Mandela’s complicated legacy difficult to celebrate for Cuban exiles
For those who are still having difficulty understanding why so many freedom-loving Cubans both on the island and in exile have a problem with the legacy of Nelson Mandela, Frances Martel explains in Breitbart:
Mandela's Complicated Legacy Difficult to Celebrate for Cuban Exiles
The passing of widely beloved South African icon Nelson Mandela has triggered an outpouring of grief and admiration from millions who benefited from his determination to end a corrupt system. But for the victims of Fidel Castro's autocracy, which Mandela lavished with praise, such celebration of his life is complicated.
An extraordinary figure, Mandela spent decades in prison for his country to emerge a benevolent leader, a follower of the law. He became an icon of equality before a state too rigid even to begin imagining change, living decades of his life in prison for his beliefs. Once out, he used the democratic process to achieve power--and gave that power to a legitimate successor when he enjoyed a popularity that could have allowed him to get away with not doing so.
Perhaps most importantly, Mandela did not use his power for revenge against those who implemented the apartheid system, setting the precedent that moving on together as a nation required all to live together without killing in the name of those already dead. South Africa has much to be proud of--and much to mourn.
But Nelson Mandela was no saint. He was the exact opposite of a saint--a politician. In the words of Dave Weigel, he was no benign, "muppety" leader for much of his life. South Africans get to choose whether they will forgive Mandela's involvement in the African National Congress, a terrorist organization. They will choose whether they will sweep under the rug that Mandela believed "that without violence there would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle against the principle of white supremacy." South Africans alone get to decide how South Africans remember him.
Outside of South Africa, however, Mandela lent his name to a tyrant running his own kind of apartheid system, and the victims and families of Cuban exiles have a duty to their loved ones to speak up before the uncritical eye of the international media.
An avid supporter of Fidel Castro, Mandela visited Havana in 1991 and praised the Cuban Revolution as "a source of inspiration to all freedom-loving people." Castro responded with praise in kind, as did state-sponsored media for decades to come. "South African and Cuba treasure an inextricable nexus of brotherhood," gushed the Castro regime's personal propaganda outlet Granma, "symbolized in the ties of friendship that unite the two exceptional figures in the histories of both nations: Nelson Mandela y Fidel Castro."
Much is made about the fact that Mandela felt a kinship with Castro over his decision to send up to 10,000 young Cubans to their deaths in Angola. Mandela himself said that few countries could "point to a greater record of selflessness" when describing this purge of Cuban youth. But Mandela did not stop at saying positive things about the regime. He insisted on telling its victims that he was choosing to ignore them.
"Who are they to call for the observance of human rights in Cuba?" he said on his visit there in 1991. "Who are they to teach us about human rights?"
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