Skip to comments.Fidel Castro - Cuba
Posted on 04/14/2002 4:36:10 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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Before examining that, however, let's retire one particularly tired and self-contradictory "argument" against U.S. policy toward Cuba: The embargo is a convenient "excuse" for the Castro regime's failures.
At the minimal risk that a generalization like this creates, nobody who believes in (or at the very least understands) capitalism still holds that Cuba is an economic sinkhole because of U.S. foreign policy. As such, it is foolish to claim that the embargo is an "excuse" for the Castro regime's economic failure. This argument shifts blame to the Cuban people, for their implied stupidity. No émigré I've ever met believes their hardship resulted from U.S. policy. The embargo is an "excuse" only to the Left, for whose intellectual shortcomings I make no defense.
Everyone in Havana knows they receive one bar of soap per month because of decisions made by Castro, not Washington. To argue otherwise is to deny the Cuban people an "insight" most Americans take as common sense.
The most recent way to blame the United States for Castro's brutality is by criticizing the actions of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana. The argument goes that were it not for U.S. diplomats-invariably portrayed by the media and the Left (quibble, quibble) in C.I.A.-like terms-supporting pro-democracy forces in Cuba, Castro wouldn't have to hand out life sentences like candy.
This is an insidious form of blaming the victim, along the lines of a domestic abuse counselor inquiring, "Why didn't you stop complaining after your husband hit you the first time?"
If only those pesky Cubans didn't want freedom so badly and the U.S. government wasn't so willing to help them, Castro wouldn't have to play the stern father.
What appears to be an attack on American actions turns out to be a much harsher attack on those who support American values from abroad. Imagine blaming the Berlin Wall jumpers for forcing the guards to pick them off like tin ducks in a carnival.
Moral relativism is a valued tradition for the Left, but some on the Right also equate a principled policy decision with the type of restrictions on freedom implemented by Castro.***
..The United States, Canada and the European Union are those threatening to take unspecific action against Havana if the dissidents are not released. Their sentences are under appeal. Sanchez said the dissidents were being held in "inhuman conditions" in small cells where they received water and food "that does not meet minimum sanitary requirements." Sanchez, whose group has monitored Cuban prison conditions for years, said writer and poet Raul Rivero and leading dissidents Hector Palacios and Oscar Elias Biscet were among those in solitary confinement.
The wives of some of the dissidents confirmed Sanchez's statement, a few saying their husbands were being punished for not cooperating with prison authorities. "He told me it was a very narrow cell. He has lost 30 pounds," Raul Rivero's wife, Blanca Reyes, said, after visiting her husband in central Ciego de Avila province. Sanchez said many of the dissidents were sent to prisons far from their homes, making family visits difficult. ***
To their credit, some European leftists finally criticized Castro's oppression. But others abroad and in the United States merely reaffirmed their long-standing, fawning allegiance to El Commandante. Likewise, the United Nations Human Rights Commission voted against condemning Castro's oppression and even rewarded him by re-electing Cuba to another three-year term on the Commission. Cuba triumphantly proclaimed its re-election as "undoubtedly a recognition of the Cuban Revolution's work in human rights in favor of all our people."
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer expressed the administration's contempt for the decision, saying, "Cuba does not deserve a seat on the Human Rights Commission. Cuba deserves to be investigated by the Human Rights Commission."
Many "intellectuals" and a number of Hollywood actors saw it differently. A group of more than 160, including singer Harry Belafonte and actor Danny Glover issued a declaration critical of the United States and supportive of the Castro regime entitled, "to the Conscience of the World."
"A single power is inflicting grave damage to the norms of understanding, debate and mediation among countries," said the declaration. "At this very moment, a strong campaign of destabilization against a Latin American nation has been unleashed. The harassment against Cuba could serve as a pretext for an invasion."
So it's America's fault for opposing this murderous regime's continued farcical participation on the Human Rights Commission because it is an egregious violator of the very rights the Commission is charged with overseeing? Just like we provoked bin Laden's 9-11 attacks? Well, at least these morality-deficient kooks are consistent. They harbor the same mentality that gave rise to:
Director Oliver Stone's obsequious documentary on Castro, "Comandante." Yes, HBO pulled it, but why did they undertake the project in the first place? Castro's brutality is nothing new. Stone said of Castro, "We should look to him as one of the Earth's wisest people, one of the people we should consult." I agree, should we ever decide to implement torture techniques against convicted terrorists.
