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Cuba, Castro and Colin Kaepernick

| Monday, December 5, 2016

Colin Kaepernick made headlines again last week, after a column in the Miami Herald criticized him for praising the now deceased Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro.

Kaepernick, as you probably know, has been featured surprisingly frequently in the political spotlight ever since his August decision to kneel during the national anthem before an NFL preseason game. The demonstration was met with anger and disappointment from many of his supporters, but Kaepernick defended his actions as a response to the illusory forces of institutional racism that “[oppress] black people and people of color.”

Shortly after, the NFL issued a statement that said players are encouraged, but not required, to stand for the national anthem. This is the same organization that refused to allow the Dallas Cowboys to wear helmet decals in honor of the five Dallas Police officers that were gunned down at a Black Live Matter protest in July.

Kaepernick is a biracial professional football player, who attended the University of Nevada on a full athletic scholarship and currently earns over $15 million a year as the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.

As he took to the field at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on Nov. 27, the football star was met with a chorus of boos from a crowd of over 65,000 people. Miami is home to a large community of Cuban exiles and their descendants, many of whom took to streets in celebration of Castro’s death early last week. It is unclear what triggered the negative reaction from the crowd, Kaepernick’s asinine comments to the Miami Herald or his decision to wear a T-shirt featuring a supportive image of Castro earlier this year.

Speaking at a press conference shortly after losing to the Dolphins 31-24, Kaepernick was asked to clarify his opinion of Castro. The media, it seems, has taken a keen interest in Kaepernick’s social and geopolitical insights as of late.

“What I said was I agree with the investment in education,” Kaepernick said. “I also agree with the investment in free universal healthcare. … I would hope that everybody agrees those things are good things.” He went on to suggest that the media had misinterpreted his earlier comments, and that he did not support Castro’s more oppressive policies as Cuba’s long-term dictator.

Admittedly, there is some truth in Kaepernick’s remarks. As with most communist regimes in history, Cuba did adopt a socialized health care system during Castro’s 47-year reign. Of course, it also adopted Marxist economic policies, political repression, religious persecution and a flagrant disregard for basic human rights.

To be sure, there is excellent health care in Cuba — just not for the Cuban people. Castro’s communist regime created a three-tiered system: one for tourists, one for government and military officials and one for the general population. Cuba’s top-tier hospitals and clinics are exceptional, but they require payment in advance and are usually only accessible to tourists and party elites.

If these facilities are comparable to the U.S., those available to ordinary Cubans are comparable to developing nations. Hospitals and clinics are deteriorating, medications are scarce and conditions are so unsanitary that patients often choose to bring in their own supplies, or just stay at home.

As for education, Castro’s investment was motivated entirely by his Marxist-Leninist ideology. In creating a free public education system, he sought to follow in the footsteps of previous communist regimes and create a literate population absolutely loyal to the state. Education became universal, but it was severely censored, pro-communist and deeply intolerant of government criticism.

Driven from their homes and deprived of basic human rights, hundreds of thousands of Cubans have fled the island since Castro took power in 1959. Three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Communist Party remains in control of Cuba, promulgating Marxist fallacies and repressing virtually all forms of dissent.

Kaepernick — who makes over 50,000 times the annual salary of an average Cuban — is not alone in his ignorance. In a statement following Castro’s death, President Obama professed that “history will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.” Why wait on history? Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of brutal oppression, regressive policies and unthinkable suffering. This should be history’s unequivocal judgement.

In light of his recent political prominence, perhaps Kaepernick will want to consider pursing a career in politics full-time. After all, the 49ers’ 10th consecutive loss last Sunday marks the team’s worst losing streak in franchise history. That said, with the GOP now in control of the White House, the Senate, the House, most governorships and most state legislatures, the job market for Democrats is not looking too great either.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Liam Stewart

Liam Stewart is a Sophomore in the College of Arts and Letters, majoring in political science. Liam was born and raised in the beautiful Irish city of Dublin, although he has been proud to call Seattle home for the past six years. He enjoys country music, hardback books and binge-watching TV shows. He can be reached at [email protected]

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