Speaking of embarrassing, the New York Times had this to say about the leader of the Cuban Revolution this morning:
He embraced a totalitarian brand of communism and allied the island with the Soviet Union. He brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in the fall of 1962, when he allowed Russia to build missile launching sites just 90 miles off the American shores. ... His record has been a mix of great social achievements, but a dismal economic performance that has mired most Cubans in poverty.As Joc said, that's one version of history. Another might attribute the poverty and lack of political freedom to the Bay of Pigs, the crushing embargo, the CIA's efforts to assassinate him, attempts to seed rain clouds over the mountains in order to kill crops in the plains and the continued harboring of terrorists in South Florida.
I'm not saying Castro's perfect. As a loudmouth, I found the restrictions on the press and other forms of expression particularly bothersome, especially when the social accomplishments of the Revolution are such a source of pride for the people that it's hard to imagine how democratic reforms would endanger them. But choosing from between Fidel and the types of people featured in the Museum of the Revolution's "Hall of Cretins" (Reagan, Bush I, and Batista), it's hard to see Castro as the bad guy.
Also, it's hard to deny that this story, from Tad Szulc's biography Fidel: A critical portrait, is cool. It takes place right after the Granma (the boat for which the newspaper is named) landed in the Sierra Maestre. The rebel army was nearly destroyed in the ensuing ambush, its forces scattering into the mountains, where they hid for several days before a local sympathizer alerted Fidel that this brother was camped out close by:
Just before midnight, the brothers embraced in the canefield. Fidel asked Raul: "How many rifles did you bring?" and Raul replied, "Five..." Fidel shouted: "And with the two I have, this makes seven! Now, yes, we have won the war!"