When Fidel Castro finally shuffled off his mortal coil at the end of November, the world’s response was sharply divided. Pope Francis expressed his sadness and “grief” at Castro’s passing. The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his sorrow at the death of the “larger than life leader.” In the United Kingdom, the British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn concurred, describing Castro as a “massive figure in the history of the whole planet” and praising his “heroism” and work for “social justice.” Then there was the aspiring totalitarian Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Union, who tweeted: “With the death of #FidelCastro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many.” The New York Times weighed in with an intermittently sycophantic expostulation. Castro wielded power “like a tyrant,” the paper acknowledged, but he was also “the fiery apostle of revolution,” a “towering international figure,” who “bedeviled eleven American presidents.” Admiration swamped criticism. It was always thus at the Times. Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Castro had no more fervent apologist than the Timesman Herbert Matthews. There was a reason that National Review once ran an ad campaign featuring a picture of Castro with the legend “I got my job through The New York Times.” The official White House response was a masterpiece of equivocation. “At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans . . . with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation.” Er, yes. Just think of the thousands who are dead and maimed because of Castro. That’s “altering the course” all right!
The response of President-elect Donald Trump was quite different. Shortly after the news broke, he availed himself of his favorite medium, Twitter, to note “Fidel Castro is dead!” A few hours later his office released this statement:
Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades.
Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights. While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.
A partial but fully documented listing of Castro’s crimes against humanity is collected at a website appropriately called “Castro’s Greatest Atrocities and Crimes.” For more than five decades, Fidel Castro kept the people of Cuba under the jackboot of Communist tyranny. When he relinquished power in 2006, it was only to pass on the tyranny to his brother Raúl. It’s nice that someone in public life was willing to tell the truth about those monsters.