The Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro passed away on Friday 25th November. I am not going to provide an account of the Cuban Revolution, rather I just wanted to pay a brief, but heartfelt tribute to Castro, without deifying him or pretending that he was perfect, which is a common tendency when people write about people they admire. Why do I admire Castro? Is it because I am a Communist or Marxist revolutionary? No, certainly not. I admire him because he was one of the few true friends, in terms of significant political leaders, that Afrika has had during the 20th century. Whilst some of the Afrikan leaders of the ‘frontline states’, during the apartheid era in South Africa, either sat passively by or in some cases, actively co-operated with the apartheid regime, such as the arrogant neo-colonial lackey Dr Hastings Banda who “… was careful never to appear radical in front of the former colonial masters and pleased the British government by maintaining trade and contact with South Africa, condemning his fellow African leaders more than he did apartheid.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/obituary-dr-hastings-banda-1296534.html Fidel Castro put Cuban forces into battle against colonial regimes in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Angola. Much Cuban blood was shed on the battlefields of Southern Africa in aid of Afrikan liberation.
A great example is the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. “The battle of Cuito Cuanavale and the Cuban intervention in Angola is one of the turning points in Southern African History. It led to the movement of powerful Cuban armed force, into the west, towards the Namibian border. The fighting in the south western part of Angola led to the withdrawal of the South African, ANC and Cuban presence in Angola, and to the Independence of Namibia.” http://www.sahistory.org.za/topic/battle-cuito-cuanavale-1988 This battle was hugely significant in that it not only led to the withdrawal of South African troops from Angola and independence of Namibia, but it also destoyed the aura of invincibility surrounding the South African Defence Force (SADF), and was a significant contributory factor in the release of Nelson Mandela and end of apartheid in South Africa.
You have to put this all into context by remembering that the white world vacillated between overt and covert support for the apartheid regime, as perhaps best exemplified by UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher referring to the Afrikaners as “our kith and kin” during a state visit to the UK by the then South African leader, the despicable war criminal, PW Botha. In global terms Cuba is a small island nation with a small population and which has been under economic and political attack by the United State ever since the revolution in 1959. Over the years there were more than a dozen documented assassination attempts against Castro by various US governments and yet despite living in the shadow of a hugely powerful; hostile neighbour, Castro had the vision and commitment to reach out to African people in Afrika, the Caribbean and other parts of the world and lend direct practical military, economic and medical aid. Just take the example of the massive earthquakes in Haiti where Cuba sent teams of doctors and the US sent in hordes of soldiers. That is a direct legacy of Fidel Castro and also illuminates the Euro-American mindset of always coming to conquer. Cuba even offered to send in medical teams in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina whilst the US government once again sent in teams of soldiers to face down a non-existent threat from the stranded, mostly Afrikan residents of New Orleans. Over the years Cuba has run a program giving free medical training to African-Americans.
Castro should also be remembered for his strenuous attempts to wipe out racism in Cuba. I should be clear that he did not succeed in this, but it was not for the want of trying. Racism is still alive and kicking in Cuba as you can see by the behavior and attitudes of many of the European Cubans who migrate to the US from the island. Since, as I have mentioned many times before, racism is a normative part of European culture, all Castro could do was to suppress overt manifestations of racism in Cuba, but he could never kill its cultural root. I recall an Afrikan woman telling me of her holiday to Cuba, which took place in the last 10 years, and how she was constantly asked for her ID on the private beach associated with the hotel she was staying in and how it was regularly insinuated that she was a prostitute. You also have all of the skin color and shade issues in Cuba as is found in places such as Jamaica, UK, US etc. as well as the same European beauty ideal.
Human Rights – We have to speak about human rights because this will be the biggest criticism made of Castro. Did the Castro government suppress people’s human rights? To my mind the answer is obviously yes, however I think again we have to look at this in context. What do you think is going to happen when you lead a tiny nation with the most powerful nation on Earth as a very hostile near neighbor which is making every attempt to not only overthrow your government but also to directly kill you? It would be naive to think that you can have an open society under such abnormal conditions. Just take the failed ‘Bay of Pigs’ invasion in 1961 as an example of US hostility http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-13066561 No one knows for sure how Cuba would have developed if it was not faced with the ongoing US economic embargo designed to impoverish the Cuban people and destabilise the Cuban government.
The Future – With the transition of leadership to Fidel Castro’s brother Raul in 2008, the lifting of the US economic embargo and the flow of US money into Cuba which will become a tidal wave, the future for Cuba is likely to be Back to the Future. Prior to the revolution Cuba was a playground for the rich and famous from the US, a place where the Mafia could launder money and centre for gambling, drugs and prostitution. I predict that in 5-10 years Cuba will be transformed. There will be huge infrastructure investment in the key tourist areas with hotels, casinos, theme parks etc popping up and a massive spike in property prices in these areas. Cuba will become one of the top holiday destinations for US citizens and will become a hotspot for sex tourism. Some Cubans are going to make significant amounts of money, whilst the US transnational corporations are going to make a killing. Cuba will become yet another neo-colonial island in the sun.
Article written by Ifayomi Grant