Police arriving at a property in Sydney were expecting to intervene in a case of domestic violence after receiving calls from concerned neighbours.
A woman had been heard screaming hysterically with a man yelling “I’m going to kill you, you’re dead. Die, die”, police had been told.
When they arrived at the address in Wollstonecraft on Sunday to investigate, the conversation officers had with the occupant – as recounted on the Harbourside LAC – NSW Police Force Facebook page – revealed things weren’t quite as they seemed.
Police: “Where’s your wife?”
Male: “Umm, I don’t have one”
Police: “Where your girlfriend?”
Male: “Umm, I don’t have one”
Police: “We had a report of a domestic and a women screaming, where is she?”
Male: “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I live alone”
Police: “Come on mate, people clearly heard you yelling you were going to…
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Dr Manuel Barcia is Professor of Latin American History at the University of Leeds.
Soon after his capture in 1953, following an attack he led on the Moncada Army Barracks, a young Fidel Castro was put on trial.
While conducting his own defence, Castro accused then-President Fulgencio Batista’s regime of depriving Cuba of democratic rule and of establishing a dictatorship.
He finished his speech with a phrase that has become well-known in Cuba and abroad: “You can condemn me but it doesn’t matter: History will acquit me.”
Interesting enough, Castro’s subsequent actions placed him in one of those inconclusive historical wormholes where agreeing on anything about him, let alone an acquittal for his actions, is almost an impossibility.
To some, he was an irredeemable monster who submerged Cuba into a long, dark age of tyranny and human rights violations.
To others, he was a socialist superman who brought about social equality – at least partially for women and for Afro-Cubans – and who introduced free education and universal healthcare.
From an economic and political point of view, Castro’s rule was characterised by a catalogue of mistakes that over the years led to more than one “rectification of errors” campaign. Domestically, many of his policies seemed bound to failure from the start.
A heavy dependence on the Soviet Union as a result of an unremitting American embargo left the country exposed to the rough forces of the free market in the early 1990s, fostering an economic crisis known in Cuba as the “special period in time of peace” that arguably still continues.
Internationally, Castro’s involvement in world affairs, especially those concerning Latin America, was a thorn in the side of US policies.
His alliance with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, which brought the USSR and US to the brink of nuclear war in 1962, was an early red flag that Castro was not about to back off when it came to confronting US imperialism.
Castro lent his support to Latin American armed groups fighting US-backed dictatorships countless times in the following decades, and in some cases supported movements taking on democratically elected governments, such as that of Romulo Betancourt in Venezuelain the 1960s.
Cuban secret agents wandered across the continent, training guerrilla commandos from Guatemala to Argentina.
One of the icons of the Cuban Revolution, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, even lost his life while trying to set up a guerrilla movement in Bolivia to topple the government of President Rene Barrientos.
Beyond the confines of Latin America, Castro’s influence grew steadily throughout the Cold War years.
In 1979, Cuba was elected to take over the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), an organisation formed in 1960 to offer a peaceful alternative to the belligerent East-West blocs that characterised the Cold War.
Castro’s presidency of the NAM came as recognition of Cuba’s role in the international arena and was widely accepted and praised by all NAM members.
However, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan only three months into Castro’s presidency of the NAM caused havoc among the member states, and in particular affected Castro’s leadership since he was forced to side with the USSR.
In doing so, he failed on two fronts. He failed to stick to the actual principle of non-alignment enshrined in the NAM name and constitution, and he did so by turning his back on one of the NAM member states while supporting a Cold War power.
Even though Castro’s stock took a massive tumble afterwards, he continued to influence international politics, and nowhere more so than in Africa.
Cuba in Africa
Castro’s (and Guevara’s) role in assisting the decolonisation process in Africa was second to none. From the early 1960s, Castro threw all his support behind the Algerian liberation struggle against France.
Cuban doctors and soldiers were some of the first to arrive in Algeria to offer a hand to the independence forces fighting to push French colonialism out of their country.
In the following years, that support increased in size and scope across the continent. Castro offered Cuban support to the liberation struggles in Mozambique, Namibia, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Guinea-Bissau, and Angola, among many others.
In some cases, this support involved military interventions that did not always go according to plan.
