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Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Castro: a "cruel dictator"?

Not to be outdone by Lee Bollinger insulting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, George Bush went to the U.N. today and insulted Fidel Castro by calling him a "cruel dictator."

I won't bother to argue to "dictator" description. If you know enough about Cuba, you know that there is a large leadership team, and a democratic system by which decisions are taken. Fidel Castro does not "dictate" what happens. However, it is obvious that he is at once a very strong personality and at the same time a brilliant political and social thinker. Clearly he has, and has had, a major influence on the course of events in Cuba, and that's probably putting it mildly. So if someone wants to call him a "dictator," ok, it's not worth arguing about, although you'd have to say it's a funny criticism coming from a man who on more than one occasion has expressed a desire to be a dictator.

No, it's the "cruel" part I have to take exception to. Before getting to Fidel, we pause to remember that the accuser (Bush) was the one who was described by conservative Tucker Carlson (i.e., not one of Bush's enemies) as having "mocked" Carla Faye Tucker as he was about to put her to death. So accusations of "cruel" coming from him, a man who signed the death warrants of 155 people, are a cruel joke.

But Fidel? A man who has devoted his life (and I mean every day of his adult life, not the days in between clearing brush on his ranch and going fishing) to bettering the lives of the people of his country? A man whose leadership has given Cubans the lowest infant mortality in Latin America, the best education in Latin America, a leadership in scientific fields (2% of the population of Latin America but 11% of the scientists) such as biotechnology, "cruel"? A man whose leadership has led his country to send doctors all over the world offering both regular and emergency medical care to poor people in need, to send doctors to help after Hurricane Katrina hit the country whose leadership wishes him dead, and even to train (for free!) medical students of that country so they can return to treat poor people who otherwise might not have adequate health care? This man is "cruel"?

Again, a cruel joke. And worse, of course. Because behind it lies the deadly policy of blockade, attempted assassination and other acts of terrorism, imprisonment of those who dared to try to prevent that terrorism, and more. You want cruel? The U.S. just denied once again (for the eighth time) visas to Olga Salanueva and Adriana Pérez, wives of two of the Cuban Five (an interview with Olga broadcast yesterday on WBAI here). One man serving life in prison in the United States, another 15 years, both completely unjustly, and the U.S. government led by George Bush has denied them the right to see their wives for more than nine years, in contravention of all international law and human decency.

"Cruel"? That's cruel.

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