Carry on Fidel Castro’s global legacy, says Cuban ambassador

Fidel Castro … an internationalist since the beginning of the Cuban revolution. Image: David Robie/Al Jazeera

Cuban ambassador to New Zealand Mario Alzugaray during his passionate tribute to Fidel Castro
at Auckland Trades Hall last night. Video clip: Café Pacific


By David Robie 
Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro’s contribution to global social justice and dignity, and to developing nations worldwide – including the Pacific, was praised in New Zealand last night.

Activists, politicians, academics, journalists, teachers, trade unionists and community workers were among about 100 people gathered at the Auckland Trades Hall to hear Cuban Ambassador Mario Alzugaray and other speakers give tributes to Castro’s life.

Alzugaray challenged the audience to continue Castro’s half century of struggle for a better society: “The best way to remember Fidel is to carry on his legacy and keep it alive.”

The ambassador said Castro had social justice at the core of his ideals and action.

“He was an internationalist since the very beginning,” Alzugaray said. “He was involved in every movement connected to the anti-imperialist struggle in Latin America.”

Before and after the Moncada garrison attack in 1953, Castro had recognised the importance of launching an appeal to the Cuban people.

Revolutionary spark
The Moncada garrison in Santiago de Cuba was named after General Guillermón Moncada, a hero during the war of independence against the Spanish. The attack by a small group led by Castro failed but this is regarded as the spark that fired the socialist Cuban Revolution which eventually overthrew the brutal dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista six years later.

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Fidel Castro … an internationalist since the beginning of the Cuban revolution. Image: David Robie/Al Jazeera
Fidel Castro … an internationalist since the beginning of the Cuban revolution. Image: David Robie/Al Jazeera


Castro died, aged 90, on November 25 and his funeral will be in Santiago today after the four-day cortege around the country.

“Fidel was the first one to effectively and successfully unite Cubans around the revolution,” Ambassador Alzugaray said.

The envoy praised Castro’s social policies in Cuba, such as agrarian reform, education and health.

“Fidel’s determination and involvement in international affairs made him possibly the most important leader to look after and represent the interests of developing nations,” Alzugaray said.

“His influence is huge and although CNN and other media organisations are trying to focus on the reaction of Cuban-American extremists in Miami, there are millions of people mourning the death of Fidel.”

Media ‘bias’
Alzugaray was critical of the “bias” of many news media in New Zealand and other Western countries.

“I was asked if Fidel was divisive. We live in a divisive world,” Alzugaray said. “Greed and personal interest are driving society in many parts of the world.

“It is completely biased to raise this opinion and to be silent about the United States embargo and permanent hostility towards Cuba.”

Alzugaray said people had to decide whether they were on the side of the poor, starving, or the rich and powerful.

Fundamental rights needed to come before a narrow Western concept of human rights.

“What Western powers and oligarchs can’t forgive is the huge impact of Fidel’s personality and, more importantly, his ideas, in international politics.

“Most of us will have people supporting or expressing their dissent. You just have to decide which side you’re joining.

Fidel Castro’s ashes are travelling to Santiago where they will be interred tomorrow. Image: David Robie / Al Jazeera
Fidel Castro’s ashes are travelling to Santiago where they will be interred today.
Image: David Robie / Al Jazeera


Issues of humanity
“Fidel was very much involved in every important international issue affecting humanity.

“Environment, international financial order, independence and liberation movements, peace and global disarmament as well as human development as a comprehensive concept are some of the issues.

“He understood you can’t be poor, starving, homeless or lacking the fundamental right of proper access to public health and considered being part of an effective democracy.

“Fidel never took a rest. He was until the end very much involved in food security issues.”

Other speakers included Unite Union director Mike Treen, of the Cuban Friendship Society, organisers of the celebration, who said Castro had played a central role as a leader of the Cuban revolution for more than 50 years.

“In that time Cuba has literally saved the lives of millions of people through their medical aid programme,” he said.

“They have helped liberate southern Africa from apartheid and colonialism. They have ended illiteracy in their own country and repeated the practice across the globe.

“They have helped create the possibility for other countries in Latin America and the world to join them on the march to national independence and social justice.”

Treen also praised Castro’s support for independence movements in the Pacific, such as in Vanuatu and Kanaky/New Caledonia, and health care in Timor-Leste and across the region.

