First it was Mandela, who left us in 2013. Three years later, it is Fidel Castro Ruz. The world has lost its last leader of conscience and faithfulness to the deepest aspirations of humanity. It was on 16 October 1953 when the 27-year-old Fidel stood in a courtroom in Havana to defend himself in a treason charge after his revolutionary forces attacked the Moncada Barracks to start the liberation of Cuba, which eventually succeeded on 1 January 1959.
Cuba, by then was a backyard spot for sex, gambling, life of luxury and vanity by the rich and mighty of the United States and a minority land-owning local bourgeoisie while the millions of the poor and oppressed masses languished under the tyrant Fulgencia Battista with impunity. American officials, business people and the rich owned the best agricultural lands and mines of Cuba while the entire private sector of Cuba were American companies exploiting the masses of Cuba. In a four-hour submission of a 53-page text in his defense, ‘History Will Absolve Me’, Castro noted:
“I come to the close of my defense plea but I will not end it as lawyers usually do, asking that the accused be freed. I cannot ask freedom for myself while my comrades are already suffering in the ignominious prison of the Isle of Pines. Send me there to join them and to share their fate. It is understandable that honest men should be dead or in prison in a Republic where the President is a criminal and a thief.”
Today Fidel is gone, and as usual the experts, media and politicians of the West in particular will immediately dominate the narrative to continue to demonize Fidel as a tyrant. But we cannot forget history and our experiences as to the very reason why there was a Cuban Revolution in the first place. America has never had any good intentions for Cuba and indeed for all peoples of the world who wish to be free.
The Cuba that Fidel chose to change in 1953 was an American Cuba created for the benefit of America to the detriment of Cubans. Indeed Fidel Castro was well aware of that. He loves his people but hated the conditions in which his people lived and was determined to change that.
“We were taught that the 10th of October and the 24th of February are glorious anniversaries of national rejoicing because they mark days on which Cubans rebelled against the yoke of infamous tyranny. We were taught to cherish and defend the beloved flag of the lone star, and to sing every afternoon the verses of our National Anthem: ‘To live in chains is to live in disgrace and in opprobrium,’ and ‘to die for one’s homeland is to live forever!’ All this we learned and will never forget, even though today in our land there is murder and prison for the men who practice the ideas taught to them since the cradle. We were born in a free country that our parents bequeathed to us, and the Island will first sink into the sea before we consent to be the slaves of anyone.”
As soon as the Revolution kicked off in Cuba, the US which lies 90 miles away from the island, imposed a total blockade of Cuba with the intention of killing the revolution. The US then led many attempts to assassinate Fidel or overthrow his government to no avail.
One recalls the Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961 in which the CIA organized paramilitary groups to overthrow the Fidel government, unsuccessfully. Yet America never relented in its criminal desire to kill the will of the people of Cuba.
In fact when Fidel went to the United Nations for the first time in 1960, his delegation were poorly received by the US authorities contrary to protocol. He and his delegation were confined to one section of New York City and hotels were told not to give them accommodation. The first hotel in which his delegation lodged, they were evicted and then had to go searching again for accommodation until a little motel owned by African Americans hosted them.
Under his leadership, the Cuba Revolution, in spite of the blockade, led a process of development that has provided probably the world’s best health care system in Cuba while also developed very many areas of social development as well sports that are not even attainable in the United States. The provision of healthcare and education were free and readily available such that Cuba had attained 100 percent literacy rate and eradicated many diseases well ahead of the US and many countries of the world including the West. In fact Fidel once noted that, “One of the greatest benefits of the revolution is that even our prostitutes are college graduates.”
Around the world, Fidel’s government supported peoples and nations. In Africa, Cuba gave more support to our people far more than the support provided by the entire colonial masters combined, with no strings attached. Cuba gave Africa its sons and daughters as doctors, teachers, agriculturalists and soldiers to provide skills and knowledge and defend the liberation of Africa from western powers.
In 1975, on the eve of the independence of Angola, Cuba sent thousands of its soldiers to defend the Angolan freedom fighter Augustino Neto and his MPLA government which was being attacked by the dishonest and corrupt Jonas Savimbi and his UNITA rebels backed by the US and Apartheid South Africa. If it were not for the Cuban forces, Angola would have been colonized by South Africa and its huge resources plundered by the US as it did to Cuba for decades before the Revolution.
Furthermore, when the abominable Mobutu assassinated the Patriot Patrice Lumumba in 1961, Cuban revolutionary forces led by Ernesto Che Guevara came to the Congo to join pro-Lumumba forces to overthrow the US-backed Mobutu tyranny. Cuba gave direct resources, training and equipment to the ANC and anti-apartheid forces in the fight against the racist minority government in that country. Cubans shed blood for Africa, and this is why Mandela said he would never ever abandon Fidel Castro and the Cuban people.
If Fidel and Cuba are dictators it is because of the United States, which has strangulated the new nation even before it could stand on its own. Fidel’s intentions were to institute a true democracy in Cuba, as he lightly noted:
“I’m not thinking of cutting my beard, because I’m accustomed to my beard and my beard means many things to my country. When we fulfill our promise of good government I will cut my beard.”
The Cuban Democratic Revolution became derailed with the US blockade and onslaught that has created paranoia in Fidel and his government in which indeed there have been many excesses of rights violations, which need to be investigated and justice delivered for the victims sans the perpetrators.
But we must not miss the essence and the rationale of the revolution, which has been derailed and damaged by the US. Had the US not even stood by Fidel, but left the country in peace to pursue its own course of governance and development it could be that Cuba would have produced one of the most democratic and advanced nations on earth.
Thus on this day, we must renew our calls on the US in particular and the West in general to stop cutting short new and emerging nations and leaders but to let them chart their own ways of managing their societies. An example is Ho Chi Ming, the first democratic president of Vietnam in 1945. He was said to admire the America president Thomas Jefferson so much so that he copied some parts of the US constitution into the Vietnamese constitution.
But unfortunately we saw how France invaded and got severely defeated by the Vietnamese in 1954 in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. Later, we saw how the same US also invaded the country in the early 1960s only to face severe and excruciating defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese, once again highlighting the interference of the US in the affairs of independent nations.
On this day, the US must be held to account for the high cost of the Cuba Revolution.
Fidel deserves my highest respect. I have great respect for Fidel for his consistency and honesty and intellect. He remained faithful to his ideals from day one until today. He has always been loyal to his people. He was not a man of vanity as the dictators we see around the world who plunder the wealth of their people and fail to develop their nations. He was not a man seeking self-aggrandizement for himself and his family, friends and cronies. He was not a betrayer of the deepest aspirations of his people, but gave hope and strength.
Long live Fidel!