Although the Toronto Star is my newspaper of choice, there are times when I strongly disagree with its content. Recently, its most prolific writer, Rosie Di Manno, wrote a series of articles in which she was withering, to say the least, in her assessment of Fidel Castro. As one who has visited Cuba many, many times, and gotten to know a fair bit about the reality of its citizens' lives, I felt her scorn was both ill-informed and ignoble.
I see that I am not alone.
In today's paper, an array of readers' letters, only a few of which I reproduce below, take exception to her sweeping condemnations of Castro's legacy:
Having visited Cuba at least 15 times, I have nothing but utmost respect for the Cubans and their system. Fidel Castro achieved what no other leader in the Caribbean achieved—free medicare and education (including university).
My GP in Toronto was trained by Cuban doctors; their reputation world wide is phenomenal. I am outraged that so few people have acknowledged this. Whenever I have visited other Caribbean countries I have never felt as safe as I do in Cuba.
Ingrid Nicholson, Toronto
With some exception, your coverage of Cuba surprises for its lack of substance and facile Cold War rhetoric.
Rosie DiManno’s columns are an example. Long is the list of shortcomings, and few the nods of recognition for gains made against all odds. Adult literacy, education, and health made available to Cuba’s poor majority post-1959, and recognized as exemplary by the United Nations, is a singular achievement in social rights.
Among the greatest beneficiaries have been Afro-Cubans – children and grandchildren of slaves – who in that deeply racist country had been pushed to the margins. The children of once marginalized poor Cubans, and their children, are the professionals now clamoring for change.
These lessons in social justice are more relevant than ever given persistent racism, poverty, inequality and exclusion—certainly no longer exclusively for Latin America. And, echoing DiManno’s stridency, while many North Americans flocked to San Francisco to join flower power, we in Latin America were inspired by the Cuban example to fight for a more just and inclusive society. Let us not minimize or trivialize this.
Verónica Schild, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.
Ms DiManno actually wrote this, “And damn his eternal soul”? Really? And you published it? Really?
Our Prime Minister was castigated widely for saying a few kind words about Fidel. What will the assembled pundits and columnists say and write about her now?
Ted Turner, Toronto
...This story was an “opinion piece” by Rosie DiManno, a very long piece that carried on to the second page under the headline, “Fidel’s dark legacy survives” and which ended with the phrase “And damn his eternal soul.”
The Star is Canada’s largest circulation newspaper. As such, it comes very close to speaking for Canadians. Ms DiManno is welcome to her opinions, but I believe the Star has insulted the Cuban people by putting her opinions on the front page at a time when they have just lost their leader of over 50 years. Sovereign countries have a right to determine their own path. And each country’s people have a natural tendency to admire and even love their leaders, especially at the time of their death.
To allow one non-Cuban person to tell Canada what the Cubans who live in Cuba – and they are the overwhelming majority of Cubans—are thinking about Fidel Castro is incredibly presumptuous, and simply not right.
Wayne Robbins, Toronto