How Should We Grieve Fidel Castro?

By Beatrice Pignatelli

Photo by: Williams Cruz Perdomo
Photo by: Williams Cruz Perdomo

HAVANA TIMES – My husband’s phone rang at 2am. A quick glance at the country dialing code, +53, jolted him out of his haze; an unexpected call in the early hours of the morning has more often than not proved to be the bearer of bad news.

He answered the call, from the other end of the line, we recognized the excitable voice of our former neighbor recounting Raul Castro’s televised speech, confirming the news that no one believed would ever be true: se murió Fidel, Fidel has died.

Parallel scenarios played out across all four corners of the globe, as the Cuban diaspora’s (now 2.4 million strong) facetimes, whatsapps and imos started to buzz incessantly. The cradle of the Cuban exile community in Florida, concentrated in Miami and the Cuban epicenter of Hialeah, quickly gathered outside the emblematic Café Versailles. The area was ignited by the honking of horns, banging of pans, fireworks, flags and other forms of patriotic paraphernalia.

The news travelled like wildfire and by the next morning, Cubans scattered over the world had entered the online debate. What started as initial shock has quickly converted to name-calling and finger-pointing counteracted by lamentations and tributes. Words like “draconian rule”, “hope” and “healing” juxtapose “leader”, “titan”, “revolutionary” and “legacy”. Meanwhile, the general public follows the hastily pieced together Castro eulogies and easy-to-digest, bite-size Cold War historiographies provided by the international media.

There is no clear-cut picture of how we should remember Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz. In fact, throughout his lifetime he passed through a number of metamorphoses: from guarijo to guerrillero, defiant victor to charismatic leader, a Marxist to a Stalinist, a megalomaniac to a decrepit old man.  It is only a figure so contentious in life that could divide opinion so uncompromisingly in death.

Fidel and Raul Castro. File photo/

It is also, in some ways, unsurprising that this event has resurfaced the dichotomies that society has grown comfortable with using: vindication vs. demonization, hero vs. villain, good vs. evil. Even the choice of referring to the deceased by his first or last name is capable of polarization. He may be Fidel, the “bearded revolutionary”, or Castro, “the tyrannical dictator”. The Cuban journalist Carlos Manuel Alvarez articulates this idea of semantic power so assertively in his recent article for the New York Times: “No one like Fidel can create a distance so inexplicable, between his first name and surname. He split a country in two, where people sought refuge in his first name, were exiled in his surname, and others simply left in fear.”

In the aftermath of his passing, his person continues to evoke this binary fracture. On one end of the spectrum, crowds in Miami choose to revel in the death of a 90 year old Castro, their pay-back time for a man who stole their country; on the other end Fidelistas vindicate the achievements of his life-long project. The man who overthrew a dictatorship, stood up to the U.S., survived countless attempts at his life, provided healthcare and education to his countrymen, but due to a combination of flawed ideology, bad judgments and a challenging international context, tumbled the nation and his loyal followers into a severe economic crisis.

The reactions of his opposition groups and their subsequent mobilizations in Miami are hardly surprising, given the ‘absolutist’ nature of Fidel Castro and his model of social reform.

Described by historian Alan Knight, Fidel Castro’s vision for Cuba was a ‘trade-off between Dahlian democracy’ (which has been roundly repudiated) and social rights or benefits, in the form of healthcare and education, (which have been significantly advanced). His demand for iron-clad loyalty stamped out any whiff of political opposition.

But the magnitude and pace of change in Cuba was Herculean in nature, and bears witness to what can be achieved when society is able to unite under a common cause. His ability to round up the troops achieved the 1961 literacy campaign, which saw educators dispatched to rural areas, reducing illiteracy by 23.6percent from to 3.9percent over a nine-month period. By 1963, 70percent of Cuban land had been seized from private land-owners and brought under government control through the Agrarian Reform Law of 1959 and 1963. His radical experiment in sugar production, which aimed to reach a 10-million-ton sugar harvest by 1970, sacrificed much of the rest of the economy and foundered when the international demand for sugar rapidly subsided.

He was all-or-nothing; you’re either in or out, a similarly black and white approach to politics that both his supporters and opponents continue to emulate.

However, the correlation between his passing and the “end of an era”, that so many political leaders have made reference to, has not yet arrived, or at least if it has we hardly noticed it.

