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The Remarkable Legacy of Fidel Castro


The Remarkable Legacy of Fidel Castro

Marjorie Cohn

When Fidel Castro died on Nov. 25 at the age of 90, we lost one of the most remarkable leaders of the 20th century. No other head of state has so steadfastly stood up to the United States and survived.


It's stunning, to say the least, when a human rights lawyer like Marjorie Cohn excuses Fidel Castro's abridgment of free expression as a political necessity and fails even to mention his cruel suppression of Cuban homosexuals. I have always admired Cohn's writing, but now I recognize her as a doctrinaire polemicist. In the future, I will read her pieces with a skeptical eye.


If life under Fidel was so great, why did so many of his people risk their lives coming to the U. S.?


“Cuba has aided countries, despite the economic and political differences they may have.”

Yes, I remember after Katrina, when Cuba offered to send aid to the victims, but Bush the Lesser would have none of that. Instead, it was, "Heckava job, Brownie!"


“What’s amazing here is you’ve got a country that’s suffered an illegal economic blockade by the United States for almost half a century and yet it’s been able to give its people the best standard of health care, brilliant education,” Ken Livingstone

Really? There was no blockade of Cuba since the missile crisis. The US just embargoed any trade with Cuba. Other countries were free to trade as they wished. Even so, the US was Cuba's fifth largest trading partner.

Cuban people are suffering because of the misguided communist economy that was forcefully imposed on them. And their healthcare is not really that great. Watch "Sicko", you'll see at some point a ranked list of countries. Cuba is below the US, and the US is pretty low.


Fidel Castro was a murderous dictator. If a Social Democracy is our goal, then we better base it on the Nordic model not the communist model. I don't want to live under the thumb of murderous thugs.


The reason so few countries traded with Fidel was because he was a deadbeat- he didn't pay his bills.


Excellent article. I cringe when I see "the Castro Regime" described on the Empire's MSM.

Perhaps in the rush to rid Cuba of corporate corruption and crime the mistake Fidel could have made was to expropriate small and medium sized businesses. When talking to Miami Cubans, the expropriation of their businesses seems to be their main complaint with Fidel.

But with capitalism and communism there is no middle ground; its all or nothing. That's particularly true when one is in imminent danger from the other. As this article shows with the Arbenz example, a liberal democracy must become as authoritarian as its enemy to survive. Having no existential enemies, Nordic social democracies were able to tread the middle ground.


i’ve no interest in glossing over his faults, but what he achieved in the face of the most disgraceful period of heavy-handed U.S. foreign policy is quite remarkable. I have never seen any sign that he was motivated by anything other than bettering the lives of his countrymen, maintaining the national identity with dignity, and avoiding the servitude that the U.S. was determined to inflict upon them. I will always regard him as the greatest leader in the western hemisphere over the second half of the 20th century, and a true hero of democracy and freedom.


Very well said. I too lost respect for the writer. He does not have to be judged as either bad or good. Castro, as most Eastern Block's leader/dictators, are complex figures. They were the products of a beautiful historical moment that threatened the colonizing and capitalistic powers, with a vision of equality and solidarity of the working people. He must be praised for all of what he did right, and must be critiqued for all of what he did wrong. Cohn clearly writes as a progressive westerner who has never lived in a totalitarian regime or a different economic system than what she knows. She clearly idealizes it's best parts, overlooking the rest (to say the least) . One expects way more integrity from a scholar of her status. Sad.


Oye robgo2, ¿Cuanto tiempo has pasado viviendo en Cuba, viviendo en otros paises del tercer mundo, viviendo en barrios pobres dentro del los EEUU?

Sure the Cuban government, under Fidel Castro, was overly centralized, authoritarian, and repressive. The Cuban government continues to be that way, under Raul Castro.

However, what most in the US, from right wing libertarians to centrists backers of the Washington consensus and much of the 'left', ignore, is that the Cuban government, under Fidel, ended the Apartheid like treatment of Black Cubans. Most in the US ignore the fact that the Cuban government, under Fidel, promoted the human rights to housing, food, education, and medical care to all Cubans and all those, even non-Cubans (such as Haitian refugees), who reside in Cuba. Folk in the US, even most on the 'left', are in denial of the fact that such human rights are denied to those who cannot afford them. Anyone who denies this should try living with undocumented immigrants for a year.

