The death of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is eliciting a great deal of reaction from political figures and the media, but a Cuban exile says the political left’s romanticizing of Castro and his regime is a far cry from the brutal truth.
Castro died Friday at age 90. Poor health forced him to officially cede power to his brother, Raul, last decade.
Soon thereafter, public statements from world leaders came flooding in from around the world. President Obama’s thoughts were rather ambiguous, simply stating that Castro was a singular figure with a huge legacy, but offering virtually no opinion on whether that legacy was positive or negative.
“At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,” read the statement.
To the north in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was effusive in his praise for Castro.
“Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation,” read Trudeau’s statement.
“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,”it continued.
However, U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump pulled few punches in outlining his opinion of Castro’s reign.
“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,” stated Trump.
“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,” he added.
But why is the political left so enamored with a man who killed over 140,000 people, stifled basic rights and even canceled Christmas?
Author Humberto Fontova fled Cuba as a child and his father was imprisoned by Castro. Now the author of multiple books on the communist regime in Cuba, Fontova says the revolution in Cuba struck a chord with rebellious young people in the 1950s and reverberated for decades to follow.
“They were the first hippies. They were the first beatniks technically,” said Fontova, noting that the Castro brothers resembled some of the more popular iconoclastic rockers of the 1960s, including The Doors lead singer Jim Morrison and members of the Grateful Dead.
“Wow man! They were the beatniks. And in the U.S., they were supposedly sticking their finger in the eye of the bald, golfing [Dwight Eisenhower] with ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ on TV and ‘Leave it to Beaver,'” said Fontova.
“Here’s these cool, bearded, long-haired guys doing this and the whole romance about being the first rebels, about being the first hippies and beatniks still survives. In fact, they were nothing of the sort. They were Stalinists from the get-go. Raul Castro had a KGB handler since 1954,” said Fontova.
While the Castros and Guevara pitched themselves as bringing revolution to better the lives of the people, Fontova says the results are just the opposite.
“Prior to Castro, Cuba took in more immigrants as a percentage of population than the United States, including the Ellis Island years. Most of these immigrants came from the first world. More Americans lives in Cuba prior to Castro than Cubans lived in the U.S. And that was at a time when Cubans were perfectly free to leave,” said Fontova.
He says the Castro record pales in comparison.
“He took that prosperous and happy country that attracted immigrants from around the world and turned it into a place where 20 times as many people have died trying to escape it as died trying to escape East Germany,” said Fontova.
He says anyone not on board with Fidel’s rule was ripe for execution, imprisonment or persecution.
“It wasn’t necessarily a class thing. It was just people who were with him. ‘You’re with me or against me. And if you’re against me, that’s it. You’re going to have to suffer prison and torture or you’re going to get shot.’ It’s very simple. It’s a commie thing,” said Fontova.
Fontova also believes much of the media whitewashing of Castro’s record comes as a result of journalists working in Cuba and effectively serving as mouthpieces for the Castro regime.
“You don’t get a journalist visa, you don’t get a Havana bureau – MSNBC, ABC, CNN – unless you’re going to play their game. In other words, spread their propaganda. This propaganda has been spread for the last 50 years expertly,” said Fontova.
“That’s why most people say, ‘Gosh, at least Cubans have great health care. Cubans have abominable, abominable health care,” he added.
So why are so many reporters and liberal figures constantly mentioning the advances of Cuba’s health care system during the Castro years? Fontova says it starts with propaganda.
“We’re getting all those figures about Cuba’s health care from communist apparatchiks. They come from employees of the Castro regime. If they do not lie, they’re out of there,” said Fontova. It does not occur to people that those statistics are coming from people who almost have a gun to their head and lie,” said Fontova.
He says the bogus stories are also confirmed when Cuban doctors try to continue their work in the U.S.
“Most of the doctors that flee to the U.S., that had the misfortune of growing up in Cuba and going to Cuban medical schools, when they get to the U.S.they cannot even pass the U.S. exam for doctor’s assistants, much less MD’s. It is a gigantic scam, which is fully exposed in my books,” said Fontova.
Fontova says the repressive government isn’t going anywhere just because Fidel Castro is dead.
“The fact is Raul has been running the show, officially for about ten years and unofficially for about 15-20 years. The Cuban military has been running Cuba for almost 20 years. They have got a very sweet thing going, a great gravy train. They own the tourist infrastructure lock, stock and barrel,” said Fontova.
He says it’s a sweet deal made much, much sweeter by President Obama deciding to normalize relations with the Castros.
“They have got such a sweet thing going, primarily thanks to Obama, opening up the floodgates from $4-5 billion are flowing from the U.S. to Cuba annually and had for the last seven or eight years. That’s more money than used to flow to Cuba from the Soviet Union,” said Fontova.
Raul Castro is 85 years old, but Fontova says even his eventual death won’t change anything in Cuba.
“Raul’s son (Alejandro) is a fanatical KGB-trained Stalinist. He’s already been tapped to inherit the throne after his dad, Raul,” said Fontova.
Fontova is hopeful that Trump will make good on his promises to reverse the Obama executive orders that altered U.S. relations with Cuba without any congressional input. He says Trump’s early cabinet appointments suggest he intends to make good on those vows.