So, he won’t be going to the funeral of Fidel Castro, because his “schedule does not permit it”. Fidel came to the funeral of Trudeau le Grand. When major world leaders die, their counterparts usually attend obsequies, even though no one’s schedule probably permits it. It’s pathetic really – since it is not the schedule but public opinion that prevents him from going. Having said that Fidel was “a remarkable politician”, and received the usual backlash of hate from right-wing no-nothings, le Petit ought to have delivered a little history to those who think yesterday is long ago. But, since he did not, I will.
In 1959, the youthful Fidel overthrew Juan Batista, a brutal puppet-dictator, controlled largely by the American Mafia, whose members regarded Cuba as their personal fiefdom, a cess-pit for smuggling, gambling, drugs, prostitution, and other forms of exploitation. No one in Washington then thought this was such a bad idea, and Fidel was invited to the US in 1963, for what should have been talks to normalize relations between the two nations. But, because of the usual hysterical reactions to anything progressive – mainly from the demented Republican-fringe – exception was taken to Fidel’s appropriations of land and property, taken from fleeing millionaire gangsters and given back to the poor farmers from whom it had been stolen, these talks ended in acrimony. Bagman for the Mob, Meyer Lansky’s relatives even recently tried to reclaim his illicit Cuban properties. In 1963, Fidel addressed the United Nations, saying that he had been looking for friends in the West, but had only found one in Soviet Russian Premier, Nikita Krushchev. Encouraged by Moscow, he then conceived the idea of fomenting revolutions across Central America – something the area was ripe for, yet also something guaranteed to raise Washington’s hackles. Fidel’s sister, Juanita Castro, who has lived in Miami for the last fifty years, says that this was when her brother turned his back on the democratic revolution he had initially proclaimed, adopting the hard-line dictatorial stance favoured by Moscow.
We now know that, over the succeeding years, there were over 600 risibly unsuccessful attempts by the US Government to assassinate Fidel. If someone tried to kill you over 600 times, in what kind of light would you regard them? Nonetheless, during the hopeful presidency of Jimmy Carter, a former staff member of the US Embassy in Havana – closed in 1961 – was sent to Cuba as an envoy to re-open talks between the two nations. There seemed to be a chance in those years, but, again, paranoid agents of big business in Washington, ever-fearful of the commie plague that would end their own form of tyranny, stymied all attempts at a reasonable compromise. And when the Messiah, Ronald Reagan, came to power, he naturally had no desire to parley with any pinko lair of Satan – not that affable Ronnie knew anything at all about Cuba, beyond the smuggled cigars he offered to guests. The relationship fell into decay until Obama, who, to his everlasting credit, used his Executive Order – one of the few tools left him by a stacked Congress – in an attempt to open up dialogue. By then, the Soviet Union had collapsed, Fidel was ailing, and his brother, Raoul, led the country. Russia’s new czar, Vladimir Putin, showed no interest in the Caribbean nation, and Cuba was, and is, in need of powerful friends.
As part of his new Art of the American Deal, Herr Trump has, unsurprisingly, threatened to close down what little has been opened up with Cuba, unless his particular demands are met. Of course, typically, we have no real idea what these demands will be – but it is not looking good. No doubt, Fidel is glad not to be obliged to see the future.
In a very minute nutshell, that is the history lesson. In any accounts of the 20th century, Fidel will always have his own chapter, and many of these accounts may well note that the Canadian Prime Minister, son of Fidel’s good and lifelong friend, could not be bothered to attend his funeral – in a pallid attempt to salvage a rapidly sinking public image. It will be interesting to see what his hectic schedule actually entails for the dates in question. Boo!
Paul William Roberts