Photo by: Williams Cruz Perdomo

This is partly due to the fact that Fidel has been out of the picture for a while. He has long since lost his leading role in the Cuban narrative and Fidel-centrism is no longer a viable justification for the longevity of his regime. The Castro regime has diminished its personalistic nature, proven by the seamless handing over to Fidel’s brother Raul ten years ago. Fidel Castro has been pushed out of the public eye for so long that life in Cuba has been ticking on by for a number of years with limited mentions and appearances. The reality of the Revolution’s survival despite invasion, blockade, economic austerity leading to a grave crisis, political dissent, and a period of estrangement from new socialist allies has shown that the regime has set up roots much deeper into Cuban soil then Fidel Castro ever reached.

Since Raul came to power officially in 2008 there have been significant changes to Cuban society – the opening up of private sector, buying and selling of private property. Cubans can now own phones, cars, and travel with slightly less restrictions (at least from the Cuban side of things). Salaries are still low, bureaucracy is still overriding, and the future of the Cuban economy remains a mystery.

The Revolution has matured, and Raul Castro’s older brother can no longer be viewed as the problem itself for its downfalls apart from being symbolic of conservatism. Although civil liberties continue to be construed by elimination of the opposition, there is not a systematic repressive regime in place. Mass migration continues, but the Cubans that leave the island today are mainly forced to do so for economic reasons as the island doesn’t offer viable opportunities for young professionals. The mass political exodus of the 80s and 90s is a painful memory but not the driving force behind Cuba’s current brain drain. The new generation of Cubans have a different set of dreams and priorities – to work, to better their lives and the improve the lives of their families back home.

The quiet streets of Havana reflect this political distance. It brings to mind something a professor of Latin American History and Politics once mentioned when asked about what would happen after Fidel Castro passed. He predicted that the first thing Cubans would do is wake up and have breakfast. And at least in Havana, they did just that and went to work, just as my mother-in-law did yesterday morning in order to write us an email confirming that all is well.

Now the initial shock trickles away, we begin to deal with our own personal sense of grief and catharsis. As with any death, we look through old photos, recall the golden years and begin to piece together the pieces of a curtailed narrative. And although it may take longer for some than others, it will soon be time to look towards the future and to seek understanding and compliance.

As one person doesn’t really change the world, but rather the people who unite under them, for a common cause.

32 thoughts on “How Should We Grieve Fidel Castro?

  • December 4, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Don’t guess, read Nick and then respond.
    You indicate that I should know of “the gross violations and abuses perpetrated in the name of that cause” by those in the free world who opposed communism.
    That view demonstrates that you have but surface knowledge of the reality of communism. either because of comparative youth or no experience of it other than a brief amount of time in Cuba.
    I merely point out that when the USSR Empire rotted from within, thirteen countries achieved freedom and when following being freed held democratic elections, not one of them elected a communist government. Free people do not seek the oppression which is inherent in the Marxist/Leninist ‘faith’.
    Marx wrote when a resident of London in the mid-19th century and is as you will know, buried in Highgate cemetery there. The world has moved on from those times, just as in the 19th century it had moved on from the time when Hogarth painted his ‘scenes of London’.
    I hope you get the opportunity in the future to spend a lot of time in Cuba as I do.
    I say again, don’t guess about what I have written – read it. How much do you know of Spanish persecutions in Cuba against which Cespedes, Agramonte, Maceo and Marti revolted? The US activities at Guantanamo although inexcusable, pall into insignificance compared with the barbarity of General Weylen of Spain in crushing the Cuban people.

  • December 4, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Thatcher got rid of councils that opposed her, she ran down cities that opposed her and caused many people in Wales, Scotland and other regions to immigrate – again just because they didn’t vote for her. She also tried to cut off the funding of other parties and would have done all the things you mention above if she could. Her idol – Pinochet.

