‘One of the great­est his­toric fig­ures of the 20th cen­tury’


Be­low is a per­sonal re­flec­tion on Fidel Cas­tro’s pass­ing by Pro­fes­sor Trevor Mun­roe.

I RE­FLECT on Fidel’s pass­ing, not as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tegrity Ac­tion, but in my pro­fes­sional and per­sonal ca­pac­ity as a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist and as a Jamaican.

In that ca­pac­ity, I have to say that Fidel Cas­tro was one of the great his­toric fig­ures of the 20th cen­tury, a truly trans­for­ma­tional leader of the Cuban peo­ple and a gen­uine friend of Ja­maica, as well as of the wider Caribbean. Be­yond the Caribbean, his­tory shall for­ever record that Cuba, un­der Fidel, played a crit­i­cal role in the ad­vance­ment of the African Lib­er­a­tion strug­gle and, par­tic­u­larly, in the de­ci­sive de­feat of apartheid in South Africa.

Yet, there can be lit­tle ques­tion that his ex­tra­or­di­nary achieve­ments and ex­cep­tional legacy are a mix be­tween the pos­i­tive and the negative.

On the pos­i­tive side, Fidel led Cuba from a tyran­ni­cal dic­ta­tor­ship and ab­ject un­der­de­vel­op­ment to a sit­u­a­tion in which the health and ed­u­ca­tion of the Cuban peo­ple to­day is among the best in the de­vel­op­ing world, rank­ing in some re­spects with ad­vanced economies de­spite over fifty years of an em­bargo on eco­nomic re­la­tions with Cuba im­posed by the United States. In fact, the lat­est United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme 2015 Hu­man De­vel­op­ment Re­port ranks Cuba at 67 of 188 coun­tries, ahead of states like Costa Rica, Mex­ico, Brazil, Do­mini­can Repub­lic, on cri­te­ria re­lat­ing to health, ed­u­ca­tion, in­come and over­all hu­man de­vel­op­ment.


Sim­i­larly, Cuba is rated among the least cor­rupt coun­tries in Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional’s 2015 Cor­rup­tion Per­cep­tion In­dex, re­garded as less cor­rupt than de­vel­oped coun­tries such as Italy and Greece, as well as de­vel­op­ing states such as In­dia and South Africa.

On the negative side, there can be lit­tle doubt that po­lit­i­cal rights and civil lib­er­ties of the Cuban peo­ple have been se­verely lim­ited, par­tic­u­larly the right to free­dom of as­so­ci­a­tion, to form trade unions and po­lit­i­cal par­ties, as well as free­dom of speech.

Only the Cuban peo­ple them­selves, as well as time and his­tory, can make the ul­ti­mate judge­ment as to whether the good out­weighs the down­side of the out­stand­ing achieve­ments of this ex­cep­tional trans­for­ma­tional leader. For us as Ja­maicans, the fruits of Cuba’s friend­ship shall al­ways en­dure in the self­less as­sis­tance to our health and ed­u­ca­tional sys­tems, as well as to our sports achieve­ments through the G.C. Fos­ter Col­lege of Sport Ed­u­ca­tion. And, for me, Fidel’s courage and fear­less­ness in stand­ing up for the vul­ner­a­ble and dis­ad­van­taged shall al­ways be an in­spi­ra­tion. The fol­low­ing is a state­ment by Vice Chan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity of the West Indies Pro­fes­sor Sir Hilary Beck­les on the pass­ing of Fidel Cas­tro.

AN­OTHER OF the bright lights of the 20th Cen­tury Caribbean En­light­en­ment has re­turned to source. Re­turn­ing of souls to an­ces­tral origins for re­newal in or­der to rise and re­turn is a cen­tral part of the on­tol­ogy of our Caribbean world. We have an in­domitable spirit born in op­po­si­tion to op­pres­sion and bred in the trenches of the search for the just so­ci­ety.

Our Caribbean, home to the cos­mol­ogy of sus­tain­able so­cial jus­tice and the pas­sion for liv­ing free, gave birth to this man with a mis­sion. Fidel Cas­tro did not fall short. He ex­celled. A warm


and wise brother, a kind and coura­geous com­rade was he.

The de­mand for self-re­liance and self-re­spect was core to his Caribbean­ness, and like Tous­saint L’Ou­ver­ture before, he did not flinch in the face of ill winds that blew into our world—slav­ery, self­ish­ness, and sav­agery. His heart was em­bold­ened by Sam Sharpe, Busta, the two Nan­nys, of Bar­ba­dos and Ja­maica, and found ful­fil­ment in the mis­sions of Si­mon Bo­li­var and Mar­cus Gar­vey.

The Caribbean sent him forth to free the op­pressed of Latin Amer­ica and South­ern Africa. He sent men and women to bat­tle to end apartheid and to abol­ish big­otry. As far as Viet­nam, this Caribbean, man sent left his spirit of free­dom to reign supreme.

From the moun­tain tops of the Caribbean, we say to the world, let free­dom and jus­tice pre­vail. Let all men and women of good na­ture cel­e­brate this soul of our soil. Let our Caribbean world be for­ever a source of en­light­en­ment for the world in its dark­est times. For­ever Fidel.


In this March 14, 1957, file photo, Fidel Cas­tro (cen­tre), the young anti-Batista guer­rilla leader, is seen with his brother, Raúl Cas­tro (left), and Camilo Cien­fue­gos (right) while op­er­at­ing in the moun­tains of east­ern Cuba. Cuban Pres­i­dent Raúl Cas­tro an­nounced the death of Fidel at age 90 on Cuban state me­dia on Fri­day, Novem­ber 25.

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