In 1960 the man who would rule Cuba met with the famous existentialist.
These episodes with Sartre and Castro are to me emblematic of tensions and contradictions at the heart of Castro’s many years’ rule of Cuba.
Castro inspired revolutionary consciousness in Cubans whilst condemning such consciousness when used to criticize state authority.
He clamored for sovereignty of his people while encouraging citizens to betray neighbors for counter-revolutionary activities.
He spoke of brotherhood and fellowship yet roused the rabble to abuse those who tried to leave – calling them gusanos – worms.
He spoke out against the oppression of the imperialistas yet remained sanguine about oppression in his own state.
He railed against colonialism and imperialism yet did not denounce the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
He demanded justice yet permitted injustice.
Nelson Mandela publicly thanked Castro for his support in the anti-apartheid struggles and yet Castro condemned many political prisoners to sentences similar to Mandela’s.