After decades of ruling over Cuba with an iron fist, borrowing tactics from minds like Hitler and Stalin, Fidel Castro passed away. Technically he wasn’t in power as he passed presidential duties over to his brother in 2006. The death of Fidel Castro has been taken in two very different ways from Little Havana in Florida, US to the real Havana, Cuba.
While Cuban nationals in America flood the streets with a joyous celebration, Cubans on the island are mourning the loss of their beloved leader. In the past years, Castro has remained more tame than previous times in history (1960-2000) it is easy to forget why the Socialist revolutionary leader was feared by so many. This man has ordered multiple atrocities that are immense violations of basic human rights. From mass murders to the execution of small children, Fidel Castro and his cohorts are not to be idolized for what they’ve left behind.
Fidel Castro has left an innumerable death toll in his wake and has shown very little remorse for these innocent lives lost. He set up work camps much like those in the Holocaust and restricted all movement of Cuban people. Fidel Castro was a tyrant that should be remembered as such.
15. The Overall Death Count
Fidel Castro has killed or ordered the deaths of so many people that there isn’t even an exact death toll. The number can only be guessed and is said to be in the high thousands. Professor Armando Lago believes that this number could be in the 10,000s but is more likely to be closer to 100,000. Armando Lago is a Harvard-trained economist who spent many years studying exactly what the revolution cost the Cuban people. Lago equated that 78,000 people died trying to flee dictatorship while 5300 are known to have lost their lives fighting for communism in the Bay of Pigs and Escambray Mountains. Adding onto these already astronomical numbers, 14,000 were killed in Fidel Castro’s revolutionary adventures abroad and he ordered 50,000 soldiers to fight alongside a 1980s Soviet-backed regime in Angola. Despite these huge numbers people are still mourning the death of Fidel Castro, their reason is understandably complicated.
14. Appointing Raul Castro
One of the crappiest things that Fidel Castro did was leave the world with Raul Castro leading the nation of Cuba. Raul Castro has served as President of the Council of State of Cuba and the President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba since 2008. Raul Castro was close with Che Guevara and was most well known for carrying forth high-profile kidnappings of US and Canadian nationals. He assumed presidential duties on July 31, 2006 after it was announced by Fidel Castro’s personal secretary of state-run television. Though he was responsible for some despicable human rights violations himself, Raul Castro continues to be the leader of rebuilding a tattered relationship with the United States. Despite being of blood relation to Fidel Castro there might be some hope that Raul is cut from a different cloth. After a visit to the Vatican in 2015 Raul Castro stated that he might consider returning to the Roman Catholic Church, a statement that would probably make his brother’s blood boil.
13. The Canimar River Massacre
Three young people seized a somewhat full tourism boat that was carrying about 60-100 people near Matanzas Bay in the ‘70s. During their heroic attempt to escape from Cuban revolutionaries the young people were taken out by rapid machine gun fire and left to drown. The exact death toll isn’t known but there were approximately 50 men, women, and children on board that day. Of all of those people 10 survived and only 11 bodies were pulled from the water. On the boat were children aged 3, 9, 11, and 17 years old among other innocent civilians. Despite being a horrific display of power and violence the Canimar River Massacre also marks another milestone in the Castro dictatorship. This awful event also marks proof that Cuban people were not permitted to leave their nation, a direct violation of human liberties and rights. These sorts of displays attribute to Cuba having one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
12. The Execution of Children
There are a total of 95 minors documented that were killed by the order of Fidel Castro. Of these teens and children 22 died by firing squad and 32 were killed in extrajudicial assassination. The family of 15 year old Owen Delgado Temprana took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy before Cuban revolutionaries stormed in and beat him to death. There were also many people who died while incarcerated, often times the guards would mark the death “heart attack” but witness statements tell us another tale. There were a total of 2199 reported prison deaths during this Socialist regime, one of which was a 17 year old denied medical attention. The young boy was found deceased in a pool of his own blood and vomit. Three children also died in 1971 when a Cuban navy boat sunk the ship by ramming the boat, to make it all the more horrific, their mother was eaten by sharks in front of them.
