"History Will Absolve Me" - The life, time, politics, influence and career of Dr Fidel Castro Ruiz

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Ender Sai, Aug 7, 2006.

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  1. Ender Sai Chosen One

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    Feb 18, 2001
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    Fidel: The World Icon

    Cuba's President Fidel Castro - the world's longest serving leader - turns 80 on 13 August. This week, we will be assessing his political life and his impact on the Caribbean island.
    Here, world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds looks at the story of his life.


    He is instantly recognisable both from his appearance - the beard and the military fatigues - and from his first name alone: Fidel.

    The name is expressed with affection by some, with hostility by others but it calls up history for everyone.

    The story of his life is very much the story of our times: revolutionary movements, the Cold War, East v West, North v South, communism v capitalism - except that most of the world has passed him by.

    Fidel Castro, who celebrates his 80th birthday this week, has remained the same, a symbol of revolution, a communist who has survived the fall of communism.

    He continues to inspire his followers with slogans and five-hour speeches. He rails against the United States, its economic and trade embargo and against the evils of free markets - and he maintains his rule with an iron grip that sends opponents to prison for years.

    Intolerance

    He is praised for standing up for the oppressed of Latin America, for opposing the Yankee imperialist, for making Cuba into a more equal society than many, for developing Cuba's health service and sending doctors abroad to help others.

    And it wasn't only doctors he has sent abroad. He despatched troops to Angola and Ethiopia in support of fellow revolutionaries. His hand was seen in many a revolutionary movement in his own continent.

    But he is also condemned for intolerance, for keeping his people poor and for refusing to see the benefits of economic liberalisation that even the communists of China have embraced.

    He has stopped his people from leaving the island, leading them to risk their lives in rickety boats to try to get out.

    At one stage in the early years of the Reagan administration he was accused of trying to take over Central America for the Soviet Union by revolution.

    Washington at that time saw a path that led from the guerrillas of El Salvador through Nicaragua to Cuba and right up to the door of the Kremlin.

    Brink of nuclear war

    Cuban assistance to the small and then revolutionary island of Grenada in the Caribbean prompted a full-scale US invasion.

    President Castro has remained in almost permanent confrontation with the United States - and it with him. Such thaws as there have been, like under President Jimmy Carter, have always frozen up again.

    The American embargo on Cuba has been used by both sides - as a policy by the US to isolate Cuba and as an excuse by Fidel Castro for the island's poverty.

    He has cut a giant figure on the world stage during the 47 years he has controlled Cuba - at one point bringing the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war.

    It was the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 that propelled him into worldwide prominence.

    Before that he had been just a glamorous revolutionary leader. He had overthrown the dictator Batista in a classic guerrilla war and had fought off an American-led invasion by Cuban exiles on the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

    But when Nikita Khrushchev decided, with Fidel Castro's agreement, to station nuclear missiles in Cuba itself, the island leader turned from being a thorn in the side of the Americans into being a mortal threat.

    It was only the skilled diplomacy of Jack Kennedy (and of Khrushchev in the end) that saved the day, and Fidel's own island from destruction.

    Strengthened

    The then US defence Secretary Robert McNamara met President Castro in 1992. He said the Cuban leader told him there were 162 nuclear missiles in Cuba at the time of the crisis. He asked Castro if he had recommend they be used. The answer was:

    "Yes, I did."


    "And what would have happened to Cuba?" Mr McNamara asked him.

    "It would have been destroyed."
  2. VadersLaMent Chosen One

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    Apr 3, 2002
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    On a less serious note there is a long running series of superhero books called Wild Cards in which the alternate history has Fidel succeed in his tryout with the Washington Senators baseball team. He got traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers and pitched for them for 17 years, got traded back to the Senators in the 1960's and is the pitching coach to this day and is a hero in Cuba, but the Mafia has great control over the country and he refuses to go there.

    I used to work offsite in a factory for quality control inspections of auto engine support pieces. There was a huge population of cheap labor working there and some of these folks were from Cuba. In their words Fidel is bad news. The education level in Cuba is good, but in certain career areas they are not up to U.S. standards. One of the janitors in the factory was formerly a working doctor in Cuba.
  3. Espaldapalabras Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2005
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    I find it interesting the way much of latin America like revolutionary dictators. Having lived in the Dominican Republic, with it's own history of US invasion and US supported dictatorial regimes, I think the two places are probably alot alike. Most Dominicans realized that the Dictator Trujio was a bad guy, but nearly all the old country people thought he was great because you could sleep in the street with money lying in front of you and nobody would touch it (their example, not mine). Yet Dominicans love the US and have the largest percentage of their population living here, compared to all of Latin America. While their economy started to rise in the 90's with tourism, the corrupt democratic government threw the economy into the crapper with a bank bailout. My point in all of this is that even with a free government and market, Cuba would probably still be relatively poor.

    It was very interesting to talk to a Cuban who didn't think Castro was all that bad and wanted to go back.

    I personally would love for a regime change there because it is someplace I would definately want to visit, but I don't feel like breaking the blockade. ;)
  4. Jediflyer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 5, 2001
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    In regards to the sanctions, I believe the definition of insanity has been stated to be "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
  5. Espaldapalabras Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2005
    star 5
    Who said we were expecting different results? It's more of a "screw you guys, I'm going home" mentality. Plus we can afford to be idealistic with promoting democracy in Cuba, but we would have to be morons to play such games with China.
  6. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 9
    Only because Cubans vote and Americans think they have a right to dictate Cuban policy.

    It's also a shame you can't go there.

    E_S
  7. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Just as a point of clarification, it's not illegal for US citizens to travel to Cuba. The regulation restricts who can spend money on the island. (Under the license, I think the current rate is around $180 per day for hotel, meals, etc..)

    Additionally, $100 in Cuban souveneirs can be brought back to the US every six months.
  8. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
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    Is that a recent change?

    The last time I was doing any in-depth Cuban stuff was, IIRC, 1999/2000 so I'm not very current.

    Hmmm.

    Is the disgusting Helms-Burton act still in effect?

    E_S
  9. T-65XJ Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 27, 2002
    star 3
    I don't care what anyone else says. Fidel is a legend if for no other reason than bringing us the Cohiba Corona Especiale. Such a joy to smoke. No other cigar has that blend of character and smoothness. Not even close.
  10. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
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    He also holds a Guinness world record; longest speech time to the UN, which from memory was 4hrs 25mins.

    E_S
  11. ILLUMINATUS_JEDI Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 29, 2001
    star 4
    An interesting, and I would say balanced judgement on Castro and Cuba from the Times Online today. Well worth reading:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,6-2306058,00.html

    Edit: the link won't work, you'll just have to paste it into your address bar.
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