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Cuba: Canada’s Experiment with Independent Foreign Policy

[Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the former Cuban president Fidel Castro was a dictator, but that does not mean it was inappropriate to acknowledge his achievements at the time of his death.

“He certainly was a polarizing figure and there certainly were significant concerns around human rights,” Trudeau said Sunday in Antananarivo, Madagascar, where he was leading the Canadian delegation to the summit of la Francophonie.

“That’s something that I’m open about and highlighted, but on the passing of his death I expressed a statement that highlighted the deep connection between the people of Canada and the people of Cuba,” Trudeau said at a news conference.

When asked directly whether he thought Castro was a dictator, Trudeau said: “Yes.”] excerpt from an article entitled “Trudeau Defends Comments After the Death of Fidel Castro, by Joanna Smith, 27Nov.2016, in ipolitics magazine.

Nothing Trudeau said, initially, justified the criticism he received in media reports but that happens occasionally in politics. Castro is generally perceived as a ruthless dictator in many countries, particularly in America. Batista, his predecessor, can be described the same way. It is unfortunate that people have forgotten Batista’s abuses. Castro’s revolution replaced one oppressive dictatorship with another, certainly, but it was America’s economic embargo of Cuba that brought the poverty, shortages of consumer goods, and weak currency. It also ended the hold on Havana by Organised Crime from Miami that had corrupted the Batista regime.

Canada, to its credit, adopted an independent foreign policy towards Cuba which has endeared Cubans to Canadians in the years since the Bay of Pigs era. People have forgotten the conditions in Cuba and other South American countries in those early years when life  was dominated by large American resource companies who took out the profits from the countries where they operated businesses and paid marginal wages, even by standards in those years, for the labour required to pick the fruit, find the rubber, roll the cigars, pick the coffee, or the sugar cane, or pack the pineapple for shipment to market.

Their elections were a muddle too, in part, because the CIA was meddling in their elections to manipulate victory for governments more favourable to American interests. (A good book on this subject is entitled “Inside the the Company” by Philip Agee. There are others available too.) In Cuba, and elsewhere in Central and South America, conditions were ripe for revolution. Che Guavara was a revolutionary who later became a pop culture figure, but the concerns were real in those years that economic exploitation had left a large population poor and uneducated. (en wikipedia org/wiki/Che_Guevara)

This was the ‘context’ in which Castro’s revolution emerged. It is unfortunate that revolution in Cuba replaced one repressive regime with another but there was no tradition for democracy in the region which might have taken root.

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geoffreyjohnbrittan

Professional. Retired. Canadian.
http://www.geoffreybrittan.com

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