Monday, June 30, 2008

Val Tries Again to Write a 5th Anniversary Post

I never set out to become Val's guru, just to correct his mistakes in logic and lapses in democratic discourse. That was a formidable enough task and more than any other man would willingly undertake for nothing. Yet I find that my influence over him has overstepped the bounds of my expectations and now makes me somewhat uneasy. Everything that I write here about Babalú is interpreted by him as a hint of sorts and elicits from him an instant reaction. If I suggest that Val is likely to do something, he is quick to do the exact opposite. Were I of a Machiavellian cast of mind, I could control his every move through the old chesnut of reverse psychology. This trick, which even children seem to know nowadays, is perenially new to Val. If, for example, I suggest that Val is likely to write a long and pompous panegyric for Babalú's 5th anniversary, he instead posts one word: "Wow." When I observe that his minimalism proves that he just doesn't a give a damn anymore, he produces the tendentious flummery that I first predicted.

In my own post on "Babalú's Fifth Anniversary," I noted Val's love for the word "humble" and how he has managed to invest that word with tints of insincerity which are not much seen outside of Dickens. Well, naturally, he made sure to use "humble" prominently in his second commemorative post. In fact, he used it twice in the same sentence, which created an effect of insincerity which is worthy of a better writer: "[I] dont know how it happened, but this humble blog of humble origins grew, it seems, almost exponentially form [from] one day to the next." He uses "humble blog" once more before he is done with it. Well, it was a humble blog once before Val started describing it as a "humble blog." Too much humility is only hubris in disguise. When that word is trotted out nowadays it is usually pulling a wagon load of manure.

I have often kidded Val about the dead chickens and coconuts which he claims are deposited on his lawn every week, urging him not to regard them as politically-motivated when they could just as well indicate that his neighbors don't like him. Still, in the annals of Babalú the dead chickens and coconuts hold a symbolic place and Val again alludes to them as an old veteran might point to his battle scars. Well, actually, an old veteran wouldn't.

Here's another priceless sentence: "Im incredibly proud of this endeavor. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the extents the words posted herein would go to." The majesty of that sentence, which defies all attempts at parsing, must shine by its own black light.

And yet another gem of sophistry, more inscrutable than the last: "We have helped get the word out on the struggle and strife of Cuba's political and ideological prisoners and we have maybe opened some eyes or four." At least four eyes, we should hope.

In the comments section of this blog some have suggested that Val may have been referring to us when he mentions at length Babalú's "detractors." Since I have never called Val "a fascist, an evil bastard, a homophobe, a heartless so and so, an intransigent, anitquated [?] extremist terrorist, etc..." I am sure that he must have other detractors in mind. The things I have called Val he prefers not to mention because they would not be as easily dismissed as the strawmen that he cites.

One final observation: Val is not usually so atrocious a writer. He can only be inspired to these depths by some impetus of "humility."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Are Cubans "Resentful" & "Unforgiving?" Carlos Alberto Montaner Thinks So

The future is unknown. The present lasts 24 hours. It is only the past which is always with us.

In his latest column in El Nuevo Herald ("El rencor y la historia," July 29), Carlos Alberto Montaner calls into question the wisdom of holding unto the past because he believes that doing so makes Cubans (and others) "resentful" and "unforgiving" of historical wrongs committed against them, which leaves them "aplastados por el pasado (crushed by the past)." Generalizations of this kind are always wrong, and though intended to show that the author is an incisive and impartial judge of history, what it really shows is that he is hypercritical and uninformed. The matter becomes even worse when Montaner maintains that Americans are mercifully free of such historical revanchism. Living in Spain, obviously, has not saved him from the yankofilia (Martí's word) which afflicts so many Cuban exiles here. I would not personally find anything offensive about an exaggerated opinion of this country if it were not always accompanied by the disposition to denigrate ours.

The specific case which Montaner cites as proof of Cuba's "cultura rencorosa" is our reaction to Spain's execution in 1871 of eight Cuban medical students during the height of the Ten Years' War. The eight Havana University students were falsely accused of desecrating the tomb of a pro-Spanish newspaper editor by scratching the glass plate on his crypt. Martí's best friend, Fermín Valdés Domínguez, also a medical student, proved that the glass plate had been scratched in the factory in Spain where it was manufactured and the dead man's own son confirmed it.

How did these "resentful" and "unforgiving" Cubans, men like Valdés Domínguez and Martí, react to this great injustice? As rational men would react: vindicating the memory of the dead by freeing their countrymen from the arbitrary authority that threatened the lives of all. Because revenge would not bring back the dead they were not interested in revenge. Because they could not hope to obtain justice from Spain, they did not seek it from Spain. They knew that only by ending Spanish tyranny in our country would justice prevail and they consecrated their lives to the great work of national redemption.

When Cuba achieved her independence no retribution was undertaken against those who had participated in the crime of November 21, 1871 or in crimes even more sanguinary committed by Spaniards against the Cuban people. Not a single Spaniard, and there were a million in Cuba at the time, was called to account for the murder of 300,000 Cuban civilians in campos de reconcentración during the war. Not a single Spaniard, not even former soldiers of the Crown (like Fidel's own father), was deported to Spain after the war. Not a single real of Spanish assets on the island was confiscated by the new Republic though Spain had confiscated the assets of all Cuban rebels and distributed them to its supporters. But that was not all: Spaniards were invited to immigrate to Cuba, whose population was depleted precisely because of their policy of extermination during the war. Over the life of the Cuban Republic (1902-1958), 1.2 million Spaniards settled in Cuba, which had a population of 3.8 million at the end of the Spanish-American War (1898). Cuba saved more than a half-million Spaniards, both Nationalists and Loyalists, from immolation in the Spanish Civil War.

Where, then, shall we find this "culture of resentment" which supposedly holds Cubans in its thrall? You are not going to believe this: in the fact that Cubans still "remember and commemorate with tears and fiery addresses that act of barbarity." Wow, we really are resentful, aren't we? 136 years after the execution of the medical students we still insist on remembering and commemorating their sacrifice! If Cubans were prone to bear grudges against Spaniards, as Montaner contends, there would be other and more recent reasons to do so.

Montaner contends also that Americans are not as resentful of historical wrongs as Cubans. Well, Americans have not really been the victims of many historical wrongs. They have inflicted historical wrongs on others but rarely had them inflicted on them. Montaner cites slavery, which was a self-inflicted wrong, and celebrates the fact that blacks have been able to transcend the fact that it was Democrats who supported slavery and Republicans who ended it. African-Americans may have switched party allegiances -- and parties do evolve over time, after all -- but they have not let go of their resentment about slavery and for many it still informs their conception of this country and of their place in it, Obama or no Obama.

Montaner does not compare slavery in Cuba to slavery in the U.S. and neither shall we. Instead, a better comparison of historical revanchism in both countries is the aftermath of their respective wars of independence. We have already seen that Cubans wreaked no vengeance on the Spanish or their local allies for their opposition to Cuba's independence. It was otherwise in the United States. At the conclusion of the American Revolution, colonists who had remained loyal to the king were deported en masse to Canada; their property was confiscated without compensation; many were tarred and feathered, others lynched and all forced on long marches where many thousands died of cold or starvation, including women and children. Before Americans practiced genocide on the Indians, they inflicted it on their own brothers.

Before 1959, there was no "cultura rencorosa" in Cuba. Not even in the wake of our bloodiest revolution (that would be the Revolution of 1933) did Cubans institutionalize barbarity in our country. No machadista was ever executed by the provisional government and the few that were imprisoned were released in 1936 when Congress approved a General Amnesty law. Three years for the wounds of a revolution to heal shows a remarkable political maturity as well as the total absence of the spirit of revanchism in our people. Cubans knew how to forgive those who had wronged them, whether foreigners or their own brothers.

Perhaps that is where we erred. We were always too prone to forgive and far to prone to forget, and this weakness, if it is a weakness, would one day be our undoing.

Babalú's Fifth Anniversary

Babalu's fifth anniversary deserved no better of its Founding Editor than a post with the single word: "Wow." Can there be a clearer definition of "I don't give a damn?"

Before Val became the Val that we all know today, with his pressure cooker and his rivers of blood, his suppression of dissent and of dissenters, his pomposity and self-absorption, there was another Val, a humble guy who set for himself a big mission, to "create an island on the net without a bearded dictator," dedicated to exposing Castro's misdeeds and defending his victims. He was not the first Cuban-American blogger. But his blog was the first serious and successful attempt to challenge the monopoly which leftists held over the Cuban debate on the blogosphere. Nor can it be denied that Babalú was a wellspring for other Cuban blogs, and Val himself, if we believe their testimonials, the inspiration for a spate of likeminded anti-Castro bloggers.

