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How do you think history will portray Fidel Castro?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on June 6, 2007

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Photo of Christopher Santee

“It depends on whose history you’re talking about. I think U.S. history will portray him as a ruthless dictator who didn’t care about his people. But it’s really a question of what is history and who is writing it.”

Photo of Jill Hoffman

“I think that history often leans toward leaders’ negative qualities, but I think he should be portrayed as a freedom fighter.”

Photo of Brianna Dukelow

“I think he’s done a lot for Cuba. I think in their eyes, he’ll be seen as a good leader later on down the line.”

Photo of Rett Mickelson

“I guess that depends on where you’re from. To be honest, I think I would have to learn more about his life and exactly what transpired involving him and U.S.-communist relations.”


sunflower_sue 10 years, 10 months ago

freedom fighter = someone who fights freedom???

Stephen Prue 10 years, 10 months ago

freedom fighter!? jill, what planet have you been living on?

lunacydetector 10 years, 10 months ago

i can't believe these answers......looks like the history revisionists have been hard at work.

under castro the cuban people still face food shortages, economic hardship, and little personal freedom. ever notice how cubans drive american made cars that were built in the 1950's?

....a freedom fighter? he's a communist, wears military fatigues, and imprisons or kills anyone who criticizes his government.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 10 months ago

If you look at the pre-Castro Cuba, you will see conditions weren't much better, except that there were a few filthy rich people and a whole lot of poor people. The difference now is that those poor people are no longer illiterate, and they receive more benefits than before. I'm not touting Castro, because he's a dictator, and I hate arrogant dictators. But because he brought about these changes the people love him. During Bautista's reign many rich US citizens were helping keep the Cuban population illiterate, because they liked going to the fancy resorts and owning fancy boats and beachfront houses. They needed the poor, illiterate Cubans for maids, groundskeepers, cooks, etc. It's one of the reasons that Castro has been able to convince most of his people that the US is bad.

lunacydetector 10 years, 10 months ago

yes dorothy, the cuban people either love castro or he has them killed.

FYI to all the castro lovers: cuba is the only country in the world that reversed the spread of AIDS. they shipped off all the HIV+ people to a remote part of the island where they can live out their lives in quarantine. now that's a freedom fighter.

thomgreen 10 years, 10 months ago

Well, I could see him being classified as a freedom fighter before he took over the country. Once he was in power the old adage came into play; "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". He should be viewed as he is, a megalomaniac, that couldn't look past his own visions of grandeur to lead his country instead of enslaving his people. But for everyone that watched the special features on the King of Scotland, you never really know how people are going to view someone like this. Idi Amin is still looked upon, by some, with reverance. Amazing for someone allegedly responsible for the killing of nearly 300,000 of his own countrymen. And look at all the pop culture items that are littered with Che Guevara's likeness. We seem to like to glorify historically heinous leaders. What's next?, coffee mugs with Hitler's image?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 10 months ago

I didn't mean to imply that Castro was nothing but a ruthless dictator, but how were they better off when Bautista was in power? This is one time the US could have stepped up and really helped bring about a democracy, but too many rich and famous people liked keeping the population down. It was a great place to party, where the population did anything you wanted, so they could buy a ittle food. They were getting screwed back then, and screwed now, but at least they have been educated. Education will eventually set them free as Castro dies, and his cronies lose favor. If we had tried to have diplomatic relations with Castro, we would have already influenced the population enough to change their thinking. It happened in China (one of the few good things that Nixon did). China is now becoming a thriving capitalist country; although they have a long way to go on human rights. Democracy is an evolution that can't happen over night. That's why Iraq is such a failure. People have to want democracy so bad they are willing to fight for it, like we did many years ago. If they are starving and uneducated, they aren't looking for a democracy. Only until their basic needs are met, can they say, "We want freedoms."

lildos 10 years, 10 months ago

As a South American I can guarantee you that until today Castro, along with Che are viewed in a very positive light by many people, especially the poor and the lower middle class. But it has to do with who writes history and what people will focus on. In America they will always focus on the bad things such as his megalomania, his ruthlessness, his authoritarian regime while in Latin American countries he will still be seen for the deeds the population deem as good, such as the high literacy rate, universal access to healthcare, and others. Not only that he was the first one to deny the U.S. power, something that until today is seems as a heroic move in Latin America, and somewhat followed (Venezuela anyone?). So no matter what people will disagree greatly on who he really was and he really stands for.

I personally disagree with what he had become, just as I now disagree with what Che had become after the Cuban Revolution. But to see him only as a dictator is not fair to him and not fair to Latin American history, he clearly changed the course of politics in the whole continent and continues to change until today.

