Fidel Castro, a Cuban revolutionary and dictator, died on November 26, 2016, prompting both praise and criticism for his record on human rights.
Before Castro’s regime, Fulgencio Batista was Cuba’s leader, rising to power in the 1930s and becoming a dictator in 1952. As dictator, he permanently suspended the Cuban constitution, giving him leeway to violate his people’s’ rights. A group of revolutionaries, fed up with Batista’s cruelty and corruption, successfully overthrew the totalitarian government and established Castro as dictator.
Ironically, Castro’s autocracy soon mirrored the one he had just overthrown.
He jailed, tortured, and killed people that disagreed with his politics. His government controlled the media and censored almost all dissenting opinions. LGBT people (mostly gay men) were sent to work in labor camps without trial.
Despite his horrific record, some of Castro’s far-left social policies did garner praise. Progressives admired Cuba’s universal health care system; although Cuba is an impoverished nation, citizens’ health rivals that of first-world countries. Additionally, Cuba’s schools have been commended for providing free education all the way up until college.
Castro’s death was met with a wide range of reactions. Prominent liberals across the world released statements that reflected fondly on Castro’s legacy. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saluted Castro for being a “larger than life leader who served his people.” President Barack Obama released a more neutral statement, offering condolences to Castro’s family and the Cuban people.
However, many criticized them for neglecting to mention Castro’s abuses of human rights. One of his most vocal critics was Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who stated, “History will not absolve Fidel Castro; it will remember him as an evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people.”