Saturday, February 23, 2008

Farewell Comrade Fidel!
Morning Star, 22/2/08

George Galloway gives a personal look at the unique achievements of retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

"It was my good fortune to have been a friend of Fidel Castro for more than 20 years. I knew him in dark days and fine, when he enjoyed the military and economic protection of his alliance with the Eastern bloc. I was there when the lights went out with the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980s and during the flowering of the new Latin American and greener socialism which has reached new heights in the alliance with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Fidel has straddled the last half-century as a colossus. Every media outfit in the world treated his retirement as the main story of the day.

Yet Cuba is a tiny island in the Caribbean which, before Castro, was an impoverished offshore haven for the US mafia where blacks faced apartheid, poor people died young and illiterate and children perished like flies in their infancy.

Today, Cuba is one of the coolest places on the planet.

It is a tourist destination for millions who come back wearing their T-shirts of Che Guevara and imbued with the spirit of the island. Cuba's children live longer than those born in Washington DC thanks to a health system, as was vividly showcased in Michael Moore's film Sicko, comparable with Scandinavia's and a good deal better than our own.

Illiteracy is non-existent thanks to a free education system with unprecedented numbers of graduates and PhDs. Cuba is the only Third World country of which that can be said.

Cuba harvests gold medals in the Olympic Games, leaving countries like our own trailing in its wake, and ordinary workers thrill to the ballet, opera and a music scene which positively throbs.

None of this could have happened without the revolution which, in turn, would never have succeeded without Fidel.

He is the most charismatic man I have ever met, an inspirational orator, an oracle of politics in the second half of the 20th century and a listener too.

Once, when I was with him, he dug out a map of Britain and asked me to point out where the distinctive long-haired Highland cows were to be found. When I couldn't tell him the annual tonnage of British steel, he looked at me as if to say: "What kind of MP are you?"

He was, above all else, an internationalist leader, as were his comrades. Che fought in Africa and was murdered in Bolivia.

Cuba played such a decisive role in the downfall of South African apartheid that, upon his release from prison, Nelson Mandela chose to visit Havana before anywhere else. Holding Fidel's hand aloft, Mandela declared: "See how far we slaves have come!"

Of course, the bordello owners and casino kings who left the island in 1959 have maintained a steady drum beat of hostility to Castro ever since. They want their dirty businesses back. And they have provided a base in Miami, just 90 miles from Cuba, for 50 years of subversion, invasion, blockade, failed assassination plots, terrorism and relentless propaganda.

One of the latest lies is the absurd claim that Fidel is a multimillionaire. In fact, he literally does not possess a single dollar.

Indeed, when this claim emerged in Forbes Magazine, he pledged on live television, with me sitting next to him, that, if anyone could show a single dollar in his hands, he would immediately tear off his insignia and retire in disgrace.

Equally false is the propaganda which claims that Cubans taking to the boats for Florida represent anything other than a small fraction of the country's population. If an airplane landed tonight in Easterhouse offering green cards for entry into the US, I daresay that it would fill
up rather rapidly.

Cuba decided long ago that anyone who wished to emigrate to the US could do so. It is the US which refused them visas, no doubt because they've got enough poor black people in the US already.

It's true that Cuba doesn't have elections like, say, those in Florida, where the younger brother ensures that the elder brother wins.

The losers are the very sections of the population which, in Cuba, have benefited the most from Fidel Castro. When I was last with Fidel a week or so before his serious illness, I asked what he thought about the new breed of Latin American left-wing leaders such as Chavez who have ousted the juntas.

He told me: "If I had died 10 years ago, I would have died sadly. Now that the red flag has been passed on to a new generation, I can go full of hope and trust in the future." Then he added with a chuckle: "The only way to get elected to office in Latin America nowadays is to profess friendship with Fidel Castro and total opposition to George W Bush."

Farewell, Fidel. You're a legend. We'll be really lucky if we look upon your like again."

Morning Star, 22/2/08

Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow George Galloway is the author of the Fidel Castro Handbook, which is published by MQ Publications priced £14.99. He writes a monthly column for the Morning Star.

Rory's Comment: Cuba does hold elections as the comments below from Medialens confirm. Below is a recent Channel 4 interview with Galloway by the idiot, Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

Unfortunately GG did not counter that buffoon Krishnan guru [on Channel 4] with the fact that there ARE elections in Cuba! Even the Cuban constitution was elected upon.

Just recently 11 million Cubans voted for their delegates to the Cuban assembly. It is a preposterous lie that there are no elections in Cuba. Anyone can be nominated as a delegate over the age of 16. Each nomenclature or district can nominate up to 8 candidates, all have to attend a meeting of the electorate and put their case for election. All candidates have their names and photos published and their CV.

The succesful candidates are elected to the local municipal council. The councils then after a process select their candidate for the NA, that candidate has to be elected by over 51% of the electorate.The NA selects a slate of candidates for the council of state (Cabinet). Those too have to be ratified by the electorate. The sworn in cabinet then elect the President.

Since 1975 Fidel has been elected President but he has had to be elected three times to get to that position. All elected candidates are subject to recall at anytime, only the members of the cabinet are in full time paid posts. (Equal to a skilled workers salary).

Even major policy decisions by the government can be influenced by voting (such as the trade Unions who have a lot of power in Cuba, trade unions by the way are free and independent from Government and communist party). I forgot to add The Communist party by law is not allowed to stand delegates or campaign for delegates.

Posted on Medialens by RMS on 20/2/2008


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