Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Reactions to Castro's resignation

I'm utterly fascinated by the characterizations of Cuba's Fidel Castro that have been coming out of the world press in light of his resignation. They often say even more about the cultures where the statements were published than they do about Castro:

Canada's Globe and Mail: "His retirement draws the curtain on a political career that spanned the Cold War and survived U.S. enmity, CIA assassination attempts and the demise of Soviet Communism."

Britain's Telegraph: "Ten American presidents from Eisenhower to George W Bush wanted him gone - some wanted him dead - but they came and they went and he stayed, stubbornly alive, stubbornly in power."

The U.S.'s New York Times: "The charismatic Cuban leader [waged] a guerrilla war against the then-dictator Fulgencio Batista, promising to restore the Cuban constitution and hold elections. But he soon turned his back on those democratic ideals, embraced a totalitarian brand of communism and allied the island with the Soviet Union."

France's Le Figaro: "The last survivor of the Cold War, he defied all predictions by maintaining the only communist regime in the Western world [...] at great cost to his people and without conceding one bit of control."

Germany's Spiegel: "He made Cuba into the lighthouse of Latin America, and then he himself dimmed its ability to shine."


Anonymous said...

The question is, what is it saying about the cultures?

Canada seems to step aside and talk about Cuba/Castro on the world stage, with just a little dig about standing up to the US at the end.

The UK seems to be rubbing US nose in their failure to "handle" Castro. But I'm not sure what that says about the UK.

The US drives home the anti-democratic issues and that certainly speaks to American culture.

France has an interesting take; seems somewhat approving of Cuba going it's own socialist way and standing up to the rest of the west, while expressing sorrow(?) for the misuse of the socialist/communist ideal.

Germany is that and then some - they indicate that Cuba and Castro had great potential but were there own worst enemy. I can see that speaking to German culture and history as well.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Well, you have to take into account the leanings of the publications themselves rather than just the countries they come from (the UK's Telegraph is a right-wing paper, as is France's Le Figaro).

What I see is, like you said, the Canadian paper being mostly factual but also admiring of the standing up to the U.S. (and Soviet communism). The UK paper's going much further along the same lines, which surprised me a lot because of the particular paper it was--those Brits must be really annoyed right now with people who don't stand up to the U.S. if even their right-wing press is willing to wax poetic about Castro's ability to do that.

The NYT and the Spiegel are essentially saying the same thing, but from different points of view: the NYT stopping short of saying he actually did anything good, only made promises he didn't keep, while the Spiegel outright lauds his accomplishments and yet makes it his fault for undoing them. Le Figaro is using a similar "positive-negative" construction, but with a more generically admiring "positive" half, rather than conceding anything good that he might have done.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Also, the most outright critical perspective comes from the American paper, even though it counts as a left-wing publication in its country of origin, while several of the other publications are right-wing organs in their respective countries.

bza said...

The New York Times is interesting on its slightly revisionist take, since Castro initially went to the US to try and work something out. It was only after Eisenhower refused to meet him and work with him that he allied with the USSR. At least to my own sketchy understanding of the Cuban revolution.

Also, interesting was CNN's take. They highlighted Cubas advances in education, health, literacy, infant mortality, and quality of life under Castro's reign. Though, that was CNN international, so regular old CNN might have been more critical about the lack of democracy part. ;)

KibBen said...

Unrelated comment:

Dear ID:

I stumbled across your blog while googling Alberta PCs. Did you know your post from August 27, 2007 (, is the fourth search results for that term?

Anyway, your blog makes me happy. It's very exciting to see a well written political blog, written by an Edmontonian, that isn't attached to one of the major media giants.


Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Fascinating, on CNN International! I wonder what that's about.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Thanks for visiting! I'm glad you liked what you see.