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?”

Continue reading HERE.

3 thoughts on “Mandela’s complicated legacy difficult to celebrate for Cuban exiles”

  1. Excellent piece by a young Cuban writer by the name of Frances Martel. I wish that Carlos Alberto Montaner had had the backbone of this young Cuban American female journalist to have said the same thing instead of defending Mandela and justifying his friendship towards the murdering tyrannical castro like he did in an interview that I saw him on in CNN en espanol. What a spineless jellyfish Montaner is! Yuck!

  2. Ray, Montaner is a politician, or rather, a would-be political figure. He also suffers, apparently, from a form of fashion victimhood, or a fear of being unfashionable. Ultimately, he’s kidding himself and wasting his time, but I suppose everyone is entitled to his own fantasies and follies. Still, even though he’s of little real consequence, he’s a Cuban exile and public figure of sorts, at least in a certain milieu. That means he has a responsibility which an anonymous person does not, since his views are being published or reported as if he were some kind of spokesman for Cubans, a role he implicitly accepts (or certainly gives that impression). This, of course, is a problem.

    He is typically, if not always, a mixed bag, as is practically inevitable for “moderates.” The mix varies, but it can include ingredients so unpalatable that one winds up spitting the whole thing out of one’s mouth. Clearly nobody is infallible, but it’s not just a matter of how frequently one misses, but how badly. In his published piece upon Mandela’s death, he called him “one of the noblest and most admirable figures of the XX century” and the greatest African statesman of said century (not that it would take much, given the piss-poor competition). He dismisses Mandela’s ties to Castro as understandable gratitude for services rendered, but expresses no objection to the fact Mandela never showed any sympathy or concern for the enslaved and oppressed Cuban people or the untold misery and suffering brought upon them by his friend Fidel over more than half a century. He also says nothing about the host of other monstrous despots Mandela supported. He does not mention that Mandela lied about being a communist, or that his wife was a serious horror, or that he admitted he would have been prepared to bomb schools and hospitals if he hadn’t been imprisoned. Neither the scrupulously fair trial that convicted him nor the relatively benign prison conditions are alluded to, especially given how that contrasts to the experience of numerous Cuban political prisoners. In other words, forget everything except the standard, official position: All hail the sacred cow. Ugh.

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