15:21

Castro

Castro: let's get the good things out of the way first. The Cuba that he captured after what must have been the most unpromising start of any insurgency in history, was a corrupt outpost of the worst of American capitalism and no one would shed a tear for Batista. Castro was courageous and energetic and, as far as can be seen, simple in his tastes to the end. He was not a despotic kleptomaniac.

Everything else? He can be summed up an unqualified a disaster for Cuba and nearly a calamity for the world. And yet he seems to be mourned as much as decried. How is this possible? In the same way that Mao still overlooks Tienamen Square and Stalin is almost retro-chic: communist autocrats and mass murderers get given a free pass by the soft left that seems to develop a moral blind spot with these monsters.

We spent two weeks in Cuba about seven years ago - some time in Havana and the rest driving round and staying in a 'resort' on the northern coast. It is a beautiful and very big island, but completely impoverished. When I say impoverished I mean that outside Havana there is nothing other than vegetables to buy. There are no consumer staples - soap, toothpaste etc - no drinks or simple snack food - nothing that would be completely normal in even some of the poorest countries  anywhere. Havana is beautiful but at least one building in four is a ruin. The cars are so eye-catching because they are nearly all from the 1950's: romantic for tourists but not so great if that is the only car available. Everyone gets paid the same; it's a communist paradise you hear said. Yet what they fail to add is that no one can survive on that salary and everyone has to be involved the black market to make ends meet. Take the worst aspects of capitalism and run it alongside communist authoritarianism and that's what you've got in Cuba. They have 100% literacy - but reading material that is all censored. They have a free health service with highly trained doctors - but antiquated medical equipment and few drugs. And Castro traded these doctors for oil from Chavez in Venezuela when the money ran out from Russia.

It's all because of the American embargo you hear said. Yes, to an extent, but the embargo has been in place because of Castro's visceral hatred of the yankees and his bone-headed attachment to a creed that had comprehensively collapsed intellectually, economically and morally in 1989. It is a self-imposed disaster by a vain ideologue who, like the Bourbons, forgot nothing and learnt nothing. This was the same man that berated Nikita Khrushchev -  he called him a pussy - for not going for a preemptive nuclear strike against the US which would have resulted in the certain complete destruction of Cuba and probably of the world.

The world is a better place without him. 


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