Somewhere along the road, however, the humble guy started using the word "humble" with much less sincerity. Whereas in the beginning he would debate any Castroite crackpot who wandered into his domain, he later became very picky about who commented on his threads and what was said there. He came to regard it as a personal affront if his commenters did not second his every opinion. Then he started to delete comments that did not and ban commenters who would not pay due obeisance to his monomania. To all his other laurels, Val added that of introducing the echo chamber to the Cuban-American blogosphere. There are those who consider Henry to be Val's Richelieu and blame his influence for all that went wrong at Babalú. I give Val more credit than that.

In any case, congratulations to Babalú, and, in particular, to its Founding Editor. I have spent a year trying to make you return to your better angels. What success I have had, if any, I will let others decide. It is an encouraging development that lately some modicum of free expression has returned to Babalú, though it is still likely to be met with the same abuse. The reason is that suppression of all dissent had turned Babalú into a ghost town, with miles of posts with nary a comment hitched to them.

Perhaps they have started to realize that diversity of opinion benefits both countries and blogs.

Let us at least hope so.


Shocking. Of 16 commenters congratulating Val on Babalú's 5th Anniversary, only 8 are members of his "magnificent cadre of writers." The other 8 must have overlooked his "Wow" post. Time to thin the ranks?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bigotry Against Anti-Castro Cuban Gays at Babalú

Pototo, Babalú's oldest (surviving) commenter, has booted himself because of what he perceives as a pro-gay bias there. He says that he refuses to "get in bed" with homosexuals to fight Castro, as if that were necessary or even desired by them. Defending gays from being pumelled by our enemies is not tantamount to offering them your ass for consolation.

Val and George reacted with surprising aplomb to pototo's announcement, respecting his opinion without endorsing it, which may not be what pototo expected (certainly it wasn't what I expected). George maintained that gays have a place in civil society, whether here or in Cuba; and Val insisted, rightly, that condemning the persecution of gays is not an endorsement of their lifestyle. Also challenging pototo in somewhat more forcible terms was one of Babalú's two resident gay commenters, Cangrejero de Caibarien, whose presence on the blog has significantly increased the level of tolerance there. It was not too long ago that "the guys" were hurling gay insults at non-gay dissenters. The presence of these two prolific gay commenters has put the sophomoric trio on their best behavior, which is a good thing because our enemy's first line of attack has always been to try to label anti-Castro Cubans as the very thing that we denounce. This takes the form of equating intemperate words with intemperate acts; frustration with repression; and personal prejudices with state-induced pogroms.

Frankly, Pons' cartoon did not merit such a reaction from pototo since Babalú reproduced it without comment, that is, without explicitly endorsing it. Nothing is more detrimental to the cause of Cuban freedom than to fight among ourselves about which group has been victimized more by the anti-Cuban Revolution. But we live in the U.S. where the game of victimhood is a national obsession and it could hardly be unexpected that some Cuban exiles would also become addicted to it.

But let me correct myself. One thing is more deleterious than parsing one another's pain: To suggest that the persecution of some may be justified or even commendable. Tyranny is odious whatever its guise or whomever its victims. Once we sanction the persecution of one group, we have sanctioned persecution itself. Then its application to other groups becomes subjective, and tyranny devolves from being an absolute evil to a partial evil, or a tolerable evil, or a necessary evil, or even an acceptable evil. Acceptable for others, of course. Man rarely clamors for evil to be a part of his life. Nothing can be more noxious to Christ's new commandment than establishing exceptions to the Golden Rule.

In the struggle against Communism in Cuba homosexuals have not evaded their duty or shown less courage in confronting the regime than has any other group. In fact, the only victory that Cubans have ever obtained against Castro's propaganda juggernaut is owed to them. The documentary Improper Conduct (1984), which exposed the regime's systematic persecution of gays as gays, forced the liberal media to admit for the first time (25 years after the fact) that human rights were violated in Cuba, and convinced the "small s" socialist countries in Europe that had hitherto regarded Castro's Stalinism as a more disciplined version of their welfare states, to condemn in international forums what they had never condemned before -- Castro's persecution of his own people. Homosexual were regarded then in the most condescending manner by liberals: not as political beings entitled to their natural rights as citizens but as sexual beings indifferent to politics whose persecution, therefore, was onerous because it was unnecessary.

Nevertheless, regardless of the prejudices which sustained it, the reaction against Castro's persecution of gays as depicted in Improper Conduct was universal and devastating in the extreme to the proggresive image of itself which the regime projected to the world at large. Even today it is still struggling to shed the image of intolerance that replaced it, but it has stuck for good and no amount of burnishing at home or abroad over 25 years has managed to unstick it, not even the appointment of Raúl's daughter as Communist Cuba's "Gay Czarina." The cancelled Gay Pride March has given a needed reality check to those who regard the promise of free sex-change operations (which has nothing to do with homosexuals) as yet another Raulian reform and happy omen for Cuba's indefinite future.

The damage to the regime's international reputation caused by its persecution of gays has contributed more to making Castro's Cuba a pariah state than has its placement by the U.S. on the State Department's List of Terrorist States, which has now became a joke with Bush's opportunistic removal of North Korea.

When anyone in Cuba, white or black, young or old, gay or straight, sane or Obama-supporter, raises his voice against the regime or puts his life on the line to protest it, the last thing that any exile should do is shout him down.


Guajiro de Broward took over where pototo left off, accusing Cuban gays of being allied with Fidel Castro in a worldwide conspiracy to destroy Christianity. Giraldo, coming from the other end of political spectrum on this issue, concluded like pototo that he could no longer continue to contribute to Babalú:

This blog's homophobia gives [me] the creeps. ¡Qué asco! I'll never come back here. Comparing the gays to Stalin!!! Incredible! Babalú's readers, in general, are just a bunch of intransigent troglodytes. If this is the kind of people we'll have to deal [with] in a free Cuba, then why take the trouble to change anything?
Posted by: giraldo at June 28, 2008 04:30 AM

In the liberal media being attacked from both sides of an issue is considered proof of objectivity. Of course, it is no such thing. It merely shows that one is playing both sides.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Fidel Eulogizes Yet Another "Comrade" He Killed: Salvador Allende

"He [Salvador Allende] fought like a lion till his last breath." -- Fidel Castro, "Salvador Allende, un ejemplo que perdura," Granma, July 27, 2008

Well, not quite.

KGB agent/President Salvador Allende was impeached and deposed by the Chilean Congress for subverting the Constitution by conspiring to declare Chile a Marxist state. Since Allende refused to leave voluntarily, the Congress ordered the head of the army, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, to remove him forcibly from the presidential palace. What nobody knew then was that Allende himself wanted no part of a heroic resistance. As the aerial bombardment began, Allende, in a state of panic, ran down the corridors of the palace shouting, "We must surrender!" A logical if not exactly bold-spirited conclusion. Despite being a Soviet agent for 35 years, Allende was also a typical Latin American politician whose first instinct when in trouble is to head to the nearest foreign embassy (in his case, Sweden's).

Allende in fact requested and was granted a truce on several occasions during the siege, but his Cuban bodyguards, under orders from Castro, would not allow their hostage to surrender. When the army finally stormed the palace and all further temporizing was futile, the chief of Allende's security detail, Patricio de la Guardia, shot Allende point blank in the head. Castro, who neither trusts nor is loyal to any man, did no want Allende captured because he feared that he might try to save himself by revealing all he knew about Cuban penetration in South America. In any case, Allende as a martyr was infinitely more useful to Fidel than as a loose cannon. It was Castro's decision, therefore, that he should never leave the palace alive.

The bodyguards, led by de la Guardia, did manage to escape through an underground tunnel that took them to the nearby Cuban embassy. They could have taken Allende with them, of course, but saving him would have entailed greater risks for them and Castro. Allende had complained four months before his death that he had been "instrumentalized by Castro." Indeed, the Cuban DGI had infiltrated all government ministries and seized effective control of the executive branch. It would not have been farfetched to suppose that Allende would have blamed Castro for his fall. Mussolini, even after Hitler rescued him, blamed him for his.

For many years Allende's daughter, who was not in the palace at the time of the siege, insisted that her father had been killed by the army. Castro also backed this fabrication, which was calculated to discredit Pinochet. When Pinochet stepped down after losing the last plebiscite, Allende's daughter changed her story. She is now of the opinion that her father committed suicide with a submachine gun, a gift from Castro which he kept in his office. Some day, perhaps, after Castro's own death, she may finally admit what other Chilean leftists have long known: that Castro did provide the instrument of Allende's death, except that it was not a gun but the man who pulled the trigger.

