A Tweet from Apostolos Doxiadis summed up my feelings while watching Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras praising the memory of Fidel Castro at a memorial service with hundreds of thousands of Cubans in attendance.
“Not in my name, as a Greek. Not my PM, the man commemorating Castro,” Doxiadis Tweeted to his followers.
— Apostolos Doxiadis (@apdox) November 30, 2016
And while, as an American citizen I don’t have much room to talk and obviously, Alexis Tsipras isn’t my prime minister by virtue of my citizenship, I do have room to speak as a Greek.
Tsipras told the crowd that he was proud to represent “the Greek people, a people who lives in a corner of the world very far from you, but very close to the values for which you have struggled and continue to struggle.”
He then went on to call Castro “an international symbol of struggle and resistance whose example inspired popular struggle across the world for independence, freedom, justice, and dignity.”
It’s well-known that Castro was Tsipras’ childhood hero. I won’t criticize him for that. People need heroes. Hell, I don’t want people making fun of me for having Madonna as my childhood hero. We all should be free to pick our heroes, right?
I also won’t criticize Tsipras for traveling to Havana— spending hundreds of thousands of euro of Greek taxpayer money at a time when Greece really can’t afford the excesses and not to mention being the ONLY European leader to go.
Political leaders make judgement calls and choices and this was Tsipras’ choice, to be dealt with and justified by his own government. That’s not my call to make, but those in power an they will have their electorate to answer to.
I also won’t engage in the discussion about who Fidel Castro was.
We can argue opinions about his ideology for days on end, but facts cannot be argued. I borrow the words from my friend Stelios Taketzis who posted recently on his Facebook that “I can argue opinions, I can’t argue facts. The minute you tell me that the tree I have in my back yard is a car, I stop the discussion.”
And one fact remains.
Fidel Castro was a ruthless dictator who silenced his critics in the harshest possible way— many by death. Fidel Castro’s revolution did not represent a struggle for freedom.
And when Alexis Tsipras speaks to hundreds of thousands of Cubans at a memorial for their departed leader and channels the spirit of the Greek War of Independence and even compares it to Castro’s revolution— well, we have a serious problem.
Greeks fought the oppressor power— the Ottoman Turks— to be free.
Castro fought and became the oppressor, depriving people of their rights to free and individualistic expression— the very core of why Greeks fought.
One is fundamentally opposed to the other and Alexis Tsipras is playing a dangerous game of historic revisionism and a misrepresentation of, not only his country, but of millions of people outside of Greece who identify themselves as diaspora Greeks or hyphenated Greeks.
Mr. Tsipras— believe what you want. Pick your heroes and hang posters of them in your bedroom. I don’t care. But cease with the false representation or correlation of the Greek struggle for independence and freedom with a revolution of a dictator who refused his own people of their own freedom for over fifty years.
Tsipras’ full speech (in Greek with Spanish translator) to the people of Cuba: