It is not a hoax this time. Ex-President and co-founder of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, died yesterday on the 25th of November, 2016, at age 90. The world is responding as it has for the past 50 + years, just amplified.
International media represents these divided audiences. While millions moyrn a black sheep who challenged against all odds traditional world powers at the heart of the Cold War and beyond, others celebrate the end of an anti-capitalist icon. Some accuse him of heading a leftist virus across the Americas. Others credit him for pushing back other cross-border “viruses”, such as Operation Condor.
In the end, no side has 100% clean hands. However, all sides have a facet of fact and fiction to offer in memory of one of the 20th century’s most influential leaders.
Here are twelve bullet point pillars essential to comprehending pro and anti-Castrismo:
6 PRO-CASTRO ARGUMENTS:
- ECONOMY: Castro Cuba was socio-economically resilient. With Cold War (i.e.: Russia and China) and Pink Tide (i.e.: Venezuela) economic and political aid, it survived 50 years of US embargo.
- LEADERSHIP PROFILE: Castro was also personally resilient. He survived over 600 CIA assassination attempts, from poisoned chocolate milk and cigars to an attempt on a state visit to Panama. He was also the 20th century’s longest serving non-royal leader
- EDUCATION: Castro governance emphasized popular education. By the end of his rule in 2007, Cuba had reached a 99.7% literacy rate, according to the United Nations. It is ranked among Scandinavian countries. In comparison, the US maintains an 86% literacy rate.
- HEALTH: Healthcare is 100% free, compared to predominantly private health institutions under predecessor Dictator Fulgencio Bautista. The number of doctors also increased dramatically, and have been sent on humanitarian missions across the Americas and world, providing more medical aid than all G8 countries combined – aka “Cuban medical internationalism”. Such endeavors have earned the Castrista governments credit across many parts of the developing world.
- POLITICS: Castro supported his brother, Raul Castro’s, normalization of US relations in 2015, claiming that times were changing, and Cuba needed to change, too.
- STRATEGY: Castro represented an alternative political pole to US, NATO, IMF and World Bank-backed association – aka the “Non-Aligned Movement” – within Latin America, and beyond. He was a life-long icon of anti-imperialism, socialism, and to some, humanitarianism…for better or for worse.
6 ANTI-CASTRO ARGUMENTS:
- SECURITY: Castro led the world to the brink of nuclear war. The Cuban Missile Crisis was essential to the height of the Cold War. As a means of strategy, he asked the Soviet Union to place ballistic missiles on Cuban territory in 1962 to stop US economic and political influence on the island.
- POLITICS: Castro governance was infamous for opposition control, including the alleged killing and jailing of non-compliant journalists, union leaders, alleged foreign-allied spies and politicians – domestic and abroad.
- HEALTH: Certain entities argue that the Castrista healthcare legacy is overrated. Many former-Castrista Cuban doctors claim to have been under-paid and infrastructure quality low. Others allegedly could not pass the Chilean medical board.
- ECONOMY: Anti-Castristas criticize Castrista Cuba for many shades of oppression, including in technological advances. Old cars are classic examples, but not exclusive. Expensive and regulated internet and travel restrictions also joins the list.
- LEADERSHIP PROFILE: Anti-Castristas criticize Castrista Cuba – under both Fidel and Raul – of utilizing regional state alliances and non-state actors beyond democratic boundaries. Regarding Venezuela, some anti-Castristas argue that Chavista Venezuela provided aid and resources to Cuba when those essentials could have been used locally. More vehement opposition claim that the Castros “puppet” the Chavista administrations via ideological means. Castristas and Chavistas strongly counter these accusations, asserting that mutual support is part of “regional unity efforts”.
- HEALTH and DEVELOPMENT: Heavy infrastructure deterioration of cultural and public establishments.
In early 2016, Fidel Castro gave a rare speech on the final day of the country’s Communist Party congress.
“I’ll soon be 90,” the former president said, adding that this was “something I’d never imagined”.
“Soon I’ll be like all the others,” Fidel Castro said, suggesting his “turn” to pass away was coming.
During his time in power, as well as after resigning to his brother, Fidel met hundreds of heads of state and religion. Many are long passed, some expected – such as Khrushchev, Pope John Paul II, Garcia Marquez, Reagan, Peron, Arbenz, Bautista, Allende, Kennedy, and Guevara – and others Fidel expressed surprise to have physically outlived – specifically Chavez.
All named individuals have the commonality of a legacy that outlived their bodies.
Fidel Castro’s legacy – via political, cultural, economic, health, development, strategy, leadership tactics, security, education and other aspects – will undoubtedly continue to influence his country, people and predecessors for decades to come.