Fidel Castro died on Friday at 90.
When I heard the news, I prayed for him. We all need prayers; Fidel needs them more than most. There’s a tendency when someone dies to get sentimental, especially when it comes after a full life. But Fidel’s full life came at the cost of how many thousands of other lives? Thousands of his opponents (political, cultural, whatever) died at the hands of his regime; thousands of his people died under Fidel’s pretense of a liberated Cuban state.
Cuba as an American client state in the early 20th century? It was an unjust, embarrassing, and repressive country whose people generally lacked basic liberties. Cuban as a Marxist-Leninist Communist state under Castro? An unjust, embarrassing, repressive totalitarian police state whose people totally lacked basic liberties.
I spent ten days visiting Havana, Santa Clara, and Trinidad in 2010. I was there traveling with friends, and we visited Santa Clara on July 26th, the day of the Communist’s “revolution day.” It was a beautiful place, whose people were basically widely screwed. There’s no papering over how bizarre a place Fidel made Cuba, and there’s no papering over the nature of his dictatorship with limp platitudes like the Communist’s supposed achievement of widespread healthcare or literacy.
Armando Valladares is a living counter witness to those limp platitudes. I heard him speak in New York in May along with Elie Weisel. He’s was jailed by Castro’s regime for 20+ years. Why? He refused to place an “I’m with Fidel” plaque on his desk, which led to his arrest. He’s a refugee in America today, and an artist and writer. Valladares’s health, his literacy, his artistic spirit? Those things counted for nothing.
The Cuban government returns to its pre-revolutionary Capitol next year. I hope when they do, they leave the soul of Castro’s revolution buried, where it belongs.