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Nov 29, 2016

Fidel Castro: Remembering the Man and the Leader

Fidel Castro

A memorial attended by world leaders to reflect on the life and death of celebrated Cuban leader Fidel Castro is taking place at this time in Havana, Cuba. Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington are attending on Belize’s behalf. But many in the world over are remembering Fidel in their own way; much of that centers on the differing views held of him. Aaron Humes continues our coverage of the life and times of Fidel Castro.


Aaron Humes, Reporting

Former Prime Minister of Belize Said Musa visited Cuba, in 1999. He said he visited a country where he saw none of the repression and fear some believe haunt the Caribbean island.


Said Musa

Said Musa, Former Prime Minister

“When you speak to the Cuban people, and their fervour and their militancy and their love for the revolution, from then, you realize that, guess what – this man, who has been painted as a dictator, as a tyrant oppressing his people – you know what struck me about Cuba, the first time I went? I walked the streets – I don’t see anybody, any soldier or any policeman with a gun, on the streets. And I believe that is so even today. And you say, how come a dictatorship exists continues to exist, if the people are not supporting it? To me that gives the answer right there, the tremendous freedom that Cuban people enjoy.”


On that state visit, the then-Prime Minister conferred Belize’s highest honour, the Order of Belize, on the then-president.


{Highlights of Fidel Castro receiving Belize’s highest honor…}


Musa recalled meeting and having dinner with a man he calls the most fascinating leader he has ever met in his lifetime.


Said Musa

“The piercing eyes of this man, the charisma, you could feel it when he speaks with you, and the way he looks – always with a frown on his brow. He had a way of sitting – perhaps he had a gunshot wound, many years ago in the struggle. But he always sat like this, with this leg down (gestures)…”


Marleni Cuellar

“With one knee down?”


Said Musa

“Yes, like that. And he would always be probing you, probing you. The Ambassador at the time was reminding me about the time we had dinner with Fidel, which usually started around after midnight, like two in the morning…”


Marleni Cuellar

“That’s when he had dinner?”


Said Musa

“That’s when he had his dinner, yes. I don’t know what time he goes to bed, I don’t know what time he gets up either. But I do know he stays up very late every night. When Cuba is asleep Fidel is working.”


Well-known musician Carlos Perrote was born in Cuba and immigrated to Belize in 1999. He recalls a Cuba where people lived peacefully and with access to needed services.


Carlos Perrote

Carlos Perrote, Cuban-Belizean Musician

“I will not say I’m sad, nor I’m happy, because I was born with the Revolution; I got all of my education with the Revolution, and I’m very thankful for that happening. And I have to say thanks to him because he gave me the opportunity to go to school for free. I started in elementary school and finished university, didn’t pay a cent. I go to the doctor, I didn’t pay one cent.”


Perrote was one of the designers of Belize’s House of Culture and has performed the music of his country in concerts. In the area of the arts especially, Perrote says Belize has a long way to go – but he will persevere as Cuba did.


Carlos Perrote

“In terms of art, it’s tough. Right there, you see the difference between Cuba and Belize. To me, art develops countries; it’s one of the most important things for life. Art enhances your heart, your mentality and lots of things. And we have to work a lot concerning that. I have seventeen years living here and I have the possibility to go live somewhere else. I have a Masters degree in music; so my papers allow me to go live somewhere else; but I think you have to be persevering in Belize to achieve something. I hope we continue to work toward that, to continue to develop the art in Belize.”


And as Musa reminds, Cuba expected nothing back from Belize – but that is why we owe them so much.


Said Musa

“With all that assistance, Fidel Castro never asked for anything from Belize. And the Cuban Government, as such, never wanted anything from Belize. And they never tried to indoctrinate us into any kind of ideology, be it Communist or otherwise. As [General Omar] Torrijos used to put it this way: ‘Cuba have their own aspirin we have ours too.’”


Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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