A photograph of Cuba's former president, Fidel Castro, is seen during a tribute ceremony, following the announcement of the death of the Cuban revolutionary leader in La Paz, Bolivia, Nov. 26, 2016. (Photo: REUTERS/David Mercado)
The death of Fidel Castro has evoked deep emotions around the world. Nowhere is this more true than in Cuba, where the country began nine days of official mourning on November 26. Meanwhile, in Miami, some ex-Cubans are celebrating on the streets of Little Havana.
Fidel Castro was a giant on the world stage for the better part of 60 years. In 1956, he set sail from the Mexican port of Tuxpan, in a yacht named Granma, with 82 members of his "26th of July" movement. The crew included his brother, Raul, as well as Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. Their destination was the Cuban port of Playa Las Colaradas. Their mission: to overthrow Fulgencio Batista -- the U.S.-backed dictator.
Batista presided over a brutal regime that invited the Mafia to set up shop in Cuba by offering them unparalleled license to build and operate hotels and casinos in Havana -- so long as he got a percentage of the nightly take.
Drugs, prostitution and gambling flourished, while the majority of Cubans suffered untold misery.
Havana became a mecca of corruption and the playground of America's rich and famous. Drugs, prostitution and gambling flourished, while the majority of Cubans suffered untold misery, inadequate housing, little or no access to health care and education. Blacks under Batista were treated like dirt, whilst the wealth of the nation was plundered by Batista and his followers.
Opposition to his regime was brutally suppressed by torture, public executions of rebels and the murder of student leaders. Batista implemented a 10 for one rule -- for every Batista soldier killed, he would have 10 civilians executed.
This was the backdrop to Castro's revolution. It is the reason why a small band of rebels fomented a revolution by connecting with the people who suffered under Batista and U.S. domination. Castro soon led an army of peasants and intellectuals who routed Batista and his Mafia cronies along with corrupt business owners who controlled huge chunks of the Cuban economy.
The exploiters fled the country -- mostly to the Miami area -- as the Rebel Army of Castro and Guevara bore down on Havana. A gigantic general strike, involving most of the working population, accelerated the revolt. The July 26 Movement nationalized the hotels run by the mafia, shut down the drug and gambling cartels and took control of the industries that were milked by Batista's American cronies.
Castro led the revolutionary process that today provides free, top quality education and health care to every Cuban citizen. Cuba is one of the best-educated nations on earth and its medical-care system is second to none.
Hundreds of young Cubans gather at Havana University as they mourn the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba, on November 26, 2016. (Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A 50-year U.S.-imposed embargo of Cuba has prevented the island people from reaching their full potential as a nation. Goods and services are rationed due to the crippling embargo, which was preceded by centuries of underdevelopment. The resulting situation is cited by critics of Castro as proof that the revolution has failed.
For 50 years, Castro resisted pressure from the biggest imperialist power on the planet to conform to capitalism "made in America." Ironically, it is now the capitalist system that is in the dock attempting to justify the chasm of inequality it has created worldwide with its free market, free-trade agreements, its proliferation of precarious, poorly paid, part-time work, and it's funneling most of the wealth to the top one per cent.
The roots of the Cuban revolution are rarely mentioned by the media pundits, critics and professional politicians as they comment on Fidel Castro's life. We hear allegations of current Human Rights violations, such as restrictions on freedom of expression and right to associate.
Cuba isn't perfect, and any violations of human rights should be outright condemned. But it is not alone in dealing harshly with agents of foreign aggression. Recall that Canada imposed the War Measures Act several times during the 20th century, imprisoned Japanese Canadians and Jewish refugees during the Second World War, and jailed hundreds of Quebec nationalists in 1970 without charge.
Thanks to right-wing anti-Cuba propaganda, some politicians on the left run for cover when asked for an opinion on the Castro years.
Cuba has borne the brunt of Washington's wrath, including repeated efforts to destroy Cuban crops and cattle from the air, and over 600 CIA attempts to assassinate Castro himself. Amnesty International claimed in June 2010 that there is only one political prisoner remaining in a Cuban jail. Also, the last Cubans to be executed were hijackers of a crowded ferry, over 13 years ago.
Thanks to right-wing anti-Cuba propaganda, some politicians on the left run for cover when asked for an opinion on the Castro years. The latest shameful example was furnished by interim NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, who tweeted:
Is it any wonder that Justin Trudeau ate the NDP's lunch during the 2015 federal election, and continues to do so?
The Liberal Party statement on Castro's departure reads, in part: "Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and health care of his island nation."
Just look at the difference in tone and content between the two statements. One is bland, without clear meaning, and too clever by half. The other is carefully crafted to appeal to people on the left side of the political spectrum -- which by my estimate is most of the population of Canada and the world.
I wonder what NDPers must think about Mulcair's rather uninspiring stance?
Trudeau could care less what Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rona Ambrose or right-wing social media trolls say about his mildly pro-Castro statement. He just managed to outflank the NDP, once again, on the left. Watch for thousands of Canadians to be in Cuba for Castro's funeral and sharing in the outpouring of genuine grief from millions of ordinary Cubans, in stark contrast to the picture painted by the North American media. Meanwhile, Mulcair and his caucus will be hunkered down in Ottawa under a cone of silence.
Tens of thousands of NDP members have been to Cuba and have marveled at its achievements, including its generosity to poor and disaster-afflicted peoples everywhere. I wonder what NDPers must think about Mulcair's rather uninspiring stance?
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