Well, Fidel Castro has resigned from the Cuban Presidency today. You know, I wonder how that guy managed to stay in power for about five decades, considering how the United States unleashed all sorts of attacks on him throughout the years. The CIA even tried to burn his beard off so that he wouldn’t look manly to the Cuban people. And the United States also had that famous economic embargo against Cuba.
And we opposed Castro for good reason. Sure, the guy was a dictator, but that’s not the only reason we thought he was bad news. After all, we’ve backed dictators before when they’ve served our interests. Castro was also a problem because he tried to undermine us on an international scale. He supported our enemies during both the Cold War and also the War on Terror. During the Cold War, he worked to export “revolution” (Communist dictatorship) to Central and Latin America as well as Africa. And, during the War on Terror, he backed Saddam Hussein and worked with Hugo Chavez, the radical President of Venezuela, to create a block of leftist, anti-American governments in Central and Latin America. And what compounded the problem was that he was an anti-American force in our very own backyard. Neoconservatives like to say that we’re fighting the terrorists in Iraq so we won’t have to fight them here. Well, it didn’t help to have an anti-American leader who practically was here, or at least he was close to here: he was 90 miles away from our shore.
But did sanctions actually work? Not really. After all, he remained in power all those years. I’ve come to believe that an effective way to bring freedom to countries with dictatorships is to give them a taste of what we have. Look at China. A lot of people there would love to be like us. And being able to eat at McDonald’s in China certainly helps the situation, since the Chinese are becoming exposed to the choices that consumerism brings. Choice is the opposite of dictatorship. And when you give people some freedom, they will want more and more. Dictators will then find them harder to control.
As I’ve read some articles about Central America in the mainstream media over the last month, certain things have stood out to me. In my opinion, these points have challenged the typical leftist narratives about the region. Leftists always said that Castro sought American help and only formed a relationship with the Soviet Union when the U.S. turned him away. But a February 19, 2008 Associated Press article, “Fidel Castro Was Long in Anti-US Camp,” documents that Castro opposed the United States long before the Bay of Pigs. Six months before he even took power, he wrote, “I am going to launch another, much longer and bigger war against them (the Americans). I realize now that this is going to be my true destiny.” He also ridiculed the American way of life, including consumerism.
Another leftist myth is that Communist countries such as Cuba and Nicaragua were actually fine places to live during the Cold War. You see that sort of mindset even today, as Michael Moore lauds the Cuban health care system (though, interestingly, many who’ve experienced it first-hand have a slightly different perspective, to say the least). In most leftist narratives, those who wanted to overthrow Castro or Ortega were merely counter-revolutionaries. They didn’t want freedom, nor did they care about the little guy. They just wanted to restore the dictatorships that the Communists successfully overthrew. They wanted to restore themselves to power.
But that was bogus. Sure, there were counter-revolutionaries who wanted to return to power, but they were not the only ones who resisted Communism in Central America. In Nicaragua, there were many Contras who were former Sandinistas. Also, in a February 9, 2008 Associated Press story, “Ortega’s return stirs ex-Contras in US,” we find that there are Contras now in the United States who are concerned that Ortega is pulling the same tricks that he did in the 1980’s. According to the story, “What really disturbs these former Contras is Ortega’s plan to revive Sandinista neighborhood watch committees, which became his eyes and ears during his first presidency. ” And, although many of them live comfortable lives in the United States, they are working to ensure that Ortega doesn’t start another dictatorship in Nicaragua; some are open to going back to Nicaragua to launch another armed resistance.
These people aren’t trying to get back into power in Nicaragua. They don’t want a return to the days of Somoza. Why would they want that? That was a long time ago! Plus, they’re comfortable here. They are concerned right now for the same thing that motivated them in the 1980’s: freedom.
The same goes for the Cubans who live in the United States. They don’t oppose Castro because they long for the days of Batista. They are ardent opponents of Castro because they know that life for Cubans under him is a jail (except for those in the Cuban government, of course). Their passion is for freedom.
But I will say one good thing about Castro: he did oppose abortion.
Hopefully, Castro’s resignation will allow Cuba to move in the direction of freedom. That would help the Cuban people as well as the security of the United States.