The European Commission has stated that the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro was a “hero for many”, suggesting that labeling him a dictator did not reflect their views. It seems that whitewashing the record of communist dictators has become official policy in Europe.
Fidel Castro was vilified around the world, feared by many and played a complicit role in a missile crisis that brought the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war. Why then did Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker say that Castro was “one of the historic figures of the past century” and that “the world has lost a man who was a hero for many”?
EC Spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said that the Commission president “opted for [a] balanced appreciation of the historical journey of Fidel Castro”, while the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, sent her “most heartfelt condolences” to current Cuban leader Raul Castro, brother of Fidel, saying Fidel was “a man of determination and a historical figure.”
President Juncker’s comments did not end with the ”hero” label. He went on to praise the dictator for changing ”the course of his country and his influence reached far beyond. Fidel Castro remains one of the revolutionary figures of the 20th century. His legacy will be judged by history”.
When Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström dared to post her own views on Castro and his reign, she was criticized by the Commission.
“Fidel Castro was a dictator who oppressed his people for 50 years,” Commissioner Malmström wrote. “Strange to hear all the tributes in the news today.”
Spokesperson Schinas said that “the Commission’s position was expressed” by Juncker and Mogherini’s statements, which did not include labeling Castro as a dictator. Commissioner Malmström’s viewpoint, apparently, was not in harmony with the institution’s position.
In fact, it’s not just Europe that appears confused. President Barack Obama also issued a rather milquetoast statement about the “enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,” which stood in stark contrast to the reaction from President-elect Trump, who said in his characteristically direct fashion that Castro was a “brutal dictator” whose “legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights”.
We know the record of the Castro regime; it’s not a matter of debate. So, in a Europe that holds itself up as an example of order founded on human rights and democracy, why is the ruling elite, especially in the highest executive body of government in a union of 28 member states, so afraid to use the “D-word” and denounce a communist despot?
We’re not alone in asking the question. Many others have asked why an institution like the European Commission would gloss over the reality of Castro’s legacy. Since his ascent to power in 1959, Castro was directly responsible for the imprisonment and execution of tens of thousands of people for their so-called ‘radical’ political opinion, their religion or sexual orientation.
In Europe, where so many of us have experienced dictatorships, from Mussolini to Stalin, it’s surprising that the lessons learnt by our very own history and the vilification with which we regard our own oppressors, has not been grasped by these members of the European family.
Since when has burying the reality of communist crimes against humanity and denying the oppression of so many become a European policy? Have we sacrificed our moral compass to the ideology of political correctness?
There’s something fundamentally wrong with the EU’s position, and quite likely with its president, Jean-Claude Juncker. As we all know, the term ’dictator’ exists in his vocabulary. Remember that earlier this year, President Juncker foolishly called Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán a dictator in front of journalists. Juncker’s bizarre behavior was caught on camera at an EU-Eastern Partnership summit in Latvia in May, and drew gasps of shock from political circles.
European left-wing politicians, joined by the supposedly conservative Juncker, often throw the phrase at conservative governments that are not to their liking. When Hungary introduced legislation to set a retirement age for judges, or when Poland appointed conservative judges, the very same people, who refuse to call a mass murderer what he was, worry about the state of democracy in Hungary or in Poland. Oh, the double standards.
Oppression in Cuba may have softened to some degree after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but that doesn’t erase the crimes of Fidel Castro’s regime. That won’t bring back the lives the regime took away or left in ruin. If for nothing else, but out of respect for his victims, we should call the late Fidel Castro what he was: one of the last communist dictators of the 20th century, a tyrant and an oppressor. If we can’t do that, then it would be better to remain silent.