On November 25th, 2016, Fidel Castro, who was the leader of Cuba from 1959 to 2006, died at the age of 90. Many have probably learned about him in history class when discussing the Cold War, more specifically the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the Soviet Union placed nuclear missiles in Cuba and aimed them at the United States. After that, Cuba and the United States have had very little to no discussion. After the crisis in October of 1962, President John F. Kennedy established an embargo of Cuba. This embargo still exists today. In March of 2016, Obama was the first president to visit Cuba since the embargo was enacted, and he made it his goal to slowly but surely improve negotiations and relations with Cuba.
In 1959, Cuba went through a bloody civil war that resulted in one authoritarian regime being replaced by another, communist one, led by Fidel Castro. Castro increased relations with the Soviet Union and sought to strengthen education and health care all while violating basic human rights in many instances. He both tightened his grip on the press and crushed internal opposition to his rule. This caused many people to flee Cuba and seek refuge in the United States, where there are currently over 1 million Cuban exiles.
To hear a different perspective on Fidel Castro and the current situation in Cuba, I interviewed Luc Foster, a self proclaimed communist and Co-Secretary-General of LFHS Model United Nations (along with yours truly).
What was your reaction to Castro’s death?
“It was actually midnight when I first learned about it. I was, you know, really sad. I had to verify if it was true and stuff like that. I was shocked, to say the least.”
What is your favorite thing about Fidel Castro?
“My favorite thing would be his interventions abroad, showing that he valued freedom not only for Cuban citizens but for people of the world. That’s seen most by his intervention in Angola, where he sent 3,000 troops to assist the MPLA, who were a freedom fighting group against Portugal. He assisted them in fighting against apartheid-led South Africa. The Cuban involvement in Angola directly led to the collapse of the apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela himself said that.”
Do you have any criticisms of Fidel Castro?
“The major would be not industrializing enough. I know it’s really hard with the embargo and stuff like that, but he really kept Cuba a semi-agricultural country and I don’t think that’s the way towards economic progress. The second one would be too much acceptance and reliance of the Soviet Union, which at the time was regressive. I think he should have led Cuba more on its own path.”
How do you think the world will be affected now that Castro is gone?
“I think the reforms towards capitalism by Raul Castro will be sped up. I also think that negotiations will be made easier between Cuba and the United States.”
Castro left the leadership of Cuba in the hands of his brother years ago. Now that Castro is gone, how do you think his brother will do in leading Cuba?
“He’s going to speed up the transition towards capitalism. He already legalized small business last year, which was disappointing to say the least. It is to my understanding that he will be resigning in the next couple of years.”
Did you see both Obama and Trump’s responses to his death? If so, what do you think of them?
“I find it interesting that Obama, while at the same time offering his condolences, did not take off the table forcing the Cuban government to change towards a more pluralistic model. This might be worrisome towards the citizens of Cuba. At the same time, Donald Trump’s response shows a lack of skill in foreign policy and in diplomacy. Though, it’s funny that it is not really clear whether he thinks it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I think that with the response of Trump, it shows that negotiations with Cuba will be a lot harder to fulfill.”
Fidel Castro is dead!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2016
If you were to make an official statement about Castro’s death like the president did, what would you say?
“I would try to emulate Justin Trudeau’s response, where he praised him as a great revolutionary who brought the Cuban people forward, who was loved in his own country, and deserves to be recognized in history for a long time. Even though he is a divisive figure, history, as he quoted, will in the end absolve him.”
If you were the leader of Cuba, what policies would you implement? What actions would you take?
“That is a tough question because Cuba is in an isolated place, currently, especially now that Venezuela, with the oil crisis and protests, is becoming a much less reliable trading partner. It is very difficult for Cuba to remain economically independent for long. If it was indeed possible, I would push for industrialization so Cuba could be on par with most Western countries in terms of economic development even though it is one of the world’s most developed countries according to many indexes.”