Viva Cuba! The late Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution was an inspiration to liberation struggles the world over, writes Michael McGowan
2017-01-09 13:53:19 -
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I am sure that the vast majority of the people of Ireland are proud of President Michael D Higgins, who promptly sent condolences to the people of Cuba following the death at the age of 90 of Fidel Castro, whom he described as “a giant amongst global leaders”.

Along with the creation of the European Union, the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the end of apartheid in South Africa, the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro is one of the greatest historic events of the modern world.

Despite his critics, any shortcomings should be judged against the background of the bullying of the United States, which has been in conflict with Cuba for over half a century, and the recognition of Castro’s achievements by Ireland’s President Higgins, Pope Francis and previously by the late Nelson Mandela must be nearest the mark.

In terms of both its domestic achievements and international influence, the small Caribbean island of Cuba has been a role model for developing countries and an inspiration for the whole world. As a poor developing country with a population of little over 11 million, Cuba has provided its own people with a superior health and education service than many of the world’s richest countries, including the US, besides sending doctors and health workers to help countries across the world, and supporting liberation movements in Africa and Latin America.

I have been a regular visitor to Cuba for more than 30 years and have learnt so much from its successes both at home and abroad, including the brave self-help of the Cuban people in resisting the bullying from their US neighbours only 90 miles across the water.

Since 1959, Cuba has changed dramatically from being the centre of gambling and prostitution in the Caribbean to a society with health care and free education for all its citizens. The importance of the arts and sport has also been central to the Cuban revolution, and the promoting of culture has played a key role in building a rich and successful society, which is something Cuba has in common with Ireland.

And these achievements have been accomplished by Cuba despite being at loggerheads with the most powerful economic and military power in the world, one that imposed a trade blockade for decades, attempted an invasion, and made hundreds of attempts to assassinate its leader.

On one of my visits to Angola long past, I witnessed the presence of Cuban troops who had been despatched to help resist the onslaught of South African apartheid forces. There is no doubt that the defeat of the South Africa military there played a crucial role in the progress towards ending apartheid in South Africa, and for Namibian independence. What’s more, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison in South Africa, he promptly made a visit to Cuba to thank Castro and the people of Cuba for their support during South Africa’s darkest hour.

Cuba is a small country with an enormous influence in the world, admired and inspiring for its achievements in health, education and culture at home, for its international role in providing doctors and health workers, and for its solidarity and practical support for liberation movements across the world.

I must own up to something personal that has added spice to my interest in Cuba. My wife Margarita’s mother, Stella, was born in Cuba – in Santiago, which is the birthplace of Fidel Castro. The Cuban family connection continues to the present day as our youngest son, Sebastian, runs a Cuban restaurant in the north of England which he has named ‘Viva Cuba’. That’s a sentiment I can get behind.

Michael McGowan is a former MEP and president of the Development Committee of the European Parliament.
TAGS : Ireland Michael McGowan Cuba Propaganda
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