In his wikipedia-like "Reflection" in Granma (June 27) on the centenary of Allende's birth, Castro also now appears to credit suicide as the cause of his death, without, of course, acknowledging the provenance of the gun that the deposed Chilean president supposedly used to off himself. With his usual cynicism Castro compares Allende to Cuba's own 19th century revolutionary heroes who always saved the last bullet for themselves rather than surrender to the enemy.

Fidel Castro, the intellectual author of Allende's assassination, confined the actual assassin to prison 20 years ago, not for killing Allende, of course, but on charges of drug-trafficking. Patricio de la Guardia was actually lucky. Castro executed his twin brother Antonio ("Tony") de la Guardia and the supposed ringleader General Arnaldo Ochoa. It was rumored at the time that they had conspired against Castro, although it is hard to know whether against his power or his interests.

That Patricio was the only survivor of the 1989 purge is attributed to the fact that he deposited an account of Allende's death in a Panamanian bank vault to be opened in case of his death.

Castro concludes his homage to Salvador Allende by declining to say, out of characteristic humility, all that he was prepared to do to save him(self). Let others, he demurs, speak of his colossal loyalty and generosity.

Has any man in history eulogized the allies he has killed more than has Castro? Perhaps one day he'll eulogize Hugo Chávez, too, who is also "protected" by Castro's handpicked bodyguards.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cuban Church Condemns Gay Rights Day March

There is no officially recognized gay organization in Cuba except the Catholic Church, and its leaders, most of whom are closet cases, are no friends of extending homosexual rights beyond their clique. When any soul, regardless of extraneous factors, raises his voice in demand of his human rights in Communist Cuba, he becomes a pariah and a target. The Church, if it will not plead for his rights, should at least refrain from joining the lynch mob gathering around him. But the hierarchs of the Cuban Church, who have witnessed passively and sometimes complicitly the destruction of civil society in Cuba, have raised their voices for the first time in 50 years in condemnation of a group of Cubans who desired nothing more and nothing less than to assert the right to be themselves in a public forum. A Church which has never condemned the regime's intolerance beckons it now to be more not less intolerant!

It is not the homosexual lifestyle that is the issue, but the reaction of the island's henchmen to that lifestyle. The Church's appeal to the Communist authorities to stop the peaceful protest provided them with the necessary cover to do so. Apologists for the regime will no doubt claim that in cancelling the march the regime succumbed to pressure from the Church, which in this respect, at least -- to frame the argument for them -- represents the reactionary thought and tendencies in Cuban society which the Revolution has fought but not entirely defeated since they are so ingrained in the Cuban character. Hence they will contend that it is not Castro who is principally to blame for the suppression of the Gay Rights March but the intolerant and homophobic Cuban people.

If the Gay Rights Day March had been allowed to proceed it would have been a great propaganda coup for the regime and its defiance of the Church's appeal to stop it would have been cited as proof of its greater openness and tolerance. But, of course, the regime could not allow such a public demonstration even if doing so rebounded to its favor as yet another instance of Raúl's so-called "reforms."


Because it would have constituted an actual reform as opposed to a sham one.

Had the gays been allowed to march theirs would have been the first non-official public demonstration in Cuba since the statue of Our Lady of Charity was carried in procession from one end of the island to the other in January 1960, the first and last gasp of the church militant in Cuba before submitting to the new Communist order. Perhaps church officials did not wish to be reminded of the role that the church forfeited in the life of the nation to preserve their isolated privileges and prerogatives, including their right to practice sodomy without retribution.

Enigma: Crip or Blood?

"There's only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate. He's half African-American.

"Whether that will make any difference, I don't know. I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white? He doesn't want to appear like Jesse Jackson? We'll see all that play out in the next few months and if he gets elected afterwards.''

"And it's clear from Sen. Obama's campaign that he is not willing to tackle the white power structure whether in the form of the corporate power structure or many of the super-rich -- who are taking advantage of 100 million low-income Americans who are suffering in poverty or near poverty."
-- Ralph Nader, interview, Rocky Mountain News, June 24, 2008

The worst reason not to vote for Barack Obama is because he's black. Because he isn't. He may identify himself as black but that is only skin-deep (and not very deep at that). Ralph Nader, who in his dotage has become the little boy who says the emperor has no clothes, got it right. Obama "talks white" because he would look ridiculous trying to talk or act black (see picture above). He was was abandoned by both his black father and white mother and raised by his white grandparents, a World War II veteran and his wife, a bank vice-president. Obama's upbringing was not only white but skipped back a generation. That's no doubt part of his appeal to guilt-ridden whites: He is not only 50% white racially but 100% white attitudinally. Barack Obama is the "white hope" of blacks. If he can't be elected president, then there is little chance that any other black or mixed-race candidate ever will be.

Obama has spent much of his life trying to connect with his black roots, which are like a phantom limb which he feels but cannot quite grasp. The first black that he ever met was his own father, whom he saw for the first and only time during an airport pitstop in Hawaii. Those precious minutes were transmuted into a book about the "lessons" which his father taught him. Actually, the only "lessons" which he could have taught him were as a negative role model -- how to fail as a father, how to fail as a Harvard graduate, how to fail as a politician, how to fail as a man. His complete absence from Obama Jr.'s life allowed him to create a black identity which was mercifully free of his direct influence.

When Obama finished his law studies at Columbia, he moved to Chicago vent on pursuing a political career. It was then that he embraced his black identity, or, rather, decided that he should have one. He could not have accomplished this makeover himself, and, fortunately, he didn't have to. He had the active guidance of his spiritual mentor and father surrogate Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who was a caricature of black nationalism in the era of post-nationalism in the African world. Obama's white upbringing served him in good stead when deciding what to copy and what not to copy about Rev. Wright. The leopard skins, whether his father's or Wright's, he wisely discarded (except when he visited the "motherland"). What he adapted from Wright was his worldview, which in turn mirrored W.E.B. Dubois's after he became a Communist in his nineties. He also followed Rev. Wright's recommendation in the choice of a wife. She was (and is) his firmest anchor to the black community. Some have called her his "passport" to the African-American community.

Ralph Nader is again right when he says that there is nothing in Obama's politics that can be identified as distinctively "African-American." He is a liberal just as Nader himself, though certainly not independent of the Democratic Party. His brand of liberalism (known as socialism everywhere else in the world) has little in common with the core beliefs of most African-Americans, who tend to be as right-of-center on social issues as Obama is left-of-center. This is a real breach between Obama and the black community and his Father's Day speech about the responsibilities of fatherhood was a calculated attempt to bridge that enormous gap at the only point where it would be possible. Still, it was certainly ironic to hear the country's most prominent advocate of partial birth abortion (the medical murder of a baby who had the intrepidity to be born despite an abortionist's worst attempts to kill him in utero) lecture African-Americans (most of whom rightly see abortion as the white liberals's "final solution") about the damage done to children's psyches by invisible fathers. About the damage done to the bodies of babies, whose brains were smashed-in with a mallet or whose limbs were torn apart during partial birth abortion, Obama, who voted against outlawing the procedure, couldn't care less. (Yes, the Supreme Court has banned partial bith abortion, no thanks to Barack Obama).

If Barack Obama is elected president he will certainly not be an advocate for the concerns and interests of African-Americans unless these happen to coincide with his socialist core beliefs and agenda. A vote for Obama is not a vote for racial integration. Whatever that sign gesture is which Obama is mimicking in the photo chances are that any white kid today would know it better than he does. The truth is that America is already integrated and does need a token black to accomplish overnight what a historic process stretching over 400 years has already achieved to the benefit of all Americans.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Another Seemingly Meaningless Post By Val Prieto

Another seemingly meaningless post by Val Prieto. No, not the photograph of the curvaceous 1950s Tropicana dancer, that, at least, is historical in nature, or, rather, remarkable in natural history. There is no excuse for a nation filled with such women to have a declining birth rate. Except, of course, the national hecatomb that has rendered everything barren in our country.

The post to which I refer is entitled "Money for Nothing, Chicks for Free - Part Deux." The title does not deliver on its promise, as one might suppose. I thought at first that it might be yet another condemnation of remittances, which, as we all know by now, stifle the revolutionary instincts of the Cuban people by showering them with such luxuries as two meals a day. This time, however, it was not those mendicants who refuse to work for nothing on Castro's behalf that had ruffled Val's feathers.

The offenders this time were Cuban musicians who had settled in New Jersey, and lived "in a tiny, run-down apartment with a tiny, run-down kitchen, a tiny, run-down bathroom and a tiny, run-down bedroom." Now, if one did not know Val, one might suppose that this was a lament for Cubans who had fallen under the bell curve and were struggling to survive in a society that did not recognize their talents or reward them.

