Forget Fidel Castro’s policies. What matters is that he was a dictator
Zoe Williams says, "Forget Fidel Castro’s policies. What matters is that he was a dictator". In one sense of course, she is right as Fidel Castro was a dictator, albeit that the description could be interpreted in a number of ways. However, to say "forget Fidel Castro's policies", ignores and trivialises the predominant truth of the Cuban revolution and its subsequent social structure.
On the 1st January 1959, the 26th of July Movement and its allies, finally overthrew the corrupt and despotic President Fulgencio Batista and his authoritarian government, after some 6 years of sporadic fighting.
|Fulgencio Batista, Cuban president and crime syndicate chief?|
The Batista government had political, financial and military support from the United States after seizing power in a military coup just prior to the 1952 Presidential elections. He quickly established a corrupt and repressive government, profiting from the exploitation of Cuba's commercial interests and establishing very close relationships with American business interests and organised crime in the form of the American Mafia who controlled the drug, gambling, and prostitution businesses, flourishing in Havana and dominating the Cuban economy.
The Batista government was in fact held in office by the military but perhaps more importantly by organised crime. The "Bureau for the Repression of Communist Activities", a state run terrorist organisation employing a number of Mafia operatives, carried out wide scale violence, torture and public executions against the people of Cuba, ultimately killing hundreds of thousands of people, men women and even children.
The majority of ordinary Cuban people at that time, lived in abject poverty with very low life expectancy, no health care, little education and an illiterate population. In many ways, the Cuban people were in a worse situation than most other "third world" countries.
Following the 1952 coup, Fidel Castro, at that time a young lawyer, petitioned for the overthrow of Batista, whom he accused of corruption and tyranny. However, Castro's constitutional arguments were rejected by the Cuban courts. After deciding that the Batista regime could not be replaced through legal means, Castro resolved to launch an armed revolution.
Following the overthrow of the Batista regime, the Castro government introduced a wide range of social reforms, introducing equality for black Cubans and greater rights for women and implementing improvements to communications, medical facilities, health, housing, and education.
By the end of the 1960's, all Cuban children were receiving education, unemployment and corruption were reduced, and great improvements were made in hygiene and sanitation.
Free health care, free education, building schools, hospitals and public utilities together with other reforms introduced by the Castro government have elevated Cuba to first-world levels of literacy and life expectancy. All this against a background of crippling trade and economic sanctions and embargo's enforced by the United States for almost 50 years as some form of collective punishment for the removal of Batista and Cuba's refusal to toe the American line.
Zoe Williams may well brand him as a dictator and criticise his human rights record, but she cannot detract from Castro's policies or achievements.