In fact there’s no paradise for flagrant human rights abusers either. But revile him or revere him, Fidel Castro was one of the most significant political leaders of the 20th century—and from a small island nation. His defiance of the U.S. in its own backyard during the Cold War earned him the admiration of left-wing governments in Latin America and made him a hero of anti-imperialism in the collective imagination of Latin Americans. So strong was the pull of his hero image that most Latin American governments ignored the obvious human rights violations, the lack of democracy in Cuba and his refusal to yield power for 46 years.
The condolence messages that poured in from leaders across the world show the cult of personality Fidel cultivated and enjoyed. Despite his role as a dictator who not only repressed his own people but also thumbed his nose at international human rights norms, it is still politically incorrect in Latin America (and seemingly even in a White House obituary) to criticize him. The usual suspects—Presidents Maduro, Morales, Correa, and Ortega—sent heart-felt messages of sympathy and mourning. UNASUR sent an official communique saying that Fidel has illuminated the region with his ideas on freedom, sovereignty and equality. The president of Chile, Michele Bachelet, said that Fidel was a leader that fought for social justice in Cuba and Latin America. President Santos from Colombia praised Fidel’s role in promoting the peace accord. Even Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, said that Castro was a remarkable leader who advanced education and healthcare in his country.
After those hagiographic condolences and obits, the question now looms: what next?
Cartoon credit: Patrick Chappatte, Le Temps, Switzerland, Caglecartoons.com