Fidel Castro died last Friday at the age of 90. For a quick history lesson, Castro was the socialist revolutionary turned dictator who ruled Cuba from 1959 to 2008. During his tenure, countless atrocities against innocent civilians that dared oppose him were well documented. It is estimated that roughly 100,000 deaths can be traced to his reign of terror and his history is littered with partnerships with numerous other terrorists and dictators from around the globe. There should be no disagreement about his deadly legacy. His passing should serve only as a long-sought ending to a horrific story.
However, to my surprise, there is some disagreement on Castro’s legacy.
For instance, many in the mainstream media have taken to the airwaves this week to praise elements of Castro’s legacy.
Geraldo Rivera of Fox News lauded him for providing free medicine to his people while Andrea Mitchell of NBC commended him for expanding health care and literacy programs. Brian Williams of NBC commended him for the high number of athletes Cuba has produced over the years. Jim Avila of ABC called him the “George Washington of his country” while Chris Matthews of MSNBC called him a “romantic figure.”
New York times correspondent Helene Cooper was critical of many Americans that view him as a “satanic demon” and heaped praise on him for opposing apartheid in South Africa years ago.
Dr. Jill Stein, who is leading the fundraising effort for a recount of the presidential race on behalf of Hillary Clinton, tweeted that, “Fidel Castro was a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire. Presente!”
The Reverend Jesse Jackson also took to Twitter to state that, “In many ways, after 1959, the oppressed the world over joined Castro's cause of fighting for freedom & liberation-he changed the world. RIP”
President Obama released the following statement on the day of Castro’s death:
"Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends – bonds of family, culture, commerce and common humanity."
Secretary of State John Kerry offered a statement of condolences to the Cuban people and said that Castro, “played an outsized role in their (the Cuban people) lives and he influenced the direction of regional and even global affairs.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a similar position, saying Castro was a “larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century…a legendary revolutionary and orator…while a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for ‘el Comandante’”
Others had a much less optimistic view of Castro’s legacy.
President-elect Donald Trump released a statement that said:
"Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights. While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve."
House Speaker Paul Ryan stated that “Now that Fidel Castro is dead, the cruelty and oppression of his regime should die with him."
Healthy debate on important topics is one of the hallmarks of our democracy, but the death of Fidel Castro should not be controversial. This brutal dictator killed many people to acquire and keep power. That type of behavior should be condemned, not commended, in life and in death.
Of course, perhaps you are unsure also. If so, I urge you to look up a few articles on how Cuban Americans in Miami are responding to Castro’s death. Many of them have been in jubilant celebration...literally dancing in the streets. Some have taken to social media to declare this a new day for Cuba. Others have quietly visited cemeteries to bring flowers and Cuban flags to share this joyous moment with their lost loved ones.
Many of these Cuban Americans have seen firsthand what this man was capable of and some of them even risked their lives to get away from it. To them, there is no controversy. To them, it is crystal clear. A tragic and evil era has ended for the beautiful island of Cuba and its people. That, without question, is a good thing.