Trump & Obama React To Castro’s Death – The Difference Shows Why The World Will Miss Obama
Trump’s Castro Statement Is Likely To Make The World Miss Obama
Fidel Castro–who took over Cuba in a communist revolution and led the Caribbean island nation 90 miles south of Key West, Florida for nearly half a century–died at the age of 90, late on Friday. Two US presidents, the outgoing president Barack Obama, and President-elect Donald Trump, issued statements on the death of the communist dictator.
Obama’s statement continued in the vein of diplomatic rapprochement and conciliation between the United States and Cuba that Obama has pursued since December of 2014. Obama’s statement said that his goal for US relations with Cuba was “…pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends…”
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 26, 2016
Obama’s policy toward Cuba was warmly welcomed throughout Latin America. Indeed, as far-left anti-US governments have recently fallen out of favor in countries like Argentina, they viewed the US’s half-century long embargo against Cuba as the biggest obstacle to closer relations. Obama was viewed as knitting together the entire hemisphere by seeking a thaw with Cuba.
Meanwhile, Trump tweeted an extremely terse statement.
Fidel Castro is dead!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2016
This was the entire statement from the president-elect’s notorious personal Twitter account. The exclamation mark at the end, and lack of immediate clarification gave the impression that he might be grotesquely reveling in the news. It seemed he had nothing serious to offer on the occasion, no thoughts or sympathy for the Cuban people or Cuban Americans, and no indication of his policies toward Cuba. It indicates that Trump might still be sore over getting rebuffed when he tried to violate the US embargo to open a casino in Cuba in the 1990s, and is gloating over Castro’s death. Separately, however, NBC Nightly News reported that Trump had released a statement on Castro’s death.
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) November 26, 2016
Many on social media commented that the longer statement had to have been written by Trump’s transition team, while the bizarrely terse tweet was likely written by Trump himself. The longer statement exhibits serious axe-grinding and finger pointing. While Obama sanguinely stated that “History will … judge the enormous impact…” of Castro, Trump’s team was ready to judge him themselves. It indicates that US foreign policy will include the kind of far right populism, rage, finger-pointing and simplistic black-and-white worldview that were the hallmark of the Trump campaign, regardless of what it might cost the US.
While Trump’s longer statement–which could have been written by Breitbart executive and Trump’s chief propagandist, the self-described “alt-right” or, more accurately, Neo-Nazi, Stephen Bannon–is accurate in that Castro was a brutal dictator. That was profoundly evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of Cubans who fled Cuba for Florida in the years after Castro’s revolution. But the idea that Cuba is only bleak and Cubans have no freedoms is childishly simplistic. Cuba has free education and free healthcare, which are efficient, well-funded, equal-access programs. Cubans have the longest life-expectancy in the region. The Cuban healthcare system is responsible for several major medical innovations, and Forbes describes Cuban doctors as Cuba’s most powerful export. Free, equal-access healthcare is a hallmark of an advanced society which the US has failed to accomplish. Cubans would likely not be in a rush to give up this freedom in favor of a Neoliberal coup or a pro-Trump populist.
Obama’s message underlines his humanistic approach and nuanced, optimistic view of a thorny world. Trump’s personal tweet is just vapid and cruel. And his transition team’s statement displays a troubling black-and-white view of the world, eager to grind ideological axes. The world is likely to miss Obama’s open hand of friendship as Trump’s angry fist settles onto the desk in the Oval Office.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
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Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master’s degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.