When Madison Mayor Paul Soglin announced his campaign for governor in January, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone what Gov. Scott Walker’s first line of attack would be. When Soglin first served as mayor, he met Fidel Castro twice and gave him the key to the city. When Castro finally passed away over a year ago, Soglin didn’t see a tyrant. Soglin remembered him as a “popular leader who inspired generations of Cubans.”
In truth, the only inspiration Castro gave Cuba was to force thousands of people to take the dangerous journey of leaving their homeland and escape his oppressive regime. His death sparked celebrations among thousands of Cuban-Americans. In Miami, the heart of America’s Cuban community, exiles and their relatives flooded the streets, waved flags and played music.
At the beginning of his rule, Castro and his thugs began the extermination of all their political rivals with the assistance of international terrorist Che Guevara. Firing squads were the most routine form of execution under the dictatorship. Torture was common in Castro’s prisons as well.
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In line with the lack of food socialism leads to, Castro and Guevara also imposed a ration system in the country. Tourists at hotels can order as much as they want, but if you were to go to a market where many Cubans shop you’d find the shelves nearly empty.
Cuban agriculture produces just enough food to keep the population from starving. Meanwhile, Castro and his family live in the lap of luxury. Thanks to inside information from people like former bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, secrets have revealed how Castro spent most of his time in many mansions and his own private island, even though he presented himself as a man of the people.
Castro brought nothing but a reign of terror and misery to the country. Since he ran a typical totalitarian regime with a massive police state, the number of people killed under his dictatorship is a mystery, but University of Hawaii historian R. J. Rummell places the median at 73,000. Rummell’s research, however, is decades old and should be updated.
The Cuba Archive project is a great organization that collects information on every Cuban who has died under Castro’s leadership. This is a difficult task because the Cuban government still hides the most detailed files. Additionally, many people have died at sea while trying to escape and their bodies were never recovered.
Cuba Archive currently has records for more than 10,000 people. No one doubts there are many more.
Now running for governor, Soglin has had to change his tune. Though he gave Castro the key to the city, the mayor of Madison said “[Castro’s regime] face challenges in establishing credibility with us if they didn’t make changes in a democratic fashion—free elections, free press, not imprisoning political opponents, not imprisoning gays.” If Soglin really cared about these issues, he shouldn’t have given Castro the key to the city in the first place.
As campaign season begins, Soglin’s support for Castro matters heavily. It’s not just that he’s wrong — anyone can simply be wrong about something, but what has happened in Cuba isn’t just any normal topic like taxes and healthcare. What matters is that he stood by and defended one of the most despicable leaders in modern history.
This isn’t the only issue where Soglin is going to face problems. In the spat between the mayor and the governor, Soglin also said Walker was focusing on Castro because he wanted to avoid talking about Foxconn, which Democrats still think is a disaster.
Ironically, Soglin wanted Foxconn to establish a facility at the old Oscar Mayer site. It’s another contradiction he will have to deal with on the campaign trail. Then there’s his anti-business streak when it comes to granting liquor licenses near the campus, or anything related to the alcohol business in general.
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Soglin is an old school leftist who is nostalgic for the progressive era of the La Follette dynasty. But as his gubernatorial campaign begins, it’s worth asking if that’s what Wisconsinites want anymore. Since 1978, the Republican Party has won eight gubernatorial elections to the Democrats’ three.
Conservatives is the Badger State’s vogue now. Progressivism is deeply rooted Wisconsin’s past, but sometimes things need to stay where they were rather than be brought back. Soglin needs to understand that.
John Graber ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in history and political science.