In a statement following the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, President Obama spoke of “the countless ways in which (Castro) altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation.”
That’s an understatement as the thousands who have risked their lives over the years to escape from Cuba have testified.
The president added: “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”
Why wait on history? We can judge him now.
For six decades the left has lauded Castro as a secular savior, seeing only what they wanted to see and reporting only what the Cuban government wanted them to report.
Examples are legion, but this one is typical: In February 1988, the State Department named Cuba one of the world’s biggest human rights oppressors. NBC News reporter Ed Rabel visited Havana to check it out.
Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center, the conservative media watchdog, writes: “NBC’s conciliatory approach allowed Castro to spew lies about his drug connections and the wonderful achievements of the Cuban revolution.” Rabel reported, “There is, in Cuba, government intrusion into everyone’s life, from the moment he is born until the day he dies. The reasoning is that the government wants to better the lives of its citizens and keep them from exploiting or hurting one another. ... On a sunny day in a park in the old city of Havana it is difficult to see anything that is sinister.”
Over the years, celebrities made pilgrimages to Havana. Each time they marveled at the supposed excellence of Cuba’s medical care and quality of education. In the immediate aftermath of Castro’s death, the pattern was repeated. Typical was Andrea Mitchell, who gushed on MSNBC: “(Castro) gave his people better health care and education.”
Mitchell and other Castro disciples apparently never read a July 2007 article in National Review titled, “The Myth of Cuban Health Care.” The magazine was among many publications that destroyed the notion of outstanding health care in Cuba, noting that the country offers three medical tiers. One tier is for celebrities and tourists, requiring payment in hard cash to help bolster the regime. The second tier is for Cuba’s top government officials. The third tier is for everyone else, which the magazine called “…wretched. Hospitals and clinics are crumbling. Conditions are so unsanitary, patients may be better off at home, whatever home is. If they do go to the hospital, they must bring their own bed sheets, soap, towels, food, light bulbs, even toilet paper. And basic medications are scarce … finding an aspirin can be a chore. And an antibiotic will fetch a fortune on the black market.”
As for “excellence” in Cuba’s education system, a February 2015 article in The Atlantic punctured that myth: “Under Fidel Castro, education became universal — but he also stipulated that anyone who received this education would have to actively promote government policies both during and after their schooling. They would also be required to take government-approved courses that didn’t tolerate any criticism of socialism as a way of life. In other words, education was seen as key to the revolution taking hold and creating a literate population loyal to the government.”
The left, so concerned about human rights in America and other non-communist countries, ignores their violations in Cuba.
As Human Rights Watch noted earlier this year, “The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and discourage public criticism. While in recent years it has relied less on long-term prison sentences to punish its critics, short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and other critics have increased dramatically. Other repressive tactics employed by the government include beatings, public acts of shaming, and the termination of employment.”
President-elect Donald Trump’s statement was more direct and accurate than President Obama’s: “Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”
This should be history’s judgment on Fidel Castro, depending on who writes it.
Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist. He joined Fox News Channel in 1997 as a political contributor. His latest book is "What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America" is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at email@example.com.