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November 28, 2016

Why I Despise Fidel Castro

Scott Stockdale

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Editor's Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author.

At least since his high school days, when he used to complain to the student newspaper that a misspelling of his name was bad for his public image, Fidel Castro felt he had an appointment with destiny.

Unfortunately, and ironically for a man well-known for his utterance “history will absolve me” - a phrase numerous scoundrels (including George W. Bush) now use to justify their deeds – Mr. Castro cannot and will not escape history's judgement.

Fifteen years ago, after he spoke at a public meeting of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Association, in my hometown of Brantford, Ontario, I tried to arrange an interview with Roman Delacourt, who, in his speech, had outlined his experiences fighting in Fidel Castro's army, during the revolution. 

After an initial conversation in which he agreed to an interview on the phone - at a later date -  he would no longer come to the phone when I called his house and other family members answered. 

I still remember where he lived. He works, or did work then, in correctional services in the Kitchener area.

In our first and only telephone conversation he talked about his role in Mr. Castro's army before and after they took over Cuba.

I was shocked when he told me he was 14-years-old when fighting against Batista's forces. He responded: “We had commanders who were 11-years-old.” 

He also said Fidel hid up in the mountains while sending the other guys down to do the fighting.

In recent years, a young man from Cuba, working in a factory in Brantford, said: “All of Cuba knows that.” He also said: “He's (Castro) a millionaire, while we're suffering.” What! a millionaire communist.

Meanwhile, Mr. Delacourt also said that when Mr. Guevara went to fight in Bolivia, Fidel was supposed to send supplies (and perhaps manpower) but he purposely declined to do so, despite repeated attempts by Mr. Guevara to contact him.

This aspect of Mr. Castro's history has been well-documented.  One commentator said Che Guevara was like everybody else: Mr. Castro only supported him when he had a use for him and, there was no longer room on the stage for the two of them. 

Although Mr. Guevara became a legend Mr. Castro subsequently heaped praise upon, one commentator said: “Castro only praises dead people.”

Mr. Delacourt, who fought in the Guevara faction of the army, talked about seeing Mr. Guevara and his advisers in his office every morning when, after the revolution.

Mr. Guevara was Cuba's Economics Minister and later President of the National Bank of Cuba. Mr. Delacourt also said Mr. Guevara was a doctor: he didn't know anything about finance.

I've since read that Mr. Castro later admitted it was a mistake appointing Mr. Guevara head of Finance and President of the National Bank of Cuba.

Mr. Delacourt said he was promised a house after the revolution, but he never received one. I remember Mr. Delacourt telling me this was because the Guevara faction of the army was being demobilized.

In recent years, I've been told by more than one Cuban, now living in Toronto, that there was more to it than that. It seems that Mr. Delacourt was glossing over some of the more disagreeable details, for reasons known only to him.

The American sanctions against Cuba and its people, lasting some 50 years, were devastating to the Cuban economy; and considering they punished the people, not the leader, these sanctions cannot be justified.

However, it is apparent that Cuba's economic failure cannot be blamed entirely on the U.S.

Dire economic conditions in the country were due in no small part to the hubris of both Mr. Castro and Mr. Guevara.

This reminds me of a documentary I saw in which one of Mr. Castro's best friends from his high school days said that after he saw a million people in the square in Havana chanting “Fidel, Fidel,” he knew that never again could he go to his friend Fidel and say: “You're wrong,” about anything.

And of course, it's the Cuban people who paid for the above-mentioned hubris, and probably still do.

In his book “Exposing the Real Che Guevara: And the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him”, Humberto Fontova said that before he became a central banker, Mr. Guevara was in charge of killing political enemies of the new government.

“He oversaw the torture and execution by firing squad of hundreds of political prisoners at the notorious La Cabana prison, earning him the nickname the Butcher of La Cabana,” Mr. Fontova said.

Mr. Guevara not only presided over the Cuban Revolution's first firing squads. He founded Cuba's "labor camp" system - the system that was eventually employed to incarcerate gays, dissidents, and AIDS victims.

In his book, Mr. Fontova said that within months of Mr. Castro's appointing Mr. Guevara “Economics Minister” in 1960, the Cuban peso, a currency historically equal to the U.S. dollar and fully backed by Cuba's gold reserves, was practically worthless.

And the carnage continued the following year when Mr. Castro appointed Mr. Guevara as Cuba's Minister of Industries.

“Within a year, a nation that previously had higher per capita income than Austria and Japan, a huge influx of immigrants and the 3rd highest protein consumption in the hemisphere was rationing food, closing factories, and hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of it's most productive citizens from every sector of its society, all who were grateful to leave with only the clothes on their back.”

Mr. Fontova said that Mr. Guevara himself eventually confessed to his multiple economic errors and failings.

However, similar to the U.S. Government's response to the 2008 financial crisis, where they gave Wall Street Banks trillions of dollars, indicating that their goal was to support the Wall Street banks - not the U.S. Economy - Mr. Fontova said: “... given the goal of Cuba's ruler since January of 1959 (absolute power,) the Cuban economy has been EXPERTLY managed.”

Like the one percent in today's western countries, Mr. Castro was well aware that his own power was inversely related to the fortunes of the Cuban people: the poorer they are, the less power they have and the more dependent they are on those who do have power.

After relaxing communist principles, in the 1970's, the Cuba economy continued to struggle.

By 1986, Mr. Castro concluded that these liberal policies were the cause of the current economic problems and he advocated for the return of Che Guevara's ideas and to increase people's participation in the economy. Just because these policies didn't work the first time was no reason to abandon them, after all Mr. Castro himself said so.

Under the Rectification Campaign: farmer's markets were banned, bonuses/extra pay abolished, and self-employment discouraged. As a result, productivity fell, black markets reappeared, living standards fell and absenteeism at work increased.

Despite a deluge of tourism and foreign investment over the last decade, the Cuban people haven't seen much improvement in human rights.

In the wake of Mr. Castro's death, family members of numerous activists and critics of the Castro regime have begun appearing on western television networks to tell the world about the suffering their loved ones endured, languishing in deplorable conditions for 20 plus years, because they dared criticize Mr. Castro's regime.

In 2016, Human Rights Watch issued a report that clearly indicates that the political repression in Cuba continues, although it's been polished up enough to allow countries such as Canada and the United States to say that it's now okay to do business in Cuba: after all the Cubans need jobs, don't they?

In it's 2016 report, Human Rights Watch stated:

“The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and discourage public criticism. It now relies less on long-term prison sentences to punish its critics, but short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in recent years. Other repressive tactics employed by the government include beatings, public acts of shaming, and the termination of employment.”

Those who want to point out that Cuba was for years a U.S. colony and then ruled by a U.S. puppet, as a justification for Mr. Castro's rule, should keep in mind that one is not necessarily better merely because others are bad; and being better is not the same as being good.

American officials need also keep this in mind considering that their occupation of Cuba (Guantanamo Bay) continues to this day in clear violation of American and international law.

With Guantanamo Bay prison camp prisoners comprised almost entirely of Muslims, one has to wonder if the “War on Terror” is really “The War on Muslims,” especially considering that in his book “Who Rules the World” Noam Chomsky said the U.S. Government has consistently supported Islamic terrorist organizations in Middle Eastern countries, in order to prevent the spread of democracy, which would hinder the United States' efforts to exploit the resources in the region.

Nonetheless, wherever he may be now, Fidel Castro awaits history's judgement. You're wrong Fidel. History will not absolve you. Why? Because the world is a better place now that you're gone.

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