Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Remembering Castro as a brutal dictator

Ben Kucinski/Flickr)
(Ben Kucinski/Flickr)

A column in the Nov. 30 issue of The Massachusetts Daily Collegian titled, “Castro and decolonization” was filled with historical inaccuracies and misinformation.

The writer of the piece, Colleen Dehais, speaks little of the brutal regime Castro led for 50 years, sending thousands of innocent Cubans to jail for no reason and without consequence. During the Cuban revolution of the late 1950s, Castro led a movement to execute “500 Batista-era officials.” Upon taking power he took away farmland that, at the time, was owned by both Cubans and Americans. These are just some of Castro’s failures as a leader.

Later in the piece Dehais writes, “Guantanamo, the notorious detention facility for individuals the U.S deems terrorists, lies on the same island as Cuba.” This is an oversimplified view of Guantanamo. This sentence suggests that because the island is on Cuban land it should therefore be part of Cuba’s control and jurisdiction. However, this history is a little more complicated than that. While it is true that Cuba still assumes sovereignty over the land, the United States’ control of the region is ultimately justified due to the Cuban-Americans Treaty of Relations, which was signed by both countries in 1903. Also, Dehais makes it seem as if the Gitmo detention facility makes up all of Guantanamo Bay, when in reality it only makes up the southern portion of the island.

As a leader, Castro made a conscious decision to go against his own people instead of speaking out against the sovereignty that his country felt was violated by the U.S. presence in the region. If Castro was at the forefront of decolonization efforts, then where was he when his people were speaking out against Guantanamo? Dehais uses the phrase “deems terrorists” as a way of referring to the way in which the U.S. bypasses the legal system and detains prisoners for indefinite amounts of time. While this is true, Gitmo is home to some of the most vicious terrorists in history, one of them being Khaled Sheikh Mohammad, one of the minds behind the 9/11 attacks.

Dehais tries to legitimize and defend Castro’s human rights violations by comparing him to atrocities perpetuated by other world leaders. Such a comparison does not cancel out Castro’s actions nor does it normalize his abuse of power as a communist dictator. Furthermore, Dehais emphasizes “apartheid in South Africa and Palestine.” This comparison is hardly original and it is not surprising that it was included in the column.

To praise a dictator like Castro, one that retained power until his health began to fail him in 2006, is to suggest that such oppressive regimes are not as bad as people or, in Dehais’ case, “the media” make them out to be. She writes, “The media remains an institution bought out by the rich and powerful, dictating a worldview that perpetuates the status quo, each day leaving disproportionately marginalized peoples to die.” Based on the way this sentence is worded, she seems to be suggesting that the media is responsible for killing those that are cut off. Dehais provides no evidence to for this claim.

Furthermore, it is unfortunate one man’s efforts to decolonize and “liberate” his people from the wrath of imperialism are used to contrast the oppressive regime that has lasted for over half a century. Arguing that Castro had more benevolent leadership tendencies than Bashar Al-Assad of Syria—where the death toll in the Syrian civil war has waged on leaving more than 300,000 dead—or another brutal leader for that matter, isn’t relevant. Castro imprisoned artists, musicians and writers, along with countless innocent Cubans. He was a dictator who answered to no one and created misery for millions of Cubans. Ironically, many attribute Cuba’s rich music and culture to its communist political system. However, there is little evidence to suggest that Castro promoted exploration of the arts or any forms of creative expression that he disagreed with. In fact, one could understand Cuba’s rich history as something progressed in spite of such totalitarian hardships.

The tragedy of Castro’s death isn’t that he is no longer with us, but that the Cuban reality remains the same. It will be interesting to see whether or not Donald Trump reinforces the trade embargo, something President Obama lifted during his second term in office. Cubans both deserve to live in a democracy where they can gain access to freedoms that are commonplace in the United States and elsewhere. For 45 years, Fidel Castro led Cuba. I hope I live to see the day when Cuba is able to transition from dictatorship to democracy, so that all Cubans can triumph and finally do away with the Castro system that perpetuated tragedy and moral turpitude.

Isaac Simon is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

View Comments (3)
More to Discover

Comments (3)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • C

    cubanaMar 4, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    Hi Isaac,
    You should study more.

  • J

    JamesDec 26, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Well written article setting the record straight. It is important to call out misinformation for what it is.

  • D

    David Hunt 1990Dec 14, 2016 at 9:22 am

    Spot-on, Simon!

    Castro was a brutal dictator who executed thousands, imprisoned tens of thousands, crushed black Cubans under brutal double-standards, quarantined (if not killed) HIV-positive people, oppressed gays (and called them “worms)… in his heyday he would literally drain the blood of people to be executed, then shoot them, and sold the blood to other communist countries (e.g., Vietnam).

    Even the “free health care” required that people bring their own sheets to their cockroach-infested rooms.

    This is from 2014 and an excellent read about the REAL Cuba, not the Potemkin Village portrayed by the useful idiots making pilgrimages to see “Fidel”.

    The Last Communist City