As word spread this morning about Fidel Castro possibly uttering his last breath (won't happen quite yet... he's the Red Energizer Bunny), I come across news reports of both elation and sadness. Neither of which I fully understand, for different reasons.

First, there are the celebrations. I'm not Mr. Glass Half Empty guy, but will Cuba really start its rampant transport from a closed tyrannical state to an island of liberal freedoms, based on the death of Fidel Castro? I don't claim to know the inner-workings of Havana's power lineup, but something tells me little bro Raul is keen on perpetuating the Fidel-Che revolucion. And once Raul takes his dirt nap, there's someone else waiting, then someone else, then someone else. There's got to be a long line of Party thugs just waiting in line, right? Hence, I'm not quite ready to break out the bubbly quite yet.

Then, of course, are the Castro apologists at best, and the Castro worshippers at worst. There are many places to find them, but one doesn't have to look much further than BBC's Have Your Say, where Castro-Love is flying high with a number of posters (who are generally not Cubans or ex-Cubans, I might add).

The proclamations are predictable: As in... hey, Cuba's got "free" education and "free" health care, so what's there not to like about the guy? Moreover, much like Saint Hugo of Columbia, Castro is the ultimate Anti-Bush. Other gems are more to the point:

"The world would be a far better place, if Castro was a president of a great world power and not a small island."

"Mr. Castro is the sole symbol of freedom for Latin American countries."

"If Castro leaves office then we risk losing tremendous model of success and knowledge."

"We have to pray for him because (Castro) lives for ordinary people."

To be fair, there were counterpoints to these types of fandom, mainly from Americans.

Now, this isn't to say the US's policy toward Cuba hasn't been ill-advised for the last few decades. Namely, embargos harm individual trade and do little to harm the dictator-in-power, and usually have the opposite effect by providing the "Them" scapegoat.

However, at the end of the day, Cuba is simply being applauded for making everyone equal. Equal in squalor, but hey, equal nonetheless. And there's also the horror - horror! - of the nightmarish scenario of someday seeing capitalist/free-market influences on the communist island. I mean, who would want to see new retail, hotels and slick new cars that would ruin Western tourists' dream of seeing Cuba in its "natural" state: dilapidated buildings, broken down vehicles and abject slums.

Adam from Baltimore states, "As someone who has lived a number of years in South and Central America, it never ceased to amaze me how many Europeans and Americans resented the growth of those countries' economies because they thought it would endanger their patronizing, postcard-like view of those societies."


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