  • December 4, 2016 at 6:58 am

    Mr MacDuff, I thank you for this explanation of your reasoning.
    As I mentioned, I agree with you regarding the embargo being counter productive given the stated aim.
    However nothing in what you say contradicts my point that the only way in which the embargo is actually ‘democracy related’ is the following:
    The ‘exile community’ in Florida have had an historic ability to get out the vote and are therefore crucial to which way the state’s Electoral College Votes go.
    Florida is an absolutely key swing state.
    Any prospective US president is therefore very careful regarding the policy on Cuba and the embargo. My view would be that the way in which this minority interest group (some of the key figures within that group have a history of sponsoring and harbouring terrorists) hold way too much influence over US Government position on Cuba.
    It’s perhaps not the best example of the merits of US democracy.

    You are obviously well versed in the History of Communism and I can see you have a family connection to the anti-communist.
    So surely you have an understanding of some of the gross violations and abuses perpetrated in the name of that cause?
    I would gladly read your book Mr MacDuff.
    If the book is on the History of USA in Cuba then I would make the presumption that the horrific spectacle of Camp X Ray, Guantanamo is referred to.
    With all the mention of oppression in Cuba, it must surely be pointed out that the worst human rights abuses in Cuba, certainly this century, have been carried out by the USA. People from my country were tortured there.
    And subsequently released without charge.
    My guess would be that this would indeed get a mention in your book.

    Regarding oppression carried out by the Cuban government, I have stated in my other comments here that I do not entirely disagree with you.
    But there is a very real context that you either fail to see or choose to deny or discredit.

    I have also lived in Cuba and would hope to spend a lot of time there in the coming years. The country is like a second home to me.
    I look forward to changes there and hope that changes are for the better and not for the worse. Perhaps they will be a mixture of both?
    Many dear Cuban friends of mine share your viewpoints to a greater or lesser extent.
    However, having said that, it is undeniable that Fidel was an extraordinarily popular man in his country.
    Many dear Cuban friends of mine have told me that they would defend their revolution until their last breath.

  • December 3, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    I pray for the people of Cuba!

  • December 3, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    I believe that Fidel’s legacy for Cuba and the Cuban people is more of the same! It is a bit like a circus , the ringmaster might have changed but the programme will remain the same with the new ringmaster cracking the whip and the people cowering under the whip! Freedom of speech will never surface in Cuba whilst anyone in this regime is around!

  • December 2, 2016 at 5:17 am

    I have an admiration, Mr MacDuff, for your longevity regarding appearances on this comments forum.
    It would surprise me if, during these years, you have not read something that has resembled the following:
    Your quotation from the noble sounding words US Cuban Democracy Act clearly does not reflect the USA’s record when it comes to sweeping out what it has regarded as it’s backyard.

    As I am sure you are aware, there are countless examples from Guatemala to Chile of the USA taking part in the overthrow of democratically elected governments.
    If I remember correctly, the Nicaraguan regime was pressurised to call the type of elections described. However, upon the result not going in their favour, the USA launched a most horrific and murderous, terrorist campaign against the democratically elected government.

    Furthermore the embargo has been continuously and democratically voted down at the United Nations. The only nations to vote with the USA are its hugger mugger middle east buddy, Israel and which ever tiny country that took the U.S. sweetener.
    I would be stunned if you were not aware of these facts Mr MacDuff.

    In fact I would suggest that you yourself know that the only way the embargo reflects anything ‘democracy related’ is this:
    Those oh so sweet candy bars that potential US Presidents like to chomp on.
    Otherwise known as Floridian Electoral College Votes.

    Having said this, I would also totally agree that you when you state that the embargo is counter productive for the reasons you give.
    It has indeed given the Cuban government something to blame for all and sundry poor decisions. I completely agree with this point.

    Regarding the US President Elect.
    Let’s not even go there huh??

  • December 1, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    I Holguinero merely reflect the views i hear daily on the street, from relatives and friends and from members of a discussion group which meets by invitation in our local library. Obviously I don’t reflect the views of the members of the Communist Party of Cuba, but as you will know that are a minority group.