11. Killing to Sell the Blood
A total number of 166 Cubans, members of the military and civilians, were rounded up on May 27, 1966 and executed after a total of seven pints of their blood could be harvested. The blood sold for $50 per pint in Communist Vietnam to obtain hard currency while also contributing to the Vietcong Communist aggression. Extracting the amount of blood Castro desired to be sold in Vietcong would always result in a person suffering from cerebral anemia. Cerebral anemia causes someone to go through paralysis and unconsciousness. In this blatant disregard for human rights the subjects were first drained of their blood to the point of cerebral anemia before being carried on a stretcher down a long hall where they would be killed. This was reported by the InterAmerican Human Rights Commission almost an entire year later on April 7, 1967. These kind of deaths were nothing at the hands of gleeful murderer Che Guevara in these hard times for Cubans.
10. Fidel Castro and Gay Rights
In some of his earliest records Fidel Castro has spoken about his absolute hate of homosexuals. He even believed that the “deviancy” of homosexuality makes them unable to be true revolutionaries and as such all homosexuals were sent away to UMAPS camps alongside Jehovah’s Witnesses and vagrants. In 1965 police began rounding up gay men which sparked one of the first gay rights protests in history. The persecution of gay Cubans inspired the United States activist group the Mattachine society to hold protests for two straight days in front of the White House and the United Nations, these were the very first gay rights protests to date. This was one of a couple practices that Fidel Castro brought over to Cuba from Nazi Germany. Even after UMAPS closed homosexual people were generally fired from their jobs and treated like beasts instead of men. Fidel Castro has even referred to homosexual men as “worms” in his time in power.
9. Persecution of Catholics
Almost immediately after being elected Fidel Castro released propaganda citing Catholics as “social scum.” By the 1960’s Fidel Castro had banned Christmas from being celebrated on the island. He made sure to shut down churches, silence priests and parishioners, and monitored all church activities that could possibly be going on in Cuba at the time. Before his time in office Cuba was 90% Roman Catholic, it was even found to be a pilgrimage center at one time. Cuban Catholics were vigorous lovers of their faith and practiced with an almost severe passion before Castro’s persecution. With that in mind it’s hard to believe that in the last 50 years not one church has been built, although there have been some papal visits to the island. Now that Fidel has passed away we still can’t be sure that religious freedom will be granted, but the Cuban people may be on their way back to Winters with Christmas and Springs filled with Easter celebrations once more.
8. Violent Media for Shock Value
Fidel Castro has always utilized the mainstream media to expand his domineering presence over the people of Cuba. The Cuba Archive documents the deaths and executions of Fidel Castro since he took over power in Cuba in 1959 and the total deaths by Firing Squad are documented at 3615.
To establish fear in the hearts of those that didn’t believe in their revolution Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara took photos and videos of these brutal executions of men, women, and children. Che once said that judicial proof was unnecessary before being sent to the firing squad. Che considered these practices were for the archaic bourgeois and that what they were doing was creating a revolution. As the quote from Che himself reads, “And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate.” To add onto this blatant disregard for human life there were 1253 extrajudicial killings attributed to the Castro regime.
7. The Treatment of Dr. Hilda Molina
Doctor Hilda Molina is the former chief neurosurgeon for Cuba who also served in the Cuban National Assembly. She founded the neurosurgery center in Cuba in 1987, and by 1991 the scientific center was the most important in the nation. 1991 was also the year that Julio Teja Perez, the former Cuban Minister of Health, said that she would cease helping Cuban nationals and only serve those paying in U.S. dollars. Molina’s answer to this change was to resign immediately and renounce her seat in the Cuban National Assembly.
Despite stepping away, Molina was still continuously subject to a mob like retaliation from the government. On top of the abuse Molina suffered, she was forbidden to travel outside of Cuba to see her family. After decades of being denied transport, Dr. Hilda Molina was finally granted a visa to visit Argentina and see her family in 2009.
6. Restricting the Movement of Cubans to Havana
It was in a public address in the Spring of 1997 that Fidel Castro announced the government would be halting all movement to Havana. The justification for this disgraceful slashing of civil liberties was that free movement to and from the capital would endanger the security of those that resided in the capital. He also made note that there was overpopulation and overcrowding inhibiting the happiness of Havana residents. Fidel Castro gathered police and assigned them to identifying and indexing all of those that lived in Havana. Cubans were permitted to visit on day trips to Havana but police frequently patrolled the streets checking IDs. If anyone was found living in Havana illegally they were fined and sent back to their home country. With Decree 217 Castro’s regime evicted 1600 residents of Havana back to their home countries and one month after the initial purge many more residents were told that they had 48 hours to relocate to their place of origin.
