Fidel Castro: cry or laugh?
AL DÍA has selected the best OP-ED columns published in the international media after the passing of the Cuban leader.
The passing of Fidel Castro represents the end of an era, especially for America. The Cuban Revolution of 1959 marked the arrival of the Cold War to the American continent and a wave of Leftist movements in Latin America that wanted to face the US capitalism.
With Fidel Castro at the helm, Cuba remained the bastion of the anti-imperialist struggle, a Caribbean island challenging the world geopolitics. 49 years of dictatorial rule served Castro to modernize the island and provide its populations with higher Education and Healthcare levels than any other developing country, but also to encourage thousands of people to exile to the United States. Most of these Cuban American are celebrating his death today, but no one knows what will change in the island right after his death.
Some believe that everything will remain the same, others believe that despite Barack Obamas efforts to re-establish diplomatic relationships, tensions with the US under Donald Trump presidency will worsen. AL DIA has collected several editorials and opinion articles published by international media to have a broader view of the situation:
"It is not elegant to criticize someone who has just died, but after hearing the messages of heads of state around the world extolling the alleged courage of the recently deceased Cuban ruler Fidel Castro, we must tell the truth: Castro was anything but brave. On the contrary, he was a coward" writes Andrés Oppenheimer, a Cuban commentator, in 14ymedio, a Cuban digital newspaper.
"In the first place, he was a coward because he did not allow a free election in 57 years, since he took office in 1959. Only someone who is afraid of losing is not encouraged to measure himself against others in free elections. Second, Castro was a coward because he never allowed a single independent newspaper, non-government radio or television station to exist. His critics did not even have access to official channels. It was as if they did not exist”.
"Castro was anything but brave", says Andrés Oppenheimer.
“Fidel, the romantic liberator, had made of his island a prison, full of inert people mired in the poverty engendered by a nightmarish system. His considerable achievements in education, health care and basic welfare could not mask this fundamental failure”, wrote columnist Roger Cohen in an Op-Ed published by The NYTimes.
“I admire President Obama’s restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba that took him to Havana earlier this year to meet with Fidel’s brother, President Raul Castro, who took over in 2006. Frozen U.S.-Cuban relations had become an anachronism. I deplore, however, Obama’s feeble statement on Fidel’s death. It is not enough for an American president to say, “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure.” There has been plenty of history in Castro’s Cuba since 1959, much of it deplorable”, stated Cohen.
"There has been plenty of history in Castro’s Cuba since 1959, much of it deplorable", says Roger Cohen at The NYTimes.
Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli makes a reflection on the death of Fidel Castro in an editorial letter published Monday in Spain leading newspaper El País , where she recounts her arrival in New York, her current hometown, after a brief vacation in Mexico: "Already landed , we lined up with our heavy souls and swollen feet toward the plane's door. Stamped on all the first pages of the various newspapers that the passengers had left on their seats, was the face of Fidel Castro. The image of that empty plane that we left behind, splashed with faces of the newly dead Fidel, seemed to me a too easy metaphor for the ruthless passage of time: the arrow of history always pointing to a worse world than the current one”.
El País also published this weekend a column of the Cuban journalist and blogger Yoani Sánchez, famous for having openly criticized the Cuban regime in her blog. Showing no single sign of desolation or sadness, Sánchez wrote: "In Miami, the exiles whom he so derided in his harangues are now celebrating the dictator’s last journey. And on the island, inside the privacy of their own homes, some people are uncorking bottles of rum. “I’ve been keeping it for so long that I thought I would never be able to drink it,” said a neighbor. He is one of the Cubans who woke up on Saturday morning with the feeling that a weight has been lifted off their shoulders – a feeling of lightness that they are still unaccustomed to.”
"On the island, inside the privacy of their own homes, some people are uncorking bottles of rum", says Yoani Sánchez
“Castro’s passing sees the departure of one of the giants of the cold war era and a revolutionary guerilla leader. He must be judged by the conditions that made him possible, but not indulged by them”, reads the OP-ED published by British newspaper The Guardian. The editorial reminds that despite having brought to Cuba the highest levels of Education and Public Healthcare in the developing world, we cannot forget that “From there came a series of human rights abuses and restrictive policies that can never be excused or simply explained away as “a product of their time” or a “strategic necessity”.
The Financial Times runs an Opinion piece by Paul Hare, former UK ambassador in Cuba and professor at Boston University, in which he criticizes the situation that Castro has left Cuba. “Cuba in 2016 offers little of the freshness and ambition that filled the air in 1959. Though Cuba’s education and healthcare are still widely admired in the developing world, Fidel has bequeathed a country that is not projecting a clear vision. Its main earners of foreign currency are tourism, medical services and remittances from families mainly in the US. That is not enough to fund socialist largesse. And the only alternative seems to be a dismantling of some revolutionary controls, promoting foreign investment and the private sector to allow ordinary Cubans to get rich and build their lives. Fidel always knew this would lessen their dependence on the government”, wrote Hare in the FTimes.
“Fidel’s legacy will long remain divisive”, wrote John Lee Anderson in The New Yorker. “Cuba today is a dilapidated country, but its social and economic indicators are the envy of many of its neighbors. The highly restrictive Marxist regime that Fidel put in place all those years ago has loosened up in some ways—there is a great deal of religious freedom in Cuba today, and Cubans, including outspoken political dissidents, come and go freely from the island—but the country remains a one-party state. The police use a heavy hand on those who seek to organize public protests. The press, too, such as it exists, remains largely in the hands of party commissars, imparting ideological treatises, rather than actual news”, writes the reporter from The New Yorker.
"Fidel’s legacy will long remain divisive”, wrote John Lee Anderson
In the opinion section of the Mexican magazine Milenio , Diego Fernández de Cevallos, prominent lawyer and politician, (he was a former PAN party candidate to the Mexican Presidency in 1994) wrote: "The Castro revolution emancipated the Cubans from their tyrant and the empire that outraged them, but did not emancipate them from the revolution itself. The new regime crushed all dissent. The incarceration, torture and assassinations - with simulated summary trials - have ensured their permanence, "writes the Mexican politician, who was kidnapped in 2010."The exodus of hundreds of thousands of Cubans has been furtive and desperate. The poverty that embarrasses Cuba (like that of Mexico to us) clearly demonstrates that the qualifiers of "Leftists", "Rightists" or "Centers" end by saying little; and that it is better to fight for the fulfillment of the citizen's duties, the responsible exercise of the individual freedoms and the ethical and democratic strengthening of our institutions”.