  • December 1, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    Nick, I believe that you are a relative newcomer to Havana Times. If you go back about three years, you will find that I was expressing my view in these pages that the US embargo was counter-productive as it was used by the regime repetitively as a excuse to the Cuban people for all the evident incompetence, failed economic policies and actions of the regime.
    But, I did understand the reasons for the embargo and I can tell you that Cubans have not been told of the requirements listed in the US Cuban Democracy Act. for Congress to lift the embargo which are:
    Section 1708(b)(3), 22 U.S.C (section) 6007(b)93)
    “the free and fair elections conducted under international supervision, permitting opposition parties ample time to organize and campaign for such elections, showing respect for the basic civil liberties and human rights of the Citizens of Cuba, moving toward establishing a free market economic system and committing itself to a constitutional change that would ensure regular free and fair elections.”,
    I think that those are fairly sound principals Nick but are obviously anathema to a communist dictatorship which of its nature is opposed to freedom of expression and the conditions listed.
    The policy obviously failed for those reasons and in my view the US should have revised their policies and found other ways of exerting pressure. i recognize that regime adherents and supporters – those who admire the system of control and oppression which is a key part of communism (but not of democratic socialism) will repudiate my view, preferring to just continually berate the US.
    You and I can express our thoughts about the US President elect, but the Castros and their regime including the “troika” as successors are much more significant. It is they, who are key to a gradual easing of the dictatorial grip and eventual freedom which the people of Cuba so richly deserve.

  • December 1, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    I am not a supporter of conspiracy theories. In consequence I don’t believe for a moment that Fidel Castro was involved in any way with the death of Kennedy. Secondly, apart from funding Guevara’s Bolivian venture which conveniently kept Guevara from seeking to return to Cuba, he had no role in the his death.
    But, it is my firm view that a full inquiry into the disappearance of Camilo Cienfuegos would show that he was cleverly purged for his antagonism towards communism and his concern for Huber Matos.

  • December 1, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    Nice try. The Electoral College was originally intended to prevent a few large states from dominating national elections. As has happened only twice before, the winner by popular vote didn’t win the election. It sucks but those were the rules agreed to. A true democracy, if it were to exist in Cuba would not threaten national independence, on the contrary, it would strengthen its. If ALL Cubans truly believed that they had a stake in the well-being of Cuba, national sovereignty is stronger.Yes, freedom can mean different things to different peoples, but there are those universal freedoms we can all agree upon. Freedoms like the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, etc are among these universal freedoms.

  • December 1, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    Hello Dan,
    I agree with you about context.
    However I do not dismiss outright all the points raised by the two gentlemen you mention.
    There has been much repression and censorship in Cuba.
    You don’t even have to go there to see certain repressive acts.
    It’s on You Tube and it ain’t faked.

    There are things that I would not attempt to justify.

    I have asked Fidelistas in Cuba how certain things can be justified.

    They say Nick, when your enemy is the most powerful force the world has ever seen, who used to rule your country and would seek to do so again, you do what you gotta do.

    Now to me this answer does not justify all that has gone on.
    But it does provide a context.
    Context, as you rightly suggest, is important.

  • December 1, 2016 at 11:51 am

    Mr MacDuff,
    There are rumours that Fidel had Camilo killed.
    There are rumours that Fidel had Che Guevara killed.
    There are rumours that Fidel had President Kennedy killed.
    Apparently in some parts of the world there are rumours that Fidel was some kind of deity.
    Looking at the available evidence, I don’t believe that any of these rumours are true.
    I think that anyone who believes in any of the mentioned rumours, must be basing there belief purely on a hunch rather than any concrete evidence.

    I would agree that there are people in Cuba are ill-informed.
    And would agree that free access to information has to an extent, been suppressed.
    However to paint all who do not share your views as ill informed or simply victims of information suppression would not really be fair would it?

    I met a ‘dissident’ once who was about as ill informed as you could possibly imagine. He simply would not believe concrete irrefutable facts.
    If anyone anti-Cuban government told him that the day was dark and night was light, then he would believe them in an instant.
    I was quite astonished by this guy.
    But then his beliefs were swayed by his regular allocation of 30 pieces of silver from the United States Oficina de Interes (now U.S. Embassy of course).

    Despite meeting this character (purely by chance), I do not for a million years believe that all so called ‘Cuban Dissidents’ are necessarily ill informed.
    I certainly would not say that you are ill informed Mr MacDuff.
    I would say that you have some different opinions to me.

  • December 1, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Yes Mr Patterson, but the thing is freedom means different things to different people.
    Here are but two amongst a possible multitude of examples:
    To some freedom may mean having the opportunity to be amongst the 50 or so per cent who participate in a national election (where there is a distinct possibility that the candidate with the least number of votes is declared the winner).
    To others freedom may mean national independence.
    If someone thinks that another person’s version of what freedom is must be inherently incorrect because it is different to their own version, then can he really describe himself as a believer in freedom?
    Hence the need for good helping of neutrality.

