Op-EdOpinion

Most Americans Have It All Wrong About Castro, Cuba

Fidel Castro, one of the greatest, revolutionary thinkers and practitioners of our time, has joined his ancestors.

Castro ruled Cuba — just 90 miles from the Florida Keys — for 47 years in defiance of decades of bitter economic sanctions and more than 630 U.S. assassination attempts. He died of apparent natural causes Nov. 25. Viva Fidel!

Around the world people celebrated Castro, a hero who grew up in a wealthy, privileged Cuban family, yet dedicated his life to elevating the status of those in need.

But in this country the propaganda is so rabid that even those who are seen as “progressive” in the corporate political establishment are expected to condemn Castro, a hero around the world, and demand unjustified concessions from Havana from simple normalized relations with this country. Too bad.

Castro’s Cuban revolution inspired revolutionary efforts across the globe. His forces assisted guerrillas and revolutionary governments, especially in Africa. In the 1970s, Castro sent Cuban troops to Angola to help that government defeat South African insurgents and help win Namibia’s independence from South Africa in 1990.

Castro was on the right side, the U.S. on the wrong side of that ongoing world revolution, diplomatically supporting the white apartheid government and its colonial allies.

“As a black person in the United States, when you think of Fidel Castro, you immediately think of the liberation of southern Africa,” Dr. Gerald Horne, chair of history and African-American studies at the University of Houston, told me in an interview.

“There is no doubt that Southern Africa would not have been liberated from both apartheid and colonialism without the militant intervention of the Cuban armed forces,” Horne said. “That is something any schoolchild in southern Africa can tell you.”

Ray Winbush, director of Morgan State University’s Institute for Urban Research, said he can remember when Castro “slept in Harlem, or when he sheltered Assata Shakur, and made places for people like

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Robert Williams, [who propagated] the idea of self-defense.”

“People forget that he helped finance and fight — with the blood of Cubans — to overthrow many of the colonial powers, when Africa was being liberated in the ’50s and the ’60s,” Winbush said. “We owe him a debt. It was the rich oligarchs” who opposed Castro, and whose descendants make up the Cuban exile community living in South Florida, he said.

On the Cuban island, there is almost universal literacy, the longest life expectancy, and lowest infant mortality rate in all the Caribbean and Latin America, yet U.S. propagandists have characterized Western abstracts like access to the internet — paid for with a price of huge concessions to Western interests — and other “liberties,” which U.S. economic sanctions make all but impossible for the country to afford, it is their absence which fuels discontent against their “dictatorial” government.

Early on, Castro gave refuge to Williams, a North Carolina NAACP leader who sought exile after authoring a book, “Negroes With Guns,” advocating armed self-defense by black communities.

Castro allowed Cuba to be a temporary refuge for Black Panther Party members, and to Assata Shakur, a black revolutionary who escaped from prison, who has permanent protected status there.

I get it that most people in this country consider my heroes to be villains. I’m sorry, they are wrong.

President Obama, who has moved to normalize relations with this country’s island neighbor, was compassionate, for which he was roundly criticized in this country.

“We know that this moment fills Cubans — in Cuba and in the United States — with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families and of the Cuban nation,” Obama said. “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.

“Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people,” Obama said. “In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”

Fidel Castro, the Commandant of the Revolution, has joined his ancestors. Viva Fidel!

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Askia Muhammad

WPFW News Director Askia Muhammad is also a poet, and a photojournalist. He is Senior Editor for The Final Call newspaper and he writes a weekly column in The Washington Informer.

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