Felicitations for Fidel: Left Party Sends Birthday Wishes to Castro
Leaders of Germany's far-left Left Party have rattled politicians of all stripes by praising Fidel Castro in an adulating letter to mark Cuba's former communist leader's 85th birthday. Even some within the far-left party say the remarks went too far.
Germany's far-left Left Party is no stranger to controversy. Earlier this month, a group of Left Party regional politicians sparked outrage by refusing to stand for a minute's silence to honor the victims of the Berlin Wall. Earlier this year the party also made headlines for alleged anti-Semitism.
Now, they are the throes of a new scandal after the party's co-leaders penned a tribute to former communist Cuban leader Fidel Castro in a letter to mark his 85th birthday.
The party, formed out of an alliance between former eastern communists and disgruntled western Social Democrats and trade unionists, praised their "Dear Comrade" Castro for his achievments in an official message from joint party leaders Gesine Lötzsch and Klaus Ernst. They said Cuba set an example "for many nations in the world."
"You can look back proudly on your life of battles and successful action at the head of the Cuban revolution," they wrote in the letter, which was reprinted in Saturday's edition of the Bild tabloid.
Praising Social Successes
Fidel Castro, who handed the reins to his brother Raul five years ago, celebrated his birthday on August 13. The independent organisation Human Rights Watch has accused Fidel Castro of constructing "repressive machinery" over almost half a century.
But the Left Party leaders overlooked complaints of institutionalized human rights abuse, commending the leader instead. "Under your rule, Cuba has remained true to its ideals and led new social developments," they wrote.
The letter triggered not only sharp criticism from other political parties, but also grumbling from within the Left Party's own ranks.
'Urgent Reforms Needed'
Left Party parliamentary floor leader Gregor Gysi distanced himself from the letter. "I would have written it differently," he said on a television talk show on Sunday night.
He praised Cuba's model health and social systems but added "they now need urgent, urgent political reforms to democratize the society."
Newspaper editorials on Monday also slammed the Left Party's letter. "The heirs to the East German communists have not managed to move away from the German Democratic Republic (GDR)," the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote in an editorial on Monday.
"The more they fawn over Fidel Castro, the more disrespect they show towards the Cuban population," the paper added.
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