For example, in the mid-1970s after Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed by the Derg regime, Castro was forced to change sides – as the Soviets, East Germans, Czechs, and Americans also did – during a realignment of forces in the region provoked by ongoing disputes between Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Cuban personnel were required to abandon their former ally Mohammed Siad Barre, the Somali president, who now sided with the Americans, and take sides with their new ally Mengistu Haile Mariam.
Cuban troops fought the Somali invasion of the Ogaden alongside Ethiopian forces, and by remaining in Ethiopia gave at least tacit support to Ethiopian campaigns against Eritrean armed groups fighting for independence.
This position almost certainly became a political dilemma for Castro, who until then had always supported anti-colonial movements of liberation across the world.
While Castro’s intervention in the Horn of Africa was characterised by dubious decisions and tainted by the purges that Mengistu’s regime would eventually carry out between 1977 and 1978, his involvement in the Angolan war is the outstanding episode in his career as a champion of decolonisation.
Not only did he demonstrate to the world that Cuba was far from being a pet project of the USSR – Cuba’s support for the socialist MPLA was done without the approval of the Kremlin and almost certainly against its wishes.
It also helped raise his profile, and that of Cuba, to new levels of recognition and influence throughout the developing world.
Securing Angola’s independence
Cuban backing for the MPLA helped Angola to secure independence from Portugal in 1975, and helped repel the joint attempts of the South African apartheid government and Zaire’s Mobutu regime to occupy Angola.
Growing up in Cuba at the time, I can certainly say that I don’t recall any other Castro enterprise that united Cubans behind the regime to such an extent – except perhaps Cuba’s resistance to the 1983 US invasion of Grenada.
Contrary to what has been argued for years, Cuba’s involvement in Angola was a response to previous US and South African interventionism and to the very tangible threat of a South African invasion.
After almost two decades of struggle, when Cuba’s troops left Angola, they had secured not only the independence of the country, but had also contributed significantly to the independence of Namibia and to the fall of the apartheid regime.
Little wonder, then, that Raul Castro, in place of his brother, was one of the few world dignitaries asked to speak at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
Ultimately, Castro’s legacy in Africa is more of a Cuban legacy. Everywhere I have visited in Africa, from Dakar to Addis Ababa, from Niamey to Luanda, I have been welcomed with open arms and big smiles as a Cuban.
Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, in response to a New York Times question about Cuba’s role in Africa, said: “I am not sure that there is a single Cuban in the African continent who has not been invited by some members of the continent. So long as this is the case, it is not easy to condemn their presence.”
I am far from certain that history will acquit Fidel Castro. More likely history will record his journey through the past six or seven decades as a controversial one.
Almost certainly, he will continue to be an irredeemable monster to some – and a socialist superman to others.
Dr Manuel Barcia is Professor of Latin American History at the University of Leeds.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
Source: Al Jazeera News
Why Nelson Mandela loved Fidel Castro:
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So please, do consider…
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When Elvis Presley died, 25,000 people gathered outside Graceland in the sweltering Memphis heat. John Lennon’s murder drew millions of people to Central Park for a silent vigil. But when Buddy Holly’s plane went down in an Iowa cornfield at a little past 1 a.m. on Feb. 3, 1959, there was nobody waiting for him among those swirling snowdrifts. The Lubbock, Texas singer never had a vigil. His home did not become a pilgrimage site and his family never held a memorial service for his fans. Yet with each passing decade, the myth of Buddy Holly has grown by substantial degrees. (See rare photos of Buddy Holly.)
If you go by the numbers, Buddy Holly’s career — which lasted a year and a half with only one number one single — hardly seems the stuff of legend. He only accepted top billing on the 24-day, 24-town “Winter Dance Party” tour alongside the Big Bopper (of “Chantilly Lace” fame) and Richie Valens (“La Bamba”) as a way to dig himself out of bankruptcy. And yet his influence on early rock ‘n’ roll is almost unmatched. Holly was barely out of high school when he opened for Elvis Presley in 1955. He popularized the two guitar, one bass, one drum lineup that so many acts (the Beatles, the Kinks, Talking Heads, Weezer) would later adopt. When a self-conscious Roy Orbison saw Holly’s black rimmed glasses and slim jim ties, he decided not to let his homely, face-for-radio looks hinder his singing career. (For a while, John Lennon even adopted the style). Holly wrote his own material and used his signature pitch-changing hiccup to move seamlessly between country, R&B and rockabilly. When he died, he was only 22.
