Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Ewin James | Encomia for Fidel

Published:Monday | November 28, 2016 | 11:00 AM
In this 2005 file photo, then Cuban President Fidel Castro (right) makes a comment to then President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Hugo Chávez (left), much to the amusement of then Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.

Amid proper rejoicing over the death of Fidel Castro and hope for surcease from tyranny for the Cuban people, encomia are coming thick and fast for the dictator. Many are for his defiance of the mighty United States. Which prompts me to ask: is it a great achievement to defy the US and outlive 11 of its presidents as Castro did? Further, is defiance exerted to promote oppression and tyranny something to praise? Sadly, many persons praising Castro are citizens of the US.

Why would you want to praise someone who defied your country - the bastion of economic prosperity and freedom - for resisting giving what you enjoy to people who deserve it?

Many of those heaping encomia on Fidel will deny that they hate America and love the tyranny of Fidel, but what else can rational persons conclude?

Let us remind ourselves of the man many are praising. In 1959, he overthrew the government of his country led by Fulgencio Batista; he didn't wait for elections or work for the system to change so there could be a peaceful transfer of power - he simply took things in his own hands and killed scores of his countrymen in armed rebellion.

Then he began to reduce Cuba to a socialist dystopia. He slaughtered and imprisoned those who had supported Batista and who were against his revolution; and he expropriated property, causing many investors to flee the country.

So as a matter of principle, the United States began to resist him and he turned to the Soviet Union, which was only too happy to embrace him not only to establish communism in Cuba, but also to do so in the wider Caribbean, on the doorstep of America.

Fidel began to control every detail of Cuban life. He dictated where Cubans lived, what they ate, where they studied and what they studied; who dared to resist were killed or imprisoned. He did so while living an extravagant lifestyle.

He had an estimated net worth of nearly a billion US dollars. A former bodyguard of his, Juan Sanchez, who published a book in 2014 titled Castro's Hidden Life, said Fidel had his own private yacht, a luxury private island and enjoyed top-of the-line Mercedes-Benzes sent directly from Germany. All this while Cubans can't get basic food supplies and drive cars made in the 1950's .

 

IMPOSED SANCTIONS

 

In1961, President Dwight Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba and began to impose sanctions. His successor, John Kennedy, extended the embargo to almost all goods to the island in 1962. This was done not to punish the Cuban people, as many critics of the US and supporters of Castro insist, but to force Castro to relax oppression. It was to no avail. If anything, he increased oppression at home and spread communism abroad in many countries in Latin and as far away as Africa.

American presidents since Kennedy have rightly stood on principle, refusing to end the embargo and restore relations with the regime. But then came the unprincipled, naÔve and deluded Barack Obama, who thinks his desires can become reality. He has tried to restore relations with the regime without Ra?l, the brother of Fidel, lifting a finger to end the suffering of the Cuban people.

Obama has rescinded the designation of Cuba as a terrorist country, reopened the US Embassy in Havana, increased travel from the US to the island, and will increase trade.

What has America and suffering Cubans got in return? Next to nothing. A few days after Obama's visit to Cuba, a frail Fidel denigrated Obama's efforts at making peace and said Cuba didn't need anything the US was offering. According to the New York Times, in April Fidel made his last public appearance and said, "Soon I will be like everybody else. Our turn comes to us all, but the ideas of Cuban communism will endure."

It is this defiance that people are praising - the wicked determination to deny people their God-given freedoms while asserting a right to enjoy yours in an extravagant lifestyle provided by the very people whom you oppress. They're praising the resistance to all efforts to allow a people to choose to determine their own destiny by exercising their franchise at the ballot box. They're praising defiance coming from a man who has sent his benighted votaries abroad to nations to crush the efforts of people to live as God intended all of us to live.

Sadly, many of those praising Fidel, who overstayed his welcome among us, do so while living a life the Cuban people can only dream of, for Fidel destroyed the possibility of such a life ever becoming reality.

Pardon me, but they don't give a damn about what is right or the suffering of the Cuban people.

- Ewin James is a freelance journalist living in Longwood Florida. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com