[FOUNTAIN]Five decades of FidelYou enjoyed life at a boarding school, although you weren’t a very good student. Your father yelled at you, that you should quit school if you weren’t going to work hard. You argued back and said you needed your father’s help to continue in school. You even threatened that if your father did not help you, you would set his house on fire. The lesson you learned was that if you were stubborn, you would get what you wanted. All this happened when you were in the fourth grade, but it was vividly described in Albrecht Hagemann’s book on your life, titled “Fidel Castro.”
Being a lawyer, you found you had a talent for speaking, to the point where it seemed you could hypnotize audiences. Your speeches were like conversations ― you asking questions to the audience, and them shouting back answers. At the end of your speeches, you would shout, “Give me a nation or give me death!” The audience would then shout back, “We will be triumphant!”
You were a revolutionary who acted on your beliefs. In 1953, you were arrested after assaulting government forces. During your testimony, you uttered a now-famous line: “History will acquit me.” Two years later, you were awarded amnesty, and the following year you took up a gun again and started to wage guerilla warfare. That was when you began growing your trademark beard. You earned a reputation for being unbeatable. In 1959, you finally took over all of Cuba.
You were able to remain in power for so long thanks to the United States. In 1960, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev mocked Washington’s perspective on Cuba, saying, “There are white and pink in this world, but the anti-communists in the United States only want to see red.” Thanks to their hostility, you have easily evaded responsibility for your domestic failures. Whenever there was a problem, you could just point your finger across the Strait of Florida.
Do you remember the conversation you had with an Italian journalist in 1987? You cited Plato, who said that the ideal age of a state leader is 60, but you said its modern equivalent is 80. On Aug. 13, you celebrated your 80th birthday. Recently, you “temporarily” transferred your post as the secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba to your brother Raul for health reasons. Many people were surprised at your decision, because you had said, “A revolutionary does not retire.” You stayed in power for 47 years. Some consider you the longest serving state leader in the world. Having worked so hard for so long, however, maybe retirement would be more revolutionary.
by You Sang-chul
The writer is the Asia news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.