Saturday, November 26, 2016

Castro Is Dead -- What Can You Say About a Dictator?

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.
The Life and Death of Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare Act III, Scene II

Fidel Castro is dead, leaving it to the leaders of world democracies to say a word or two.

John Avlon of The Daily Beast reminds us of some of Castro's accomplishments as Fidel Castro Finally Dies, But His Apologists Live On

History will not absolve Castro for repeated assaults on freedom clothed in populist garb. Whether it was torturing and executing political opponents, rounding up homosexuals, creating neighborhood networks to spy on fellow citizens, or encouraging the Soviet Union to nuke the United States, he was a bully and a thug: the latest in a long line of self-interested opportunists who rule through fear and pretend that it is love.

...His apologists will soon look as foolish as those folks who praised “Uncle Joe” Stalin and Mao’s Great Leap Forward, always arguing that “you’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet”—while skipping over the fact that the eggs in this equation were people.
Che Guevara (left) and Castro, photographed by
Alberto Korda in 1961. Source: Wikipedia

While it is true that Castro took power by toppling a dictator, his rule was itself a dictatorship.
While it is true that Castro took measures that benefited his people, there is a context to those actions.
The singular statement by Obama leaves it to the reader to decide whether Castro is destined for hell or for sainthood:
At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans - in Cuba and in the United States - with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.
Obama's claim that relationship between the US and Cuba "was marked by discord and profound political disagreements" seems more apropo as a description of my home growing up.

Similarly, in his statement the president of the European Commission European Commission,
Jean-Claude Juncker, leaves much about Castro to the imagination:
Fidel Castro was one of the historic figures of the past century and the embodiment of the Cuban Revolution. With the death of Fidel Castro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many. He changed the course of his country and his influence reached far beyond. Fidel Castro remains one of the revolutionary figures of the 20th century. His legacy will be judged by history.
On the other hand, Canada's Justin Trudeau statement about Castro was more straightforward, if less honest:
“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”.
And then there was Donald Trump.
Trump took a different approach in remarking on Castro's accomplishments:
"Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro's legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights," Trump said in a statement.

"While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve," he added.
Whether he will be quite as outspoken as president remains to be seen.
Whether political exigencies will temper a President Trump is a question yet to be answered.

But in the meantime, Donald Trump's comment  does make for an interesting contrast with other world leaders -- especially with Obama who claims that paying billions to a leader in global terrorism like Iran lines the path to peace and stability in the Middle East.

In the meantime, Cubans in Little Havana, who celebrated Castro's death by popping Champagne, finally get the last word:

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