How many times have we heard those words before? The morbid death-watch for this ailing tyrant has seemed eternal, hasn’t it? Turns out this time it’s true. So much has been written about Fidel. So much will be written. The words ‘Fidel Castro’ were trending on twitter all day yesterday. The leaders of the free world were falling all over themselves to express their remorse for the death of a man who once asked Khrushchev to nuke Miami and Washington D.C.
I’ve never really understood the love affair with Fidel. To be sure, during the heady days of revolution I imagine it could have been easy for the weak minded to get caught up. But as the ‘Cuban Revolution’ became increasingly a geriatric club – an old-folk’s home for the wicked – I have become increasingly baffled.
They talk about universal education and health care – the apologists of absolutism do to justify their fawning. Don’t they know that the ‘education’ is mostly repeating memorized slogans from El Che (the T-Shirt mogul)? Sure, Cubans can read. So can everybody else in Latin America – the difference being that in other countries people can choose what they want to read. I mean, let’s be honest, if Cuba had sent a man to the moon, invented the driverless car, created the internet, solved world hunger; produced great diplomats or engineers or scientists. Made anything at all besides a few whiny ‘protest’ songs and the fostering of a sixty year hemispheric temper tantrum – I suppose I’d be a fan too. And their health care – not what it’s cracked up to be. Oh, don’t take my word for it, ask Hugo Chavez (oh, right. You can’t…).
So what really was Fidel’s Cuba? A huge tick – sucking blood for sixty years. First, during the years of the Soviet Union, turning the country into a client state of that defunct system for a few billion dollars a year; enough to keep people fed, well mostly. Then the USSR fell and the tick crawled elsewhere in the desperate search of lifeblood – and those were terrible years, called the “Periodo Especial” in Cuban nomenclature (google it). Rickets, nutritional-deficiency-induced blindness. Starvation. Then along came Hugo – a product of the temper tantrum that paid huge dividends, and the tick latched on. Until Venezuela dried up – this article is the most poignant I’ve ready for a while. But I also wrote one that went viral, “The Suicide of Venezuela” that could have as easily been called a homicide, perpetuated by warden Fidel.
So the dictator is dead. But Cuba is not yet free. That’s happening more these days; the tyranny abides long after the tyrant is dead. I blame the apologists – yes it might even be your fault too, you who have said ‘Ya, but they do have good health care’. So we – those of us who believe in freedom – will keep fighting the geriatric despotism until the Cuban people can choose their religion, the books they read and the countries they visit and the jobs they love and the movies that give them joy. Till they can own property and invest to build a life for their children and themselves. Till they can be free.
And that’s all I have to say about Fidel.