Fidel Castro – A Leader like No Other

“I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating… because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition.”

Thus said a man who embraced communism, led a revolution, and overthrew the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista  in 1959 (Batista was then being supported by USA).

And since 1959, Fidel Castro ruled Cuba for five decades.  With an iron fist.

Even after he handed power to his younger brother Raúl in 2008, and even though his country was just 90 miles south of the US state Florida, he always remained at loggerheads with US administration. 

He always remained that  irritating,  unavoidable, thorn-in-the-flesh of United States. 

So, I am sure US would have been very happy to see him go, long ago.  

In fact, it is said that US government spent more than $1 billion trying to kill, undermine or otherwise force Fidel Castro out – from power.

But he was unharmed until this week, finally, on 26 November 2016, when disease and old age took him away at the age of 90.

I think, he would be remembered more for the way he stubbornly stood up against the formidable USA, than for the Cuban revolution he successfully led in 1959.

He will be remembered more for the way he did not buckle under the pressure of US trade embargo on Cuba, than for that record-breaking  speech which he gave in the United Nations. 

On 26 September 1960, his UN speech had  gone on for a full 4 hours and 29 minutes duration. 

In  fact, one of his longest speeches on record was even higher. For 7 hours and 30 minutes, when on 24 February 1998, the national assembly re-elected him to a five-year term as president.

In 2015, under Obama administration, after 50 years, the US-Cuba trade relations were finally re-established and revived. But things do not look good now. I am unsure if the soon-to-come Trump administration will maintain the status quo. 

With US president-elect Donald Trump describing Castro as a “brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades”, we can see a difference in the view.

Personally, I am of the opinion that it is hard to not hail Fidel Castro as a hero of Cuban Revolution of 50s, even though, I admit,  he became somewhat of a dictator in his later years.

I share the feeling of Amnesty International’s Americas director, Erika Guevara-Rosa, who said: “Access to public services such as health and education for Cubans were substantially improved by the Cuban revolution and for this, his leadership must be applauded. 

“However, despite these achievements in areas of social policy, Fidel Castro’s 49-year reign was characterised by a ruthless suppression of freedom of expression” she had added.

How much USA doesn’t like Fidel Castro, is clear from the fact that there were celebrations in Florida at the news of his death.  And Marco Rubio, the Florida senator whose parents were Cuban immigrants, said he hoped that the Obama administration sends “no one” to Castro’s funeral! Such is the dislike, too.

Fidel Castro may not have been still forgiven by US for his strong relations with the erstwhile Soviet Union and for his anti-US activities, but he was a great leader in his own right; who made many Cubans, and many communists of the world, very proud.

He may not have been forgiven by US for his role in those  communist threats to capitalist countries, which resulted in the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis, but he was a leader like no other.

Like the more famous fellow revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, whom he met in 1955, he will be long remembered, in history. For good and for bad. 

Recently, at the 2016 congress of the Cuban Communist Party, he said these words: “I am nearing 90. I will soon pass away like everyone else. The time will come for all of us, but the ideas of Cuban communists are an evidence that, in case if we work with pathos and dignity, we can produce material and cultural values people need.”  

And he went.