OP-ED: Castro was a monster whose death should not be mourned

Fidel Castro. Photo via Creative Commons

Fidel Castro. Photo via Creative Commons

By Daniel Rego | Published Feb. 9, 2017

Irony is not dead, but is living quite well. Take, for example, members of the free world bemoaning the death of an authoritarian tyrant. Fidel Castro, the pretend president of Cuba, died last November. Yet while the Cuban exiles who formerly lived under him celebrated in the streets of little Havana, many sheltered intellectuals lamented the passing of a revolutionary.

There should have been no debate over Castro’s legacy. The man was a murderer and a thief, and to say otherwise is offensive to all who suffered and still suffer because of him.

Carlos Eire, a Yale professor, provided an excellent summary of Castro’s true legacy in his piece for the Washington Post. The list of Castro’s crimes includes but is not limited to: innumerable executions, torture, theft of property, state censorship and persecution of gay people. The death of this monster seems like cause for celebration, but astoundingly some responded to his death with ignorant words of respect.

Many news organizations failed to correctly label Castro as a cruel dictator. The headline in the New York Times’s obituary remembered him only as the Cuban revolutionary who defied the United States. The Independent, a U.K. based news website, had the audacity to publish his quotes as if he were worth idolizing. Even our own government refused to acknowledge his crimes.

The official White House Press release on Castro simply offered a vague condolence broad enough to be spoken at any funeral, as if they were too scared to offer any real opinion. When the despot who brought us to the very brink of nuclear war died, our government thought it apt to briefly mention that his life was influential.

But at least the U.S. government tried to remain neutral, as offensive as that was. Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, gave a public statement that eulogized the mass-murderer.

“It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving president,” said Trudeau in his public statement.

This assumes that Castro was faithfully elected for his entire career. However, it is hard to vote freely when going against the communist party. Dissent is essentially suicide per a 1999 Human Rights Watch report. According to the report, it is a criminal offense to hold discussion meetings, write letters to the government or advocate the release of political prisoners. A Cuban election is an oxymoron, a paradoxical lie.

Yet the illusion of free elections is not the only propaganda that Castro spread. Some supporters praise Castro’s supposed achievements, such as raising the country’s literacy rate. It is astoundingly high – the CIA reports that 99.8 percent of the population can read. Yet the benefits of reading are severely nullified if not entirely negated if all you can read is state propaganda.

According to Amnesty International, the state runs all media and while there is internet access, it is heavily censored by the state. Cuba also ranked in the list of 10 most censored countries by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Even though the facts are clear, Castro’s supporters refuse to read the truth.

Castro’s supporters will also point to Cuba’s healthcare as another feat, but they are also being tricked. According to a 2012 Al Jazeera article, Cuba can honestly boast a low infant-mortality rate and a high life expectancy, but their achievements end there. Ever since the Soviet Union fell, the Cuban medical system has been in disrepair.

Doctors are paid poorly for their services by the state. Patients bribe their practitioners to get priority examination. The Institute for War and Peace Reporting website says that the top facilities are for rich foreigners while the poor languish in decaying hospitals. The site also affirms the long waits for treatment. Yet even if Cuba really did have great hospitals, no doctors could bring back the thousands that Castro killed.

I should know, as my uncle’s father was executed by Castro’s firing squads. But the tragedy does not end there. My grandfather was imprisoned for speaking out against Castro. After being released, my grandparents left Cuba forever, but not before the Castro regime took everything they owned. He left with nothing but the shirt on his back, he often says with a glass of whiskey in his hand and the sweet smell of a cigar around him. His wife, my grandmother, died years before I was born. Whenever he visits, I see an exile denied both his past and his future.

When I hear any defense of Castro, I cringe with disbelief and pain. There is no reason to commemorate his death; to do so is to mock those who had their lives taken by him. The man was a murderer and a thief, and my family can attest to it. He killed their hopes and stole their dreams.

Daniel Rego is a senior majoring in English.

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