Fidel Castro, the undisputed ruler of Cuba since 1959, has officially resigned as president of Cuba. I don’t know where to start. So many lies have been told about Castro and Cuba and its relationship with the USA that almost everything the typical American knows about Cuba is wrong. In fact, Cuba is possibly the most obvious example that America’s foreign policy since World War Two has little to do with democracy, human rights, or freedom…and everything to do with protecting America’s business interests above all else.
It’s the USA that started and maintained unrelenting hostility to the Castro government, refusing to recognize the legitimacy of it from the get go. Castro made several trips to the USA after the revolution, and was rebuffed at every turn. I mean, it must have been terribly annoying that the bought and paid for Batista, the dictator running Cuba before Castro, fled the country in the middle of the night with his top cronies and associates, basically giving Cuba to Castro and his small band of revolutionaries.
The communist party was actually illegal in Cuba during the first few years after the revolution, they only adopted it and turned to the Soviet Union after the Bay of Pigs invasion, where the USA trained and armed a group of Cuban exiles who were going to invade Cuba, inspire a popular revolt and remove Castro from power. However, the Cubans didn’t rise in sympathetic revolt as expected, and the landing force was quickly surrounded and captured by the Cuban army. Relations between the USA and Castro went down from there.
Much is made of the poverty in Cuba, that and the fact that Cubans flee Cuba is touted as the failure of the Cuban revolution. Unfortunately, people flee every Latin American country trying to get to the USA, so that doesn’t really mean much. And by any objective measure the typical Cuban is far better off in terms of crime, health care, and education than most people in other Latin American countries. More on point, how much of Cuba’s economy can be blamed on bad management…or on the effects of the USA embargo?
As for “Why didn’t he just hold elections if he was so popular?” I can think of two good reasons. The first is that the USA doesn’t care who wins elections, they only recognize elections if the USA chosen candidate wins. In the 1960s especially people remembered what had happened to the elected leader of Iran in 1953, the CIA’s first successful overthrow of a foreign government. The second reason is that if you allow opposition parties, guess what huge country is going to fund money and expertise to those parties to meddle in your countries internal affairs? It astounds me to this day that so many Americans are so nationally narcissistic that they routinely approve of foreign meddling that they would go ape over if someone did it to us.
Is Castro a nice guy? No, he was a dictator who started rounding up political opponents and potential opponents almost as soon as he was in power. My point here is that the USA routinely recognizes, arms, and has relations with dictators who were vastly less democratic and far more ruthless than Castro. Castro wasn’t isolated and demonized by the USA because of his politics or his human rights record, he was demonized because he refused to run Cuba according to Washington’s directives, and he wasn’t about to let American political and business interests buy influence inside Cuba. Family ruled theocratic dictatorship with nothing reassembling civil rights or democracy, just fine if you’re an American ally, but by God try to run your country your way…embargoes, propaganda, and outright murder.
Is Castro stepping down a good thing or a bad thing? Beats me. He handed off power to his brother, who is no spring chicken either. And the USA is certainly not going to change its tune under Bush, I don’t think the Bush administration could change their tune if American lives or the American economy depended on it. When you’ve convinced yourself that you are the true defenders of the true values of your land, protecting it against terrible enemies who are out to destroy it…anything is justified. In that sense the Bush administration and Castro are bosom buddies, interesting, nu?
(The above image was taken when Fidel Castro addressed the Harvard Law School. It is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law, it is not being used or profit and is central to illustrating the post. Credit: Harvard Law School Photo Gallery. For good or for ill, Castro’s role in our times is coming to a close)