Fidel is dead and it’s party time

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - Jay Am­brose

— He started out a hero but Fidel Cas­tro was the mod­er­nage plague of Cuba. He mur­dered thou­sands, main­tained poverty, op­pressed the pop­u­la­tion in ev­ery pos­si­ble way and im­pris­oned those who com­plained. Now he’s gone at the age of 90. In Miami, Cuban Amer­i­cans prop­erly threw a party.

This bearded, nar­cis­sis­tic, power-be­daz­zled dic­ta­tor, a lover of Com­mu­nist evil, once upon a time preached lib­erty. That, he said, was his chief ob­jec­tive as he led a widely hailed rev­o­lu­tion to oust the ut­terly cor­rupt Ful­gen­cio Batista, suc­ceed­ing in 1959. The good cheer was ev­ery­where and the wait was on for a con­sti­tu­tional gov­ern­ment. Some­thing else quickly hap­pened.

Fir­ing squads took out men, women and chil­dren. The com­plain­ers did not just go to prison. They were tor­tured. When thou­sands tried to flee, many were killed ei­ther with or with­out ju­di­cial ac­qui­es­cence. Life- en­cap­su­lat­ing so­cial­ist pro­grams were an­nounced, and this being the Cold War era, an al­liance with the Soviet Union was soon enough formed. Not to be for­got­ten were Cas­tro’s hours- long, self- ador­ing or­a­tor­i­cal mis­ad­ven­tures ex­pos­ing his am­bi­tions to man­gle us.

Some Cubans did es­cape to Amer­ica, and Cas­tro sent oth­ers here when he thought they posed threats. He sent armed troops to help the Soviet Union in var­i­ous of its at­tempts to ex­pand po­lit­i­cal en­slave­ment, an­other means of killing off his coun­try­men to no hu­mane avail.

Es­pe­cially given its vir­u­lence, Cuba seemed a smelly, threat­en­ing piece of the Soviet Union sit­ting next door. Aris­ing out of this was the em­bar­rass­ment of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy in the Bay of Pigs de­ba­cle. With in­ept­ness bred by in­ex­pe­ri­ence, he had agreed to back ex­pa­tri­ated Cubans at­tack­ing Cas­tro’s forces on the home­land. When things be­gan to go sour, Kennedy aban­doned an air at­tack pledged to sup­port them. They were then ei­ther killed or im­pris­oned.

Cas­tro was mostly no fool. He eas­ily out­wit­ted inane as­sas­si­na­tion plots dreamed up by U. S. in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions. Faced with a U. S.


em­bargo, he traded Cuba’s su­gar cane with Rus­sia and re­ceived bil­lions in aid. But then, to fight back against an­other at­tack and an­ni­hi­late Amer­ica if he deemed it nec­es­sary, he got the Soviet Union to send him a bunch of short-range nu­clear mis­siles. This led, of course, to the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis that could it­self have led to nu­clear war.

It didn’t, and, over Cas­tro’s fu­ri­ous ob­jec­tions, the mis­siles were re­moved. Here was an is­land dic­ta­tor who helped bring the world close to un­speak­able tragedy, but hey, some say, look at his great achieve­ments in health and ed­u­ca­tion.

What a farce. As has been re­ported by alert jour­nal­ists, the good health care has gone to tourists and the rich in gov­ern­ment, not to the peo­ple at large. To Cas­tro’s credit, the lit­er­acy rate in the coun­try did zoom up­wards, but the lit­er­ate were then taught pro­pa­ganda of a kind that now has the de­ceived mourn­ing in Ha­vana.

Cas­tro fi­nally retired some years back, leav­ing his brother Raul to con­tinue the op­pres­sion and com­pete with Batista for Cuba’s fore­most cor­rup­tion record. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has made a num­ber of deals with him, in­clud­ing a sig­nif­i­cant one this year. He re­stored diplo­matic re­la­tions. Travel re­stric­tions won’t be what they used to be. U. S. banks can help boost the econ­omy.

And the ex­ten­sion of hu­man rights that Cuba agreed to in re­turn? Sorry, but zippo .

aybe a Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump can get Raul Cas­tro to do just a thing or two, such as re­leas­ing po­lit­i­cal prisoners. Per­haps, then, the em­bargo could be lifted. Maybe Cuba would be on a road to pros­per­ity and the lib­erty Fidel Cas­tro had promised be­fore putting his own power first. I wouldn’t count on it.

Fidel has at least de­parted, and, sym­bol­i­cally, that is a good thing, mark­ing a time for cel­e­bra­tion, and not just in Miami. But sadly, very sadly, Cuban to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism is still hang­ing on un­til an­other Cas­tro says good­bye, at least po­lit­i­cally.

Jay Am­brose is an colum­nist for Tri­bune News Ser­vice. Read­ers may email him at speak­to­jay@ aol. com.

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