  • December 1, 2016 at 9:11 am

    Nick, forget the context when talking to Moses and Carlyle. They avoid it like the plague precisely because Cuba fares so well in it, like you already know. I don’t know if it is willful ignorance, which is the case of most people, or just an inconvenient truth which they choose to ignore.

  • December 1, 2016 at 5:49 am

    There is little room for being neutral when it comes to freedom. You either believe in it or you are lying.

  • December 1, 2016 at 5:47 am

    I can barely speak for myself sometimes, let alone all Cubans. On matters related to freedom and human dignity however, I am sure that I can speak for all humans.

  • November 30, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Your understanding of the history of the war in Angola is inaccurate. Cuba first sent troops to Angola in 1965 to train & arm one faction in the rebellion against the Portuguese. When the Portuguese finally left in 1975, the various factions fought for control, the one the Cuban’s supported won that fight.

    It was only then that the South Africans entered the war in Angola, backing on of the defeated factions, UNITA. Cuba & South Africa fought to a stand still. But when the USSR stopped sending weapons & supplies to the Cubans, Castro was forces to make peace. The peace treaty arranged for both the South African army and the Cuban FAR to leave Angola. Nothing about apartheid was mentioned in the treaty. It was only after the Cubans had left Angola that the Pretoria finally released Mandela from prison and began to negotiate with him on how to dismantle apartheid.

    If it were not for the presence of Cuban troops in Angola, the South African government would have ended apartheid a decade earlier.

    I recommend this excellent history of the Cuban intervention in Angola:

    It’s a detailed, accurate and balanced account of the politics and military strategies.

  • November 30, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    It’s not just a matter of which side of the political spectrum they were on. It’s a matter of degree.

    I will insist that Thatcher’s political sins were of a far more mild degree than Castro’s. If you were a coal worker in Newcastle who lost his job when Thatcher smashed the unions, you might hate her for that. I understand.

    But if your husband was dragged off to a prison for criticizing the Castro and your son took to the sea in a flimsy raft and drowned, your reasons for hating are far more profound.

    There is no equivalence to the comparative suffering.

    By the way, the fact that the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” was a hit on UK radio demonstrates a significant difference with Cuba. It is inconceivable that a similar song be played on the radio in Cuba today.

    For example, the artist Danilo Maldonado “El Sexto” was assaulted and arrested by Castro’s goons for spray painting the words “el se due” (he’s gone) on a wall in Havana early Saturday morning.

  • November 30, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Well said Nick. Its nice to hear a rationale voice in this forum for a change! Patterson and Carlyle have their views BUT they do not speak for all the Cubans!

  • November 30, 2016 at 5:55 am

    Fidel, like most jailers, lived long enough to gain the sympathy of the people he jailed. He is an integral part of Cuba’s identity. His death is leaves a hole in Cuban identity.

  • November 30, 2016 at 5:50 am

    The US embargo is far from being Cuba’s biggest obstacle to progress. Political and social reforms are far more pressing issues.

  • November 29, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Mr Patterson,
    I would not entirely disagree with you.
    In fact many say that Fidel only did what was in his own interests and to fulfill his own ego. A lot of Cubans have this same opinion.
    However I also know and have met a great many Cubans who always say he tried to do his best for Cuba and for other under-privileged parts of the world.

    Let’s take Angola.

    A lot of Cubans reckon that it was a mistake to get involved.
    And that the money and effort should have been spent on building Cuba’s economy.
    However I also know several Cuban veterans of the Angola war who say they are proud to have been a part of it.
    And proud of what Nelson Mandela said about Cuba’s intervention.

    Mr Mandela said he would have been in jail for longer had it not been for Cuba stopping South Africa’s (CIA backed) advancement.

    I still have a lot of respect for Mr Mandela’s point of view on this and many other matters.

    No disrespect to you Mr Patterson, but I would disagree with you in that I would suggest that many people from the USA do not care so much about US foreign policy.
    And then there is a big old almighty nationalist fervour because some president says we gotta go some place and fight some guys for the good of whatever.
    I’m British. We’ve been doing that stuff for centuries.