No such thing.

The reason these Cubans do not boast modern kitchens (that paradigm of success in this country) is that they prefer to accumulate gold jewelry, loads of it, which they proudly showed off in an old PBS documentary that caught Val's attention and appears to have wounded his sensitivities to the quick.

Ah, those ñangara musicians, even in la Yuma, prefer expensive trinkets to the rudiments of solid citizenship, such as a newly-refurnished kitchen. Of course, with gold now selling at the highest price in history, the Cuban musicians who invested their earnings in gold chains and such have reaped a mighty harvest, while those who remodelled their kitchens are begging for nails.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Is This Guy an Episcopalian?

My friends, I must apologize to you. After inflicting the last interminable post on you, I am going to devote yet another one to Msgr. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. I considered attaching it as postscript to the last but that would have been even crueler. Still, we must take advantage of this occasion because Céspedes will never be more topical than he is today, unless he jumps naked from atop Havana Cathedral (which, after you read what I have to tell you, may not seem that improbable).

If I implied previously that Msgr. Céspedes is a vile lickspittle who praises murderers for their "love of the poor" while himself detached from their suffering, then I made myself understood. If, however, I left the impression that he is a coward, then I do wish to take that back at least in part. He is a coward when it comes to defending the Cuban people. But the monsignor, unlike his distinguished ancestor and namesake, does not consider all Cubans to be his children or even his brothers. There is another group, however, whose civil rights he does champion even against the authority of the pope and his own best interests. This is remarkable because Msgr. Céspedes is the very definition of an establishment priest, and priests who curry Rome's favor as he does rarely challenge it publicly and notoriously as he has done.

What is this issue which is so close to his craven heart that he would risk his standing with Rome to champion it? What is this "human right" which trumps all others in his eyes and for which he would dispose of 2000 years of Catholicism to accomodate?

That's right. Msgr. Céspedes is the leading clerical exponent of homosexual "marriage" within the Universal Church. Not for priests (we believe) but for laymen.

In a column published last year in Palabra Nueva [July/August 2007], a diocesan publication that circulates among clerics and other religious in Cuba, Céspedes expressed his unqualified support for civil unions of homosexuals engaged in stable relationships. While claiming that he does not wish to set aside Catholic tradition, he asserts that the Church must "not ignore contemporary personal and familial realities" but be open to new "clarifications of marriage." He would not call same-sex unions "marriage," however. He wants a new word for this "new reality" and "legal and social" acceptance for it. Céspedes even asserts that his support for homosexual unions may have precluded him from becoming a bishop. This would be curious indeed because the practice of it has never stopped any Cuban priest from reaching the episcopacy.

So there you have it. The priest who has never raised one finger or one octave in defense of his long-suffering people raises his fist in the face of the pope himself to demand that gays be given the right marry and the Church accept their union in the spirit(!) if not the letter of Catholicism.

Although Rome took no official cognizance of Céspedes's column (besides, perhaps, denying him that bishopric), it is interesting to note that the digital edition of Palabra Nueva (below) has removed the monsignor's screed from its archives:


Msgr. Carlos Manuel de Céspedes published a formal repudiation and retraction of his article “El matrimonio y la familia a lo largo de la historia del cristianismo” in the Sept. 2007 (#166) edition of La Palabra Nueva. The original article which was the cause of the retraction has been deleted; but the retraction itself can still be read at

I have copied it in full in case it too is deleted in the future:


  Sobre el artículo “El matrimonio y la familia a lo largo de la historia del cristianismo”, cuyo subtítulo es “Algunos señalamientos acerca de la Revelación, la Teología, el Magisterio Eclesiástico y la disciplina de la celebración matrimonial. El por qué de los requerimientos de la presencia de testigos y del registro de los archivos.” (Palabra Nueva, Nº 165, Segmento, pp. 29-42)

Motivo de esta “nota aclaratoria”

Se me ha dicho, por parte de la autoridad eclesiástica, que uno de los últimos párrafos (fin de la Pág. 41 e inicio de la Pág. 42) ha sido interpretado por algunos como distanciamiento y hasta como una contradicción, por mi parte, de la enseñanza de la Iglesia Católica acerca de las calificadas como “parejas de hecho” (del mismo sexo), para las que los organismos legislativos de algunos Estados ya han aprobado o discuten actualmente lo que se ha dado en llamar “protección legal”. En algunos casos ha llegado a la equiparación con el matrimonio civil. La raíz de la interpretación parece estar en la frase “con respecto a las relaciones estables entre personas del mismo sexo, no veo dificultad en que sean protegidas por las leyes civiles, pero no me parece conveniente que esa nueva figura jurídica reciba el nombre de matrimonio, etc.” Esta frase (y el resto de este párrafo) están evidentes incluidos solamente per transennam, conociendo la situación actual de nuestro País, y habiendo escuchado, por más de una voz, cuáles son los debates al respecto en el seno de al Asamblea Nacional.

Resumen y referencia
a algunas secciones del artículo

En la primera página del artículo, pág. 29 del número de Palabra Nueva, hago la historia del texto, escrito en el año 2004 para un encuentro de Historia de la Iglesia en Camagüey, en el que no pude participar debido a mis malas condiciones de salud en aquel momento. No recuerdo si, habiendo enviado yo el texto, se leyó o no a los participantes. Luego el texto fue reelaborado para una conferencia, el 12 de julio pasado, en el Centro Cultural San Agustín, a mi cargo, y para la Revista Arquidiocesana Palabra Nueva (número Julio-Agosto 2007). En esa nota introductoria, en letra cursiva, aclaro que se trata sólo de “algunos señalamientos”, no del tema en toda su integridad, y añado: “El tema al que se refieren los mismos debería estar siempre ubicado en ámbito central de los contenidos de la Fe, de la ética y de la actitud Evangelizadora de la Iglesia”.

En la página siguiente (pág. 30), en un recuadro afirmo: “La realidad familiar tiene como punto de partida la realidad del matrimonio entre un hombre y una mujer, considerado como una institución natural, elevada a la condición de sacramento, o sea, signo eficaz de la acción salvífica de Dios”. En la página 33, en el marco del análisis bíblico, y también en un recuadro, afirmo: “El matrimonio monogámico e indisoluble parece haber estado vigente en la situación original de las tribus o grupos humanos que llegaron a constituir el pueblo de Israel”.

Después de un recorrido por textos del Antiguo Testamento y del Nuevo Testamento, relacionados con el matrimonio, en los que recalco su valor vinculante, y ya dentro de la presentación del tema en contexto patrístico, aparece también en recuadro: “Como todo sacramento, el Matrimonio hoy supone también una celebración litúrgica en la que se hacen presentes todos los componentes de la visión católica del mismo”. Pasando por los teólogos medievales y por las distintas escuelas, llegamos al Concilio de Trento, del que afirmo que dirimió para siempre las diversas opiniones acerca de la sacramentalidad o no del Matrimonio, a favor de la sacramentalidad (contra la opinión de la Reforma protestante), y en que la enseñanza tridentina acerca de esa sacramentalidad está en la base de toda enseñanza católica posterior, hasta nuestros días.

De la conclusión (pág. 41), me permito copiar un párrafo: “La Revelación, que debe regir siempre el pensamiento, la ética, la disciplina y, en general, las acciones de la Iglesia, terminó con los Apóstoles y sus discípulos que pusieron por escrito sus enseñanzas (…) En ese proceso –me refiero al proceso de interiorización del dato revelado por la acción del Espíritu en el tiempo de la Iglesia– se va construyendo una especie de sedimento estable con el que se constituye la Tradición. Así, con mayúscula. En ese sedimento estable entran componentes irrenunciables de la Fe y de la Ética cristiana. La evolución en la visión del Matrimonio hasta su comprensión contemporánea como uno de los sacramentos o signos de la Nueva Alianza, con las características recogidas en la actual disciplina canónica y desarrolladas por los teólogos dogmáticos y por los moralistas católicos, es uno de esos ejemplos”.

Después de diversas referencias a situaciones en el mundo contemporáneo que contradicen la enseñanza y disciplina católica del Matrimonio, dentro de las cuales está la “frase problemática” (pág. 42), añado: “La Iglesia no va a renunciar a los criterios establecidos por la Revelación y fijados por la Tradición, en la que el Magisterio Eclesiástico, convenientemente contextualizado, es un componente irrenunciable”. Esa sección continúa con referencias breves a otros sacramentos –Bautismo, Eucaristía…–, y a la pastoral adecuada para participar en ellos.

