Castro, my childhood hero turned dictator; made Cubans prisoners in their own homes

“That was the first Fidel, the hero of my teenage years when I spent time in the dark prisons of American-backed Pakistani dictators. But then there was the Fidel who failed me. He devastated my faith in his promised revolution of the masses. Notwithstanding Castro’s success in education and healthcare, he stifled the human spirit and turned Cubans into prisoners in their own homes. Scores died and many more rot in prisons, tiny gulags copied from his Soviet sponsors.”

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November 30, 2016

Tarek Fatah
The Toronto Sun

castroTwo Castros died on November 26. The first Fidel was the man who in 1959 led a popular uprising against an American-backed, mafia-sponsored, corrupt dictator in Cuba, chasing him and his cronies out of the island nation. Then, when bullied by Uncle Sam, he stood up to Washington like a man my generation of kids born in the Third World had never heard of before.

In grade four at Karachi’s St. Lawrence’s Boys school, we didn’t know anything about communism, but we heard from the senior boys and our fathers and uncles that America the mighty had just had its teeth knocked out by a revolutionary called Castro – right in their own backyard too.

We were no more than 10 years old, but we had already witnessed an American-backed military coup in Pakistan in 1958 that brought Gen. Ayub Khan to power, and had heard of the CIA coup in next door Iran in 1953 that overthrew Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh.

Neither Mossadegh nor Castro were communists then. In fact, as the veteran British leftist Tariq Ali pointed out in on Friday, even as the Cuban revolutionaries prepared for the assault on Havana, “the direction that the revolution would take was still not clear – even to Castro. Until that point, he had never been a socialist, and relations with the official Cuban Communist Party were often tense.”[1]

How then did a non-socialist who had little to do with the Cuban communists end up as the leading communist leader of the post-World War 2 era? It wasn’t until October 1965 that Castro’s ‘26th of July Movement’ became the official Communist Party of Cuba.

The answer to that question can be found in the recent era of the Bush-Rumsfeld years and later the Obama-Clinton doctrines of foreign policy that turned entire countries into crucibles of howling anti-American maniacs.

Back in the late 1950s and 60s, as Castro consolidated, the CIA, fresh from its victories in Iran and Pakistan engineered the invasion of Cuba by Florida-based exiles in the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco.

Once Cuban revolutionaries defeated the US-backed invasion of their country, Castro had no choice but to seek a close military and economic alliance with the only other super power in town, the USSR.

Fidel Castro with Nikita KrushchevAnd with the Soviets came Soviet-style mediocrity, governance, drabness and oppression which millions of Cubans suffered for decades, even after the USSR itself splintered and the hollowness of Soviet-style communism was exposed as an utter and complete failure, economically, morally and militarily.

That was the first Fidel, the hero of my teenage years when I spent time in the dark prisons of American-backed Pakistani dictators.

But then there was the Fidel who failed me.

He devastated my faith in his promised revolution of the masses. Notwithstanding Castro’s success in education and healthcare, he stifled the human spirit and turned Cubans into prisoners in their own homes. Scores died and many more rot in prisons, tiny gulags copied from his Soviet sponsors.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may extol the virtues of Castro suggesting the Commandante had “tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people.” Fidel may very well have love for his people. But the reality is my childhood hero was destroyed by the very system he created.

His failure was best illustrated when he made his younger brother Raoul inherit his crown in a manner that reminded me of the Rajas and Maharajas of India, today the world’s largest democracy despite two vibrant communist parties.

Fidel Castro with Justin Trudeau in his arms as mom Margaret Trudeau looks on.

Fidel Castro with Justin Trudeau in his arms as mom Margaret Trudeau looks on.


4 comments for “Castro, my childhood hero turned dictator; made Cubans prisoners in their own homes

  1. Atul ARORA
    November 30, 2016 at 9:23 AM

    I visited Cuba earlier this year.
    My thoughts were:
    This society had achieved the best education, health services … in the third world by the seventies.
    The goals of the revolution were achieved by the seventies, then why were the 10 million+ Cubans still living in poverty?
    Why were they not allowed to progress and prosper?
    Why were they held hostage to the whims and fancies of a ruling elite which included the Castro brothers?
    The answer that I found for myself is that Fidel Castro et al. were so fixated on their ideology – which had mutated to dictatorship – that they lost track of the goal (if ever it was their goal) i.e. to bring happiness to the society.

    To paraphrase the late Willy Brandt of Germany: If you are 18 and not a communist, you have no heart, if you are 30 and still a communist – you have no mind.
    I too went through these phases where communism looked rosy (pun intended) – it never really turned red for me.

    I guess like all other ideologies and religions, this too broke on the anvil of the human weakness we call the lived life.
    Was Fidel Castro ever a communist?
    Perhaps, but he knew how to milk the Soviets!
    Now that Fidel is dead, I wish that the system he helped create dies with him so the the Cubans can breathe free lest the poor Cubans have to wait now for Raul’s death.

  2. Asif
    December 2, 2016 at 5:46 PM

    Dear Tarek Sahib,

    “Childhood hero turned dictator”, if it was only so; the man was a monster and an evil incarnate, sending, according to an estimate, nineteen-thousand fellow Cubans to their deaths and many more to his gulag, and several millions fleeing to Miami, Florida ( the only good thing, reviving the fortunes of an otherwise what would have been a depressingly boring southern city, of course an un-intended consequence), that is out of a population of ten million. Cubans are not allowed to own boats; what country is that that prevents the citizens from leaving? Shark infested waters in make shift rafts or floating platforms the poor souls must brave to get away from the “workers paradise”. With such fiction as a 97% literacy rate and free health care, next I may be prepared to believe that pigs fly.

