Foreign Affairs

Castro apologists need a dose of reality

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Praise for Fidel Castro really has been quite creative. Firstly, there was Jeremy Corbyn, who described Fidel Castro as ‘an internationalist and a champion of social justice.’ The darling of the left over in Canada, Justin Trudeau, described him as a ‘larger than life’ figure who was ‘legendary’ and ‘revolutionary.’ Francois Hollande called him ‘a great figure of the twentieth century’ whilst Jean-Claude Juncker decided to speak on behalf of the Cuban people by calling him ‘a hero for many.’

These are, I’m sure you’ll agree, very strange ways to describe such a dictator. The Human Rights Watch has reminded us that ‘Fidel Castro built a repressive system that punished virtually all forms of dissent,’ imprisoning political opponents and sending homosexual people to work camps. Those who praise him focus on very specific things. Conveniently specific things, one might say.

For his blind enthusiasts, the fact that Cuba has the highest rate of literacy in the world is proof that it isn’t all that bad. Being able to read is an undoubtedly good thing, but it isn’t much use when there are certain things you aren’t allowed to read. In fact, if the government hasn’t approved a book, magazine or newspaper, a citizen is not allowed to read it. The Cuban Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech and the press, but only if that freedom is being used to support the aims of the ‘socialist society.’ This has meant that anybody who ‘scorns the Republic’s institutions, the political, mass, or social organisations of the country, or the heroes or martyrs of the nation’ could be imprisoned for over a year.

Over at the Huffington Post, the natural home of liberal writers, David Blumenthal listed some of Castro’s sins before writing ‘but there are also some much more positive sides to the Cuban experience’ and focused on the health care system. Unable to help himself, Blumenthal added that Cuba ‘has demonstrated that a poor country can dramatically improve the health of its population through long-term, consistent investments in primary care and public health,’ apparently forgetting that the NHS wasn’t forged in the midst of a dictatorship.

Meanwhile, in the real world, allow me to introduce you to Dr Hilda Molina. She was director of the International Centre of Neurological Restoration in Cuba, from 1990-1994, and was hounded from the country for her critique of the administration. In an expose, Dr Molina wrote that ‘It is common for Cuban hospitals to advertise services that they do not have the resources to perform’ and that ‘foreigners are assigned the highest priority, followed by government functionaries and their families, and lastly, ordinary Cuban citizens.’ Not quite the equal healthcare utopia that Blumenthal was imagining, then.

The cherry picking of information by Castro’s apologists should be scorned, and scorned with great energy. In an age where facts are seen as an inconvenient footnote, their disgraceful praise for such a disgusting tyrant should come as no surprise. The rest of us must not bow to such an attitude. Whilst they demand ‘respect’ for a man who deserves none, we should demand the truth, regardless of how distressing that reality is. 

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