On announcing the death of Fidel Castro, many media outlets refrained from using the word “dictator,” except when referring to his predecessor, Fulgencio Batista, or to the claims of his “detractors” or “opponents” who “considered him to be a dictator.”
Fidel Castro is dead and public figures and demagogues the world over are wallowing in grief at his passing.
Pope Francis used the words “His Excellency” and “deceased dignitary” to refer to the dead despot, and expressed “sentiments of sorrow.”
And we glean from some of the most scandalous public statements on the matter that our own president “learned with great sadness of the death,” while it was “with great sorrow” that Canada’s prime minister “learned of the death.”
Both statements lavish similar praise on the late tyrant, affectionately refer to him as “el Comandante,” and the language in both is so alike that one might wonder if they share a press agent between them.
A long list of prominent people expressed equal sorrow, using the same sycophantic language, about the loss of their great model of statesmanship. It doesn’t bode well for the future of humanity that a man who so readily made use of firing squads and mass incarceration to achieve his political aims is so admired by the “leaders” of much of the Western world.
But who was this man who could elicit such an outpouring of grief and sympathy on his death?
“A Giant among Global Leaders”
President Michael D. Higgins described him as “a giant among global leaders,” a phrase unlikely to be applied to Mr Higgins himself and not only, we hasten to add, because of his physical stature. Rather Mr Higgins will go down in history as a midget among global leaders because of his willingness to be a stooge of the communist ideology and its enforcers, in spite of their disastrous consequences for humanity.
But in what sense could Castro be considered a “giant among global leaders?”
As a despot and mass-murderer he was up there with the greatest of them. Of course he didn’t manage to slay as many people as Mao Tse-tung, Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler. But then, he had only a small country to tyrannise.
Estimates vary, but credible figures (https://www.quora.com/How-many-deaths-was-Fidel-Castro-responsible-for) suggest that 30,000 to 40,000 were executed or died in prison (other sources suggest as many as 200,000 http://www.therealcuba.com/?page_id=103), while similar numbers perished while fleeing the island prison across the shark infested Florida Straits in makeshift rafts.
All civil liberties were repressed in Castro’s Cuba. The smallest details of life were controlled by pervasive agents of the state. Torture and imprisonment without trial were commonplace – rivalling Stalin’s USSR for the proportion of the population that was incarcerated.
Financially, too, Castro was a “giant among global leaders.”
According to Forbes, he had amassed a fortune of at least $900 million (http://www.forbes.com/2006/05/04/rich-kings-dictators_cz_lk_0504royals.html), although other sources put his wealth at the more modest figure of $168 million (http://www.news.com.au/world/fidel-castro-liveda-lie-to-his-own-people-as-claims-about-his-wealth-start-to-surface/news-story/6e40f9baa962854f3d704500723575cb). Either way, it is a huge amount to be siphoned off the small GDP of Cuba.
So it seems that his claim to live on the same standard wages as all Cubans – $30 per month – was not true. Nor was his claim that he lived in a fisherman’s hut. The reality is that he treated Cuba as his personal fief. He lived in a colonial palace, and kept many other homes throughout the Caribbean – and all this while his fellow Cubans lived in abject poverty.
Perhaps Mr Higgins considers Castro to be a giant because “he built up a health system that is one of the most admired in the world.” It is certainly admired by left wing demagogues and media outlets, in part because all they will get to see if they visit Cuba are the state-of-the-art health facilities for foreigners who can afford to pay (http://www.therealcuba.com/?page_id=77).
Meanwhile ordinary Cubans have to endure more humble facilities, propped up on charitable donations of drugs and equipment from other countries including Ireland (for example: http://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/21639).
As a tyrant Castro was a giant. As a tycoon he was a giant. For building the greatest health system in the world, he turns out not to be such a giant. And, of course, for being “one of the longest serving heads of state in the world” (mentioned by President Higgins) he was a giant.
Which of these characteristics does Mr Higgins so admire? Which would he emulate?
Would Mr Higgins impose the Cuban legacy of his dead hero on Ireland if he could? We should be grateful to God that he doesn’t have the power to do so.
Commenting in the Irish Independent, Ruth Dudley Edwards suggested that if, “as President, he can’t keep his contentious opinions to himself, he should resign” (http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/ruth-dudley-edwards/president-higgins-puts-his-left-foot-in-it-with-gushing-praise-for-fidel-castro-35247897.html). And so he should.
But President Higgins didn’t stop at what Senator Ronan Mullen quite rightly called “fawning, offensive and wholly inappropriate” comments. He went on to sign the book of condolences in the Cuban Embassy “on behalf of the people of Ireland.”
How dare he associate us with his own obsequious attitude towards one of the most ruthless tyrants of the 20th Century?
Meanwhile Pope Francis offered his “sentiments of sorrow” to the Cuban people. It was while Castro was still alive that the Cubans were in most need of sympathy, if not some actual help to extricate themselves from under the heel of their dictator.
But what has shocked many who saw the statement of Pope Francis is that he promises, in very un-Catholic terminology, prayers for “his (Castro’s) rest” (http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/11/26/telegram_for_the_death_of_fidel_castro/1275046). Prayers for Castro’s victims, living and deceased, would be more appropriate.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be so hard on all these leftist leaders. Their world is crumbling. They can no longer persuade the masses. Just in the past six months the British have voted for Brexit; the Colombian people rejected a peace deal with the communist, drug-pushing terrorist group, FARC; and Hillary Clinton lost the American presidential election.
And now this grief!