5. Military Units to Aid Production
Due to the Spanish translation these camps are colloquially referred to as UMAPS to Cubans and Cuban-Americans. These agricultural labor camps were reserved for anyone who could not serve in the military because they were conscientious objectors, homosexuals, or political enemies of the revolution. It has always been rumored that UMAPS were ordered by Fidel Castro and carried out by his brother Raul Castro, the current leader of Cuba. Often times people were kidnapped into UMAPS with a false letter to report for military service and then put into a truck, bus, or train on an eight-hour journey straight to the UMAPS agricultural camp. Each camp held about 120 internees split into units of 10, everyone wore identical uniforms, weren’t permitted to carry firearms, and received no military training.
Gay men were split up from everyone else, most of the anger and violence was directed towards the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the camps. These peaceful people were often beaten, had their mouths stuffed with dirt, threatened, and even tied up naked outside without food or water. Many guards were executed for their immense torture of inmates at UMAPS.
4. Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Once Fidel Castro came into power in Cuba Jehovah’s Witnesses were considered “social deviants” alongside vagrants and homosexuals. During a portion of the 1960’s all Jehovah’s Witnesses were sent to UMAPS camps to be “re-educated”. By July 1, 1974 all Jehovah’s Witnesses were officially banned and every church was closed. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses across Cuba began to rebel against Castro after their religion was banned by the revolutionary. Those that celebrated the faith refused to serve in the military, thus being jailed for up to two years. It is also reported that the children of many Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to salute the flag, causing sometimes violent repercussions. This religious sect is often persecuted and Jehovah’s Witnesses in Benin, Bulgaria, Canada, Eritrea, Germany, India, and more places tended to find suffering at every turn. Fidel Castro did not appreciate the celebration of religion in his state, whether it was Catholicism or Jehovah’s Witnesses.
3. Brothers to the Rescue Aircraft Shot Down
In the Winter of 1996 two small passenger airplanes were shot down by Cuban Air Force Mikoyan MiG-29UB. The International Civil Aviation Organization investigated the event and reported that Cuban authorities notified the United States of multiple airspace violations for two years before this incident. Although Cuban officials and the American government had issued warnings of flying in this airspace the pilots went along anyways to release pamphlets for the Brothers to the Rescue. This activist group was started by Cuban exiles and is widely known for their opposition to the Cuban government. The pilots were on a mission to free more Cuban people and many reports showed that the use of force against them by the Cuban government verged on cruelty. After the event, many Cuban Americans called upon non-Cuban Americans to rise up against this dictator. A documentary on this subject, entitled Shoot Down, was released in 2006 and was later updated and rereleased two years later.
2. 13 de Marzo Tugboat Massacre
This is the name that Cuban-Americans have given the event that occurred on the 13th of March in 1994. On this day about 72 Cuban men, women, and children were attempting to escape dictator Fidel Castro’s reign of terror on a hijacked tugboat. At that time all water vessels were owned by the state so it was illegal for these people to occupy the boat, illegal or not what happened next was a tragedy and a crime. Only seven miles from the coast of Havana at about three in the morning the Cuban coast guard maliciously rammed the tugboat repeatedly until it starting sinking. As the boat sunk Cuban officials were spraying those on the tugboat with firehoses. Only 31 survivors were pulled from the water after reports that Cuban officials refused help to some of the survivors in the water. 41 Cubans died in the water that day at the hand of Fidel Castro’s officials.
1. Fidel Castro Firing Squads
These infamous firing squads are referred to as “el paredon” or “the wall” and every type of person, young or old, was sent to the firing squad. Fidel and his compadres would simply execute any person that disagreed with their betrayal of the Revolution. For more than 50 years people were sent to “el paredon” but being executed wasn’t the worst part of the experience. Prisoners were forced to wait in line in view of the executioner so that they had to witness each person before them be gunned down. 1961 was the height of Castro’s firing squads with Time Magazine entitling an article “Cuba: Year of the Firing Squad” in the February issue of their publication. Time only took this monicker from Cuba’s Agrarian Reform Chief at the time Antonio Nunez Jimenez, he coined the term while addressing a group of his armed militia. It was their goal to create the most formidable execution wall that has ever existed, and many Cuban Americans would tell you that they unfortunately succeeded.