Director Steven Spielberg gushing over his November powwow with Castro as "the eight most important hours of my life."
Actor Kevin Costner describing his meeting with Castro as "the experience of a lifetime" and Jack Nicholson calling him "a genius."
The hard Left's glamorization of the Soviet Union.
The hard Left's support of the Nicaraguan Communist Sandinistas over the Contra freedom fighters.
The hard Left's adulation of former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to the point of crediting him -- though he desperately tried to hold on to Communism until the final hour -- instead of Ronald Reagan with the disintegration of the Soviet regime. What do you suppose could motivate these curious people to glorify such a man as Castro and such a universally failed, inhumane and corrupt system as Communism? Why do they repudiate the United States for denouncing such evil? It has to be either an irrepressible love for Communism that rejects all rationality, that defies all evidence, that still fantasizes longingly for the dictatorship of the proletariat, or, an unquenchable revulsion for the United States -- or both. It's your call.***
The other solution is an American intervention and temporary occupation, for perhaps six years. In the '90s, there was an embargo against Haiti. When that failed, the Clinton administration sent an aircraft carrier. We restored a "leader" (or another dictator, depending on whom you ask). There was a catch, though -- the Congressional Black Caucus was in favor of that great military action.
People who know me well know that, for 40 years, I've been present for the Cuban cause and will always be. To reach these conclusions has not been easy, but I challenge anybody to give me another solution, logical and feasible. I'm all ears. Just make sure you speak loud enough for the Cuban opposition to hear you -- behind all that concrete.***
. "If it were not for for Rush Limbaugh, the Washington Times,and Fox News -- those organizations, entities, have finally managed to break the dam," Collins said. "Ph.D. pieces could be written about this subject, dozens of them."***
For 44 years Castro has strangled Cuban liberty, and for 44 years his ''progressive'' acolytes have been giving him ovations. In ''Useful Idiots,'' her devastating new book on the left's ignoble Cold War history, Mona Charen rounds up some telling examples. There was Norman Mailer's early rhapsody to Castro, for example (''You were the first and greatest hero to appear in the world since the Second War''). And Jesse Jackson's 1984 cheerleading at the University of Havana (''Long live Cuba! Long live the United States! Long live Fidel Castro! Long live Martin Luther King! Long live Che Guevara! Long live Patrice Lumumba! Long live our cry of freedom!'').
Castro and communism turned Cuba into a place so bleak and suffocating that ordinary people throw themselves into the ocean to escape it. Yet a chorus of enthusiasts is ever ready to paint a glowing picture of Cuban life. During the Elian Gonzalez affair in 2000, Charen notes, some US journalists simply couldn't fathom why Elizabet Broton, Elian's mother, would want to leave such a paradise.
''What was she escaping?'' wondered ABC's Jim Avila. ''By all accounts this quiet, serious young woman who loved to dance the salsa was living the good life, as good as it gets for a citizen of Cuba.'' Her hunger for freedom baffled him; all he could see in it was a tragic and wrongheaded choice: ''An extended family destroyed by a mother's decision to start a new life in a new country, a decision that now leaves a little boy ... forever separated from her.''***
..........Had we not supported Israel, had we not backed the corrupt Saudi monarchy, had we not been buddies with Egypt, had we not been somehow complicit in Third World poverty, had we not developed blue jeans and T-shirts and rock music and premarital sex, the World Trade Center might still be standing and the Pentagon untouched. .......Below the surface of this reasoning seethes a perplexing animosity toward the United States -- not the people but the government and the economic system. Possibly it has its roots in the Great Depression, when capitalism seemed kaput and socialism so promising, and the government an adjunct of moneyed interests. At the same time, of course, governments on all levels -- federal, state and local -- were unabashedly racist.
Almost none of that still applies -- although money still talks. Yet the impulse to blame America first lingers, an atavistic reflex that jerks the knees of too many on the left and has cost the Democratic Party plenty over the years. Jeane Kirkpatrick, a former Democrat, put her finger on it 19 years ago. It's about time the Democrats listened to what she had to say.***
I'm not kidding. No other head of state has done so much in such a short time to wreck his country's economy, and to discourage his neighbors from engaging in the kind of finger-waving populism that has brought about massive capital flight and record poverty levels in Venezuela.
