George Weigel is Pope John Paul II's biographer. He has no love lost for Fidel, as his column in the LA Times demonstrates. Read the whole thing, but these previews are a fine condemnation of the Cuban dictator.
I remember walking the streets of Havana, noting the crumbling buildings and the government office windows held together with masking tape, and thinking that what should have been one of the world's most beautiful cities had been reduced to a Caribbean Sarajevo — not by mortars and rockets, but by mindless ideology. I remember the Museum of the Revolution, in which the bloodstained sheet that had bound the body of Che Guevara was displayed in an obscene knockoff of the Shroud of Turin. I remember the goofy cartoon billboards all over the country — Cuba kicking Uncle Sam in the pants, with stylized captions roaring defiance against the imperialists. And I remember thinking that this is what a country would look like if it were run for decades by a group of vicious teenagers.
I remember the barren shelves in the pharmacies, with not even an aspirin to be had, despite the propaganda about Cuban healthcare. I remember the teenage waiters and waitresses at my hotel, who told me that 75% of their wages went to the government. I remember talking to the prostitute — a well-spoken medical doctor who, when I asked why she was selling herself, told me that it was the only way to support her children. . . .
Whenever Castro dies, the temptation to afford a measure of respect, however grudging, to the man who continued to defy the world's lone superpower will be strong, at least in some quarters. It should, however, be firmly resisted.
Castro is not a mass murderer in the same league with Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and Mao Tse-tung, but he is a murderous dictator nonetheless. The stories of the vile and grotesque conditions in which he keeps political prisoners should not be forgotten. Nor should the injustices of previous Cuban regimes be cited as excuses for this wicked man who reduced a proud and vibrant nation to penury and international military prostitution in Africa.
In a statement read after his surgery, Castro assured his countrymen that the defense of the island was secure against the U.S. To the end, it seems, Castro will love the revolution more than he loves Cuba. That is why he destroyed so much of his country, and that is why no tears should be shed for him.