Plus he was able to make Cuba into an athletics powerhouse in Latin America, and that is always a plus right? Their volleyball teams are pretty impressive!

crohan1978 10 years, 10 months ago

And people are swimming thru shark infested waters to risk their lives why? To get away from the evil dictator. Has Lawrence really become this insane in terms of far leftist crazies?

beatrice 10 years, 10 months ago

sue, you beat me to it! So I must now go a different route -- I think Castro will be portrayed in oil pastels in order to best capture the true hues of his complexion and the shagginess of his beard. Dictators' portraits always look best in oil pastels.

(freedom fighter indeed. Some people just go out of there way to make all of us liberals sound retarded. grumble, grumble, grumble)

beatrice 10 years, 10 months ago

TOB, No summons here. I guess the LJWorld is holding fast to their commitment to keep my identity anonymous, and the team of lawyers hired by our good friend haven't been able to figure out a way around this. Or the alcohol wore off.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 10 months ago

Babboy, How were Cubans better off under Bautista?

Tony Kisner 10 years, 10 months ago

Yikes, this is an eye opener.

President for life = freedom fighter.

Castro learned well from others who failed to hold on to power. "Let them eat cake!" Castro says let them eat just enough cake so they put the pitch forks down.

When Castro dies things will change? Why? If I'm Castro's second, I'm taking notes and keeping friends with the guys holding the guns.

It's good to be King, as long as you don't loose your head. .

Linda Endicott 10 years, 10 months ago

Freedom fighter? You've got to be kidding...where do these kids come up with this stuff??

Lildos, Dorothyhr,

If the Cuban people love Castro so much, then why are so many of them coming here? Why do so many risk their lives, risk capture, travelling in rickety, majorly overcrowded old boats, just to get to the U.S.?

If they think Castro is so great, then why are so many of them willing to set off on a journey that has no guarantee of success, and the high potential for death, rather than remain in Cuba?

Tony Kisner 10 years, 10 months ago

Here is my answer to the question.

He will be seen as a dictator who held on to power simply because the country he ruled chief export, sugar was easily replaced. The only people outside of the small nation of Cuba that really cared were a bunch of people living in Miami who wanted their stuff back.

If the US really cared about getting Castro out they would give that small nation a big free enterprise bear hug. As soon as the people of Cuba get a taste of something more than the scraps left to them the faster they pickup the pitch forks and storm the gates. Castro's worst nightmare would be the same folks who hang out at Disney World coming with their Yankee dollars to spend in Cuba, everyone would want a piece of the pie then.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 10 months ago

I am not defending Castro. The Cuban people are oppressed, but it's not much different than what they had before, except Castro took away all the property from the rich people who then moved to the US. The refugees now are coming more for economic opportunity, not unlike the Mexican immigrants, legal and not. Easy_Does_It has stated the solution perfectly. Why hasn't our government acted?

lildos 10 years, 10 months ago

Well crazyks, I was answering the question how will Castro be portrayed in history. I was not arguing that there is great discontent within the present Cuban population about Castro's government. Like anywhere where else in the world there is discontent, and the situation in Cuba is worse than most places due to a combination of bad policy by Castro and debatatable policy by the US (the embargo has cripple Cuban economy), but that was not the question, the question was how he will be portrayed in history. When it comes to history I still think he needs to be acknowledged as a very influential person and he needs to be portrayed as both the dictator he became and the freedom fighter that he once was (people should read a comprehensive history of the Cuban Revolution,it is facsinating).

This is the same as thing as asking how Bush will be portrayed in history and start discussing about his policies today. I will the reiterate that it is good to debate what people think about Castro, but I was just answering the original question!


lildos 10 years, 10 months ago

I apologize for the grammar errors on my previous message.

On another personal note. I cannot wait for Cuba to become a more open economy, because I can guarantee that it will become a tourism heaven (for tourists, most likely not as much to average population). I had the chance to go there when I was 13 and until today I regret not going, all my friends said Havana is beautiful and the beaches are great.

sgtwolverine 10 years, 10 months ago

"History" is a big word. Are we talking history written here in the U.S., or history written in Cuba, or history written in Europe, or what? They could all be different answers.

I think he ought to be portrayed as a dictator who did everything for the purpose of staying in power. But I'm not someone who will be writing his history, so I don't really know how he'll be portrayed.

Flap Doodle 10 years, 10 months ago

Which way are the rafts going? BTW, I've not been called to account for my malice aforethought either.

mick 10 years, 10 months ago

Look up Operation Northwoods in Wikipedia for a clue.

lildos 10 years, 10 months ago

75X55- I believe that Cubans just developed a new definition for Hybrid!

jonas 10 years, 10 months ago

Did Castro die or something? Why are we asking this particular question now?

Help me out! I'm way on the other side of the world, you guys are my source of news.

