Things You Hear on NPR: Castro ‘A Complex Figure’

November 28, 2016

castro-dead-redNPR’s first news story on Castro’s death a couple of days ago, as I remember it (I cannot find it on their Web site), was conspicuously neutral, concluding by calling him (I paraphrase from memory) a figure some saw as a dictator.

Give me a break.  Fidel Castro was a murderous dictator who jailed, tortured, and killed people just for speaking their minds, just for calling for democracy—even for being related to those who did.  Read about any of the brave Cuban democrats and dissidents.  Give them a break.

The (much longer) current version of NPR’s main story on Castro’s death is a little better; it at least admits he was a Communist and “A Ruthless Autocrat”:

He did not hesitate to order the arrest of former friends and associates if he suspected they were conspiring against him. He set up an immense security apparatus to keep him in power.

. . .

“He also ordered the imprisonment and abuse of hundreds of thousands of people during the course of his career,” Dominguez says.

But even this article lionizes Castro as supposedly a longtime champion of the poor and equality.  It evinces no awareness of the crushing inequality that the Castro regime had in common with all Communist states: royalty-like wealth and privileges for those in the Party, starvation for the commoners.  The truth about the Cuban health-care system, for example:


To be sure, there is excellent health care on Cuba — just not for ordinary Cubans. Dr. Jaime Suchlicki of the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies explains that there is not just one system, or even two: There are three. The first is for foreigners who come to Cuba specifically for medical care. This is known as “medical tourism.” The tourists pay in hard currency, which provides oxygen to the regime. And the facilities in which they are treated are First World: clean, well supplied, state-of-the-art.

. . .

The second health-care system is for Cuban elites — the Party, the military, official artists and writers, and so on. In the Soviet Union, these people were called the “nomenklatura.” And their system, like the one for medical tourists, is top-notch.

Then there is the real Cuban system, the one that ordinary people must use — and it is wretched. Testimony and documentation on the subject are vast. Hospitals and clinics are crumbling. Conditions are so unsanitary, patients may be better off at home, whatever home is. If they do have to go to the hospital, they must bring their own bedsheets, soap, towels, food, light bulbs — even toilet paper. And basic medications are scarce. . . .

. . . When they travel to the island, on errands of mercy, American doctors make sure to take as much equipment and as many supplies as they can carry. One told the Associated Press, “The [Cuban] doctors are pretty well trained, but they have nothing to work with. It’s like operating with knives and spoons.”

(See just a few of the disturbing photographs, if you can stomach them.)

The NPR story concludes with this:

In the end, Fidel Castro outlasted U.S. presidents determined to overthrow him, survived the collapse of the communist bloc that sustained him and outlived many of those who wanted to replace him. For those reasons, he will go down as one of the world’s most skilled politicians, even if his achievements largely die with him.


Update (November 28th, 2016):  The National Review editors’ piece on Castro’s death, unlike the NPR one, is admirably forthright: “Fidel Castro: The Death of a Tyrant”.  It’s also more informative, and caustically sarcastic about the liberal media fantasists’ covering for Castro.

Many good and democratic Cubans hailed [the Castro brothers] at the Hotel Nacional in Havana. They were hoping for a better, and more democratic, day. And they had been promised one.

Yet the Castros, Che Guevara, and that gang quickly turned the island into something all too familiar in the world: a one-party dictatorship with a gulag. . . .

. . . Cuba was, among other things, Fidel’s personal fiefdom. And it was a “republic of fear,” to borrow a phrase from Kanan Makiya, who used it to describe Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Many Cubans were too afraid to utter Castro’s name. They gestured toward their chin, indicating a beard.

. . .

He and his gang killed tens of thousands, surely. The exact number is hard to pin down. Maria Werlau and her colleagues, at their Cuba Archive, have done noble and conscientious work. . . .

On one day — July 13, 1994 — there was an infamous massacre, the Tugboat Massacre: Castro’s forces killed 37 would-be escapees, most of them children and their mothers.

What kind of regime does this? What kind of regime would rather kill people, in cold blood, than see them leave? Than see them have a free life? . . .

[Castro’s apologists in the First World] have bought, and propagated, three myths: that the dictatorship has been good for literacy, good for health care, and good for black people (“Afro-Cubans”). All of this is untrue. All of it has been thoroughly debunked.

But, as Armando Valladares says, “What if it were true? Don’t people have literacy and so on in countries that are not cruel dictatorships?”

Valladares was a prisoner in the Castros’ gulag for 22 years. . . .

Admirers of Fidel Castro around the world have one thing in common: They never had to live under his dictatorship. . . .

The elder Castro dictator has died in bed at a very ripe old age: 90. This is a fate that he denied to many, many people, who were his victims.

God rest them.

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