Si! Si! Gracias! Castro está muerto!

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Who would have thought the free world would get a wonderful and unexpected gift this Thanksgiving – the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro?!

I heard about it, and my immediate reaction was, “Good, Castro is dead!”

Yes, indeed. Let’s be thankful.

When the news of the death was announced in Cuba, there was silence in the streets. Clearly, showing emotion would be dangerous to one’s health.

Yet, in Miami, Cuban refugees crowded into the streets, cheering the death and waving the American flag. For those people, who’d been fortunate enough to escape Castro’s prison island for freedom in the states, the death was a moment for cheering. And they did!

The headline in my local paper was subdued – which is not surprising, given the liberal area that paper serves. But at least they did put it on the front page, noting Castro’s role in history.

A definite role it was – nearly 60 years long, and it imposed on the Cuban people a government no one could have imagined when Castro first appeared on the scene to oppose then-President Fulgencio Batista.

It took several military attempts, but, finally, Castro succeeded in ousting Batista and took control in 1959.

By that time, Castro was in full revolutionary mode, totally opposed to capitalism. This, despite that he had a privileged upbringing, was baptized Catholic, attended Jesuit boarding schools and attended law school.

But he got turned politically. Once he took control, Cuba became a prison island of horror. Life became brutal, antagonistic, violent, bloody, cruel, iron-fisted, repressive and execution-filled, with government-sanctioned torture, rape and murders, firing squads for adults and children and total loss of privacy and human rights for the people – no freedom of speech, press, religion, education, business opportunities, unions. It’s hard to run out of terms to describe it.

Newspapers were voices of the regime, and schools became indoctrination factories turning out good little Communists – because, yes, Castro was a Communist.

The people suffered persecution, and thousands tried to escape. Castro’s government sent the military to attack those in the escape attempts, shooting and drowning those boat people – men, women and children.

The economy was a disaster, and only the “upper-class elites” had the good things they needed. The rest of the population was on the verge of starvation and had to deal with the reality that their own government was depriving them.

The West, particularly the United States media types, made light of the fact that the only vehicles in Cuba were cars and trucks from the ’50s – totally ignoring the reality that Castro’s economy made it impossible for anything newer to be available to the people, the average Cuban that is.

Politically, Castro made overtures to the Soviet Union and endorsed full communism. The United States became an open enemy with attempts made to overturn Castro’s rule.

The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion was a costly venture by the United States. Not long after, we became as close to nuclear war with Cuba and the Soviet Union as ever when it was discovered that Soviet missiles were being installed on the island – the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I was in Los Angeles at that time, and it’s hard to realize that Americans were truly frightened. The supermarkets where I lived were hit with a rush of buying. Staples were cleared off the shelves as residents did all they could think to do: If we were going to be at war, we would need food, and stores would be closed.

Logical or not, that happened. Los Angeles wasn’t the only place this occurred.

That war didn’t happen, but Castro remained in power – as prime minister, then president until finally his state of health forced him to turn power over to his brother, Raul.

Liberals looked at this as a move to opening up Cuba, but Raul learned his lessons well. He’d had an excellent teacher in Fidel, so for Cubans, nothing changed.

What did change was the attitude of some Western leaders, including Barack Obama and Pope Francis. They concocted a secret agreement that supposedly would open economic markets but which, in reality, only allowed for Western dollars to pour into Cuban government coffers.

It was also another example of Obama’s appeasement of hostile dictators and, of course, did nothing for the average Cuban. It was a shrewd move by Castro to get his hands in America’s deep pockets, and they’re still there.

Reflective of the West’s attitude that Castro really wasn’t so bad are the remarks by some leaders.

Barack Obama, with a distinct lack of emotion, offered Cubans his condolences and said, “History will record and judge this singular figure.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau exemplified his naïveté, expressing “deep sorrow” and saying Castro was a “larger than life” figure “who served his people – and had tremendous dedication and love for his people.”

Pope Francis said it was “sad news” and that he was “grieving and praying for his (Castro’s) repose.” There was no mention of the horrors Castro imposed on Cubans or on the effect of the death on Cubans today.

These are bad enough, but the one reaction that really frosted me is that of former President Jimmy Carter and his wife.

Rosalynn and I share our sympathies with the Castro family and the Cuban people on the death of Fidel Castro. We remember fondly our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country. We wish the Cuban citizens peace and prosperity in the years ahead.

Cut it out, Jimmy. You’re an embarrassment to this country and all freedom-loving people! Why don’t you go to Cuba and help those people gain freedom under Raul?

I won’t hold my breath.

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