Will History Absolve Fidel Castro? It does not matter. Somewhere in his intellectual development — his own accounts of when varied over the years — he decided that the only road leading to these goals was socialism. He kept that insight to himself as he led a nationalist, anti-authoritarian revolution to triumph over the Batista regime in
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Will History Absolve Fidel Castro? It does not matter. Somewhere in his intellectual development — his own accounts of when varied over the years — he decided that the only road leading to these goals was socialism. He kept that insight to himself as he led a nationalist, anti-authoritarian revolution to triumph over the Batista regime in He purged Cuba of U. Assassination, invasion, and covert war all proved unequal to the task of dislodging him, to the chagrin of Washington policymakers, who could neither understand nor tolerate such defiance in their own backyard.
Beginning with radically redistributive economic reforms and culminating in the nationalization of the entire economy, right down to the mom and pop stores on the corner, Castro transformed Cuba into the most egalitarian society in Latin America. Healthcare, education, and social security were declared human rights and provided free to everyone.
Income disparities shrank as wage differentials narrowed and basic consumer goods were provided to all through rationing at prices heavily subsidized by the government. But all this came at a cost. Once the direction of the revolution became clear, the upper and middle classes began an historic migration north into exile.
In just the first decade of revolutionary government, more than , Cubans fled their homeland. Over the ensuing decades, nearly a million more would follow. A charismatic leader par excellence, he harbored a deep distrust of institutions, believing he was a better judge of the desires and aspirations of the Cuban people than any formal structure.
When he decided on a policy, the rest of the leadership dutifully fell into line. Political power, then, was directly correlated with proximity to Fidel. Their meteoric ascendance afforded them no institutional base of support, denied them the political savvy only experience can provide, and imbued them with the hubris of Icarus.
None lasted more than a few years. Strengthening institutions has been a constant theme in his public addresses. He dealt ruthlessly with opponents — from Comandante Huber Matos, sentenced to 20 years for treason in for his anti-communism, to 75 dissidents imprisoned for subversion in for accepting aid from the United States.
Maintaining tight political control allowed Fidel to survive dozens of assassination attempts and half a century of U. But the very real threat from the United States became the rationale for a perpetual national security state that suppressed traditional civil and political liberties, and rewarded conformity. The absence of an independent press, political parties, and civil society associations left the state without the self-correcting mechanisms of a pluralist democratic society.
A series of policy disasters followed. Predictably, many people simply stopped coming to work; productivity plummeted. In the following decade, that policy was replaced by a model of centralized socialist planning imported from the Soviet Union, based on material incentives. With it came all the distortions typical of that model, including a surge in corruption. Although the experience of the s forced Castro to acknowledge that Cubans were not ready to act like selfless citizens in a Marxist utopia, he could never reconcile himself to relying on markets.
The inevitable social inequalities that markets produce, even in a state-owned economy, were simply anathema to his vision of social justice. And once again, the economy stagnated as a result. The resulting shortages of raw materials like fuel and fertilizer caused huge production losses in both manufacturing and agriculture, triggering a downward economic spiral.
Between and , gross domestic product fell 35 percent, and real wages fell by even more. Consumer goods of all types disappeared from store shelves, and people went hungry.
The government eased restrictions on direct foreign investment to attract the capital needed to modernize the tourist industry, and legalized the possession of dollars, encouraging Cuban Americans to send remittances.
But Fidel was never comfortable with these reforms, regarding them as strictly temporary. As the economy gradually recovered in the late s, he scaled back the market-oriented reforms. Although it had been growing since the s, the gains were concentrated in tourism and the export of medical services. The actual production of goods on the island still lagged below levels, and many state enterprises operated at a loss.
Never five, much less six or seven — as we have sometimes pretended. The price of freeing Cuba from U. The U. But while U. Bush at the end of the Cold War.
Beyond the Western hemisphere, Castro supported anti-colonial struggles in Africa and Asia. Cuban arms and military advisers bolstered independence movements against colonialism and white minority rule in southern Africa, and when South Africa invaded Angola in to install a puppet regime, Cuba sent 30, troops to drive the South Africans back across the border. It was sometimes a difficult balancing act.
In , when Jimmy Carter goaded Castro about the number of Cubans wanting to emigrate, Fidel threw open the port of Mariel, unleashing a flood of some , refugees.
In , the George W. Bush administration tried to goad Cuba into closing the U. Interests Section in Havana by directing the chief of mission to publicly embrace Cuban dissidents. Instead, Castro struck not at the diplomats, but at the dissidents they supported, arresting them by the dozens. In the s, the CIA sought to accelerate that process through assassination.
By the turn of the century, George W. Instead, he fell ill and was forced to hand the reins of authority to his brother. The transfer of power could not have been smoother; there were no protests, no riots, no rush to the exits.
But the goals for which Castro made the revolution face real challenges in the years ahead. Without the embargo, trade with the United States will quickly grow to dwarf trade with every other partner, tourists from the United States will dwarf the numbers from Canada and Western Europe, and investment from U. The gravitational pull of the U.
His successors have pledged to maintain the collective welfare system of which the revolution is most proud — free health care, free education, and social security. But other state subsidies for consumers are being phased out as too costly. Markets inevitably produce winners and losers. Already, Cubans who are well-educated, live in cities where economic development is more dynamic, and have access to hard currency, are thriving in a freer economic environment.
Those who are low-skilled or elderly, live in rural areas, have no relatives abroad to send remittances, and suffer from racial discrimination are at risk. To them falls the task of forging an efficient, productive economy, a more open, democratic polity, and a normal relationship with the United States.
The answer will determine whether history will absolve him.
History Will Absolve Me
In October , Castro defended himself in this speech in the courts after he led the attack on the Moncada Barracks. Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time there was a republic. It had its constitution, its laws, its civil rights, a president, a congress and courts of law.
'History will absolve me'
Start your review of History Will Absolve Me Write a review Shelves: l-america-and-caribian , non-fiction , speeches A great tip for political aspirants towards the end. The speech was made public by pages that his wife help him smuggle out of prision. A lot of it is listing cruelties of then ruling tyrant. And the then tyrant, Batista, was in fact cruel. Moreover he had A great tip for political aspirants towards the end. Moreover he had turned Cube into an economic colony of US, all major industrial holdings belonged to Americans as Castro pointed out. Cubans despite having one of most gifted lands were none the better for it.
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