Observaciones personales:

1) En mi visión de este texto, la consideración del Matrimonio no se limita a cuestiones “formales”, sino y sobre todo a doctrina teológica y praxis canónica sustancial. La referencia a las “uniones de hecho” es solamente parte de las referencias a las discrepancias entre algunas situaciones contemporáneas y las enseñanzas de la Iglesia. Siempre en mi visión de este texto, la posibilidad de una protección legal, en ese contexto, no es más que la alusión –insisto, per transennam dicta– al menor mal posible ante una situación que prevemos. Por mi cabeza jamás pasó una confrontación con las enseñanzas de la Iglesia acerca del Matrimonio y la disciplina eclesiástica católica. Si, a pesar de una lectura atenta de todo el artículo, y no sólo de algún párrafo, y del análisis cuidadoso del mismo y de las frases resaltadas, personas que saben más que yo acerca del valor lingüístico y proyectivo de frases semejantes y que, simultáneamente, están en posiciones responsables de Jerarquía Eclesiástica, entienden que algunas frases pueden ser calificadas como inexactas o erróneas, disociadoras de la disciplina eclesiástica, ofensivas al Santo Padre o merecer cualquier otra calificación análoga, téngase entonces la frase o frases como no escrita, ni pronunciada. En ese caso, yo renunciaría a ella. Me retracto de ella y Dios me concederá la gracia de que se me borre del pensamiento. Yo sé que puedo errar en cuestión de formulaciones lingüísticas y en el ordenamiento de estrategias pastorales. Pero también sé que, por gracia de Dios y ejercicio de mi responsabilidad, no creo haber errado en cuestiones que tengan que ver con los contenidos de la Fe católica, entre los que incluyo –y muy gustosamente– mi adhesión afectuosa al Santo Padre.

2) Ahora bien, durante todos estos años me he desempeñado como sacerdote con muy diversos ministerios pastorales (párroco, profesor, Director del Secretariado General de la Conferencia Episcopal, secretario de la Comisión Episcopal para la Fe, también para el Ecumenismo; he tenido responsabilidades en el CELAM durante varios años y periodos y, desde hace ya varios años, soy Consultor del Consejo Pontificio para la Cultura). Nunca, ni en ningún lugar, me he sabido bajo sospechas en materia de Fe, disciplina eclesiástica o distanciamiento de las enseñanzas del Santo Padre. Resultaría un absurdo que ahora, de repente, anciano ya como soy, en el ocaso de mi vida útil, sorprenda a todos con una discrepancia eclesial en situación tan delicada como es la disciplina matrimonial y el apoyo a la familia. Pocas realidades aprecio y valoro tanto como el Matrimonio y la Familia, tal y como los presenta la Iglesia y como tuve la fortuna de vivirlos en mi propia familia. Y esto se sabe de sobra en los círculos en los que me he movido siempre. ¡Se necesita no haber “leído bien” el artículo y no conocerme para imaginar el dislate que ciertos resúmenes periodísticos, sobre todo digitales, me atribuyen!

Monseñor Carlos M. de Céspedes García-Menocal

La Habana, 4 de septiembre de 2007.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Carlos Manuel de Céspedes III

Look at him (if you can stand it). This gargoyle of a man is Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y García-Menocal, great-grandson and namesake of the Father of the Cuban Nation. He will be the last lineal descendent to carry his glorious name and the last also to besmirch it. The celibacy of the priesthood has been fruitful in his case because it brought an end to such abortions of Nature. I suspect, however, that whether he had become a priest or not this Carlos Manuel would have been the end of the line for his family (his younger brother, Manuel Hilario, is Bishop of Matanzas). The laws of Darwin, if not the laws of God, would have checked such a descent of the species. His will not be the first great family in history that thinned its blood through intermarriage till it produced nothing but pharaonic monsters. It is the pride of ancestry of great families which is often their undoing. The Bourbons, of course, are the classic modern instance. The last king of Cuba, Alfonso XIII, managed to produce one healthy son, the current king's father. To avoid more hemophiliacs, deaf mutes and imbeciles Juan Carlos' children all married commoners. Their offspring are not only all healthy, but, as a bonus at a time when royals compete with movie stars, they are attractive, too. It is too late, of course, to bring the house of Cespedes back from extinction. Perhaps it is better that the main line of the family should pass into history since it will never add to the fame of its immortal ancestor and may only detract from it.

This Carlos Manuel has done more than any of his illustrious family to bring discredit on his name. More even than his aunt, Céspedes' grandaughter, the French novelist Alba de Céspedes, who lived in Paris all her life except for a brief visit to Cuba in 1968 as Castro's "guest of honor" for the centenary of the Grito de Yara. Said she on that ocassion: "I am a Cuban who adores her country and is willing to be the 25th member of her family to die defending her and the Revolution." Alba never met her grandfather. That much we can say on both their behalfs.

Even if Msgr. Céspedes, Vicar General of the Havana Archdiocese and director of the Cuban Conference of Bishops, had never written one word in praise of Che Guevara, his obsequiousness to the regime over 50 years would have been a bar sinister that could never have been erased from the family crest. He has even accepted an official decoration from the regime for his efforts to maintain cordial relations between church and state in Cuba. Yet even those who know of his long history of collaboration with the Castro regime were unprepared for his hagiographic treatment of Che Guevara in Granma. It is doubtful that even the most slavish Communist panegyric would have plumbed the depths of sycophancy which the monsignor effortlessly reached.

Not only does this screed confirm the worst fears of those who believe, as I do, that the Catholic hierarchy in Cuba has been completely compromised by Cuban Intelligence; but it shows that it is not in the least ashamed of proclaiming that fact to all the faithful, in Granma, no less, as a lesson and admonishment to all of them. The fact that it has chosen to cast its lot with the regime, more than just a token of reflexive opportunism, constitutes an affirmation on its part that there is no other future for Cuba or the Cuban Church but absolute submission to the Castro clan. In the past, the Church has refused sanctuary to Castro's victims (though it once granted it to Castro himself in the wake of the Moncada Attack); it has admonished Cubans to respect "lawful authority;" joined Castro in denouncing the U.S. "blockade;" and even offered prayers for Castro's recovery. It has done that and much worse.

But never before Céspedes took pen in hand did the Church excuse or sanction the crimes of the Revolution or accept the Marxist dialectic as the only means to understand recent Cuban history. More even than the praise lavished on Guevara himself, the Robespierre of the Cuban Revolution, the Church has disavowed any connection to the suffering of the Cuban people and placed itself firmly on the side of their tormentors. This, of course, has always been its historical position (even before Castro came to power). But to see it embrace as a virtue what should be its greatest shame really does constitute a new high-water mark in self-debasement. Where contrition and penance should be the order of the day we are instead treated to an auto-da-fé on behalf of the Revolution.

Céspedes' "Personal Look at 'Che' Guevara on the 80th Anniversary of His Birth," published last week in Granma [June 13], begins with an anecdote about John Paul II, remembered indistinctly, and, as it turns out, incorrectly by the author. He situates the pope in an airplane, en route to Africa, when a reporter asks him an unexpected question:

"The question was a direct one: 'What does Your Holiness think about Che?' According to the article I read at the time, the Pope reflected in silence for a few seconds then broke it by saying, with enlightening simplicity, "I don't know him intimately, but I know he was concerned about the poor. Therefore, he deserves my respect."

Readers may recognize that particular quote as a reworking of Martí's famous critique of Marx, without, of course, Martí's closing condemnation.

Yet Céspedes does not lie. John Paul did praise "Che" Guevera in different but similar words. Except that it wasn't on a trip to Africa that he was asked about Guevara. It was during his visit to Cuba in January 1998. Céspedes might have witnessed the scene himself, or read about it in the Osservatore Romano, Spanish edition, 30 January 1998, p. 6:

"Otra periodista le preguntó [al papa], también en castellano, por su pensamiento sobre Che Guevara, un protagonista de la historia reciente de Cuba, a lo que su Santidad contestó: 'Ahora se halla ante el Tribunal de Dios. Dejemos a nuestro Señor el juicio sobre sus méritos. Ciertamente, estoy convencido que quería servir a los pobres.'"

"A journalist asked [the pope], also in Spanish, his thoughts on Che Guevara, a protagonist in recent Cuban history, to which His Holiness replied: 'He is now before God's Tribunal. Let's let our Lord judge his merits. I am certain that he wanted to serve the poor.'"

One wonders if Céspedes would have dared to be so brazen in his praise of Guevara if he did not have the pope's ingenuous remark behind which to hide. John Paul knew very little about Cuba and what little he did know was shaped by the propaganda in Polish communist newspapers. On one occasion, when the pope received in a public ceremony the credentials of Castro's ambassador to the Vatican, he engaged him in a long conversation about the "achievements" of the Cuban Revolution, which John Paul did not dispute but praised in the most fulsome terms, as if Communism had been good for Cuba in a way that it had not for Poland.

