For­ever in­debted to Fidel Cas­tro

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - Don­ald Rhodd

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

DINDEBTED

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 Va­syl Lo­machenko (left) of Ukraine pound­ing Ni­cholas Wal­ters of Ja­maica in a WBO ju­nior light­weight ti­tle box­ing match on Satur­day in Las Ve­gas.

GUEST COLUM­NIST

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