Fidel Castro & Bangladesh - the tie that never took shape

In 1956, a nationalist came back to his country from self-exile and formed an insurgent group called '26th of July Movement'. He believed that he can bring prosperity and equality to his countrymen. He began a guerrilla war against the corrupt, morally-diluted, pro-U.S. government. By December 1958, his group gained support of common people and became strong at guerrilla warfare. He launched a full-scale attack against the dictator ruler and eventually forced the ruler to flee the country. After that, he ruled the country with his passionate nationalist sentiment and Marxist approach for 49 years and became the world's third longest-serving head of state.

He kept a beard since his young revolutionary living in the mountains. He had a realistic reason for it. He said - "If you calculate 15 minutes a day to shave, which is 5,000 minutes a year spent shaving. I would rather spend my time on more important activities."

One of his mistresses accepted a deal from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in 1960 in which she had to feed him capsules filled with poison. She managed to get the capsules into his bedroom. But he figured out her plan. He pulled out his gun and dramatically handed it to her and said - "I prefer bullets over capsules." She cried and said - “I can’t do it Fidel, please forgive me.”

As a matter of fact, he must have done something benevolence to please the almighty as he had survived over 630 attempts on his life, most of which were masterminded by the CIA. He has given more frustration to the U.S. administration than any other person walking in paths of the earth. The attempts on his life involved poison capsules, toxic cigar, exploding mollusks, and chemically tainted diving suit. Each and every attempt failed. To everyone’s shock, he outlasted ten US presidents, from Eisenhower to George W. Bush. No U.S. conspiracy could bring Fidel Castro down. He eventually retired from the head of state post due to illness. 

As a schoolboy in 1940, Fidel Castro wrote a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt asking for a ten-dollar bill and in return offering the President the way to Cuba’s iron mines that could be a supply source for the then American shipbuilding industry. The money never arrived. The camaraderie never occurred between him and the U.S.

He is lauded as a champion of anti-imperialism, humanitarianism, socialism and environmentalism by his supporters but viewed as a dictator and human rights offender by his critics. Despite his dictatorial style of government and ruthless suppression of opposition, Fidel Castro remained extremely popular in Cuba.

In spite of a 50-year trade restriction by the U.S. and a fall down of international support after post-Soviet collapse, Fidel Castro developed a world-class health care system in the country. Average life expectancy is 77.5 years in Cuba, compared to 78.1 years in the U.S. Infant and child mortality rates are better than most of the European countries. There is one doctor for every 170 people in Cuba, which is better than or matches that of some developed countries. Cuba in fact already started exporting its heath care system to under-served communities around the world including in the U.S.
Fidel Castro’s army is one of the largest and most experienced in all of Latin America. There is three years of compulsory military service. The army also serves as a source of labor.

The Cuban leader has eight children. His eldest son Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, also known as Fidelito, is a Soviet-trained nuclear scientist.

The U.S administration’s strong hatred towards Fidel Castro has caused Bangladesh a severe blow during the 1974 famine. The famine was caused by inflation, rice shortage and devaluation of currency. 1.5 million people died. At that moment, Fidel Castro wanted to buy four million pieces of jute bags from Bangladesh for $5m. When the US government came to know about the deal, it stopped a shipment of 220,000 tons of food aid that was meant to reach Bangladesh to tackle the famine. The decision proved vital and Bangladeshi people paid the price of trying to sell jute to Cuba with starvation and death. Another apparent reason for the U.S. withholding the food aid was to ensure that Bangladesh's government abandons plans to try Pakistani war criminals. Both worked. Bangladesh never made a long-term trade treaty with Cuba and it did not try Pakistani war criminals for long 36 years.

The U.S. administration, led by the Henry Kissinger, made sure with slyness steps that the then Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman drops the jute export treaty with Cuba. Bangladesh sacrificed its trade with Cuba in return of the food aid from the U.S. But by the time the food arrived, the famine was largely over.


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