En­co­mia for Fidel

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Ewin James Guest Colum­nist Ewin James is a free­lance jour­nal­ist liv­ing in Long­wood Florida. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com

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 .


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, naïve and de­luded Barack Obama, who thinks his de­sires can be­come re­al­ity. He has tried to re­store re­la­tions with the regime with­out Raúl, 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.

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.

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