Former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is dead
Fidel Castro is finally dead at age 90 after years of ill health. But the Cuban people are still not free and won't be until every last vestige of his calamitous rule is gone.
Castro was actually just another Latin American thug who came to power promising heaven and ended up creating a communist hell from which millions sought to escape. But he became the darling of the left when he thumbed his nose at the United States, appropriating American property, executing his political enemies, and laying a stifling hand of oppression on his own people.
He tried exporting his murderous revolution to places near and far but rarely suceeded. Acolytes like Che Guevera also became legends, their bloody rampages covered up by a press willing to believe in the fairy tale of a "workers' paradise."
But always, there was a hatred of the United States so profound that anyone who expressed pro-American sentiments was considered a traitor and counterrevolutionary, receiving stiff prison sentences for his thoughtcrimes.
As he changed the face of Cuba, he remapped South Florida as well, transforming it from the southernmost tip of the United States to the northernmost point of Latin America. The suffering of the refugees he sent pouring into Miami eventually turned to triumph as they forged economic and political success.
He was a spellbinding orator who was also a man of action. His tall and powerful build was matched by an outsized ego, boundless energy and extraordinary luck that carried him to victory as a guerrilla leader in 1959 against nearly impossible odds, then helped him survive countless plots hatched by his countless enemies.
He ended American domination of the island’s economy, swept away the old political system and the traditional army, nationalized large and small land holdings and brought reforms in education and healthcare.
He also was a ruthless dictator, the Maximum Leader who reneged on his promise of free elections, executed thousands of opponents, imprisoned tens of thousands, installed a Communist regime and made his island a pawn in the Cold War. His alliance with the Soviet Union brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1962.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was neither Castro’s first nor last confrontation with the United States, though it was certainly the most epic. No other individual has ever tormented Washington more or longer. At age 12, Castro wrote to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, congratulating him on his third inauguration as president and impudently asking for a dollar. By the time he was 35, two American presidents had devoted a considerable amount of time and effort to killing him.
Over and over, whether by arming Latin American revolutionaries or sheltering fugitives from U.S. justice or unleashing great waves of refugees, Castro enraged his great enemy to the north — and often threw it into domestic disarray as well. The U.S. political controversies that followed the 1980 Mariel boatlift and the 2000 custody battle over Elián González played a large role in costing first Jimmy Carter and then Al Gore the presidency.
A man in love with the sound of his own voice, his interminably long speeches – many lasting four or five hours – were drearily the same: U.S. – bad; socialism – good; Castro – great. He destroyed the Cuban economy, ruined its health care system, and systematically oppressed the people with the largest police state in Latin America until Venezuela's Hugo Chávez came along.
I will never ever understand why the left made this murderous tinpot dictator and run-of-the-mill thug into some kind of larger than life hero. So what if he wanted everyone to have healthcare and a job? He never came close to supplying it for his own people and bamboozled the easily bamboozled left into believing he did. High-ranking Communist party members – especially the Castro family – were the only ones to benefit from his and his brother's rule. They had the hard currency to buy luxury items that ordinary Cubans could only dream about. In fact, his regime resembled a mafia family business more than a nation-state.
I hope that President Trump will take a step back from enabling the oppression of what's left of Castro's kleptocracy. Until Fidel's brother Raúl allows the sort of fundamental political freedoms enjoyed by many in Latin America, lifting sanctions and other actions that favor the regime should be delayed.