Fidel Castro’s alphabet

(this article was originally written for the Iraqi newspaper Al-sabah al-jadeed (newsabah.com), therefore it refers also to things in Iraq)

Alexander the Great

Fidel’s great example, although Alexander died young. Fidel called three of his five sons from the marriage with Soto Delvalle after his idol: Alexis, Alejandro, and Alexander. The other two were Angelito and Antonio or “Tony”, the man who became vice-president of the Swiss-based International Baseball Federation.

Angola

One of the countries where Fidel sent thousands of Cuban fighters to help the independence struggle of the MPLA against the Portuguese. Despite NATO support, the MPLA won. It is still in power and now importing Portuguese engineers who became unemployed after the financial crisis of 2008. But things went bad in Ethiopia where Fidel sent fighters to support dictator Mengistu. He lives since 1991 in exile in Zimbabwe.

Beard

Fidel never shaved his beard. Why? Because he made a promise on American television, one month after the revolution in 1959: “When we fulfill our promise of good government I will cut my beard.”

Blackbook

The “Blackbook on Communism” published in 1997 contains a chapter on Cuba. The treatment of political prisoners in the beginning of Fidel’s rule was not much better than in Iraq under the Baath.

Cars

Cubans became famous for repairing old American cars, Iraqis should be too since the embargo of the 1990s. Cars that survived the Revolution of 1959 have become expensive collectables in the US. Cubans can make a nice living out of them. Unfortunately, the Cuban government still has not lifted all the bans on importing spare parts from abroad.

Capitalism

Famous words of Fidel in 1991 after the Fall of the Berlin Wall: “We have to stick to the facts, and simply put, the socialist camp has collapsed.” Right, but also true: “Capitalism neither has the capacity, nor the morality, nor the ethics, to solve the problems of poverty.” What does?

Che Guevara

Fidel’s best friend perhaps. He died young. A poster hero until today for the Facebook generation so fond of pictures, and other things you don’t have to read. Recently a film was made about Che’s life which did little to explain how the heck you can start a revolution with 83 men and win, as happened in Cuba.

Cigars

Probably the most important reason why Americans were so angry that they ‘lost Cuba’. It wasn’t Cuba though that installed a complete trade boycot, but their own government. The Cuban Havana cigars remain the most famous in the world, even in Erbil where they sell fake ones. Cuban cigars don’t kill you, although Fidel himself quit smoking in 1985: “The one last sacrifice I must make for public health is to stop smoking.” (see health)

Columbus

Unfortunately, while searching for gold and silver to pay the bills of the Spanish royal family, Columbus ‘discovered’ Cuba too. Arawak Indians had been farming and hunting on the island for over six thousand years. Life was good: historians think they numbered around 150,000 when Columbus came. They were wiped out mainly by epidemics imported by the Europeans, historians mercifully believe, not by colonialism.

Cuba

Cubans use some words of Arawakan, African, and English origin. Cubans use Arawakan nouns to identify many mountains, rivers, and towns. The name “Cuba” comes from the word cubanacán, meaning “a center” or “central place”, according to one expert.

Drink

“Cuba Libre” is a drink that you can order anywhere in the world and that would let you fraternize immediately with complete strangers at the bar. Because they thought it was invented by Fidel himself. But no. It was invented by the Americans who liberated Cuba from the Spanish, which explains the high percentage of Coca cola in this cocktail. It is still popular around the world, except in some muslim countries, a group to which Iraq has added itself recently and, even worse, the Indian state of Kerala! Taxes on alcohol provided 25% of Kerala’s budget in 2015. Now, who is going to take care of the sick, elderly and addicts?

Eighty-three. See Che.

Family

Fidel married several times and made quite a lot of children also outside marriage. Biographers have counted a total of nine. It is the Latin American way: Fidel’s father Angel Castro, who migrated from Spain’s Galicia region to build a farm on Cuba, was still married to his first wife when he started a family with Fidel’s mother, Lina Ruz, the family maid. Most of Fidel’s children remained loyal to Cuba and lived there. But his daughter Francisca Pupo left dissatisfied for the US. His eldest daughter, Alina Fernandez, blasted her father on exile radio from Miami, where Fidel’s sister Juana, also resident in Florida, was already calling Fidel a “monster”. His eldest son Fidelito was a nuclear scientist in Cuba. Fidel’s brother Raúl is now president of Cuba, other relatives became anti-Cuba politicians in America.

