The unforgettable legacy of Fidel Castro Ruz

[By Javier Viamontes Correa]

Fidel Castro Ruz passed away on November 25, 2016 at the age of 90, with him we lost one of the most remarkable leaders of the 20th century.

No other head of state has so steadfastly stood up to the United States and survived that long.

Since 1959, the U S government and the expatriated Cuban-Americans who fled Cuba after the Revolution and based mainly in Florida, have tried mightily to topple the Cuban government, and they continue to do so, but without success. Castro survived more than 630 assassination attempts. The only head of state to be submitted to that punishment.

The legacy of Fidel Castro

“What’s amazing today is that you’ve got a country that’s suffered an illegal economic blockade by the United States for almost half a century and yet it’s been able to give its people the best standard of health care, peace and stability, equity, brilliant education,” Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London, said in 2006. “To do this in the teeth of an almost economic war is a tribute to Fidel Castro.”

Castro practiced a unique form of solidarity and internationalism. Nelson Mandela credited Cuba with helping to bring down the system of apartheid in South Africa and facilitated the way for the independence of Namibia. Cuba fought with revolutionaries in Angola, Guinea Bissau and other countries against colonialism. Since 1963 Cuba regularly sends doctors to other countries to save lives and provides for her nationals free medical attention and education. Those are rights inherited from Fidel.

A history of U S interference in Cuba

The U S economic embargo was initiated in 1960 by president Dwight D Eisenhower in response to a memorandum written by L D Mallory, a senior State Department official. Mallory proposed “a line of action that makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the government.” And this is precisely what American administrations have done since then, but all have failed. Since then, they try to subvert the internal order in Cuba using mercenaries and hooligans under a fierce media campaign of fake news to discredit the Cuban Revolution by all means, but they will never succeed.

Obama opens the door to normalisation

In 2006, Fidel Castro suffered a serious illness and turned over the reins of power in Cuba to his brother Raul, who became president in 2008.

On March 21, 2016, president Barack Obama and Raul Castro held a joint press conference at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. Obama notably declared, “Perhaps most importantly, I affirmed that Cuba’s destiny will not be decided by the United States or any other nation. Cuba is sovereign and, rightly, has great pride. And the future of Cuba will be decided by Cubans, not by anybody else.”

Unlike all prior U S presidents, Obama understood the significance of treating Cuba with respect.

Unfortunately, after Obama, the next administration introduced 243 measures to make the blockade even more brutal and genocidal against the Cuban people. And his successor has maintained those measures intact. But against all odds, Cuba is advancing and continues building a socialist system for the benefit of all the people, which guarantees fundamental rights for everyone and practicing solidarity and help to other peoples in Africa and other parts of the world by sending medical brigades to save lives.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, apart from protecting its own population from the deadly disease, an effective Covid vaccine would also help Cuba revive its economy, greatly affected by the US blockade, which was crippled by the Coronavirus pandemic and a drastic drop in international tourism over the past year.

Cuba’s former leader Fidel Castro decided to build a powerful health sector in the country so that it could produce a majority of its own vaccines and medications. He invested greatly in a surprisingly impressive biotechnology and immunology. Today, Cuba is one of a few developing nations with the capabilities to produce and export their own vaccines. Cuba’s dreams to combat the pandemic using its homegrown jabs is giving its fruits with five vaccines which have proved to be very effective against COVID-19. Today, 90 per cent of its population is already vaccinated, an achievement that not many countries could show. This is one of the best tributes to Fidel.

One of Fidel´s most admired institutions, the Finlay Institute in Havana, announced that their Soberana2 vaccine appears to be highly effective and is entering the final stage of clinical trials. If the trials are successful, Cuba is to become the first Latin American country to develop its own Coronavirus vaccine.

Today we pay our modest tribute to Fidel for his outstanding contribution to the freedom and development of Cuba, his fight for justice and social equality for all, his internationalist policy and promotion and respect for human rights. Fidel lives in every dignified Cuban citizen, in every student or worker, school, hospital, factory, cultural and scientific institution he promoted and created; like the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) for scholarship students from the Caribbean, Central America, Africa and other countries to be trained as doctors and in return to save the lives of their own peoples. That’s only one of the greatest ideas and achievements of Fidel. His legacy will live forever and be remembered as one of the most outstanding personalities of this century.

After his death, as a way of maintaining him alive, the Cuban people say and repeat: ‘’We are Fidel, we are Fidel.’’

The author is Cuban Ambassador to Zambia.

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