Flap Doodle 10 years, 10 months ago

Jonas, I think Castro is gonna be on Oprah.

Linda Endicott 10 years, 10 months ago

Castro's not dead yet, fact, he gave his first interview since his illness just this week.

paladin 10 years, 10 months ago

A troublesome, discontented, iconoclastic fellow, meant well but mucked everything up, unkempt, totally unaware of style and proper attire, constantly smelled of cigar smoke and rum, rather boisterous and loud at social gatherings, loved his mother, teased his brother, held grudges against people he perceived as having wronged him, didn't drive much, like ice cream very much, had a tendency to be paranoid, kept his boots shined, somewhat anxious and erratic under stress, used cheap cologne, bathed infrequently, and likely did not change his underwear on a daily basis.

paladin 10 years, 10 months ago

Oh, and didn't care much for sailing.

beatrice 10 years, 10 months ago

TOB, I believe the correct name, as registered with the BBB, is "Hollywood Upstairs Legal Academy, Hair Salon and Massage Parlor, Incorporated."

For your amusement, a favorite New Yorker cartoon relating to Che G.:

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 10 months ago

Castro came along and got a lot of followers because he promised to get rid of the elitist (Batista, being the leader at the time) and bring education to the masses. A lot of people's lives did improve considering that they were poor and illiterate before, now they are just poor. It should be a warning to all those people who are trying to destroy the middle class. If you make the US full of the filthy rich and the very poor, the poor will find a leader, good or bad. If you don't learn from history, it just repeats itself again and again. You have to understand that there are a lot of people who still think of Castro as their liberator. Hopefully things will change and he will be the same as China's Mao. However, I'll bet there are still people in China who consider Mao as their liberator. Although now most people consider him a cruel dictator; they were afraid to say so when he was alive.

mick 10 years, 10 months ago

Operation Northwoods was a US plot to wage terrorism against American citizens and then blame it on Castro. Kennedy didn't go for it. Don't believe me, look it up.

pelliott 10 years, 10 months ago

It is past time for our government to trade with cuba. We are a country led by egos not statesmanship. Castro came to power as a freedom fighter. He may of outlived that aspect of his character.

ms_canada 10 years, 10 months ago

I always think of Fidel as a record with the needle stuck. It all just goes round and round and does not advance. Paladin got it all pretty good for a description of Castro. He WAS a freedom fighter, a revolutionary. He helped free the Cubans of one dictator and became another. But one thing you cannot say about him was that he was a good administrator. He went so far in governing his country but could not get past that point. I don't think he has looked at a calendar in decades. Like the record, he is stuck in the past and therefore so are his people. They need someone to bring them into the 21st century and raise their economic standards.

woodly 10 years, 10 months ago

I am forever amazed at the use of the word 'dictator' being linked to Castro. I am equally amazed at how so many people use a word like that when they obviously know very little about the political situation in Cuba and therefore rely on media or political propoganda. The word 'dictator' suggests lack of electoral process. This is not the case with Cuba. Cuba holds municipal elections every two and a half years and elections to the provincial assemblies occur every five years. There is, however, no limit to the number of terms a president can serve for. As for the word 'democracy', that is another questionable word. In April, 2005, 97% of Cuba's electorate voted in the municipal elections. The only people who cannot vote are convicted criminals and people with mental disabilities. Politics is viewed differently in different countries. In my country, the U.S is not seen to be the great country it seems to think it is. Were the last U.S elections really democratic? Some would say not. The economic situation in Cuba is not ideal, but it has to be seen in the context of a small country, an island, trying to retain its independence against a highly aggressive, bigger neighbour, just ninety miles to the north, which has inflicted a trade embargo on it for the last 45 years. In terms of finances, the U.S blockade has cost Cuba over $80 billion. Thats a lot of money. How can any economy thrive with that kind of hostility? Socialism and Castro gave Cuba its long awaited and long deserved independence. Before the revolution, the wealthiest 20% of the population received 58% of the country's income, whilst the poorest 20% got just 2%. Now all have basic food requirements, access to employment, social security, free health care and education up to university level. Thats more than America manages with its vast economy and more than my country manages aswell. Being Socialist is not a good enough reason to slam a country; it has to be backed up by facts and figures. Then, comparisons can be made and you will see that what looks favourable in other countries is only favourable to a certain level and to a certain proportion of the population. As for the question, I think Castro will go down in history as a highly intelligent man who was always one step ahead of the U.S and who foiled all assassination attempts! He will also be seen as a determined man and one who is honest. As for his success as a leader, that will always be indvidually judged, but Cuba's independence will stay because of his leadership. I think his popularity will become legendary when he dies, whether people like that or not, but for now, he is alive and getiing better every day.

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