Castro’s troubling legacy

It’s easy to imagine why many young people in and around Blair County paid little attention over the weekend to the news about former Cuba president Fidel Castro’s death.

It wasn’t holiday shopping that caused them to be indifferent to the news.

Rather, it’s because Castro, eight years beyond the end of his presidency, represents little more than perhaps a few paragraphs or pages in their history books, despite the fear for which he formerly was responsible.

What they’re likely to know most about Cuba at this time is that there’s been a resumption of diplomatic ties with the United States for the first time since 1961 — quite a big deal for both countries but something not close to young Americans’ lives.

Nevertheless, the curious and adventurous among them might someday be looking forward to visiting the island nation 90 miles off Florida to get a firsthand look at the country that was off-limits to their parents and grandparents for a half-century.

Indeed, the time probably is coming when Cuba will be regarded as a vacation destination almost like the Bahamas, but it might take another decade or longer for that to materialize to a great extent.

Most likely that won’t begin to evolve significantly until after the departure of Raul Castro, brother of Fidel, who assumed the Cuba presidency after serious health issues forced Fidel to step down in 2008.

Raul Castro has said he will retire at the end of his current presidential term on Feb. 24, 2018, and that retirement holds potential rewards for Cubans.

But to today’s U.S. parents and grandparents — and perhaps great-grandparents — Fidel Castro has been much more than a prolonged footnote in history books.

To Americans who lived in fear of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, for example, Fidel was a despicable, hated leader willing to gamble with possible annihilation of his own nation and people while putting much of the rest of the planet at risk.

Meanwhile, his policies, commitment to socialism, and his unwavering embrace of Soviet-style communism kept his own people shackled to a long-ago era, unable to gain access to a modern way of life.

It’s safe to say that there are older people here who greeted the news of Castro’s death with more than a small measure of the joy and hope Cuban exiles in Florida experienced Saturday as news of Fidel’s death reached this country.

For many among Pennsylvania’s older population, the name Fidel Castro has been so often heard and abhorred in their lives that many people probably could not envision a time when he’d be gone.

Yet, that day now has arrived, and it’s going to be interesting to watch how the people of that country react in the months ahead and how future Cuban leaders begin influencing the country’s decisions and direction.

It would be well if Cuba were to become a truly stabilizing influence in the Western Hemisphere.

With such an achievement, most of the attention on Cuba will be for the right reasons, rather than the many wrong ones for which Fidel Castro was responsible.