With additional edited mateial
All the chatter about how Fidel & his brother are evil dictators doesn't take in account the overall history of Cuba. They had it far worse then they do now under these two. Let's put a little perspective on this by taking a brief look over the history of Cuba and how the Cuban people always seem to get the short end of the stick no matter who rules the joint.
Going back to 1492 when Christopher Columbus's three ships landed things really started to go downhill for the Cuban people. Columbus claimed the island for Spain. Cubans finally had enough and began fighting against Spain in 1895. Spain sent around 200,000 troops who overwhelmed the population rounded them up and put them into "reconcentrados" which were similar to concentration camps. The Red Cross estimated between 200,000-400,000 Cubans died while in these camps from disease and starvation.
By 1898 the United States Spainish-American war ended. Spain then sold the Philippines, Guam and Cuba to the United States for a sum of $20 million. Then in 1902 Cuba became a independent country. There were too many clashes and uprisings to mention here in this brief highlight. Suffice it to say Fulgencio Batista ended up being elected President in 1940. After being defeated for second term (1944) he came to the United States only to return to Cuba to become it's dictator for seven years (1952-1959) until Fidel's Cuban Revolution..
* After Batista lost his reelection in 1944 he came to the United States. In 1952 he set his sights on becoming Cuban President again. Knowing he would get his clock cleaned he decided instead to lead a military coup. Thereafter which the U.S. then recognized the Batista regime as Cuba's legitimate power.
* Shortly thereafter Batista cut shady deals with the American mafia. The mafia ran drug, gambling, and prostitution establishments. He also cut deals with U.S. corporations who ended up owning almost all the oil industry and 90% of the mines and mineral rights. 40% of the sugar plantation and almost all the cattle ranches. Then censored the media, ignored medical care, education, housing, infrastructure (only 1/3 had running water) and a justice system for his people.
* Needles to say the Cuban people were pissed off and started to rebel. The United States turned a blind eye as Batista killed between 1,000 to 20,000 of his people. The U.S. didn't intervene. Instead the U.S. supplied him with military aid up until 1958 after which the U.S. placed an embargo on them after March of that year. For years, up until the embargo, the U.S. supplied planes, ships, tanks, napalm and the latest technology which he used against Castro's growing insurgency.
* Finally he threw in the towel and on January 1st, 1959 flew to the Dominican Republic along with his cohorts, but not empty handed. They left the island with an estimated 3/4 billion dollars worth of art and cash. After being denied entry in the United States he flew on to Portugal.
He took bribes which allowed American companies to own & control nearly 80% of all the oil & cattle ranches. 90% of the minerals and 40% of the sugar farmlands. When the Cuban people began to rebel he started doing executions in public. It was estimated up to 20,000 people were killed or tortured during his seven years in power. Witnesses said hundreds of those executed were hung on street lights or thrown into the streets. All this while still receiving military, logistical and financial support from the United States. No wonder the time was ripe for Fidel Castro's revolution in 1959.
The Castros for all their blemishes are far less evil then what transpired over the Cuban people these past centuries. 'Normalizing relations' is more about helping the Cuban people then an endorsement for it's present government. Continued isolation of them only serves to punish those who had least to do with any of this and their extended families living here in the United States.
Obama's Handshake With Raúl Castro