Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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On the Death of Fidel Castro

by Elliott Abrams
November 26, 2016


On the death of Fidel Castro my thoughts today turned immediately to Huber Matos, who sadly did not live to see this day.

Matos was a true hero of the Cuban Revolution–and was therefore imprisoned by Fidel Castro for twenty years. Such a sentence was the true measure of the cruelty and vindictiveness of Fidel Castro–and of his fear of liberty for the Cuban people.  For it was when Matos showed his true goal as a revolutionary–the freedom of the Cuban people–that Fidel Castro had him arrested and jailed. Matos emerged from prison in 1979 and joined his family in Costa Rica, and then soon moved to the United States–where he lived until his death in 2014 at age 95. He founded and for nearly two decades led Cuba Independiente y Democratico, an organization that worked for freedom for the Cuban people. Today, I just wish he could have lived to 97.

The Obama statement about Castro‘s death refrained, I am happy to say, from outright praise of the dictator. It has careful phrases like “we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people”–suggesting that the Cuban people are thinking but not mourning. Obama also said “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.” True enough, precisely as one could say of Stalin or a whole bevy of Latin American dictators–though few of them as cruel as Fidel Castro.

Compare this to the wretched statement by Justin Trudeau on behalf of Canada. Here is part: “It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President….While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for ‘el Comandante’….It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.”

Most heads of state are offering statements like this, and each and every one is a disgrace and a moral outrage. Deep sorrow for the passing of a vicious dictator who built Cuba’s own political prisons? A real honor to meet Raul Castro, the current ruler who by the way testified against Huber Matos at his trial and who stands for nothing but continuation of the communist dictatorship? Joining the “people of Cuba” in mourning–including those who are weekly beaten and jailed for seeking freedom, those punished for trying to exercise freedom of speech or press, or form a free trade union, or call for a free election?

This is either pure hypocrisy, or it is shameful ignorance.

History will indeed judge Fidel Castro, and it will judge him as a cruel dictator who wrecked the lives of Cubans who sought freedom, and who held his nation back from liberty for decade after decade. And some day, the Castro statues will be replaced by statues of men like Huber Matos. When? When Cuba is free.

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by L. Edelstein

    Compare NY Times headline/story to those of Washington Post.

  • Posted by Lon W.

    Same here from a lower middle-class yet well educated guy. Fidel Castro was a dictator, and criminal. Would not wish death upon any human, yet can hope that he suffered and my greatest feeling toward this simple criminal would be that he could not feed himself and was incontinent in his final years. This is my eulogy to this man. A great source of misery to very many good people.

  • Posted by Lloyd Cata

    “Dear Elliott”,
    Perhaps your vilification of Fidel Castro has some merit, as the suffering of the Cuban people has been, without a doubt, both historic and medieval. I have commented many times on the ignorance of Fidel’s inhumanity concerning human rights.
    However, the Cuban Revolution has changed both the consciousness and the future for millions around the world, particularly in the developing world.
    Perhaps your disregard of USA support for some of the cruelest dictators on Earth is tempered by your belief that he was the worst, but the list of atrocities committed by tyrants with American support in unsurpassed in world history. I need not display the list, which is well documented, even as it goes on today. Maybe an unbiased look 90 miles to the south of Cuba will suffice.
    Unquestionably, your opinion reflects the ‘good judgement’ of those who are enriching China today and look forward to enriching Vietnam tomorrow. Both Communist, but whose support are now in American ‘interests’. Do you suppose this goes unnoticed, or should be overlooked as benign homage to progress? Are you not aware that your esteemed colleague Mr. Kissinger is an ‘honored’ figure of the CCP? Indeed, I also praise Kissinger as one of the greatest men of the 20th Century! It was, in fact, his insight and forsight that is responsible for the rise of the modern Chinese state, and uplifting a billion people. I can think of none other who has been so instrumental to prosperity, if not freedom for so many.
    History will judge, and I for one am happy that the teachers and doctors that Fidel Castro provided, even as the Cuban people were impoverished, and continues to provide today, will write their own history, imdependent of the mirror of imperialism that continues to enrich your institutions. Truly, no people on Earth have suffered so much for others as have the people of Cuba, and to them I send my deepest condolences, in recognition that their suffering has not been in vain, but for the right of others to determine their own future. Yet, in deference to your education, I recommend you to revisit your dictionary for the word ‘sovereignty’, because it is being restored all over the world, and if my words do not convince you then recent electoral results will have to suffice. In that regard, a last word; “Cuba now belongs to Cubans” and for that alone Fidel Castro is responsible.
    PS – “He built no statues, monuments, or institutions in his image”. He left no estate but his name and his family. Much has been speculated otherwise, but that is just another testament to the ignorance of others. You are sincerely invited to prove otherwise.

  • Posted by farideh

    Thank you for the truth. Some are selectively blind to see what he did for his people and save them and his country from the influence of evil imperialism, and has almost zero illiterate in Cuba. A poor country with public medical insurance and education…… Hero is not the one who betrayed his country and the people’s revolution and sold himself to luxury of living.

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