My Take

Fidel Castro’s death a reminder of American brutality

Cuban leader’s battle cry to end exploitation, inequality and greed still resonates in our age of extreme inequalities

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 1:13am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 1:13am

Can a statement be factual and still be disingenuous and morally reprehensible?

Yes, it can. Just read Donald Trump’s statement on the death of Fidel Castro. The US president-elect tweeted: “[A] brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades, Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”

Few people would deny Castro was a dictator. But it’s hard to see how he was any worse than those countless fascist autocrats Washington have supported in the past half century, first during the cold war and now in the ongoing “War on Terror”.

Castro’s greatest crime, as far as America is concerned, is not so much his dictatorship but that he dared to defy Uncle Sam for such a long time for a leader of such a tiny country. But that also makes Castro a powerful worldwide symbol of resistance against American imperialism.

After the Cuban missile crisis, it would be hard to argue Cuba posed a serious security threat to the US. Yet Washington kept up relentless and brutal sanctions against Cuba for five decades until Barack Obama terminated them. It was simply vindictive punishment against the Castro regime and the Cuban people.

From Miami to Havana, Fidel Castro’s death evokes a mixture of celebration, sadness and uncertainty

During a United Nations debate in 2013 for a resolution to end the US embargo, it was estimated that the sanctions had cost the Cuban economy US$1.126 trillion. Given the socialist economic policy pursued by Castro, Cuba would have been poor without economic reforms. But the US sanctions guaranteed that poverty and isolation were the only possible outcomes for Cubans. Even the member states of the European Union supported the resolution because, in an act of imperial overreach, the decades-long embargo penalised foreign companies that tried to do business with Cuba.

Unlike those right-wing, Washington-backed dictators, the Castro regime provides basic housing, health care, education and pensions for all Cubans. Cuba’s infant mortality rate today is actually lower than that of the US.

But the most grotesque treatment of Cuba by the US has been the more than 600 attempts to assassinate Castro by US military and intelligence agencies. Some attempts were too comical even for self-respecting spy novelists.

Castro’s communism might have been a nightmare. But his battle cry to end exploitation, inequality and greed still resonates in our age of extreme inequalities.