By EricSimon Horsford
It took 90 years, 3 months and 12 days to do what the CIA could not do. 90 years, 3 months and 12 days to silence a fixture of the socialist movement in the Americas.
He was the champion of Marxist- Leninist socialism in the western hemisphere, the father of modern day Cuba, the consummate villain who posed a formidable ideological challenge to the superpower of our day.
Fidel Castro outlived 9 U.S presidencies from Dwight Eisenhower in the 1960´s to George W. Bush in 2008 and after 9 whole decades of life he will be submitted to the realm history and there the public litigation on his true contribution to humanity will begin.
Indeed, a flurry of facts will be flung and falsehoods will fall out of the sky and the life and times of Fidel Castro will be dissected and analysed with passion on both sides. He will be vilified and glorified with each side having ample evidence to arm their defence. Fidel was a dictator. His actions honoured the very essence of the word.
The man never held a general election. He never trusted in the experience and wisdom of his people to choose their own leader. He never respected the right of his people to exercise their free will and pilot their destiny; to vote him out of office or to maintain him as their president. That was not on the table. He was concerned with other things.
He was engrossed by the second generation of human right laws that rose to prominence towards the end of the 20th century and therefore he surrendered his mind and dedicated his energy and resources to economic equality and social and cultural awareness.
All that was good but human rights are not to be served in pieces, they are to be respected and defended as a combo. This is the reason why Castro´s Cuba locked horns with so many international organisations. The Human Rights watchdog group Amnesty International has recorded alarming incidences of a Castro security apparatus that sought to derail its detractors and cowed his people.
There were severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, movement among people and the creation of trade unions. Under Fidel, Cuba was very much a police state with the government placing a steel hand on its critics. Thousands of cases of government harassment were reported every year coupled with unwarranted arrests and eventual prolonged detentions with no due process.
These are the sound bites we hear from a Cuba run by Fidel Castro. It seemed that the 56 year old trade embargo nourished his resolve as it asphyxiated every other aspect of life on the Caribbean island.
But in spite these damning accusations, Fidel Castro was not all bad. He was not the embodiment of evil; far from it. And no, Cuba did not plummet into a chasm where it remained inactive and inconspicuous throughout Castro´s reign. The story is much more intricate than certain media would like to expound. The fact is; Castro cannot be easily categorised. You cannot attach a one word adjective to him without causing an earthquake of some sort.
His fruit could not be easily identified. It was elaborate in scent and smell and could be utilised in a great deal of ways. If history is to be legitimate, it must show that Cuba made significantly modest strides in the way of education, medicine and sports under Castro´s firm fist. It seems that there was a benefit to having a leader who was overly confident in his own skin and believed intensely in his mission.
This, too, must have played a large part in fuelling the fires of ambition that elevated Cuba to the level of juggernaut in the world of science and sports.
Castro was the dictator who brought literacy, tertiary education, and health care to the masses, irrespective of their social background, creed, ethnic origin and sexual disposition; everybody was cared for, no child was left behind, and no one went hungry. Under his rule, Cuba´s light shone bright in world events like the Olympic Games.
He exported doctors to remote corners of the world to aid the poor and afflicted. He allowed foreigners to come to Cuba to take advantage of Cuba´s educational system. Many disenfranchised people received a university degree because of Castro´s goodwill. He ensured that dignified housing would be available so that every Cuban family would have a place to rest and procreate.
Fidel Castro was the man who wrestled Cuba from the steely jaws of dictatorship and nestled it in the bosom of his brand of autocracy; it proved to be a more humane form of totalitarian rule, but it was dictatorship all the same. A wolf in sheep´s clothing is still a wolf. A pitbull with makeup is still a pitbull. Thus the argument ensues for defenders and detractors alike. Where do you stand on Fidel Castro?
Understanding each person´s opinion is simple: it depends on the tendency of the individual. Does that person value freedom more than they value free health care? Or does that person crave the right to acquire anything and everything based on his or her ability?
Do you believe that government should not be involved in the making of personal decisions? Or is it that capitalism is inherently evil and seeks to eliminate the less productive members from society? All of these questions are bled from a much broader question: How much are you willing to pay for freeness from the government?
Perhaps there may never be a clear cut answer to these questions. Perhaps the argument about Fidel Castro will accompany our social get-togethers well into the future.
These are indeed live and vibrant debates that are beginning to take shape in a post-Castro world. As the two impassioned narratives about him come to a full head-on collision and the debris and dust rise up and eventually consume us, one thing remains impeccably clear and that is: Fidel Castro is dead.
EricSimon Horsford is a citizen of the Commonwealth of Dominica, who is currently reading for a master’s degree in International Relations at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas.