HAVANA (Christian Examiner) – "Long live Fidel! A hero of the liberation struggle, a man of high principle." That was the Nov. 29 headline of Final Call, official newspaper of the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan.
In an article written by Senior Editor Askia Muhammad, Castro is praised for his "steadfast, unwavering commitment to helping provide a better quality of life for the 12 million people of Cuba."
He is also praised by Louis Farrakhan, leader of the black separatist group, who mixes elements of Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism and science fiction in his theology. Farrakhan told the paper in an "exclusive interview" that Castro – who he visited on multiple occasions – possessed virtue "cut out of his spirituality."
In a separate audio statement, Farrakhan also identified Castro with Jesus Christ. Castro was a Marxist atheist, though he frequently appropriated the words of Jesus in his communist ideology.
Farrakhan said Castro was still a "deeply spiritual man, though he spoke in practical terms."
"It didn't have to be religion, because much of religion and religiosity is hypocrisy," Farrakhan, who first visited Cuba as Castro's "guest" in 1977, told the paper.
"[W]hen I left Cuba I landed in Barbados. They asked me how could I visit a 'Communist country?'" Farrakhan said.
"I asked them, 'Are they Christian?' And they said, 'Yes.' Well, Jesus spoke of two men who were asked to do the will of God. One said he would and he didn't. And the other said he wouldn't, but he did. And Jesus asked, 'Which of these two men did the Will of God? The one who said he would, and didn't, or the one who said he wouldn't, and did?'
"I said, 'Here you are, a Christian country, yet you don't do what Jesus said, when he asked his disciples: When was I naked and you clothed me not? When was I hungry and you fed me not? When was I sick and in prison and you ministered not unto me? When was I out of doors and you gave me not shelter?'
"And the average Christian nation has not done this. But here is a man who doesn't claim religion, but he feeds the hungry. No one is without a home. They have free education from kindergarten through college. He has free medical care.
"I said, 'Which one of you, both the Christians or the so-called agnostics or atheists, which one of the two of you have done the Will of God?' (Mr. Castro) was more of a deeply committed spiritual man than many who preach religion and say lots and lots of prayers. He may not have said a lot of prayers, but his deeds were the answer to many peoples' prayers," Farrakhan said.
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Except for those who set before a firing squad.
The exact number of political prisoners killed by Fidel Castro may never be known.
Some sources peg the number of dissidents executed at nearly 5,000, while others set the figure closer to 30,000. But those figures don't include the Cubans – perhaps as many as 80,000 – who have died trying to make the 90 mile journey by raft from the island nation to Florida to escape the regime.
It also doesn't include those who died after being denied medical treatment, those who committed "suicide" while in prison, or those who died in otherwise mysterious circumstances.
Many have simply "disappeared" since Fidel (and his brother Raul, now president) wrestled power from the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, promising to return the country to constitutional rule.
Castro was by no means an Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong in terms of the total number of people he killed, but he was nonetheless brutal and, per capita, one of the worst mass murderers in history. In fact, groups like the Cuba Archive still annually document reports of executions, disappearances and extra-judicial killings – like the time Castro's forces murdered dozens trying to flee Cuba on July 13, 1994.
Those who did not face a firing squad under Castro died by other horrific means – drowning, starvation, electrocution and forced blood extraction followed by execution (the blood was sold to the North Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War).
Despite the murderous reign of Fidel and his gleeful executioners – among them the notorious hero of the Left, Che Guevara – Farrakhan called Castro "one of our greatest revolutionary thinkers."
Farrakhan has a history of developing cozy relationships with dictators. He repeatedly visited Lybia and said Muammar Ghaddafi was his "brother" and had "always been my friend." When he was advised to distance himself from the Lybian dictator, Farrakhan said he was not a "punktified Negro" and would not abandon him.
He also argued against sanctions against Iraq after meeting with dictator and mass murderer Saddam Hussein, and has traveled to Iran to meet with Iranian officials who repress all dissent.
In the audio statement, also published Nov. 29, Farrakhan himself described his last conversation with Castro. He said it was supposed to last for 20 minutes, but ended at just over three hours. He said he spoke to Castro about himself in the last 20 minutes of the conversation.
He told Castro that he was "an answer to the prayers and longing of the people not only in Cuba ... but all over the world" who wanted to be free of slavery, colonialism and neocolonialism.
"In answering the prayer of all, he becomes the messenger of Allah," Farrkhan said. "He becomes a messenger to all from the God of all to answer the critical needs of all. And like Jesus, who said he came in to the world so those who say they see may go blind, and that those who are blind may see. The revolution that Jesus brought would take those who were up and sit them down, and those that were down and deprived would be raised up. Such a man was Fidel Castro. No wonder some people hated him."
Farrakhan then supposedly discussed the leader's health and his impending death. He told Castro, "There is no such thing as death for you."
"The ideas and principles, the universal principles, the internationalist thought that you put in the people, is the seminal fluid of the kingdom of God on earth," Farrakhan told Castro.
"He lives. He lives in my heart and the heart of all us who understand his role. He will never die," Farrakhan concluded.