The Passing of Fidel – Two perspectives from a sitting president and a president-elect

During the early 90’s, I lived and worked in Moscow and traveled throughout the former Soviet Union. As I witnessed the ravages of 70+ years of Communism, I remembered Kissinger’s comment, “Russia is a military giant but an economic dwarf.” Still with me are the memories of walking into a “grocery store” and nearly keeling over from the smell of spoiling food, because the store had no refrigeration system. Or visiting another grocery store, where people’s bills were totaled on an abacus, and meat was chopped on tree stumps by women with axes in their hands. My Russian assistant, although paid in US dollars, could not afford a washer/dryer, and did her laundry in a bathtub before the hot water was turned off at 10pm by the state utility.

If Cuba is anything like what I witnessed during those years in the former Soviet Union, then Trump is spot-on in his comments:

“Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.

“While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.

“Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty.  I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba.”

and our soon-to-be former president Obama remains perpetually clueless:

“At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.

“For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, 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 – bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.

“Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”

Obama’s foreign policy naïveté has made this world a far more dangerous place than it was eight years ago. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in Syria, countries have been torn apart with millions of people displaced and now nomadic refugees, changing the world and countries internally in incalculable ways.  Obama’s inaction and actions have caused grief and suffering for people in his own country as well, e.g., the family of Kate Steinle and the families of those killed in Benghazi.

January 20, 2017 can’t come soon enough.

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