Tuesday, we celebrated the 87th birthday of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro Ruz. It is very hard to think of a more important world leader than Fidel. The contribution he has made to the world socialist movement, to Third World liberation and to social justice has been monumental – especially when one considers that he has been the leader of a country with roughly the same population as New York City.
At the current time, the Colombian government and leftist guerillas are engaged in a peace process in Havana, in large part due to Fidel’s efforts. As Nelson Mandela himself has acknowledged, South Africa is free from apartheid in no small measure due to Fidel’s leadership in militarily aiding the liberation struggles in Southern Africa, especially in Angola and Namibia. The ELAM (Latin American Medical School) in Cuba, which trains doctors from all around the world, but particularly from poor countries, was Fidel’s brainchild. Today, 70 countries from around the world benefit from Cuba’s medical internationalism, including Haiti where Cuban doctors have been, according to The New York Times, at the forefront of the fight against cholera. Again, this type of internationalism is greatly attributable to the ideas and commitment of Fidel Castro.
According to Hugo Chavez, when he came to power in Venezuela in 1999, “the only light on the house at that time was Cuba,” meaning that Cuba was the only country in the region free of U.S. imperial domination.Thanks to the perseverance of Fidel and the Cuban people, now much of Latin America has been freed from the bonds of the U.S. Empire.
That Cuba not only stands nearly 25 years after the collapse of the USSR, but indeed prospers and remains as a beacon to other countries, is a testament to Fidel’s revolutionary fervor and fortitude. Indeed, Fidel’s very life at this point – one that the U.S. has tried to extinguish on literally hundreds of occasions – itself constitutes an act of brave deviance against wealth, power and imperialist aggression. We therefore honor Fidel Castro Ruz on his birthday, and hope that he continues to live and to lead for many more years to come.
Dan Kovalik is a labor rights lawyer in Pittsburgh.
Photo: Fidel Castro. Wikimedia (CC)