With both Fidel Castro and Che Guevara finally dead, it is time for the counterculture leftists on university campuses around the world to abandon their idolisation of these men. The left wing pseudo-Communist wearing a Che Guevara shirt with nothing but admiration for men they might call heroic guerillas are, at this point, a cliche. Castro and Guevara have become the epitome of rebellion, which is ironic, given the ubiquity of their images on hats, mugs, shirts, keychains and the like. This contemporary normalization, however, is a disservice to the tens of thousands murdered or exiled because of the actions of these men.
Guevara and Castro were murderous, violent radicals. Guevara himself helped institute mass labor camps for the Cuban youth, sentencing thousands of teens to be arrested by the secret police. This was the man who once famously remarked that he “did not need proof to execute a man.” By the end of Fidel Castro’s reign, Human Rights Watch reported that “the government continues to rely on arbitrary detention to harass and intimidate individuals who exercise their fundamental rights.” Reporters Without Borders ranks Cuba 171st out of 180 countries in regards to their government’s freedom of the press. Castro was a merciless and bloodthirsty leader, jailing and torturing political prisoners at a higher rate than Stalin during his Great Terror.
This aversion to reality is not limited to hipsters, however. In the wake of Castro’s death, Western leaders — from former President Jimmy Carter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — have issued statements mourning the loss of el Comandante. On Twitter, Jill Stein called Castro “a symbol of the struggle for justice,” a comment that reveals how willfully ignorant liberals are when it comes to these men. In fact, President-elect Trump’s terse tweet proclaiming that “Fidel Castro is dead!” is surprisingly perhaps the most honest, appropriate comment on Castro’s death thus far, at least when compared to President Barack Obama’s middling response that tacitly refuses to either praise or condemn the tyrant.
With relations between America and Cuba beginning to heal, it is important to view these men with a critical and honest perspective in the hopes that their bloody example will not be followed. It is irresponsible of political figures and Western liberals to reduce Castro’s crimes to a casual leftist aesthetic. Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, will now bear the burden of working to bring Cuba onto the world stage. It is the responsibility of every single one of us to reject the violence and the atrocities committed by Guevara and Castro and demand that Cuba do the same.
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