Last Saturday the world woke up to the devastating news that Comandante Fidel Castro, is no more.
Castro was one of the great figures of the twentieth century and Cuba’s contribution to several African states cannot be underplayed, especially in southern Africa where Cuba played a pivotal role to eliminate apartheid in both Namibia and South Africa. So, what should the world take from Castro’s illustrious life?
Cuban Ambassador to Namibia Giraldo Mazola in an interview this week with The Patriot said although Castro is gone, his ideals of selflessness and pursuance for social justice should be a moral compass for the world.
“Fidel is not gone, he is still with us. When the President of Nicaragua started talking at the memorial service he asked the mourners ‘Where is Fidel?’ the crowd answered ‘I am Fidel’. That is the legacy Fidel left us,” Mazola said.
Mazola, who said Castro had a special place in his heart from Namibia, said Cuba’s decision to send troops to help Namibia and Angola fight the South African forces was not based on wanting something in return.
“All Cuba wanted to do was to help Namibia, that is why you see that even during the struggle we took thousands of Namibians to Cuba who were trained in different professions,” he said.
President Hage Geingob during the memorial service held in honour of Castro this week hailed Cuba’s support during the struggle, especially for providing widespread support, including military assistance, without expecting anything in return.
“True to his revolutionary heart, Castro had no interest other than the liberation of our people. He had no interest in the vast natural resources of a free Namibia and his view was that Cubans did not come to collect gold or diamonds, all they wanted was to return the remains of their fallen comrades,” reads an excerpt from Geingob’s speech delivered this week in Cuba. Mazola said Castro was not only interested in political freedom “but also control of natural resources”. “Castro was not someone who would give lectures or tell people what to do. When leaders visit Cuba, he would tell them how Cuba won its political independence and gained control over its resources and urged them to learn from that,” Mazola narrated.
Castro survived no fewer than 634 attempts on his life, according to his former secret service chief.
Whether that figure is accurate or not, Cuba’s iconic dictator provided an almost-mythical adversary for what became an obsessive, error-prone assassination campaign by the CIA, reports the international media.
The agency’s attempts to kill Castro reportedly ranged from the calamitous to the comical. Many of them were detailed by the Church Committee, a special Senate subcommittee he aded by Democratic Senator Frank Church in 1975.
Commenting on the assassination attempts, Mazola said Castro was always one step ahead of his detractors.
“They thought Cubans cannot think and analyse things for themselves but we were always ahead of them. They [USA] wanted to kill Castro because they realised that he would not take orders from them and because he would not allow any foreign control of Cuba’s resources,” Mazola said.
Mazola is optimistic that the Namibia-Cuba relations will continue despite Castro’s departure.
“Continuation of our ties is the legacy he left us and we must live by it,” he said.
Castro’s death sparked eulogies for a 20th-century giant but also lamentations about the Cuban revolution’s alleged dark side, which is said to include executions, political prisoners, surveillance, censorship.
Media reports claim Castro’s security apparatus controlled and cowed his people even while dispensing free healthcare and education, a profoundly mixed legacy, which has polarised opinion about Castro in death as in life.
Responding to these claims, Mazola said: “If we were the owners of CNN or BBC the news would be different. The things they are reporting is information about Cuba, not from Cuba.”
“Look at the huge manifestation of mourners at his memorial services but they [CNN and BBC] chose to show images of people paying tribute at bars and restaurants,” he lamented.