Unlike John Paul before his visit to Cuba, Céspedes himself cannot plead ignorance of the Cuban reality even if he, like all hierarchs, is largely shielded from it. He is a Cuban; a bad Cuban but a Cuban nevertheless. He knows perfectly well the destruction, spiritual and material, that Castro's anti-Cuban Revolution has wreaked on our country. He knows also the ominous role which Guevara played in the revolutionary process which turned Cuba into the charnel house of the Western world. He knows more about it than almost any Cuban (excepting the perpetrators) because over the last 50 years he has made dozens of trips abroad and never had to rely on the regime as his primary source of information on a past which he is more than old enough to remember.

Nevertheless, Céspedes has the effrontery to claim that as an seminarian in Havana in 1956 he was completely shut off from all sources of information about the outside world and notes proudly that seminarians today do not labor under his disadvantage in Cuba! He makes that assertion to explain why he did not sufficiently admire "Che" at that time: it was simply because he did not know as much about him as he did about Castro, whom we suppose he did sufficiently admire.

For Céspedes, Guevara is still the most "enigmatic figure" of the leaders of the Cuban Revolution. That much, at least, is true. He knew nothing about him then and he knows nothing about him now. In fact, Céspedes actually laments never having had the opportunity to meet him personally. He should be glad their paths never crossed because the Argentine would surely not have been impressed by the name "Carlos Manuel de Céspedes." But not to fret. Msgr. Céspedes did have a very good friend who knew Guevara intimately and was glad to share his insights about him. His name? Manuel "Barbarroja" Piñeiro. Yes, the only man who may personally have shed more innocent blood in Cuba and elsewhere than Guevara himself, the head of the Central Committee's Americas Department, the monstrous "Redbeard" himself! If one wants to understand Guevara, there is no better "living primer" than "Redbeard," although any other serial killer would do almost as well. But Céspedes did not take advantage of the opportunity to study Piñeyro's pathology in order to understand Che's. Instead, he chose to see Guevara through Piñeyro's eyes. That is, he internalized the pathology in order to judge Guevara. It cannot surprise anyone that his verdict was entirely favorable:

"When judging a person's deeds, we should not avoid motivations that he or she had in commiting those deeds, in taking a certain attitude toward life. Che is no exception. The excesses that he may have committed in the framework of that "concern" are one thing; what men or groups do for the unjust reasons of selfishness and unbridled ambition is another, of a very different nature."

Let's see if we can actually make any sense of what Céspedes writes. He is a little obtuse here. Elsewhere we shall see, however, that he can be crystal clear. He tells us that we should not overlook a person's motivations when judging their acts. Well, yes and no. Motivations are important, but the act itself is more important when judging the act. If the deed a man commits is murder, premedidated and in cold blood, and without justification of any kind, what possible motives could there be that would explain much less justify the act itself? Would "cracking eggs" (or exploding heads) provide such a motive? Would becoming an "efficient killing machine" be enough to justify it? Is there any kind of "attitude towards life" that would justify the arbitrary termination of another's life? Is there any "framework" in which we can place murder that would transform it into a just "concern?" Well, Céspedes seems to think so. And what are these motivations that excuse Guevara's "excesses?" Or, rather, what "unjust reasons" were not manifest in his conduct: "Selfishness and unbridled ambition."

So there you have it:

"Thou shalt commit no murder except it be done without selfishness and unbridled ambition."

Elsewhere, as I've noted, Msgr. Céspedes is very forthright and does not require the services of an annotator besides a few punctuation marks and a word or two:

"All [!] the references coincide in affirming [Che Guevara's] almost rash daring in face of [other people's] danger, as well as his spirit of discipline."

"Almost everyone [!] also valued, since that time, the consistency between his convictions and his actions in life.

"He was said [!] to have a Marxist-oriented political culture, which for many Cubans of the time was an obstacle to regarding him positively. I admit that for me, that was not so much the case [!], because although I disagreed with his lack of a metaphysical philosophy and with his denial of the limits Marxism, I sympathized with the emphasis on socialism [!!!]. Obviously, Marxism was not, and is not, my philosophical/political orientation, but then neither was, or is, anti-communism, more visceral than rational [!!!]."

"I personally, related his presence within the Cuban Revolution with that of many other foreigners who collaborated with our 19th century independence movements, above all with that of Máximo Gómez [!!!]."

"...[M]y admiration [for Guevara] also increased in face of his existential and intellectual consistency, as well as his social sensitivity."

Céspedes began this diatribe by channelling John Paul II's ghost, and he ends it, naturally enough, by recoursing to that great exponent of "anti-communism, more visceral than rational:"

"All roads now merge for me in the comment by John Paul II quoted at the beginning of this reflection. Almost everything about Che should be contemplated in the light of his consistent and radical actions in defense of the poor; of his passion for what we used to call "social justice." So consistent and radical was his passion, so razor-sharp, that it led him to make the offering of his own life. And when an upright man goes to those extremes, the disagreements with him acquire another tone, because such a man deserves not only respect, but deep admiration."

It is a precept of the Catholic Church -- not that Céspedes is much of a Catholic -- that it is not enough for a man to die for his beliefs: he must embrace martyrdom willingly and die for a just cause. Guevara did not die "in the defense of the poor" unless one considers increasing their poverty and eliminating their freedom to be services rendered to them. Nor did he willingly "offer his life" but begged for mercy as none of the hundreds whom he shot ever did. Nor did he die with the cry of "Viva Cristo Rey" on his lips, as his victims, uneulogized by Msgr. Céspedes, did.

Msgr. Carlos Manuel de Cespedes is a disgrace to his God, his country, his family and the human species. Such a man deserves nothing but disdain and to be forgotten, and that only in deference to his name.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Elián Is Still a Victim

I visited Uncommon Sense today and was very pleased to discover that Marc Másferrer no longer divides his Cuban Blogroll into "First Tier" and "Second Tier" blogs. We had chastened him before for such an uncharacteristic display of elitism, not to mention bad judgment, since he had actually consigned RCAB to the "Second-Tier."

Since then Marc has become Babalú's most independent contributor, challenging Val Prieto whenever he goes too far in his penchant to extract a pound (or 10, 20 or 30 lbs) of flesh from every Cuban who doesn't freely shed his blood on his (Val's) behalf. We could take that as an encouraging sign of glasnost at Babalú except for the fact that Marc is the only one of its 15 contributing editors who has ever voiced any objection to Val's well-known plan to render the Cuban people in a pressure cooker. We are today baptizing (excuse the pun) Val's pressure cooker theory as the "Hatuey Option." The "Hatuey Option," of course, succeeded only in making Cuba's indigenous population extinct. Castro, also, needless to say, has his own "Hatuey Option."

But to return to Marc. He has a post today about one of the youngest Cuban dissidents, 11-year old Raumel Vinajera Montoya, who defended "Las Damas de Blanco" in class when his teacher described them as "yankee mercenaries." The boy's family was subsequently visited by a state psychologist and social worker who threatened to put a "black mark" on his school dossier. Those familiar with Armando Valladares' autobiography know what can befall an 11-year boy in Castro's prisons who gets such a "black mark."

Marc performs an invaluable service to Cuban dissidents and the cause of freedom by highlighting cases such as Raumel's which might otherwise receive little or no publicity. He committed, however, a grave error in judgment himself by contrasting Raumel's conduct to Elián González's:

"Cuba's most famous teenager, Elian González, is now an official communist. Here's guessing 11-year-old Raumel Vinajera Montoya will not be joining him anytime soon, despite the best efforts of the dictatorship's 'psychologists' and 'social workers.'"

And again at the close:

"You have to give the dictatorship credit. With its strong-armed tactics, it knows how to start shaping the minds of Cubans while they are still young, whether it is a future communist big-shot like Elian Gonzalez or a future freedom fighter like Raumel Vinajera."

Personally, I have always avoided starting a sentence with: "You have to give the dictatorship credit." But what I object to is the suggestion that Elián has somehow been "tainted" or become "damaged goods" by his enforced association with the Castro regime. What exactly do we expect of him? Elián has been a literal prisoner since the moment he was deported to Cuba 8 years ago. His "security detail" is probably larger now than Fidel's. If the U.S. government would not protect him and his own father fed him to the wolves, what exactly is it that we expect this hapless boy to do to prove to us that he is still a victim? In fact, he doesn't have to prove a thing.

