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Cuba
March 3, 2008

Oh Fidel, We Knew Ye Too Well

by
Henry Jackson Society

Executive Summary:

 

1.     The transition from Fidel to Raul Castro is unlikely to bring any discernible benefit to the impoverished people of Cuba, with totalitarian rule remaining in place.

2.     Support for the Fidel Castro regime by sections of Westminster is difficult to comprehend, and extremely regrettable.

3.     It should not be forgotten that Fidel Castro has presided over a dictatorship which has massively restricted democracy and human rights. Fuzzy sentimentalism from certain sections of the Left should not hide this fact.


 

The King is dead; long live the King. Raul Castro being chosen by the Cuban National Assembly to replace his brother Fidel has surprised precisely no one, and it is impossible to imagine that much will change in Cuba despite the departure of one of the world’s longest standing international leaders. Cuba’s appears to be an ensconced dictatorship, although we of course live in hope that some sort of pluralism and genuinely democratic form of government will one day develop there.

The reaction to Castro’s departure in Britain has provided a sub-plot both revolting and indicative of the current intellectual climate, especially on the Left. This is not just the George Galloway Left either, although Galloway being wheeled out for media comment on behalf of whatever fractured, lunatic fringe party he is leading this week is one of the more unfortunate consequences of Castro’s departure. However as events in the House of Commons showed last week, the cult of Fidel has even bewitched some inWestminster. That 69 elected MPs signed an Early Day Motion in Parliament praising Castro’s record on healthcare, education and human rights would be rather amusing were it not so dangerously misguided. This was followed up by the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman proclaiming Castro a “hero of the Left”. It is remarkably indicative of the desire of some on the Left to see past tyranny, repression and cruelty as long as it is in defiance of the US.

It is not possible to stress enough that Fidel Castro is no friend of the Left. Attempts have been made by more discerning sections of the press to raise this, and it is worthwhile running again through Castro’s record. The facts paint a very different picture to the much romanticized version of the ex-Cuban dictator that so many appear to adhere to.

Firstly, if Castro had had his way, nuclear Armageddon would have taken place in 1962, when he encouraged Khurschev to launch a nuclear strike against the US. To Castro,Cuba was worth sacrificing in the greater cause of the socialist revolution. One can only imagine how the world would look today if Khurschev was as trigger happy and fanatical as Castro. This episode alone would normally be enough to condemn most men to a somewhat inglorious political legacy, yet the legend of Castro continues to endure.

Wondrous Cuban levels of healthcare is usually the opening salvo trotted out by those desperate to defend Castro. This is a myth, and one that has already been debunkedby some commentators. That Cuban healthcare standards were amongst the world’s best prior to Castro’s coup, and have since been superceded, is not what his fervent supporters want to become common knowledge. If the healthcare remains so spectacular, it is worth wondering as to why, when Castro required medical treatment last year, Spanish surgeons and equipment were flown into the country to provide it. Not many in the Cuba Castro has kept impoverished will be as fortunate.

Perhaps Harman and the 69 MPs that disgracefully put their name to this EDM should consider the human rights record of this “hero of the left.” The majority of the signatories were from Labour, the party traditionally associated with the trade unions. Castro saw it that independent trade unions were banned in Cuba, and trade unionists imprisoned. They would at least have good company to keep in jail; namelyindependent journalistshomosexualshuman rights activistslibrarians and political prisoners.

Freedom of speech and assembly are virtually non-existent, and access to the internet is extremely limited for must Cubans. These are all hallmarks of a typical totalitarian state, and Cubans have accordingly attempted to vote with their feet. If Cuba was quite as idyllic as many on the Left would have you believe, millions would not have braved the threat of a state sanctioned death sentence in trying to flee the nation, mostly to theAmerica that Cuba’s supporters are so unswervingly critical of.

Perhaps some continue to regard Cuba as a bastion of defiant socialism, an example of a nation that defied an imperialist empire. This is childish naivety. Once the anti-American blinkers are off, it should be clear to all that Castro oversaw a repressive regime, and he was essentially a tyrannical dictator. He should be remembered as such, and it is an obligation to repeat how dreadful his record really is at every available opportunity.