2016-12-02 / Travel

Castro is dead!

May Cuba rest in peace...
By Warner M. Montgomery

Castro as a guerrilla fighter in Cuba. Castro as a guerrilla fighter in Cuba. Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born 90 years ago to a sugar cane farmer who had migrated from Spain to Cuba seeking a better life. Now, this despised, worshipped, and feared leftover from the “Communist Curse” is dead.”

Castro governed Cuba for 47 years, first as prime minister ( 1959- 1976) then as president ( 1976- 2008). He was a social- political rebel, Marxist–Leninist activist, Cuban nationalist, and founder of the Communist Party of Cuba. Under his leadership, the tropical Caribbean island 90 miles from Miami became a one-party socialist state with nationalized industry and business.

Castro had studied law at the University of Havana and adopted anti-imperialist politics. He participated in rebellions against right-wing governments in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, while gathering strength to overthrow Cuban President Batista.

Castro as president of Cuba. Castro as president of Cuba. Castro’s first attempt landed him in prison for a year. Once released, he, his brother Raúl, and Che Guevara formed a revolutionary group in Mexico, returned to Cuba, and led a guerrilla war against Batista’s military.

Castro overthrew Batista in 1959 and began threatening the U. S. which attempted to remove him by assassination, economic blockade, counter-revolution, and finally with the President Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961.

Castro quickly formed an alliance with the Soviet Union in response to perceived U. S. threats against Cuba and allowed the Soviets to place nuclear weapons on Cuba which led to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

(A personal note: I was in the Peace Corps in Thailand at that time. All the volunteers were quietly rounded up in Bangkok and told to pack up and be ready to return home at a day’s notice. We packed our bags, had a party, and after a week were allowed to return to our duties.) Castro quickly converted Cuba into a Soviet style, one-party, socialist state under Communist Party rule, the first and only in the Western Hemisphere. Castro began to support anti-imperialist revolutionary groups in Chile, Nicaragua, and Grenada. He sent troops to assist anti- Jewish forces in the Yom Kippur War and battle-ready fighters to the civil war in Angola, Africa. These and other anti- American actions increased Cuba’s profile on the world stage.

When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, Castro lost his financial and Communist support. He tried to promote alliances in Latin America, but only Venezuela’s Chávez took the bait then resigned as president as the CIA worked its secret magic. In 2006, Castro transferred his responsibilities to Raúl Castro and fell almost silent.

Castro, a divisive world figure who danced on the world’s stage, is now silenced. He was praised as a champion of socialism and anti-imperialism who secured Cuba’s independence from American imperialism. On the other hand, he was a dictator who oversaw human-rights abuses, the exodus of thousands of Cubans, and the impoverishment of Cuba’s economy.

Next Week: My Visit to Cuba

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