Grave

Will Fidel get an enormous grave to attract tourists? It is not sure. He has asked to be cremated.

Health

One thing socialist Cuba did achieve was a good public health care system (see cigars). Poor Americans used its doctors and hospitals in Michael Moore’s famous documentary film “Sicko” (2007), about health care in America compared to other states. Moore brought a group of rescue workers to Cuba who had survived 9/11 but didn’t get proper medical treatment in New York. Police in the US seized the film material but clever Michael had of course a copy.

Miami

Capital of Cuban exiles. The Miami Herald newspaper is also available in Spanish. Decades ago only a few dozen people sniffed cocaïne there and it wasn’t a problem. The Cold War has ended but the War on Drugs goes on.

Missile crisis

Washington never seems to learn this lesson: if you cut financial aid to or impose sanctions on a poor country, it will look for other friends (e.g. Egypt under Nasser). In the case of socialist Cuba one of the friends was the Soviet Union. In 1961 the US and in January 1962 the Organization of American States (OAS) imposed santions on Cuba. Ten months later the world was on the brink of a nuclear war after the Soviets had shipped some nuclear missiles to Cuba.

Music

Catchy pre- and post-revolutionary Cuban music remains popular all over the world while the revolutionary songs that were able to stave off hunger feelings, have been forgotten.

Oil

Even half-socialist countries cannot function without oil. For a long time Cuba received gratis oil from Mexico and Venezuela, next to 4-6 billion dollar annually from the Soviet Union says Wikipedia.

Oranges

Fidel didn’t peel his oranges, but cut them in four and sucked them. It shocked some bourgeois admirers of his who came from Europe to see their idol.

Organization of American States

In January 1962, Cuba was suspended from the  Organization of American States (OAS). But some countries in South America ignored its sanctions against Cuba. So, in 1975 the sanctions were lifted. Washington is still busy doing the same even if in Cuba too, the sanctions only hit the ordinary people.

Pigs

Cuba was catholic and communist so there was no ban on breeding and eating pigs. It had a lovely Bay of Pigs where a bunch of American amateurs and 1400 Cuban refugees tried to invade the island in 1961. It failed (see Che and 83). After that the CIA became obsessed with Fidel. They devoted more assassination plans against him than any other perceived enemy of Washinton. In every organization one finds bad losers.

Pope

Pope Francis went to Cuba last year. Almost 800 prisoners were freed after the pope made an appeal to the Cuban government. Why can’t a muslim leader do the same somewhere?

Refugees

You can almost swim from Cuba to Miami but refugees preferred small boats until these were stopped by the Cuban government. If Fidel could do this, why not Erdogan or some Libyans?

Sanctions

A terrible experience shared by Cubans and Iraqis. Under president Obama the US sanctions became less and almost symbolical. In March this year Obama went to see personally on Cuba how this worked out but didn’t meet Fidel.

Speeches

Fidel is famous for his long speeches. His record at the United Nations General Assembly remains unbroken: four and a half hours. One of his last speeches during an international climate conference in Rio de Janeiro lasted twenty minutes. Historians think that’s why the applause afterwards was overwhelming.

Sugar

Where people drink coffee and rum, the farmers grow sugar. Despite US sanctions the European Union imported Cuban cane sugar.

Tourism

Socialism, even when half-failed, doesn’t stop tourism, while sectarian strife stops it completely. Instead of foreign tourists, one gets foreign troops.

Trump on Cuba

Predictably he says one day this, next day something else.

Y

Nothing in Fidel’s life started with Y, except the Spanish word for I, “yo”.

Zaza

A place on the coast of Cuba where socialists built a fine sweet water reservoir to irrigate surrounding farm lands. Not everything is black and white in history.

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