Yesterday, Fidel Castro, who was President of Cuba from 1959 to 2008 and a revolutionary icon to so many, died.
Fidel first came to fame when he ousted notorious, US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista at the end of 1958, taking office in January 1959. He then instituted a Marxist-Leninist system on Cuba, which instantly attracted hostility from the USA and other nations on the western side of the Berlin Wall, resulting in the USA imposing a trade embargo from 1962 onwards and the CIA making no less than 638 failed and rather bizarre attempts to assassinate him, which notably included poisoning Fidel's cigars and exploding seashells in his face.
Cut off from the USA, and after the USSR's collapse in 1991 aid from Russia, Cuba under Fidel displayed so much ingenuity to keep itself afloat, such as keeping the old 'Yank tanks' alive in Havana with old Lada engines and mechanical parts from old Moskviches, and assorted replacement parts made purely from scrap metal and anything remotely usable. Cuba, even after Fidel ceded power to his brother, Raoul, has been able to maintain an excellent health service and well-trained doctors in spite of crippling poverty in many other ways, especially outside Havana. It also made education at all levels free for its entire population, albeit with political indoctrination attached.
However, Cuba under the Castros has been by no means without glaring faults. Anti-Communist opposition by any means in Cuba is still not permitted and many numerous human rights violations take place in Cuba, especially the torture of political prisoners and harassment and persecution of human rights activists. Art of all kinds that is 'contrary to the revolution' in any fashion is outlawed. Basic freedoms like the right to demonstrate and express freely are almost outlawed in Cuba. Some things, especially travel restrictions on entering and leaving Cuba and LGBT rights, have eased slightly since Raoul took office, but Cuba has a long way to go in terms of being considered respectful of basic human rights overall, and it has made no amends for its previous crimes in that sense.
Nevertheless, Fidel Castro, who made friends with more democratic but no less revolutionary and forward thinking figures around the world like Nelson Mandela, has proven, like his friend Che Guevara, a revolutionary inspiration to so many people around the world, for his to desire to rebel against the way things were and are, his inspiration of young people in particular, his different ways of thinking, and his willingness to challenge the uncaring ideology that is capitalism. He will be missed by many just as his legacy will be scorned by many, and I have written this poem to mark his passing:
Revolucionario de antano,
Inspirador de jovenes rebeldes,
Y de los que haldan cambio.
En sus noventa antos,
Usted via tanto de
La mano oscura
De las fuerzas de codicia.
Usted lucho, lo intent
Pero usted se aseguro,
Para evader culaquier
Cosa que pudiera
El golpe de todo asesino extrano...
Asi que, adios camarada,
Por tu tiempo, como todo
In memory of Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, revolutionary leader of Cuba, born 13 August 1926, who departed this life on 25 November 2016, aged 90 years.