On February 2, 1959, Holly and his tourmates were on the eleventh night of their Winter Dance Party tour through the snow-covered Midwest. It was a Monday — a school night — but 1,100 teenagers crammed into Clear Lake, Iowa’s Surf Ballroom for two sold out shows. They wore blue jeans and saddle shoes and screamed for 17-year-old Richie Valens, whose single “Donna” was about to go gold. Between sets, Holly solicited people to join him on the charter airplane he’d hired to fly to the next show in Moorhead, Minnesota. The musicians had been traveling by bus for over a week and it had already broken down once. They were tired, they hadn’t been paid yet and all of their clothes were dirty. With the airplane, Holly could arrive early, do everyone’s laundry and catch up on some rest.
A 21-year-old pilot named Roger Peterson had agreed to take the singer to Fargo, North Dakota — the closest airport to Moorehead. A snowstorm was on its way and the young pilot was fatigued from a 17-hour workday, but he agreed to fly the rock star to his next gig because, hey, he would be flying Buddy Holly. The second show ended at midnight. The musicians packed up their instruments and finalized the flight arrangements. Holly’s bass player, Waylon Jennings, was scheduled to fly on the plane but gave his seat to the Big Bopper, who was suffering from a cold. Holly’s guitarist Tommy Allsup agreed to flip a coin with Richie Valens for the remaining seat. Valens won. The three musicians boarded the red and white single-engine Beech Bonanza around 12:30 on Feb. 3. Fans flocked to the tarmac, waving and crying and asking for autographs. The musicians waved back and then climbed onto the plane. Snow blew across the runway but the sky was clear. Peterson received clearance from the control tower, taxied down the runway and took off. He was never told of two weather advisories that warned of an oncoming blizzard.
The plane stayed in the sky for only a few minutes; no one is quite sure what went wrong. The best guess is that Peterson flew directly into the blizzard, lost visual reference and accidentally flew down instead of up. The four-passenger plane plowed into a nearby cornfield at over 170 mph, flipping over on itself and tossing the passengers into the air. Their bodies landed yards away from the wreckage and stayed there for ten hours as snowdrifts formed around them. Because of the weather, nobody could reach the crash site until the morning.
In Texas, a neighbor told Holly’s mother to turn on the radio. When the news report came out, she screamed and collapsed. In Greenwich Village, Buddy Holly’s pregnant wife heard the news on television and suffered a miscarriage the following day, reportedly due to “psychological trauma.” In the months following the crash, authorities would adopt a policy against releasing victims’ names until after the families had been notified.
The Winter Dance Party tour continued, with Waylon Jennings singing Holly’s songs and other teen sensations, including 18-year-old Frankie Avalon, flown out to finish the tour. Holly’s body was shipped back home to Lubbock, Texas. His Baptist family never approved of his music and none of his songs were played at his funeral.
Then a strange thing happened. Holly’s last single, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” had endured sluggish sales. The music industry had not yet discovered the commercial allure of untimely deaths, and record executives were shocked to see the song shoot up to number 13 on the charts.
Months went by, yet Holly’s albums continued to sell. Decca rushed out a greatest hits album, which would float on and off the Billboard charts for another seven years. Britain devoured Holly records faster than the record company could produce them. Demo tapes, B-sides, previously unreleased recording sessions — they all shot up the British charts and turned Holly into one of the forefathers of the British Invasion that would strike America five years later. Both John Lennon and George Harrison learned to play guitar in part by listening to Buddy Holly records. The first Rolling Stones’ single released in the U.S. was cover of Holly’s “Not Fade Away.” (See a video of Buddy Holly singing “Peggy Sue.”)
The first song memorializing the musicians — Eddie Cochran’s “Three Stars” — was recorded just one day after their deaths. But Don McLean’s 1971 single “American Pie” turned the plane crash into a metaphor for the moment when the United States lost its last shred of innocence. McLean envisioned that last Buddy Holly concert in Clear Lakes, Iowa: teenagers in pink carnations and pick-up trucks, dancing and falling in love and dancing some more. The snow fell silently outside as the country teetered on the brink of the 1960s; no one in the ballroom had any idea what would happen next.