Over the weekend, the world bid farewell to brutal Cuban dictator and posterchild for western communism, Fidel Castro. Those who suffered under Castro’s regime, and were fortunate enough to escape to America, have taken to the streets to celebrate the end of his dictatorship with the hope that his passing will bring a sense of peace and restitution to their community. However, in spite of his long track record of human rights violations, there are still those who view Castro as a hero.
Many young Americans across the country have fallen under the spell of socialism, and its more radical sister, communism, neglecting to acknowledge the horrors faced by those subjected to the fruition of these ideologies. Political figures like Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein have made collectivist ideologies appealing to some Millennials, many of whom do not understand the oppressive histories that have accompanied these socialist beliefs.
It should come as no surprise then, that in the days since Castro’s death, many young people have dedicated their social media accounts to mourning the loss of a leader who they believe to be a great hero, despite his legacy of brutality.
Castro’s initial rise to power was fueled by promises of restoring Cuba to its constitutionally limited government, which had been all but decimated under the reign of President Fulgencio Batista. Yet, however benevolent his initial intentions may have been, once Castro came into power he soon became a tyrant.
Under Castro’s control, all forms of political dissent were severely punished. Those who dared to speak out became political prisoners and were sent away to horrific prisons, some never to be heard from again. Journalists who were caught attempting to report the truth were dismissed as “mercenaries” working for the United States government and were tried in secret tribunals.
Given the lack of transparency so inherent to communist dictatorships, attempting to account for all of Castro’s casualties is almost impossible. However, the Cuban Archive Project has attempted to document as many Castro-inflicted deaths as possible.
According to their research, at least 78,000 lives were lost while attempting to flee Cuba. An additional 5,300 Cubans died fighting communism in the mountains and countryside, including those lost during the Bay of Pigs incident. However, the slaughter of his people did not stop there.
According to Project Vice President Armando Lago, “An estimated 14,000 Cubans were killed in Fidel’s revolutionary adventures abroad, most notably his dispatch of 50,000 soldiers to Angola in the 1980s to help the Soviet-backed regime fight off the Unita insurgency.” It should also be noted that these numbers do not account for the roughly 6,800 politically motivated assassinations, including those killed by Castro’s infamous firing squads.
Neglecting to acknowledge the strife endured by the Cuban people during Fidel Castro’s decades-long reign of terror is not only a disservice to the memory of those who suffered, it is also a disservice to history itself. And yet, even with all the information available to us in our modern age, many Millennials still seem to have a distorted view of history when it comes to the “Comandante.”
It is often said: “what is past, is prologue” and when it comes to collectivism, a clear understanding of history is vital to preventing these circumstances from arising yet again.