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A lot of silly things have been said about Fidel Castro since his long-awaited death last Friday, but the New York Daily News has the unique distinction of publishing possibly the silliest take on the passing of the long-reining communist dictator.

In a breezy, glowing op-ed titled, “Fidel Castro was an unwavering champion of racial equality,” Brooklyn College professor Ron Howell argues (unconvincingly) that Castro was a terrific crusader for human rights.

“I say the greatest media shortcoming of the past half century was not recognizing that Fidel Castro was the most dedicated and powerful proponent of racial justice the world has ever known,” he wrote.

He continued:

Castro’s commitment to black Americans was shown early on, notably in 1960, when he came to New York City fresh from his leftist revolution in Cuba, and sat with Malcolm X in Harlem, cameras clicking for all the world to see.
Five years later Malcolm X was assassinated, and many are still convinced the U.S. government was involved.

There’s a lot to unpack here, including the author’s wink at conspiracies alleging the federal government had Malcolm X whacked.

The op-ed continues in this vein for quite a bit, as Howell goes on to praise Castro’s reported involvement in Nelson Mandela’s efforts to end apartheid in South Africa.

Howell also argued that the U.S. media largely ignored Cuba’s role in Mandela’s victories because, “It would have made the United States look weak in its assertions that it treated all fairly.” The author also goes to great lengths to excuse Castro’s aligning with “frustrated” black radicals, including the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army.

Conspicuously absent from Howell’s love letter is any mention of the body count for which Castro is responsible.

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The Cuba Archive project, which has worked for years to document the Castro death toll, reported at the end of 2014 that it had roughly 10,000 documented records of Cubans who had been killed, disappeared or displaced by the regime.

“[T]hese only represent the cases for which information has been obtained. Actual deaths resulting from the Cuban Revolution are believed to amply exceed cases documented by this project by many thousands,” the group said.

“In particular, executions from 1968 onwards, deaths in prison and at sea in exit attempts are greatly underreported. In addition, to date the vast cost in lives of the Castro regime’s incursions in Africa and its sponsorship of terrorism and subversion in Latin America and internationally has not been documented,” the said.

A Harvard-trained economist estimated elsewhere that, “almost 78,000 innocents may have died trying to flee the dictatorship,” the Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady reported. “Another 5,300 are known to have lost their lives fighting communism in the Escambray Mountains (mostly peasant farmers and their children) and at the Bay of Pigs.

“An estimated 14,000 Cubans were killed in Fidel’s revolutionary adventures abroad, most notably his dispatch of 50,000 soldiers to Angola in the 1980s to help the Soviet-backed regime fight off the Unita insurgency.”

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But these details didn’t make it into Howell’s flowery Castro eulogy. Nor does the fact that racism exists in Cuba is a problem in Castro’s Cuba, and that anyone there who dares contradict Castro’s repeated declarations that it isn’t risks official reprisals.

Mass executions are apparently unimportant when discussing the life and accomplishments of a man who smiled once for cameras with Malcolm X.

Here’s a copy of the full New York Daily News op-ed:

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