    At least Cuba was on the right side in Angola.
    I don’t think Fidel was the only one wanted to get involved there.
    Many Cubans have roots from that part of Africa
    And many Cubans are proud of their struggle there and have every right to be proud.

  • November 29, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    The blockade should indeed be ended.
    Anyone who cares for the fragile global democracy/United Nations should surely agree.
    However with Trump about to replace President Obama, I fear otherwise,

  • November 29, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Mr MacDuff,
    I have spent fair bit of my life in Cuba.
    I’ve studied there and I’ve done a bit of work over there.
    I too have family there. Although I’m not related by my own marriage.
    I am interested to hear your views and indeed those of Mr Patterson.
    Although I can’t say that I entirely agree with the sentiments and assertions that you both express..
    I am very familiar with Cuba’s history and indeed the rumours that Camilo’s death was ordered by Fidel.
    As Camilo was one of the few Habaneros amongst the early revolutionaries many people say that Fidel was fearful of his popularity in the capital.
    (Although I have never heard any rumour that Camilo plotted any path to the top job for himself by the way).
    If you know Cuba well you will know that, although popular with many in the capital, Fidel has always been an Oriental and it is from the east that the main body of his support was always from.
    My opinion after speaking to many on the subject, has always been that the Cuban east/west divide is behind these rumours.

    I would have to point out that I have met many over there who have not supported Fidel and keep pretty quiet about it as you allude to.

    However I would also have to refute what you say by mentioning that I have known many Cubans (including people extremely dear to me) who have told me that Fidel always put Cuba and the people before himself. And they definitely don’t say this to have a quiet life.
    In fact I know people who have sacrificed much for their support of the revolution and for their Fidelismo. And don’t regret a bit of it.

    There are both sides. And indeed a fair bit of indifference too.

    I wish your 5 and a half year old god-daughter all the very best.

    As Jose Marti said ‘There is nothing more important in life than the children’
    Or something like that.

  • November 29, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    I think perhaps you misunderstood my comment.
    I said that Mrs Thatcher and Fidel were divisive leaders and that they provoked similarly divergent reactions to their passing (celebration and mourning from detractors/supporters).
    It was Mr Patterson’s mention of the song ‘Ding Dong The Witch is Dead’ which reminded me of her.
    It was a huge hit in the UK in the week after her death.
    I would add that Mrs Thatcher was/is as hated in parts of the UK as Fidel was/is by many in Miami (perhaps in both cases by people who perceived that their lives/country/traditions had been destroyed).
    Other than that I wouldn’t compare them at all as they were obviously at opposite ends of the political spectrum.

  • November 29, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    Spot on from the UK. End The Blockade RIP

