The Forbes Burnham Foundation joins most of the nation and the progressives of the world in paying tribute to El Presidente Fidel Castro, Commandante.
Whether he was liked or not, he bestrode the world stage as a colossus. This is even evident in his death as fans and foes are all observing the moment, albeit in sadness or in joy; with tribute or condemnation, but compelled to observe it, all the same. Only a colossus attracts such attention.
We in the Forbes Burnham Foundation naturally fall in the category of admirers, if only because of his relationship with the late Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, another late great of the Caribbean, whose demise attracted similar diametrically opposed responses.
Fidel Castro was undoubtedly one of the foremost colossi of the twentieth century. His domestic achievements in education and health services among others, against all odds, certainly demonstrated his committed to the cause that drove him to spearhead the Cuban Revolution at all costs. His wisdom, ideational and intellectual leadership, in the circumstances, were also preeminent.
His costly and invaluable contribution to humanity, at large, and to the national liberation and developmental thrust of others, in particular, also demonstrated his genuine commitment to what he preached. He practised what he believed and preached, cost it what it may. In that regard, he was a rare breed of politician.
With specific reference to the Guyanese people, Castro from the very inception committed to support Guyana in its struggle for independence and national development. In the first instance, this was done in the sixties, through his support for the People’s Progressive Party, in ways still untold. To his credit, he later recognized the true nature of politics in Guyana and the central role of the People’s National Congress and lent his unreserved support to Guyana’s internal struggle for true independence and development, and accepted our partnership in the struggle for the good of humanity, at large, which partnership may also have untold moments, even as a heavy price was extracted from both nations for their bold, independent and non-aligned actions.
It is in this demonstration of solidarity and partnership with the Guyanese people that the Burnham Foundation applauds and recognizes; foremost was Castro’s true adherence to non-alignment and the development of humanity. Once he recognized the commitment of Burnham to the same ideals, he did not allow past relations and pressures from earlier allies to cloud his judgement. He brought his intellect to bear and embraced the truth rather than remain fossilized in the past. For that the Guyanese people have to be forever grateful to Castro and the Cuban people, who gave Guyana unswerving support in its national and foreign policy, to the benefit of all Guyanese. They also provided the Guyanese an opportunity to demonstrate Guyana’s equal commitment, in action, to the commonly shared ideals, such as the struggle for national liberation, a New Economic Order and mutual respect among nations.
Guyana is forever indebted to the Cuban people for their friendship, solidarity and material support under the indefatigable leadership of Fidel Castro, and must remain committed to the cause and memory of Fidel through acts like the leadership that Guyana gave to the effort for the establishment of diplomatic relations along with the Caribbean states of Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, in 1972.
Fidel is no more but his legacy, in all forms, remains with us, infinitely.