To the editor: The last time I was in Havana was June 2007. I was working at the United States Interest Section interviewing people for eligibility to emigrate to the U.S. People came from all parts of the island. They wore their best clothes. I heard many stories of life under El Comandante Fidel Castro. There was hope in the eyes of these Cubans, hope for a new life.
The beautiful old colonial buildings in Havana had been divided up into many apartments. Here and there, one would see a typical Soviet-style building, which clashed with the colonial architecture. All of these buildings were in disrepair.
Cubans waited patiently in line for food or for the bus. They never complained. This was the life they knew for more than 50 years. On Friday nights, the neighborhoods came alive. There was the sound of salsa music from old transistor radios, and the men set up tables in the street and played dominoes. People would come out on their balconies, looking out with their elbows on the railing. Everyone seemed to be waiting for something to happen, waiting for the wind to change.
With Castro’s passing, the waiting may be over, for the wind has changed course.
Alba Farfaglia, San Clemente
To the editor: I am appalled at the expressions of praise and sadness by several world leaders after the death, finally, of one of the worst tyrants in recent history.
Castro swept to power like so many Latin American politicians promising a better future and more freedom. Yet he delivered neither while helping to nearly plunge the world into nuclear war.
Castro bragged about Cuba’s literacy rate and healthcare system, which were nice except that his people had zero freedoms and otherwise lived in abject poverty while he, his family and his cronies consolidated their power and wealth. Those who criticized Castro were arrested or sometimes executed.
This resume does not a statesman make.
His country did not progress but languished and fell further and further behind. These world leaders who today mourn Castro should have their judgment called into question and recall more than anything he recklessly put us all on the brink of extinction in the fall of 1962 by challenging President Kennedy and the West in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Castro had zero respect for human rights, human dignity or human life.
Guy R. Gruppie, Arcadia
To the editor: I am so proud of President Obama for his brilliant diplomacy that ended decades of harmful and unnecessary U.S. hostility toward Cuba. Now, we read of a primitive comment by President-elect Donald Trump (“Fidel Castro is dead!”) and face the danger that Obama’s careful efforts might be undone by the new administration.
Immigration, environmental protection, Obamacare, the Iran deal, free trade and now Cuba: It’s getting more and more painful each day to hear Obama speak about Trump in the White House with the Republicans in charge, all so eager to reverse the president’s important legacy for America and the world.
The Times should do its best to help us not lose it all.
Liselotte Millauer, Los Angeles
To the editor: I was taken aback by the number of young people in Miami’s Little Havana who were celebrating Castro’s death.
I wonder how many have heard of the brutal dictator Fulgencio Batista or have studied the conditions in Cuba prior to Castro that led to his rise to power. Have they examined the role the CIA and the United States played in keeping Batista in power and planning the failed Bay of Pigs debacle?
Perhaps after reviewing a bit more history, these celebrants might think a little differently.
Bob Constantine, Placentia