    If anything we have learned since 1991 is that command and control economy does not work; not just because that there is no such thing as the concept of laws protecting ownership rights and the sanctity of the private property but also the role both the capital and the entrepreneurs play in the free market enterprise economy. It is one thing to be enamored with the socialism in one’s youth but quite another to be still in swoon with the nasty in one’s old age.

    Mr. Arora, can we milk a crow? Just like that we don’t expect from command economies to show the trappings of wealth, i.e., healthy dynamic societies and prosperities. Simply put it just isn’t in the cards. Just look at India, the very case in point: Stagnating since 1947 first under Nehru’s paternalistic guidance, well he sat up-high above, upon the pedestal, beneath the teaming masses the so called “know-nots”, India stayed in perpetual poverty making the poster-boy of starving nations. Same delusions were the lot of his daughter Mrs. Indra Gandhi, under whose reign also suffered India. Not until Mr. Manmohan Singh. well into the Eighties, did we see free market reforms; and since Modi: Look out west, at long last we have a partner with us in the stratosphere! She will ravish, with the new found wealth, ascendent in sciences, engineering, and the technology, might just send us all reeling and prancing into the Nirvana. Who needs Hoors, we’ll save those to the Ho’s such as Madam Munshi.

    And poor Muslims all tangled up with the Python, who goes by the name of Jahiliya for the previous thousand years, having been caught by the delusion that Islam offers “the Perfection”, therefore no reason to separate out the realm of politics from that of the realm of spirituality. The Christens have offered the solution the world to copy and the world is copying sans the world of Islam. Go figure?

    Lastly Mr. Arora, in parting I will recommend just one book to you, and that is,”the Wealth and Poverty”. by George Gilder. After reading him, I can truly claim that four years of BA in economics were not equivalent nay hardly sufficient to this one pithy book. Consider it my early Christmas present. Enjoy.

  3. khalid hussain
    December 8, 2016 at 2:16 PM

    Mr Fatah you ever visit Cuba , I stayed 7 years in Castro Cuba studying medical education free of cost . Castro sent 3000 doctors when earth quack stuck Kashmir with 10 fully equipped hospital . They worked 6 months in a very cold weather , a carribean nation in snowfilled valley imagine . That time your so called democratic civilized west was realizing funds , and 90% of these funds in politician pockets . When Africa was attacked by Ebola , your western modern civilized democracies realizing funds but Cuba sent doctors team and they returned after eliminating epidemiology . Mr fatah all human being are working even overworking to ensure food , home, health , education and pay heavy taxes to have security , amusement parks , well roads , and emergency Socorro , do u know how stressful is it ? Or not ? Cuban enjoy all these without having work over time , Cubans have always free weekend , nearly all Cuban enjoy night clubs , entertainments parks , world most beautify beach , every Cuban own a house , public transport a 1 or less then 1 cent , 90% Cuban dress themselves with brands if nike , Adidas , puma , many more , 24 hour electricity , all Cuban cook in electricity , no mosquitos , Cuba has antimosquitos force , fire brigade and police will have to reach the incident in less then 2 mint . . . I enjoyed ice cream in 5 cents of USA dollar , , no macdonalds , no luxury life as cars or other because Cuba is a developed poor country .
    If u abusing Fidel of being a dictator so I pray to my Allah give such dictator to my country and at the end want to say u fu**k of your democracy ?

  4. Asif
    December 9, 2016 at 2:19 AM

    Mr. Hussain,

    I am surprised you only stayed 7 years, owing to your rhapsodizing description of the Castro’s Cuba as if a living paradise, one would have thought you would have made it a permanent home. I have been living in the U.S, over forty years and have befriended a few Cubans and read a few autobiographical accounts of the horrors that Castro regime has meted out to those who have disagreed with his rule. Is it willful blindness or the influence of some psychedelic hallucinogenic that ended up giving you a paradisiacal experience? In case of the latter I would very much like to get my hands on some of that lovely stuff, you would inform, would you?

    Communism is an utterly failed system of governance. Command economy, is the term in contradiction; either one has economy or failure to feed its citizenry. That’s why in the year 1989 Soviet Union came to an end and subsequently the Berlin Wall was no more: Without firing a single bullett the Evil Empire rests in the trash heap of history. It’s strange to hear such vociferous defense on behalf of a God forsaken regime from a fellow with a muslim name? Do you not see the contradictions? The conundrum.

    If it were only so, not at all any Cuban would be rearing to leave his or her home, but it is so everyone wishes to leave, if given an opportunity. Tens of thousands of brave Cubans have found refuge from the most repressive Castro’s regime in Miami, making Miami a most vibrant southern city of America (an unintended and only fruitful consequence that readily comes to mind), what would otherwise have been a sleepy southern town. Some of those Cubans had to brave shark infested waters in make shift boats to reach the safety of Miami. Upon learning Castro’s passing the whole city fell into an impromptu street party, spontaneously celebrations all over town. Do you think this is possible for a run of the mill leader’s passing? No Sir, reserved only for a hand full of villains.

    Please, get your facts straight. I urge you, go to the National Review Online’s free web sight (NRO); here you will encounter a whole bunch of essays that will enlighten you. I wish you all the best. Good luck.

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