Castro remembered in Europe: An iconic cultural figure

World Today

Fidel Castro spent more time visiting Europe’s former Communist East than The West, but he was also an iconic figure for the Left from Lisbon to London.

CCTV’s Jack Barton reports the story.

“Obviously his influence during the 1960s and 70s cannot be underestimated mostly as a popular culture figure. He was a symbol of the new Left and non-aligned movement, which had a very strong grip actually, especially in Northern Europe,” said Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, a foreign policy commentator from the European Center for International Political Economy.

But after decades of economic mismanagement, even much of Europe’s Left began to view Castro in a different light.

“Maybe a dinosaur who really didn’t understand why the sun wasn’t shining anymore, and it serves as a lesson perhaps, primarily to people or political leaders who are committed to political orthodoxy, that not even the greatest or the worst ideas can basically revoke the laws of economics,” said Lee-Makiyama.

So for Europe, Fidel Castro leaves behind a mixed legacy.

“In a sense, and specifically in Europe as well, he will be viewed in two separate ways: as this anti-Imperialist, as this symbol for the Leftist struggle, but also as a man who was too stubborn. Perhaps he will be viewed a bit more in the light of a man who used of powerful rhetoric to defend a system that had pretty much failed, and thus he might be more remembered as say a Hugo Chavez rather than a Caesar Chavez,” said Akash Radia, one Program Associate from International Security Information Service Europe.

After the Cuban revolution, Western Europe maintained trade links, treading a more pragmatic path than America.

But EU-Cuba relations did improve further after Fidel Castro handed power to his brother Raul.

“After 2008 since Raul has come in, it’s liberalized even further so there is less strain on the relationship. Probably since 93, but much more so since 2008 between Europe and Cuba,” Radia said.

But for Europeans, Fidel Castro’s heyday ended much earlier, with the collapse of Cuba’s then-lifeline, the Soviet Union.

Though he outlived his enemies and most of his friends–in Europe, Fidel Castro will be remembered most as a man who nonetheless failed, or refused to keep pace with the times.