If it weren't for the disastrous performance of Chávez's ''peaceful revolution,'' Brazil's new leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva would have probably launched the anti-free market policies he had championed for the past three decades, several foreign diplomats and politicians told me during a recent trip to Brazil. And Ecuador and Argentina probably would have followed suit.***
These engagers continue using the cliché that the ''40-year embargo'' has failed and argue that engagement can still help reform Castro's brutal dictatorship. But recent history clearly has demonstrated that engagement has been a policy failure.***
U.S. officials were unable to say whether Cuba is the only country now barred from such contacts with these companies. According to the officials, harassment of American diplomats in Havana is commonplace and extends well beyond the need for official intervention for routine service calls. As examples, officials said tires on diplomats' cars have been punctured on occasion. They also suspect that traffic "accidents" involving official U.S. vehicles were actually planned and staged by Cuban agents. ***
Venezuela has been a democracy since 1958, when a courageous leader, Rómulo Betancourt established representative government following a dictatorship. In the early 1960s Betancourt beat back Castro's efforts to overthrow Venezuela's democracy. Now Chávez wants to turn back the clock. He's cozied up to terrorist groups around the world, including those waging a murderous guerrilla war in neighboring Colombia.
Venezuelans of all classes and occupations have taken to the streets to protest Chávez's actions. He was thrown out briefly in a coup last year, but the coup collapsed when it became clear that the old corrupt elites were going to return to their money-grabbing ways and would take their time restoring democracy. Chávez's smile, however, was soon wiped off his face as spontaneous protests continued. There was a general strike a few months ago, the effects of which sharply reduced Venezuela's oil production. But Chávez has clung to power.
Whether Chávez's rule should continue is supposed to be the subject of a referendum in August, but this Castro wannabe has made it clear he won't leave office voluntarily. He will either try to postpone the election or use his armed thugs to rig the results.
The U.S. has reacted gingerly lest Chávez play the anti-U.S. card--always an option in Latin America--to shore up his sagging popularity. The U.S. should make clear that a clean August vote must take place--that Chávez must not be allowed to set up a virtual dictatorship, even if that means oil prices go up because we embargo Venezuela's oil exports. When Venezuelans see that we're serious about Chávez, perhaps their army will do what it should have done a long time ago--send Chávez to Havana on a permanent vacation--and then promptly return to the barracks. [End]
A letter ordering the seven U.N.-based diplomats to leave was delivered to the Cuban Mission in Midtown on Monday evening, the official said. It did not give them any time frame to depart. The U.S. official said the Cubans were being expelled "for engaging in activities deemed harmful to the United States outside their official capacity as members of the permanent mission of Cuba to the United Nations." "These activities constitute an abuse of their privileges of residence," the official said on condition of anonymity.
The latest U.N. directory lists 37 accredited Cuban diplomats, led by Ambassador Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla. The names of those ordered expelled were not released. The Bush administration and Cuban authorities have engaged in an escalating diplomatic tit-for-tat reminiscent of the Cold War days in U.S.-Cuban relations. Until Tuesday, this involved more mundane issues like fixing embassy plumbing.**
Seven diplomats based in the Cuban Interests Section, housed in the Swiss Embassy in Washington, were given 10 days to leave the country as of yesterday morning, Mr. Reeker said. "We've declared them persona non grata, requiring their departure from the United States," he said. Another seven diplomats were ordered to leave from the Cuban mission to the United Nations in New York for "activities deemed to be harmful to the United States outside of their official capacities as members of the permanent mission of Cuba to the United Nations," Mr. Reeker said.
The Cuban mission, headed by Ambassador Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, refused to comment. Mr. Reeker declined to elaborate on the reasons for the expulsions or to provide the names of those expelled. He said a "range of officers" - but not the heads of the missions - were being forced out. He said the State Department called the Cubans from the Interests Section at 9 a.m. yesterday and delivered the notice verbally and with a diplomatic note. According to Mr. Reeker, the Cuban Interests Section in Washington is authorized to have 26 permanently accredited staff. The Cuban mission in New York had 37 diplomats. The U.S. Interests Section in Havana is permitted 51 positions.***
..Unlike American ballparks, the low, blue walls of Cuban ballparks were completely devoid of commercialization. However, along the foul poles, which were lit, there were painted signs exhorting fans to contribute to social revolution, accompanied by the signature of Fidel Castro
..Although Cuban beer is decent, it costs about $1. The average Cuban wage-earner makes $20 per month, so imagine spending 5 percent of your paycheck on a single beer.***
Unpromising as it may seem, the government store in the capital is the model to be replicated across Venezuela under a plan fathered by populist President Hugo Chávez and overseen by the military. The plan's goal: to feed Venezuela's growing number of poor and to counter shortages from the private sector. "Prices are cheaper than elsewhere, and for those of us with low incomes, any difference is important," says Viviana Trillo, a Caricuao housewife. "I thank President Chávez for this."
