I have followed keenly many of the praises showered on the dead Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro. I find these praises undeserved. Some of my respected friends, frontline advocates in pro-democracy movements, have come public with military gear and military style salute to honor a man whose life has not just ruined his own country but has caused deaths and destructions way beyond his borders. He is hailed for supporting the struggles for self-determination in most African nations. But what has become oblivious to many of my friends is simply that this man had no resources of his own. He was proxy to the Soviet communist empire with strong interest to build a communist world. Let’s agree he helped, with his soviet backers, to remove colonial stranglehold from many European colonies. Yet we need to ask ourselves, what good did the systems that replaced colonialism bring to those people? I know my friends are going to argue it is neocolonialism that has destroyed those countries. Hmmmm!
Zimbabwe, too, with an over 90-year-old president who needs assistance living still running the state? Had Fidel not had a serious intestinal problem that made him to retire after 50 years in power, he, like Mugabe, would be president of Cuba no matter what direction the country took. Men of wisdom and opinion, do you all think so? What about the insult to the intelligence of the Cuban people in selecting Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother as his successor?
Let’s face it, we seem to want one thing for ourselves and another for others. We only feel the pains when the shoes are on our feet. We are people of no empathy. So if Castro is a hero and a godfather of liberations what becomes of the innocent Cubans, thousands who disagreed with him politically? Do we or do we not recognize their rights to freedom of speech, association and the rights to hold opinion? These are the tenets we as human rights activists, student activists and journalists campaign for daily in our works. Castro did not guarantee those for more than half the people of his country who disagreed with him. Do we advocate for them, too, or are their rights not a part of the work we do?
Let’s call a spade a spade. Castro was not just a dictator, like many he supported Barre of Somalia, Mugabe of Zimbabwe, the dozens in Latin America these people did not only cause deaths and restrictions. Many have left their nations completely ruined and divided.
In our works, in our advocacies, we must remain consistent. We need to stand with all victims of oppression everywhere. It may be the Native Americans in the United States and Canada; the Aborigines of Australia; the Several nations denied
self-determination in China; the people of Palestine; victims of tyranny and corrupt regimes in Africa; abusive dictatorships in Latin America; Ruthless dictators in Asia; suppression and oppression in every form or shape must be called out, challenged, shamed, condemned and ended. No one group of people should suffer from the hands of a person or a few people who think they know what is better and best for the rest.
I am not 50 years yet, and trust me for all of my life I would never have accepted living in a country with the same president. One person as president all of my life? No! Many of my friends would not accept that, too. There are some who are tired with Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as president of Liberia for 12 years. They can hardly wait for these 12 years to pass. Twelve years is like a lifetime to them. Yet these are the same ones hailing another leader for perpetuating himself in power for 50 years and instilling an influence, not acceptable to all, for eternity.
As advocates, as people of goodwill let’s stand with the victims of dictatorship and tyranny, not with the dictators and the tyrants. These tyrants and dictators may boast of one form of development or another as a legacy. Usually, it is not holistic. Those development projects are those of the leaders’ interest and not the people. Give a people freedom and you watch and see what they can achieve with it. Keep a people in bondage and tend to look after their welfare and they lead a life of reliance.
My heart goes to those who died or were penalized in the Castro years working as advocates, journalists, community organizers, philanthropists, kind-hearted, good-spirited people who crossed the lines Castro did not approve. We may never know the names of his victims but those victims will never be forgotten.
I learned as a 15-year-old 10th grader in 1985, 31 years ago, in my religious doctrine class thought by American Catholic Nun, Sister Kathleen Wahl, that we could be two brothers (siblings) and yet hold different political opinions. What more if we belong to different families, clans, tribes, ethnic groups, cultures or spoke different languages? The only reason we’re individual is because we are unique one from the other; even as twins. That is the clear meaning of we being individuals; to be separate entities; with different wants, choices and preferences. If the leader restricts everyone’s choices and preferences to the leader’s specific choices and preferences then s/he is dictating and has become a dictator. Where did Castro stand and why should he deserve an honor?