Elián is a victim of Fidel Castro no less today than he was when he was kidnapped at gunpoint and delivered to his tender mercies. Whatever atrocities might be visited on Raumel have already been visited on him. Even before he set foot in Cuba again, Elián was being administered psychiatric drugs while living in the home of Castro's (and Clinton's) lawyer Greg Craig, now Obama's adviser on Latin America. In fact, a doctor sent from Cuba to treat him was apprehended at the airport with a bag full of mind-altering drugs. Once back in Cuba, Elián disappeared from view for 3 months while he was interred in a psychiatric hospital. For years afterward his face exhibited the blank expression of one who was heavily medicated and emotionally drained of life. He was also forced endured to endure the indignity of becoming Fidel's marionette and the poster child of the "New Boy" and now "New Youth." As if watching his mother being eaten alive by sharks and seeing his father castrated was not trauma enough for a lifetime.

Elián is still as much a victim at 14 as he was at 6. He will always be a victim of the Castro regime and its American accomplices even when and if he becomes a Communist "big-shot."

Friday, June 20, 2008

Elián's Never-Ending Saga

The Americans that favored the return of Elián to Communist Cuba wanted to see the boy reunited with his father even if it was in hell, and they all knew that it was hell that awaited him in Cuba. Every poll that has ever been taken since 1961 about the attitude of Americans towards Communist Cuba or Fidel Castro has shown that better than 85% disapproved of both. Despite the media's best (worst) efforts over 50 years to deny the reality of Communist Cuba, Americans were never fooled. Why, then, knowing the nature of the Castro regime, did they nonetheless wish to see Elián thrown down the same well from which he was miraculously rescued?

It wasn't because they felt any kind of sympathy for the boy, who should, of course, have commanded sympathy even from the stones given the tragic circumstances of his sojourn to this country and the forces that coalesced against him here to deprive him of freedom and insure his destruction.

Nor do I believe their general attitude towards him had anything to do with the sacredness of the paternal bond or parental rights. Both are abused enough in this country for there to be tens of millions of poster kids for these causes other than Elián, whose peculiar situation bore no relation to these constructs as understood in this country. The paternal bond in Cuba is superceded by the State's propitiary claims over the lives and persons of every Cuban, child or not, and parental rights as understood in the U.S. do not exist since no rights of any kind can be exercised in Cuba contrary to the interests of the State.

What, then, motivated the frenzy to return Elián to Communist Cuba?

The desire of Americans to rid themselves of the littlest "illegal immigrant" (which Elián never was).

The Know-Nothing xenophobia that was predicated by the history professor from Georgia, Newt Gingrich, was responsible for creating the climate in this country that allowed the deportation -- for such it was, and at gunpoint, no less -- of Elián González to Castro's untender mercies. It was Gingrich who dehumanized foreigners, especially children, by supporting legislation that would have deprived "anchor babies" of citizenship, barred them from schools, or, at least, deprived them of their school lunch. Clinton tapped into the hatred that Gingrich had exploited when he mobilized all the resources of the government with the expressed purpose of making this innocent child the scapegoat for this country's failure to control its borders. The "Dry Foot/Wet Foot" policy also scapegoated Cuban refugees for a crisis in illegal immigration that had nothing to do with them since a 30-year old law known as the Cuban Adjustment Act (1966) sanctioned the admission of all Cuban refugees to this country as legal residents. Ironically, it was Elián and all future balseros who ultimately paid the price for Gingrich's xenophobia and Clinton's opportunism. Meanwhile, 10 million illegal immigrants entered the U.S. from other countries than Cuba and have never been penalized for it and likely never will (or should) be.

Today, in Little Havana, a day prior to Obama's visit to Miami, Elián's great-uncle, Delfín González, will hold a press conference to denounce the fact that two of the principal actors in the Elián affaire, Greg Craig and Eric Holder, are now key advisers to Barack Obama. The-then Assistant Attorney General Eric Holder, who planned the logistics of Elián's kidnapping, is now in charge of the advisory committee that will vet Obama's running-mate and is likely to be named Attorney General in a future Obama administration. Castro's (and Clinton's) lawyer and longtime unregistered agent of influence of the Cuban regime, Greg Craig, who ostensibly represented Elián's father and provided a "safe haven" to father and son in his own house under the surveillance of Castro agents from the Cuban Interests Section, is now Obama's advisor on Latin America and probable choice for Under-Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs.

Although I agree that it is important that Cuban-Americans be made aware of this situation, if there is any one foolish enough even to consider voting for Obama given his pledge to negotiate with Raúl without prior conditions, I don't think the González's denunciation will have much impact outside Miami or New Jersey.

Nothing has changed in the last eight years; if anything, the xenophobia has only deepened. I don't believe that Americans feel the least pangs of conscience about Elián's fate. Over the last eight years he has been seen on Fidel's lap at mass rallies; giving public speeches on behalf of the regime; and this week being inducted into the Young Communist League, which, if you believe CNN, means that he will have a "bright future" as one of Cuba's elites.

None of those who brought about that "bright future" for Elián has been asked his reaction to the predictable turn that Elián's life has taken.

Really, what could they say?

"I thought he would be turned in a Castroite puppet."


"I didn't think he would be turned into a Castroite puppet."

Neither answer says much for their judgment.

Of course, there is a worse one:

"I am happy that Elián is a Young Communist."

The Miami Herald contends that Barack Obama, then an Illinois legislator, took no position at the time on the Elián case. He would have been the only politician, great or small, who didn't. But even and especially if that were true, he should be asked whether he would have done what Clinton did; and, in retrospect, knowing what (inevitably) befell Elián, whether he thinks Clinton made the right decision.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fidel Castro Is Now Deaf and Mute

Fidel Castro is dying by installments and it is hard to decide whether to wish him a quick release (which, sadly, his death will not mean for the Cuban people) or to let him linger as long as his brother does, letting him suffer those thousand deaths of a coward which he has so richly earned. Since man can die only once, it is the loss of his faculties, one by one, that constitutes this multitudinous death of cowards. The loss of his ability to excrete, which turned inward the maleficent rain that had been pouring on the Cuban people ever since he first opened his mouth in a public forum, was a poetic start. Few men in history have worn out their anus. The proof, if any is needed, is that even Fidel's brother has managed to keep his.

This was followed by the visible diminishment of his mental faculties. His toadies always marvelled at this encyclopedic knowledge. Undoubtedly, he did have a vast capacity for accumulation but was nearly retarded when it came to the assimilation of that knowledge. The encyclopedia that sits on your bookshelf is not a living organism. Neither was Fidel's brain. Now that library of arcane trivia and truncated statistics has shut down. Accumulating at its door are fliers and yellowed newspapers and it is these which are the only sources at his command now. Fidel has lost the ability to impress useful idiots with his diffuse knowledge. He can now only continue that illusion with his silence. But this is not the reason that the audio was turned off in his latest televised appearance this week.

The reason is that Fidel is deaf and quickly becoming mute as well.

In his latest video, the first issued in 6 months, Fidel is shown wearing a hearing aid. His artificial anus may have come from South Korea but his hearing aid was definitely manufactured in North Korea. It looks as if it were made from the broken off corner of an old transistor radio. But even that is not the most compelling proof of his deafness. It is his inability to articulate words clearly anymore and the exaggerated contorsions of his mouth and face, which are intended to compensate for the indistinctness of his speech, that betray and confirm his advancing deafness. The more animated his speech the less actual speech there is. A man needs to hear himself speak to know what he is saying. If all he hears is mumbling or even silence, then his speech will deteriorate until it becomes incomprehensible to others. Fidel has clearly reached that stage. His listeners, of course, may catch a word or two, or think that they do, and elaborate their answers accordingly, and he, in turn, may guess at what they are saying too and answer in the same vein. But the string is frayed and almost broken and the cans are rusty and filled with holes. In such circumstances it is better to turn off the sound and let the viewers also participate in this game of charades by imagining what it is that Fidel is telling Raúl and Chávez.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Notable & Not Me: Babalú Admonished on Babalú for 2nd Outing of Killcastro

"I've read that list before from several people. It's scary to think that our enemies have achieved so much, in so little time (40 years, more or less since the Cuban missile crisis).

I have a question for you Val. Why did you leak KC´s name again? Do you realize that one of his family members had a cracked skull as a result? Do you really care, as you say you do, about the Cuban people (including KC's family & CB's family)? If you do, why did you risk his family getting killed again by the DGSE?

It's one thing to have a professional disagreement with somebody on how to proceed forward about a subject such as Cuba. It is another thing to intentionally leak someone's real name, knowing full well what can happen as a result. I would ask you to a) clarify your views towards the Cuban people (all Cubans, including those still on the island) and b) issue a public apology to the two men whose families you have put in real danger, through a post on this blog.