Yes, under Fidel Castro, the Cuban government was authoritarian and decision making was in the hands of a few. However, folk in the US from the right to much of the 'left', deny that it is no better in the US where the US government is firmly in the control of plutocrats and the military/espionage industries. If you question this than answer the following:

  • Is there any chance, in the US, of anti-capitalist legislation being put into law at a national level?
  • Is there any chance, in the US, of the nearly $600 billion in yearly military budget being eliminated or seriously reduced?
  • Is there any chance, in the US, of the nearly $70 billion in espionage budgets being eliminated or seriously reduced?

Yes, under Fidel Castro, the Cuban government was repressive and imprisoned political prisoners. However, despite the mendacity of folk in the US, from the right to much of the 'left', and the US, 'paragon of liberty' criminalizes political activity and maintains its own political prisoners: Leonard Peltier. Oscar Lopez Rivera, Mumia Abu Jamal, Chelsea Manning, etc.

For the last 50 + years, Cuba has faced existential threat from the US. The US has sought to assassinate Fidel, it has supported military attacks against Cuba, it has served as a base of operations and given refuge to terrorist who have bombed a civilian airliner and hotels in Havana. If you doubt that it is any better in the US, which is not facing existential threat, try seeing what happens if you openly praise ISIS or al Qaeda.

Hopefully, the Cuban people will be able to bring about a more just and democratic government.

Hopefully, people truly committed to bringing about social justice, sustainability, and peace, will learn from the successes and failures of what has taken place and what is happening now, in Cuba.

Se murio el hombre, pero el espiritu revolucionario, el espiritu del amor para la humanidad, vive.


The wealthy or misinformed generally flee.


About that medical care; "the halls and rooms are covered in blood, urine, and feces, and you need to bring your own sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, and mattresses when you are admitted. Doctors have to reuse needles on patients. My mom’s aunt had a stroke and the doctor’s course of treatment was to “put her feet up and let the blood rush back to her head.” That was it. And this is in Havana, the big city. I can’t be sure, but I’d imagine things there are a lot better than they are in more remote parts of the country."


The many victims of Castro's "Remarkable Legacy"


Well, Jed1957, the unsanitary description you found remind me of some of what I saw in medical centers in NYC. Unlike the description in your quote, family of mine went from Haiti, were they were unable to get any medical treatment at all, to Cuba, where they got excellent medical treatment. We saw excellent medical centers in Havana, Camaguey, and Santiago.




Are you suggesting that in the plutocrats paradise of the US - the richest nation in the history of the planet - there are not entire regions where conditions as you describe in Cuba are not common place?

Are you unaware of the health care system in Puerto Rico?

As a US colony, Puerto Rico is part of the US.

Here its is not uncommon to find unsanitary conditions in medical facilities. Here too, folk need to bring blankets and pillows:

To give an average American real perspective, in Puerto Rico, you must bring your own blankets and pillows to the hospital. The nurse/patient ratio is ridiculously high. And IV poles don’t even have monitors on them unless you are in the critical care unit so your IV bag runs dry and nobody even knows it. The entire time Andy was in Centro Medico, nobody ever had an oxygen saturation tab on his finger despite the fact he was struggling to breathe. So being released from the hospital was both a blessing and a curse. In Andy’s case, it was a blessing. - Sandy Malone ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sandy-malone/investors-are-worrying-ab_b_8044304.html )


What is repressed in Cuba is not public opinion but US backed counter-revolution. If it were any other way, Cuba would be more like Guatemala today, Fidel would be a half-forgotten martyr and we would have even more Cubans coming here.

In our country it is the truth-tellers that are repressed.


Discouraging but not surprising to see how many on CD have swallowed the empire's line on Cuba.
Never mind what Amerikans say about Fidel anyway. What can we expect from a country that elects Trump for president. Fidel has been a guiding light to the colonized of the world for decades and will continue to be as long as empire survives to plunder resources and labor around the world..
I feel lucky to have been present to see Fidel shake hands with the Baltimore Orioles in Havana in 1999, that along with spending an afternoon with Pete Seeger are highlights of my life.


Don, you know nothing about me, and to call me a hater for pointing out Castro's not so nice side shows that you are the one who is propagandized and indoctrinated and thus incapable of brooking any criticism of your heroes. Yes, Castro did many good things for Cuba and other nations, but he was not a saint. What's sad is that you are unwilling to acknowledge that fact. That's called being closed-minded. I really don't care what you think, but I do expect more from a renowned human rights lawyer such as Marjorie Cohn, whose work I have greatly respected in the past.