Fidel Castro, 81 years old, has announced his retirement from politics after half a century of ruling over the glorious worker's paradise that he created in Cuba - a country that has barely managed to remain afloat with the benefice of Fidel's friend, Hugo Chavez. Raul Castro is expected to take the reins of dictatorial power.On the other side of the looking glass, the press produced a "barrage of Castro puff pieces"; a broadcast beatification. The New York Times headline proclaimed (emphasis added): "Fidel Castro Resigns as Cuba’s President". By contrast, when no less of a tyrant kicked the bucket a year ago, the Times trumpeted (emphasis added): "Augusto Pinochet, Dictator Who Ruled by Terror in Chile, Dies at 91". The story from the far-left BBC was titled "Castro: Profile of the great survivor." Newsbusters didn't find a major media outlet with "dictator" in headlines or ledes. ABC's Diane Sawyer was wackiest, calling Castro "dashing."
Plainly, nitwit lefties love Castro, mostly because he's anti-American. (To their credit, Hillary and Obama seem more sensible.) As Right Wing News' John Hawkins noted, about a third of the Puffington Host commenters praised Fidel, calling him more democratic than Bush. The body of New York Times' story was a bit more balanced, but still lauded Castro as "charismatic" twice:
The charismatic Cuban leader seized power in January 1959 after waging a guerrilla war against the then-dictator Fulgencio Batista, promising to restore the Cuban constitution and hold elections.When will lefties abandon this trope? Cuba's "universal" healthcare is neither universal nor healthy, as even NY Times readers should know. Cuba's "free education" is laced with propaganda and conditions advancement on attending pro-government demonstrations. Most importantly, as President Bush observed Tuesday, ordinary Cubans under Castro "have been denied their right to live in a free society." For conformation, ask a Cuban homosexual--if any remain.
But he soon turned his back on those democratic ideals, embraced a totalitarian brand of communism and allied the island with the Soviet Union. He brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in the fall of 1962, when he allowed Russia to build missile launching sites just 90 miles off the American shores. He weathered an American-backed invasion and used Cuban troops to stir up revolutions in Africa and Latin America.
Those actions earned him the permanent enmity of Washington and led the United States to impose decades of economic sanctions that Mr. Castro and his followers maintain have crippled Cuba’s economy and have kept their socialist experiment from succeeding completely.
The sanctions also proved handy to Mr. Castro politically. He cast every problem Cuba faced as part of a larger struggle against the United States and blamed the abject poverty of the island on the “imperialists” to the north.
For good or ill, Mr. Castro is without a doubt the most important leader to emerge from Latin America since the wars of independence of the early 19th century, not only reshaping Cuban society but providing inspiration for leftists across Latin America and in other parts of the world.
His record has been a mix of great social achievements, but a dismal economic performance that has mired most Cubans in poverty. He succeeded in establishing universal health care, providing free education through college and largely rooting out racism.
Still, somehow the BBC insists "Cuba under [Castro's] rule has made impressive domestic strides." Huh? Even the Beeb concedes "chronic shortages and empty shelves." In fact, by any objective measure, Cuba's economy is a disaster; according to a leftist Cuban, "There’s been terrible inflation in the last year, while salaries remain stationary, at an average of about $17 per month." Food remains rationed; the Cuban people are bordering on starvation; Gitmo detainees are better fed. Everything in Cuba is poisoned or antiquated; only Castro got rich off the revolution. Yet, contrary to lefty claims, America's trade embargo isn't the cause: "Cuba is not actually economically isolated from anywhere but the U.S., it just doesn't sell much of anything that anyone wants to buy."
Post Castro, what can Cubans expect? According to the communist-apologist NY Times:
Whether Mr. Castro’s remaking of Cuban society will survive the current transition remains to be seen. Some experts note Raúl Castro is more pragmatic and willing to admit mistakes than his brother. He has given signals he might try to follow the Chinese example of state-sponsored capitalism.More realistically, Henry Louis Gomez predicts "Cubans will still experience the same amount of repression, but now with 10% less bluster":
Others predict that, without Fidel Castro’s charismatic leadership, the government will have to make fundamental changes to the economy or face a rising tide of unrest among rank-and-file Cubans.
Fidel, through his force of will and a lot of intimidation, was able to keep things together and make people accept the fact that Cuba would liberalize its economy and political system over his dead body. It’s universally accepted that Raúl is somehow more closely in tune with the attitudes of everyday Cubans. In a certain sense, his survival is going to have to depend on this trait, whether he currently possesses it or not. The dictator of Cuba has to walk a fine line: keep the people hungry enough that they spend most of their time looking for food, but not so hungry that it creates a social explosion. In other words, portray the illusion that incremental changes for the better are being undertaken, while changing as little as possible.That's the reality of Cuban socialism--misery moderated only by the myth of progress.
[T]he US tends to get blamed for both dictators [Castro and Pinochet], which just goes to show, in the minds of some people, it doesn't matter whether we support third rate leaders like Batista, or oppose third rate leaders like Allende, when they fall to a coup within their own country, it's America's fault. It also doesn't matter whether we embargo them or trade like crazy with the subsequent junta, the policy it to blame for the continuing plight of the people. And it doesn't matter whether we gently show the dictator the door, or shake our fist at him in his dotage, we don't get much credit.MORE & MORE:
I'm fascinated by the comment section to this Brad DeLong post, in which many of the commenters struggle to redefine poverty so that it excludes Cuba. Most of the arguments are daft. I'm particularly floored by the people arguing that begging and prostitution are not a result of poverty, but rather of Cuba's currency controls--as if not being able to earn enough money to live on is somehow different and better if your plight is the direct result of a government edict.(via TimesWatch, Fausta's Blog, Instapundit (twice), Michelle Malkin, Megan McArdle)