Former Cuban President (deceased) Fidel Castro was not a perfect human being. By extension, there was no perfection in his leadership.
To understand Cuba, one must understand the history of the island, and the manner in which Castro came to power in 1959, taking over the country from the previous ruler - the US backed corrupt, and dictatorial Fulgencio Batista regime.
To understand Cuba one must also be mindful to differentiate between the nuances of Communism and Socialism.
Under Batista, Cuba was mainly known as a playground of gambling and prostitution for the elite class, and many Americans. Castro swept to power under a revolutionary fire and ousted Batista.
The question to be posed largely is whether Cuba's economy suffered because of Castro, or because of the U.S Embargo? The Americans imposed an ungodly embargo on the people of Cuba that essentially crippled the island's economy.
Could Castro have done what China did, and expose his Revolution to free market enterprise to make Cuba the economic powerhouse like China has become today?
Perhaps he could have.
He should have. Others will say.
I do believe though, that one cannot debate Castro, and not address the harsh realities of the U.S imposed economic embargo upon the island.
Stephen Lendman in his piece titled Cuba Under Fidel Castro - (A review article), dedicated a section that he titled "The "Liberation" of Cuba, US-Style". The account of the U.S treatment of Cuba due to the United States not having their way with Castro, is one that pivots the argument away from what many media outlets, and many talking heads will tell you.
Lendman's analysis is shared, where he states;
"From the earliest days of Cuba under Castro, the US imposed harsh conditions on the island state and waged an unending undeclared war against it. It wanted to destabilize the government, kill Fidel Castro or at the least make life so intolerable for the Cuban people, they’d willingly allow themselves to be ruled again by the interests of capital and the dictates of so-called "free market" forces. That many-decade campaign of state-directed terror never worked and likely never will convince the great majority of the Cuban people to favor giving up the essential social gains they now have for a return to what they surely know was a repressive past. They understand if it ever happened, it would be a throwback not just to the days and ways of the hated Batista regime but also to the time US President McKinley "liberated" the island from Spain in an earlier war based on a lie. From that time forward until the Castro-led revolution, the US effectively ruled Cuba as a de facto colony and used it to serve the interests of wealth and power at the expense of the welfare of the people. In his time, McKinley promised to let the Cubans govern themselves after the Spanish-American war, but the dominant Republicans in the Congress had other ideas and were only willing to go along with the island’s self-rule if under it the US was allowed "to veto any decision (the Cuban government) made."
One of the earliest examples of US dominance was the Platt Amendment the Congress passed in 1901 after the US "liberated" Cuba in 1898. This federal law ceded Guantanamo Bay to the US to be used as the naval base we’ve had ever since and granted the US the right to intervene in Cuban affairs whenever it deemed it necessary. Theodore Roosevelt later signed the original Guantanamo lease agreement the terms of which gave the US jurisdiction over the territory that can only be terminated by the mutual consent of both countries as long as annual rent payments are made. The US thus gave itself the right to occupy part of sovereign Cuban territory in perpetuity regardless of how the Cuban people feel about it."
What we gather here, is that the U.S punished Cuba mercilessly because Castro did not bow to their dictates. It was a sort of economic and social beating imposed on the people of Cuba for daring to become beholden to Fidel Castro and his distaste for American style Capitalism.
Also too, it was a stern reprimand to Castro and his Revolutionaries, for equally daring to bring an anti-capitalist ideology so close - only 90 miles - south of mainland United States. For the Americans, this was never going to be tolerated, and for this they brutally without conscience, favour or any semblance of humanity, set Cuba in stone with an ungodly economic embargo.
Lendman further illustrates brilliantly his point when talking about the U.S Embargo. In a section termed "The US Embargo on Cuba" He illustrates;
"Whatever one’s view of Fidel Castro Ruz, it’s clear the achievements of the Republica de Cuba under his rule for nearly 48 years have been remarkable. He managed to do it in spite of the oppressive partial embargo the US imposed on the island state in October, 1960 that became a total embargo 16 months later in February, 1962 when it was expanded to include everything except non-subsidized sales of food and medicines and a month later banned the import of all goods made from Cuban materials regardless of where they were made. The embargo was further tightened with the passage of the Cuban Democracy (Torricelli) Act in 1992 that legalized the encouragement of pro-US opposition groups to act forcefully against the Castro government. It was made still far worse in 1996 after the passage of the outrageous Helms-Burton Act that allows the US government the right to sue any corporation anywhere that does business with Cuba."
So while many may judge Castro for the economic condition of Cuba, it is disingenuous to do so without equally giving a fair account of just how vile the U.S Embargo equally was on the people of Cuba.
Listen below to Caribbean Calypso Maestro, David Michael Rudder, tell of Cuba's plight in song: