. Not bad for him and his small country.

    Castro wasn't perfect and he was a dictator, but there were plenty dictators around the world who did business and were "friends" of Canada and the U.S.A. Castro make life much better for the majority of his people. What is also remarkable is that in his country there were no wars, unlike so many others in Central America. Did not develop the drug cartels Mexico did. Was not as corrupt as many of the American "friends" in south America and the middle east. Castro's one "flaw" is he stood up to the U.S.A. and his country survived. He held his country together against all odds.

    I'm sorry he is dead.

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