By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been mocked and subjected to withering criticism over remarks he made honoring Fidel Castro’s legacy. After calling Castro “remarkable,” he finally admitted he was a dictator. Some have pointed to a nepotistic familial relationship whereby Pierre Trudeau had a relationship with Castro, so younger Trudeau wants to honor the old man’s passing.
Let’s look at them side by side. Mandela got 126 words and Castro 169.
So that’s a win for Castro.
Let’s read the first sentence.
“It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President.”
““It is with great sorrow that Canadians and people around the world learn of Nelson Mandela’s death.”
So they both got a lot of “sorrow.” Next:
“Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.”
“Today we all say a personal farewell to a man whose life has offered hope and inspiration to millions.The admiration and accolades Nelson Mandela is receiving from every corner of the world are a testament to his struggles and sacrifice.”
In these sentences we say that whereas Trudeau prevaricates on his own support for Mandela, merely noting that Mandela received support from others, he speaks with conviction about Castro’s “improvements.”
“While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for ‘el Comandante.'”
“Truly a citizen of the world, Nelson Mandela’s contribution to world freedom is simply unparalleled, and he will forever occupy a place in the hearts, minds and imaginations of people across the globe.”
So here we can say Mandela comes off a bit better.
“I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba. On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.”
“On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our Parliamentary Caucus, Sophie and I extend our deepest sympathies to Graça Machel, the entire Mandela family and all South Africans at this very sad time.”
So here Castro gets one last “remarkable” leader bit and memories as a “friend.”
It may be no surprise that Trudeau recalls his father’s legacy relating to Castro but not Mandela. During the Apartheid years Pierre Trudeau’s Canada kept up trade relations when the elder Trudeau was Prime Minister from 1968-79 and 1980-1984. In one report it is revealed that Canada did little “while Mandela endured harsh conditions in a concrete cell on Robben island.” Carleton University political science professor Linda Freeman said: “He defended trade and investment with the apartheid regime, and tried to mollify Africans with aid and rhetorical onslaughts.” Trudeau even believed that sanctions were “unrealistic.”
The contrast between Mandela and Castro could not be more stark. Mandela ushered in mutli-party democracy, not executions as Castro did. Mandela left power after five years and one term in office (1994-1999) while Castro remained in power in one form or another from 1959 to 2008. Mandela supported free speech and freedom of movement. Castro locked up all dissidents and prevented people from leaving. Although GDP per capita was stagnant under Mandela he sought to redress the crimes of the past regime. Castro destroyed Cuba’s economy through stagnation and led to the island nation’s citizens barely enjoying basic goods in the 1990s, making around $20 a month in the 2000s.
Yet for Trudeau and many other privileged westerners the real hero is Castro, the romantic hero is Castro. Perhaps because they have the democracy and privilege to say so. South Africans can be thankful they have freedom today, Cubans are still under a nepotistic feudal one-family-one-party dictatorship. Perhaps people should consider that when they wonder why their leaders have more praise for Castro than Mandela. Perhaps it is because their leaders would like them to be slaves as in Cuba, rather than free as in South Africa.