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Fidel Castro Leaves Mixed Legacy

George Glassel and Michael Greer, Staff Writers

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Fidel Castro, the infamous communist dictator who died recently at the age of 90, had many critics and a few select praisers. Amongst these critics are millions of Cubans who experienced his reign first hand. The night after Castro died. , the Cuban born Americans within Miami filled the streets shouting with joy, rejoicing at the death of a man who had taken the lives of many other Cubans. His praisers are comprised of mainly pro-revolutionary people in the world. A notable supporter is Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who mournfully tweeted about Castro’s death. The question that must be asked is “How should society remember Castro?”. Castro made several reforms, however most of those fell short. This article seeks to provide a brief history of Castro’s reign, including his rise to power and the state Cuba before and after his dictatorship. Hopefully this article gives you some knowledge on the events that took place in Castro’s life, and you can make your own conclusion.Before Castro took over the country in 1959, Cuba was under the rule of General Batista, a more moderate right wing dictator. Under Batista, Cuba had the highest standard of living in South America. Cuba had the highest wages and most prosperous economy in South America. The exceedingly thriving commercial, medical, educational, and religious organizations helped shape Cuba into an economic machine. Under Castro’s rule, all of these were neutralized. (The Daily Wire) When Castro took power, he promised to institute a constitutional democracy in the name of equality and the people. However, the first thing he did was execute all pro-Batista figures, and everyone who was tied into the Batista rule without trial. He publicly stated that did not have to give any explanations for the people executed. In the first the months of his rule, Castro had roughly 1000 people murdered by firing squad and without trial. According the the Cuban constitution, everyone was subject to trial otherwise it would be a direct violation of human rights. This left many Cubans afraid to voice their opinions, as they could face possible execution. Castro also exiled many priests and religious leaders in Cuba, destroyed private religious schools, and put into place many restrictions on freedom of religion. Castro also had in embedded hatred for homosexuals. When he rose to power, he rounded up many suspected and openly homosexual Cubans and denounced them publicly, upon which many of them committed suicide, and then put them in a concentration camp; an idea obtained from the former Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.Another thing Castro changed drastically in Cuba were the prisons. Castro was heavily critical of the prisons that previously existed in Cuba, describing them as a “Vacation”, or “Country Clubs.” Due to this, he proceeded to build new prisons that emulated the Soviet Gulags, which were some of the worst prisons in the world. Castro built 300 Gulags in his reign, which were the only structures built for the Cubans since 1959. Jose Daniel Ferrer, a Cuban refugee who spent 8 years in one of the gulag prisons, described the infamous American Guantanamo Bay as a mere “Kindergarten,” in comparison to the Cuban prisons. In these Gulags that Castro’s regime created, prisoners have to engage in the cruelest forms of labor, such as having to cut grass with your teeth. Multiple forms of torture are routinely used, whether it be more simplistic beatings from jail wardens, or more creative forms like electric shock treatment. People are known to enter gulags in the prime of health, and leave as human skeleton, due to the extreme scarcity of food prisoners are given. By 1961, Castro had imprisoned a higher percentage of his population than Hitler or Stalin, 300,000 people. In his foreign relations, Castro was a sympathiser and close ally with the USSR. He took many of the same actions and enacted many of the same policies as Soviet Russia, nearly mirroring Joseph Stalin in the way he ran USSR. The Soviet Union trusted Castro and his administration enough to place their own Nuclear Warheads on Cuban soil within firing distance to the US, which started the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1962 he asked the Soviet Union to detonate nuclear warheads within the United States, which would have ended the lives of millions of Americans and started an all-out war with the USSR and Cuba. As a communist dictator, Castro sought to destroy Cuba’s capitalistic routes and impose communism onto Cuba. All businesses were nationalized, which made private enterprise and commercial business owned and run by the government, and forced dependence on the Soviet Union. Due to this, many businesses had to close, and unemployment rates soared. The wealthy lost all of their fortune, causing a catastrophic number to either flee the country or descend into poverty.One of the key platforms that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders ran his campaign off of was universally free healthcare, which is something Castro actually enacted within Cuba. Healthcare for citizens was free, which did benefit some who otherwise could not afford medical care. However, the program had several detrimental outcomes that hurt the economy. For instance, the medical budget was greatly reduced and neutralized, which led to many medical workers receiving a greatly reduced salary. Hospitals shut down all around Cuba because there was not enough money to stabilize the medical industry, since there were no citizens paying for the services. Many of the hospitals that did not close have failed to meet the standards they once had before Castro. The vast majority of hospitals in Cuba do not have mere necessities such as aspirin, bedsheets, or even clean water. Upon entering hospitals, patients are advised to bring supplies like lightbulbs, bed sheets, pillows, towels, and many other things that were once a standard in Cuban hospitals. Unlike America, Cuba does not have convenience stores like Walgreens or CVS, so getting over-the-counter drugs is very difficult. In the end, this failed healthcare system and the restrictions on over-the-counter drugs have left many citizens without proper treatment. Since Fidel Castro took power, his family has lived like royalty along with all the other higher up government officials, while the average income for Cubans is merely 25 dollars a month. This hoarding of wealth has led many Cubans to resent their Communist government, which spends a large percentage of their GDP on tourism rather than the citizens. This type of civil unrest has been present for a very long time, leading to several civilian uprisings over the years. Nearly two million Cubans swam to Florida during Castro’s dictatorship; 77,000 died trying. In conclusion, Fidel Castro’s regime left a trail of death, nearly ignited a nuclear war, and largely hurt Cuba’s economy and healthcare system due to extreme regulations. The question stills remains; how should Castro be remembered? Only time will tell.

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Fidel Castro Leaves Mixed Legacy