  • November 29, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    As a democratically successively re-elected leader, Margaret Thatcher cannot be properly compared to Fidel Castro Ruz who never was elected in competition with others, but was undeniably a dictator succeeded by his smaller younger brother following his colostomy.
    You Nck refer to context in your response to Moses Patterson. Mr. Patterson and I have some factors in common, we are both married to Cubans and both have lived in Cuba – I still do but am obliged to leave for periods as I am a foreign national. In consequence we can speak of the realities of that beautiful country, its wonderful people and the day-in day-out indoctrination and cult of the personality so assiduously promoted by the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of Cuba. We know the system and how it operates, for us, it is reality, not academic theory.
    When discussing Fidel Castro it is relevant to refer to what he himself expressed and also for those who really know Cuba, to recognize the role played by Raul Castro and in earlier days by the KGB.
    Fidel pretended in the early days, to be endeavoring to liberate the people of Cuba from the corrupt dictator Batista. His speeches reflect that. Not all of those who were his fellow revolutionaries were communists and some of the leaders were strongly opposed to communism. How much they knew about Raul Castro’s link to the KGB to whom he was introduced during his visit to the USSR in April 1953 (the Moncado raid followed in July that year) when he was introduced to Nikolai S. Leonov of the KGB, who then in 1956 popped up to advise in Mexico City and finally became Moscow’s man in Havana in 1959 is very questionable. Leonov is still alive and has written biographies of both Fidel and Raul, interestingly he was at one time Putin’s boss when he was a KGB Colonel. Those leaders who were opposed to communism were purged by Fidel. Camilo Cienfuegos who was actually head of the military with Raul as deputy, disappeared in a two seater aircraft, which four minutes following take-off was followed by a (British made) Sea Fury fighter with cannon. Subsequently Camilio’s image was exploited by for example, the matching metal outline in Revolution Square to that of Ernesto Guevara.
    The week following Camilo’s ‘disappearance’ in Ocober, 1959, Matos was put on trial along with 38 others of the revolutionaries, because he had as one opposed to communism endeavored to resign and return home. Fidel Castro personally conducted the Matos trial in a very vindictive fashion (as the records demonstrate). Even one of his own supporters and officers Faustino Perez, questioned Fidel’s actions by enquiring:
    “Is this Batistiano terror?”
    Fidel responded by saying:
    “No, this is revolutionary terror!”
    Following sentencing Matos to 20 years in jail as a reward for his endeavors, Fidel Castro said on December 14th in defence of his prosecuting Matos:
    “They have no right to accuse the revolution of being communist.”
    This same man Fidel Castro, then declared on April 16th, 1960 that the revolution was a communist one and in 1961 said:
    “I have been a Marxist-Leninist all along and will remain one until I die.”
    I like you can find much fault in US policies particularly regarding Cuba. But drawing attention to them does not in any way excuse Fidel and Raul Castro’s family dictatorship for its oppression of the people of Cuba. As I have written in the past, for Cubans who are seeking a quiet life:
    “Don’t challenge the system, accept it, stay mute and exist.”
    However when I daily give my Cuban God-daughter aged five and one half a kiss and hug, I think of how could it be possible for her in her future to be able to mopenly express views, to be able to progress and to know the freedom which you and I Nick both know.
    I hope that you will accept this response as explanatory of why it is that people like Mr. Patterson and I are able to express the views which in his case you have criticized. We know the pain of Cubans! I would add that he and I do not know each other and have never met or exchanged correspondence.
    You are correct in saying that no leader is perfect, but some are more interested in the interests of their people than that all absorbing lust for power and control over people demonstrated by the two Castro dictators.

  • November 29, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Comparing Thatcher to Castro is a hell of a stretch. Did Thatcher cancel elections, arrest the leaders of opposition parties, jail, execute or exile political rivals and enemies? How many Britons jumped into home made rafts and paddled across the English channel to freedom in France? How many people did Thatcher send to the firing squad?

  • November 29, 2016 at 10:59 am

    It’s interesting how varied the reactions to a death can be.
    Divisive Leaders will always cause divergent reactions when they slide off this mortal coil.
    Here in the UK some mourned the passing of Mrs Thatcher, others danced in the street and held all night parties.
    And indeed Mr Patterson, following Mrs Thatcher’s death ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’ was a huge hit in the UK Charts and became the funereal theme tune.
    I guess that’s maybe where you get your idea from?

    I don’t know if you’ve been down to Miami for a dance??
    But your fingers have been having a good old dance on your computer keyboard these past few days .I like to see people happy and wouldn’t wish to dampen your parade Mr Patterson.
    However in the interest of providing some context, I would say the following:
    Like most leaders, Fidel did some good stuff and some bad stuff.
    During his 49 years as Cuba’s leader his bad stuff pales into insignificance in comparison to the countless abuses and atrocities inflicted on the world in those 49 years by your country’s leaders Mr Patterson.
    Maybe you are so high up there on you moral high ground that the clouds obscure your view of your own country’s abuses?
    I say this as someone who has spent much time in Cuba over the past 20 years.
    I have also been fortunate enough to visit the USA. several times.
    USA and Cuba are both fascinating countries.
    But imperfect like my own.
    And with imperfect leaders.
    There you are Mr Patterson!
    A bit of context for you.

  • November 29, 2016 at 10:27 am

    “…civil liberties continue to be [constricted] by elimination of the opposition…”. That is the problem in a nutshell, seems to me.

  • November 29, 2016 at 9:46 am

    How should we griev Castro?We shouldn’t,we should celebrate the death of this evil,wicked man

  • November 29, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Remember the scene in the American movie classic, “Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy’s Kansas house falls from the sky and lands on the Wicked Witch of the South? The celebration of the little people that ensued would be appropriate. “Ding Dong, the [tyrant] is dead, the tyrant is dead, …..”

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