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, some on the left have seen only what they wanted to see and reported only what the Cuban government wanted them to report.
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 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. “Hospitals and clinics are crumbling,” the magazine reported. “Conditions are so unsanitary, patients may be better off at home.”
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.”
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 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, a columnist with Tribune Content Agency, appears in Opinion on Wednesdays.