Under Castro’s leadership, Cuba went from being a country of poor and largely illiterate people, to one that puts most of the rest of the Western world to shame with its impressive health and education statistics.
As rich countries, such as the US and Britain, have fostered growing inequality and are failing to meet the public health and education needs of their populations, Cuba has for years provided high quality free health care and education for all. The result: a literacy rate higher than the US’s and life expectancy that equals it.
Through its international programme Cuba has exported teachers and health workers around the world, most recently to West Africa to tackle the Ebola epidemic. In Kashmir, Cubans were the first international responders to the country’s earthquake, and the last to leave.
Meanwhile, Cuban support for liberation struggles in Angola and Mozambique, played a key role in the defeat of apartheid in South Africa. On his release from prison, one of the first trips Nelson Mandela wanted to make was to Cuba to thank Fidel Castro.
But anyone listening to the BBC’s mealy mouthed and biased coverage of Castro’s death on Saturday morning, would not have come away with a sense that Castro might been one of the good guys.
Disproportionate time was given to right-wing Cuban exiles in Miami and their supporters in the media. . . .
Former MP George Galloway commented that every interview he had given on Fidel’s death during the day was dominated by the issue of human rights in Cuba. One USjournalist asked him if there was torture in Cuba, to which he replied ‘the only place that has torture in Cuba today is Guantanamo Bay’ – inside the US detention centre. . . .
The continued domination of the Cuban Communist Party and reluctance to embrace a multiparty system, needs to be seen in context. The fear that the benefits of the revolution could be swiftly undone is real and underpinned by decades of extreme UShostility and interference, a crippling trade embargo, and the continued occupation of Guantanamo bay. Not to mention the many CIA plots to kill Castro himself.
There are few shining examples of successful and enduring revolutions that you can point to in the world today. But Cuba is a candidate. The small island has been a David to the US Goliath; a source not only of inspiration, but of practical and generous support to the those around the world who are struggling for justice, equality or just a basic quality of life.
Vanessa Baird, “Fidel Castro is Not Dead,” The New Internationalist