Reactions to Fidel Castro

The death of the infamous Cuban leader Fidel Castro sparked a wide range of reactions.

In the United States, it was marked by widespread celebration. Many Americans understood Castro in the context of the brutal violence and oppression he inflicted upon the Cuban people. During his rule, he ordered the deaths of thousands of Cuban citizens via extra-judicial orders and was responsible for a number of human rights abuses. Many of the Cubans who had fled to the U.S. during his regime viewed his death as closure for both their suffering and the suffering of their friends and family.

In addition, Cubans now living in America viewed Castro as a wicked man who lied to them about the possibility of making their lives better under communism. Following the Cuban Revolution, Castro had used his passion, charisma, and promises of prosperity to rally the Cuban people after overthrowing the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. As it turns out, a number of Castro’s policies did more to harm the Cuban people than to help them. As former Florida Governor Jeb Bush argued, Cuba in the absence of Castro can now be “truly free and democratic.”

However, several international figures, such as French President Francois Hollande, mourned Castro’s death, praising him as a “towering figure in the 20th Century.” Vladimir Putin of Russia, Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, and former U.S.S.R. leader Mikhail Gorbachev have also publicly displayed their appreciation for Castro. In particular, his supporters praise him as a champion of socialism and anti-imperialism whose revolutionary regime secured Cuba's independence from American domination.

The question that remains: do the people of Cuba still admire and support Castro as much as they did during his revolution 57 years ago? It might appear so. Reports from Cuba have produced only messages of mourning and sadness over the death of their beloved “Commandante.” But, the Cuban state controls the media, so it is likely that dissenting opinions would be quashed.

Moving forward, the United States can allow its strained relations with Cuba to die alongside Castro. After giving the Cuban people time to mourn their “Commandante,” U.S. leaders should attempt to foster friendlier relations and help the country move in a more positive direction. As a result of Castro’s anti-globalization policies, Cuba is still stuck in the 1960s. With the help of America and the rest of the world, it can finally enter the 21st century.

Reflecting on Communism After Castro

In the wake of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s death, it’s time for the world to be reminded of a very important truth. Communism doesn’t work. While the philosophy seems popular among

young millennials, most of them were not even alive during the most recent periods of

communist oppression to see its horrors and failures. Not only is it economically unfeasible, but

in nearly every modern communist state, its governing structure has led to the immense

suffering of the people. In smaller communistic societies where violence was not employed, the communities have rarely lasted more than a generation or two before they dissolved on account of tension with members’ human desires to work for themselves and own property. History shows that communism always fails.

Cuba happens to be a prime example. Castro’s guerrilla army overthrew the government of Cuba by force in the late 1950s, installing a communist regime. Once his regime was in place, he resorted to violence to keep power. His enemies often met their ends with non-judicial

sentences, firing squads, and assassinations. Thousands of individuals died. An estimated 78,000 more died attempting to escape the Castro regime. In total, more than 1.5 million fled Cuba, seeking asylum in the United States and other countries.

Beyond Cuba, plenty more examples of communist oppression occur in recent history.

The Soviet Union similarly mistreated its people, leading to the deaths of millions of citizens.

After emerging from behind the Iron Curtain, many of the formerly Soviet-dominated nations are still struggling to find their ground, economically and culturally, more than two and a half decades later.

Just looking at the attitudes of the citizens of those countries toward communism, one can see – as I did during my recent semester in Poland – exactly how they felt that system failed them. The Polish people in particular have vehemently anti-communist attitudes. Their country has found itself the object of Russian aggression for centuries, and they received horrid treatment under the Soviets, including being subjected to famine and frequent shortages, and to violence when they tried to gain any semblance of control.

Communism fails on a smaller scale as well. It can only be successful when all members of society are active, willing participants. Interest tends to wane.

Upstate New York, for example, has had its fair share of communistic societies. The “Burned-Over District,” site of arguably the greatest religious revival during the Second Great Awakening, had a high number of religious communal societies. The Oneida Community, not far to the west of Hamilton College, is a major example. Now known for their silverware empire, the Oneida Community began as a religious communal society in 1848. It remained successful for years as new members continued to join. However, the next generation of Oneidans, most of whom were brought to the commune by their parents, became disenchanted with the community’s ideals. They disbanded it in 1881.

The Oneida Community is not alone in this problem. Often, children who grow up subjected to communist ideals, much like anyone forced to live under a flawed system of

governance, become disaffected. This disaffection is also prevalent in large-scale communist societies – including Cuba, for the many who fled and among many who couldn’t leave. Almost anyone old enough to remember living under the Castro regime has terrible memories of it, and thus abhors the principle of communism.

Now, after Fidel Castro’s death, we should stop to reflect on his legacy of violence

and hate. Although he is gone, his brother Raul still reigns, continuing his legacy. Although some changes have been made in Cuba’s economy at times, the Cuban people are still suffering. We can only hope its condition will improve soon, and that the death of Castro can help to bring positive change.