This article was first published on Asia Pacific Report/Café Pacific


  1. From

    Homosexuals were viewed as inherently counter-revolutionary and homosexuality was declared a “deviation incompatible with the revolution” by Castro’s regime.
    LGBT people, particularly gay men, were routinely sent to prison without charge or trial by the state.
    In 1965, the regime established prison work camps known as Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP), where homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other “undesirable” peoples deemed out of line with the Communist ideology were forcefully sent.
    Many received false telegrams telling them they had been called for military service and should appear at a chosen location – where they would then be rounded into trains, trucks and buses and sent to the camps with little food or water.
    Reports from those who experienced the era say that police would also round people up on the streets, targeting men who looked “effeminate” or like “hippies”.
    Homosexuals and men who were perceived to be homosexual were separated and put into camps apart from other detainees.
    Those who experiences the labour camps report being beaten, threatened with execution, stuffed with dirt in their mouths, buried in the ground up to their neck, and tied up naked outside in barbed wire without food or water until fainting.
    According to an official state newspaper report in 1966, the labour camps were the idea of Fidel Castro himself, after seeing similar examples on a visit to the Soviet Union, and were enacted by current Cuban President, Raul Castro.
    In a documentary aired on HBO, one trans woman says she has to wear sunglasses for her whole life after her eyes were bleached with acid thrown in her face while incarcerated.

    • I agree that this is terrible, but you have to look at it in the context of how gays and other minorities were being treated elsewhere in the world in the 1960s.

      Homosexuality was classified as a mental illness in the DSM until 1973, meaning that in the 1960s gays were being locked up, drugged, and tortured in mental assylums in many parts of the world, including the US, UK, and NZ. Homosexuality was only legalized in NZ in 1986. Prior to that, gays were regularly locked up in prisons where they would be beaten and raped by other inmates and sometimes by the staff too. There are people voted against lifting the prohibition of homosexuality who are still MPs today (eg Winston Peters).

      Are anti-gay concentration camps still in operation in Cuba today? Of course not. Attitudes began to liberalise as early as the 1970s, with a Supreme Court ruling in favour of a group of gay workes in 1975. The Cuban government began anti-homophobia education about the same time NZ was legalizing being gay, and in 1988, repealed an anti-gay law that had been on the books since the 1930s, long before the Cuban revolution even began.

      People who bring up this history usually do so to imply that capitalist countries are more socially liberal than communist ones. You only have to look at the re-education camps for gays still run by religious fundamentalists in the US today to see that this is clearly bollocks.

  2. He may have done some good, but he did many evil acts which should not be forgotten. Whether that makes him an evil person, I don’t know.

    • “Just another dead dictator”

      … who did a lot of good for his people after he threw out the corrupt Batista; Mafia syndicates; and corrupt officials.

      You left that bit out, Michael. Happy to correct your mistake.

    • Funny how critics of Castro never ever criticise dictators when they’re in cahoots with the US?? I wonder why, Michael, Libby, Patrick, etc??

      He may have had his faults, but he never enriched himself at the expense of ordinary Cubans. For that, he has my respect.

  3. Considering that the American Empire and other Western nations pay lip service to human rights when it suits them, I question how we can be preaching to Cuba. Especially when Cuba has amongst the highest rates of literacy and healthcare in Latin America.

    When the US ceases it’s practices of water-boarding, “forced rendition”, and closes down Guantanamo Bay , then it might have a moral leg to stand on.

    Otherwise the US and it’s sycophantic fellow travellers should just STFU.

    • Human rights and rights of Corporatins to be free to do as they wish are just not compatible and never have been.

      Corporations run by dictators – you bet. No public democracy there.

      Govt leaders who restrict corporations get labelled as Dictators even when their interventions are solely for public good and to protect the poor from being exploited.

      The growing culture of continuous war and slaughter, led by corporate greed and inhumanity, faceless dictators around boardroom tables unelected by the public of either the aggressive states supporting them nor victim states.

      Fidel fought against such injustice so is branded, the brand then taken up by armchair parrots squawking away so proud of their ability to make mindless noise.

  4. Fidel is an inspiration to all socialists!

    Let’s trade inequality and materialistic consumerism for a society which values and cares for all it’s members.

    After the revolution, I’d like to see New Zealand become the Cuba of the South Pacific!

    • Right on, Jen!

      I’d rather live in a socialist so-called “dictatorship” that looked after the people rather than a supposed “democracy” where people lived in garages and cars and couldn’t afford basic healthcare.

      There is no dignity without the basics of life.

    • Having been to Cuba about 10 years ago I found it fascinating how they have adapted and are not part of the modern world, however the people are great, educated and compassionate. Cuba was a Spanish Colony before the USA invaded in around 1900 and then it became a US Police State, Castro, Che Guevera and the Cuban people basically took the country back for themselves, off the USA, a country which was rightfully theirs. It would be similar to the Red Indians taking back the USA from the US People?

  5. He supposedly was one of the main people who influenced the break up of the anti-apartheid in South Africa, by supplying troops and aid to Angola in their war with South Africa.

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