Long-time Communist leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro, is dead at the age of 90. It is believed that the cause of death was complications related to diverticulitis, a debilitating stomach condition he suffered from since 2006.
Although Castro is dead, his legacy of authoritarian government will live on far beyond his death in Cuba. Castro was supplanted by his brother, Raul, who was instilled as President of Cuba in 2008 after Fidel’s health was waning. For many, Castro represented a brutal dictator who fully embodied the evils of totalitarian Communism. To others, he was seen as a Renaissance Man who stood strongly against American dominion and conquest for a great many decades.
Fidel Castro came into power officially when he was installed as Prime Minister in 1959. After successfully disposing the despised US-backed leadership in a bloody revolution, Castro was able to stay in power despite a tremendous amount of intervention from the military-industrial complex. This earned Castro legendary stature in the minds of millions of individuals around the world who consider themselves victims of American imperialism.
Castro stood strong during the Cuban Missile Crisis, an ordeal that almost thrust the entire world into nuclear war. Locked in a conflict with the biggest superpowers the world had ever known, Castro did not budge an inch. He was considered a very dangerous and subversive figure throughout the era by the U.S. government. In fact, when documents detailing Operation Northwoods were declassified in 1997, they showed that the U.S. government even plotted a “false-flag” terror attack to create enmity toward Castro and develop a pretext for a war.
Nevertheless, Castro’s legend is far different that the brass tacks of what he has accomplished as a leader. His human rights violations cannot be ignored, and they continue to this very day under the rule of his brother. Human Rights Watch reports on the many heinous crimes committed under the despotism of the Castro brothers:
“During Castro’s rule, thousands of Cubans were incarcerated in abysmal prisons, thousands more were harassed and intimidated, and entire generations were denied basic political freedoms…
The denial of fundamental freedoms throughout Castro’s decades in power was unrelenting, and marked by periods of heightened repression, such as the 2003 crackdown on 75 human rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists, and other critics of the government. Accused of being “mercenaries” of the United States government, the individuals were summarily tried in closed hearings. Many served years in inhumane prisons, where they were subjected to extended solitary confinement and beatings, and denied basic medical care for serious ailments. More than 50 of the remaining prisoners were released after Fidel Castro handed over power to his brother, most on the condition that they accept exile to Spain.
Under Fidel Castro, the Cuban government refused to recognize the legitimacy of Cuban human rights organizations, alternative political parties, independent labor unions, or a free press. He also denied international monitors such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and international nongovernmental organizations like Human Rights Watch access to the island to investigate human rights conditions.”
In spite of Fidel Castro’s undeniable record of human rights abuses, many world leaders have praised him in the wake of his death. “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,” United States President Barack Obama said. “The Chinese people have lost a close comrade and a sincere friend,” China’s president Xi Jinping said. “A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote in a statement gushing with praise for the deceased Communist strongman.
In stark contrast, President-elect Donald Trump released the following words that put Castro’s death into its proper perspective:
“While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.”