Paradoxically, the food security programme is being prioritised just as the Chávez government is blocking dollar sales to businesses, including soft commodity importers and food processors, curtailing supplies.
Currency trading was suspended in January during the strike at Petróleos de Venezuela, the state oil company that is the government's main source of export revenue. Four months later, international reserves have recovered and oil exports have resumed.
But Cadivi, the foreign exchange control agency, has yet to disburse any dollars and business leaders are convinced that Mr Chávez intends to bring the business sector - which fiercely opposes his government - to its knees.
"This a specific retaliation against all those seen as not being in favour of the regime," says Rafael Alfonzo, president of Cavidea, the food industry chamber.
The non-functional currency controls are not only affecting domestic companies, many of which are closing and laying off employees. Multinationals with subsidiaries in Venezuela, such as Cargill, the US agricultural conglomerate, say they will be forced to shut down operations within the next few weeks unless hard currency is made available.
"A lot of US companies thought that this would be a temporary situation and they got money from their home offices to maintain market share," says Antonio Herrera, vice-president of the Venezuelan-American Chamber of Commerce.
"But now they are being told: 'no longer', so they are exhausting inventories," Mr Herrera says. "This is an economic atrocity against the Venezuelan people."***
U.S. officials vigorously defended the mass expulsion, even as questions arose about its timing, the lack of public disclosure of evidence to support charges of espionage and whether genuine national security concerns led to the action -- and not political motivations.
Administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, laid out the chronology of what they said was ongoing concern about Cuban intelligence activities.***
And that is true. The (Sydney Morning) Herald tried for days to find a Cuban willing to interpret but, as soon as they discovered that the subject would be politics, none would agree. The first person asked physically backed away, saying: "I could get in trouble." The second initially agreed to take $US20 ($31) - a month's wages - for doing the work, but an hour before we were to meet, she rang and said: "I think it's not a good idea," before quickly hanging up.
So, for more than two hours, while Paya rocks gently in his chair, we try to talk using his basic English, my appalling Spanish, and a dictionary that his 14-year-old daughter has fetched from her room. I start with the most obvious question: "Why aren't you in jail?" This is something that Paya, too, has been wondering about. In recent weeks, just about every other Cuban dissident has been rounded up and sent to jail for 18 to 25 years.
Those jailed include librarians who want to give Cubans access to a range of different books, journalists who want to give Cubans access to newspapers not produced by Castro's Government and economists who want to crack open Cuba's socialist system by allowing Cubans to own and operate businesses. Paya expected to join them. During the interview, his eyes keep moving towards the door, as if he expects it to open and police to come flooding in.
"This is the question everybody - all my friends, my family - is asking," he says. "I don't know the answer, but I know another question. Why are other people in jail? What have they done? They have not used violence. They have not made the threat of violence. They have simply asked for change." ***
By the end of the War of Independence in 1898, Cuba had been in ruins. As a consquence of the war some 400,000 persons had died, about one-fifth of the population. The country had lost two-thirds of its wealth. Railroads, bridges and telegraph lines had been destroyed. Sanitary conditions were deplorable and the country was gripped by mortal endemic sicknesses like yellow fever.
"Once upon a time there was a Republic. It had its constitution, its laws, its civil rights, its President, a Congress, and law courts. Everyone could assemble, associate, speak and write with complete freedom. There existed a public opinion both respected and heeded."
Fidel Castro, "History Will Absolve Me" (1953)
* In 1953, almost 57 per cent of the population was urban. More than 1/2 of the population lived in cities of more than 25,000 inhabitants, 1/3 lived in 4 cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants. One-sixth of the population lived in Havana, third-largest capital of the world in relation to the total number of the nation's inhabitants after London and Vienna.
(Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom, Hugh Thomas