For­ever in­debted to Fidel Cas­tro

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Dr Don­ald Rhodd is a grad­u­ate su­pe­rior of the In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Sciences, San­ti­ago de Cuba, 1985, and a for­mer mem­ber of par­lia­ment and min­is­ter of state. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and don­rhodd@gmail.com.

This is an open let­ter to Pres­i­dent Raúl Cas­tro Ruz. EAR PRES­I­DENT Cas­tro Ruz,

DOn be­half of my wife, Bar­bara, and my fam­ily, I would like to ex­press my sin­cere con­do­lences to you, your fam­ily, and the Cuban peo­ple as you mourn the pass­ing of our beloved Co­man­dante, Fidel. I pray that God’s mercy and grace, which is al­ways suf­fi­cient, will com­fort and heal you all in the en­su­ing days ahead.

On be­half of my gen­er­a­tion, I would like to ex­press pro­found grat­i­tude to the govern­ment and peo­ple of Cuba for a schol­ar­ship, in 1978, to study medicine in Cuba. I wit­nessed daily the sac­ri­fices of the cit­i­zens of your great coun­try, deny­ing them­selves in­nu­mer­able ma­te­rial goods and ser­vices to give tens of thou­sands of stu­dents the op­por­tu­nity to pur­sue univer­sity and col­lege pro­grammes in your beau­ti­ful coun­try.

I ex­pe­ri­enced re­peat­edly the love and gen­eros­ity of count­less fam­i­lies that opened the doors of their homes and shared their meals and warm hos­pi­tal­ity.

That ex­pe­ri­ence was part of the cul­ture shock that many of us ex­pe­ri­enced, hav­ing been told so many neg­a­tive things about Co­man­dante Fidel Cas­tro while we were chil­dren, grow­ing up in Ja­maica.

I was pleas­antly sur­prised, upon ar­riv­ing in the coun­try, that I could take the bus and travel any­where I wanted to go at any time. Dur­ing my seven years of liv­ing and study­ing in Cuba, I vis­ited ev­ery prov­ince and the Isle of Youth. I al­ways felt safe and was never stopped or ha­rassed by a po­lice of­fi­cer.

IN­DEBTED

In ad­di­tion to my med­i­cal de­gree stud­ies, I was given the op­por­tu­nity to rep­re­sent my univer­sity in track and field ath­let­ics; rep­re­sented the Ja­maican stu­dents at civic cer­e­monies; and par­tic­i­pated in vol­un­tary work­days, cut­ting sugar cane and pick­ing cof­fee. All those ex­pe­ri­ences have helped to mould me into the per­son who I am today. I will al­ways be in­debted to Co­man­dante Fidel and the Cuban peo­ple.

You have en­abled tens of thou­sands of in­di­vid­u­als to ac­quire ca­reers in myr­iad pro­fes­sional dis­ci­plines, many of whom are lead­ers in var­i­ous spheres today.

Dur­ing our stay in Cuba, we forged friend­ships with per­sons in ev­ery con­ti­nent since in our class­rooms were stu­dents from sev­eral coun­tries across the globe. This is an en­dur­ing legacy for con­tribut­ing to the creation of peace world­wide.

The re­silience of the Cuban peo­ple was tried, tested, and proven in­domitable dur­ing the chem­i­cal war­fare at­tack on your live­stock in­dus­try, caus­ing you to slaugh­ter and de­stroy all the pigs in your coun­try. I saw, up close, the pain and suf­fer­ing en­dured by hun­dreds of farm­ers and thou­sands of ru­ral folk.

Dur­ing all of those strug­gles, Co­man­dante Fidel was front and cen­tre of your re­cov­ery ef­forts and tri­umphs.

ICONIC HERO

I would like to salute your iconic hero, Fidel, who took his peo­ple from the poverty and ig­no­rance of the Batista regime to a revered coun­try in today’s world, boast­ing some of the high­est lev­els of lit­er­acy and health care.

I salute your vi­sion­ary and coura­geous leader, Fidel, and the Cuban peo­ple who lib­er­ated An­gola and de­feated the South African army, which con­trib­uted to the dis­man­tling of Apartheid.

I salute Co­man­dante Fidel Cas­tro Ruz, a gift from God to hu­man­ity, who, in the lat­ter years of his pres­i­dency, granted re­li­gious free­dom to the Cuban peo­ple, al­low­ing them to wor­ship our heav­enly Fa­ther.

I salute Co­man­dante Fidel for his gen­uine love and re­spect for the poor, not­with­stand­ing his priv­i­leged up­bring­ing.

I thank and salute for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Michael Man­ley for his vi­sion­ary lead­er­ship, which gave me the op­por­tu­nity to not only study and live in Cuba, but also the hon­our of meet­ing this great Caribbean and Latin Amer­i­can hero.

Long live the ideals for which he fought and which he de­fended: peace, jus­tice, re­spect, hon­esty, kind­ness, ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties to the ter­tiary level, First World health care, em­ploy­ment, care of the elderly and the phys­i­cally and men­tally chal­lenged. And above all, he did it with love.

Co­man­dante Fidel, your love for hu­man­ity is your en­dur­ing legacy, which will con­tinue to in­spire mil­lions world­wide.

Hasta siem­pre, Co­man­dante!

Don­ald Rhodd GUEST COLUM­NIST

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