On Friday, November 25, the world lost one of history’s most selfless individuals. Fidel Castro passed away at the age of 90.
Born into a very wealthy family, Fidel began standing up for the underdog at a surprisingly young age. His father owned a farm thousands of hectares in size and employed hundreds of poorly paid workers. These workers would line up at a window in the family home on payday to receive their pay. As a young boy, Fidel learned of their terrible income and threatened to organize the workers in rebellion if his father did not immediately increase their pay!
The rest of Fidel’s life story is far too lengthy to even attempt to summarize here, but these are just a handful of the outstanding achievements he realized in his lifetime:
• In the Western Hemisphere (North America, South America, and the Caribbean) hundreds of thousands of children will go to sleep tonight on the street. They are homeless. Not one of them is Cuban.
• In Cuba everyone has free access to a health care system rated by health experts from all points on the political spectrum as one of the best in the world.
• Cuba’s literacy rate is one of the highest in the world — much higher than almost every nation in the Western Hemisphere.
• Life expectancy in Cuba ranks very favourably. Depending which system is used, Cuba’s life expectancy is often just under America’s by only a month or two. The World Health Organization, for instance, puts Canada’s life expectancy at 82.2 years, America’s at 79.3 years and Cuba’s at 79.1 years.
• It was Nelson Mandela’s opinion that Cuba did more than any other nation to bring about an end to apartheid in South Africa. By the way, Nelson Mandela was only arrested and put on trial for trying to bring apartheid to an end because of a tip from American agents working in South Africa. He then spent 27 years in jail.
• Cuba offers free education, not just K-12, but unlimited post-secondary education as well.
• The World Wildlife Fund ranks Cuba as the nation with the smallest environmental footprint, even after taking into consideration the size of the Cuban economy. In other words, based on per unit of economic output, Cuba has the world’s smallest environmental footprint.
Who has the better human rights record — Cuba or the US?
1. In Cuba, after Fidel’s defeat of the hated American backed dictator, Batista, there has not been a single instance of an innocent, unarmed civilian being shot dead by a police officer. In the United States, this happens with great frequency.
2. In Cuba, passive demonstrators are not pepper sprayed, tear gassed, maced, and then shot at with rubber bullets, water cannons and sound cannons. In North Dakota over the past few weeks this has occurred every night.
3. Cuba has never engaged in or been accused of engaging in extrajudicial execution of any citizen of any nation, much less any of its own citizens. In contrast, Obama has engaged in the extrajudicial execution of American citizens. Obama’s position is that he has a legal opinion that indicates he has this legal authority.
4. Cuba has never engaged in, or been accused of engaging in, waterboarding or any other form of torture.
5. Cuba does not use drones to attack wedding parties. The United States does if it believes that amongst the wedding party is an individual believed likely to commit terrorism in the future. The United States then uses the same drone to come back and strike again once certain that first responders are on scene.
6. One area in which Cuba relatively recently took bold steps in the right direction with regard to Human Rights is in the area of rights for LGBTQ individuals. The movement was championed by Mariela Castro, daughter of Raul Castro. It was not always so. Fidel, by his own admission, took responsibility for the fact that his government’s policies for the LGBTQ community were for many years homophobic. Today, a strong and growing LGBTQ community is making great strides and in some areas has put Cuba ahead of the US.
In closing, I would like to leave you with a very moving thought. The first reaction in Cuba to President Kennedy’s assassination was that some people in the streets began to celebrate loudly and happily. In response, Fidel Castro came on Cuban TV to tell the Cuban people, “We do not celebrate the death of a human being. If US imperialism had died, we would celebrate.” He then sent a letter of condolence to President Kennedy’s wife, Jacqueline.