Posted by: Matt at Babalú, June 18, 2008 10:37 AM

No, I have not made an excursion into enemy territory, nor have I authorized such an excursion. A reader of this blog and student of Babalú, obviously, has undertaken that mission on behalf of truth and justice and I commend him (or her) for it.

Needless to say, the comment was deleted. I am more surprised that it was initially approved by one of its 17 principals. Is there a resistance movement growing within Babalú's "magnificent cadre of writers? " Let us just say that we have felt some stirrings in that direction lately.

The post where Matt's comment briefly appeared ("Quotalicious") reproduced yet again Cleon Skousen's 45 Goals of Communism. On a previous occasion, a week before I was booted from Babalú, I had in fact offered 5 more Cuba-specific Communist goals which have also been realized since 1963:

46. Give aid and comfort to Marxist revolutionaries and betray your allies fighting against them.

47. Fight wars by proxy against Communism and betray the freedom fighters.

48. Become the guarantor of Communism in small client-states of the Soviet Union.

49. Allow those small Soviet client-states to revolutionize at will your client-states.

50. Determine the justice of granting asylum to refugees from Communism by whether their foot is dry or wet.

Now I could well add a 51st:

Offer to negotiate without prior conditions with America's Communist enemies, which they will rightly perceive as an unconditional surrender.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Well, One of Them Is Enjoying It Anyway (And Not the One We Would Expect)

The self-described inventor of the internet and real life Captain Planet, still as wooden and expansive as an inflatable totem pole, has endorsed Barack Obama for president when there was nothing else left for him to do but lumberously climb on the wheel-less bandwagon. The future Anti-Energy Czar, whose prescription for the oil crisis (that is, the crisis of consumption), is higher, not lower, oil prices, hailed Obama as the Tom Cruise of the new scientology, which, like the old, is also science fiction masquerading as science and paganism masquerading as religion.

There has been some speculation about Al Gore as a possible vice-presidential candidate. "Been there and done that" would seem the logical response from Gore. Still, he might be tempted for the same reason that Hillary so desperately wants the nod herself. And she's not the only liberal hoping to succeed Obama in his first term. Well, you will never go bankrupt underestimating their ability to underestimate their countrymen. Gore would balance the Democratic ticket -- the liberal child of privilege coupled with the liberal child of underprivilege; ominous experience coupled with ominous inexperience; the crackpot with the the apprentice of crackpots.

The Second Outing of Killcastro

Babalú controls a very large galaxy in the Cuban-American blogosphere. If you would know the names of its many satellites, you have but to read its "Cubiche Blogroll." Of course, not all of its tributary stars are the same size and weight. A dozen or so blogs, whose editors have been invited to join Babalú's "magnificent cadre of writers," constitute a confederacy of its own. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with that. Nothing at all. It is known as free association and is one of the reasons that we are here and not in Cuba.

But it is one thing to choose our own compañeros and quite another to force our choices on others. This is, in effect, what Val did by outing Killcastro on his own blog 2 months ago and repeating the same chivateria here over the weekend. Apparently, the results of the initial outing, a cracked skull and a stint in jail for Killcastro's relatives in Cuba, gave Val a moment's entertainment but did not achieve his goal of silencing him.

Killcastro's independent voice, the first to challenge Babalú's monopoly of opinion, was feared by Val even before the veneer of civility that had first characterized their relations melted under the seething resentments concealed beneath. Val's insecurity was the fuel that ignited those resentments. He tried at first to co-opt Killcastro and Charlie Bravo, too, by inviting them to write for Babalú and was greatly displeased when they both declined. Val has an assimilationist mindset: he prefers to bind potential rivals to him rather than fight them, which not only supplies his deficiencies but assures that he will not become vulnerable because of them. For the most part, he has been successful in neutralizing would-be challengers and avoiding conflicts where he would be at a disadvantage (with one really big miscalculation).

His overtures to Killcastro and Charlie proved unavailing. They knew better than to form any kind of connection with him, which offered nothing to them but the opportunity to lend creds to him and share in his gaffes. Rejection is unacceptable to Val as it is to all who share his insecurities. Killcastro, who had never personally challenged Val except by his refusal to become his satellite, became by virtue of his rejection an enemy.

Since he could not induce Killcastro to join him in calling for the blood of Cubans to be shed in expiation of Castro's sins, or in defending the "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" policy or George Bush's "get tough with the Cuban people" approach to undermining Castro, Val, after endeavoring to isolate and proscribe his blog, decided that the affront of Killcastro's authenticity, and, worst of all, the influence of his example, had to stamped out at any cost (that is, at any cost to Killcastro).

So he did it. Outed Killcastro on his own blog.

RCAB devoted 20 consecutive posts to excoriating this unprecedented act of perfidy and its author. Others joined us in decrying Val's conduct and even a few in Babalú's own orbit wrote to Killcastro disassociating themselves from Val's act if not from Val himself.

Frankly, we did not think that there would be a sequel. Not that I thought Val had learned his lesson. Still, I thought it likely that he would want to put some space between himself and this episode, and allow those naturally disposed to forget the opportunity to do so. Instead, Val deputized the malleable fantomas again, the Barney Fife of Cuban bloggers and Babalú's "weakest link," and authorized him to launch yet another attack on Killcastro. Although it was hardly necessary, Val bullied and even banned fantomas from Babalú to make sure that he would be susceptible to his brandishments. The threat of removing fantomas' blog from its conspicuous place on Babalú's blogroll secured his collaboration though he's more than a little afraid of Killcastro, whom he ridiculed publicly at the time of his first outing while assuring him of his support in e-mails. As fantomas has stated here before, he cannot "afford" to lose Babalú's patronage.

Fantomas, who has as much tact as a child, first announced that he would be leaving RCAB forever, which news our resident experts on fantomas, his ertwhile keepers in The Madhouse, Vana and Agustín, received with the skepticism and ridicule which such an announcement from such a party merited. Fantomas then donned his most familiar "disguise" as "Anonymous." He, of course, fools no one. He thinks one has to check Sitemeter to identify him. Yet, really, why would one have to? Every comment of fantomas' whether signed or not is marked with his DNA. He may not be his own man but he is certainly his own character, unmistakable in any guise and only more obviously himself when he tries to be someone else. As a final precaution before carrying out his assigned mission, fantomas wrote to Killcastro offering him a putrid olive branch, which was not accepted. If anything this was a warning that fantomas was up to no good.

The second outing of Killcastro was more persistent than the first. Val's attack was strictly a hit and run. Fantomas' was also, except that he kept coming back to the scene of the crime as if he thought, or had instructions, to back his car over and over the hapless victim. Those of us familiar with fantomas' antics will not doubt the pleasure that he derived from this exercise.

I could have delegated his comments to The Madhouse or even deleted them because I do not consider yelling "Fire!" in a theatre to be protected speech. But this would not have stopped fantomas, who has more identities than he does opinions. Killcastro and Charlie, who will be undertaking an important trip shortly, found it necessary to close their blog for the duration so that fantomas would not use the occasion to compromise them or their families.

Their readers and ours, who tend to be the same people, need not fear that Killcastro and Charlie Bravo have quit the field. They will return shortly to settle accounts with those who have conspired against them and the dignity of all Cubans.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Father of José Martí

Last year, on Father's Day, we posted a tribute to José Martí's father, whose place in his son's life has often been diminished by historians. Some have even perpetrated the myth of an unsympathetic or indifferent father whose allegiance to his native Spain put him and kept him at odds with his son. There have even been those who have suggested that Mariano Martí was an abusive father. Nothing could be a greater injustice. The devotion of this simple man to his son was a source of strength and pride for Martí all his life:

Martí's Father (June 17, 2007)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Will Freedom Come to Babalú Before It Comes to Cuba?

After several hundred posts with nary a comment among them, the Babalunians have arrived at an important conclusion. It is that dissent cannot be completely suppressed without silencing at the same time all commentary on their blog except from the "Hallelujah chorus" which is as well-rehearsed and redundant as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing carols in July.

Last night, a certain BoricuaEnLaLuna, a straw man if ever there was one, landed on Babalú and was welcomed with all the honors. Yes, they poured the usual abuse on him, which he received with perfect nonchalance while himself spouting more provocative nonsense than even Val could pack in ten of his "rants." But the Babalunians, led by George, also addressed and refuted, logically and methodologically, his ludicrous contention that it is possible to admire "Che" or Fidel for their putative "good intentions" while acknowledging (and dismissing) their actual deeds. But, as Martí said, a man's eloquence is in his deeds, not in his words (something to remember about Barack Obama, too). If deeds do not support the words, then the words are meaningless, or worse than meaningless, the smokescreen that facilitates the deeds.

There really is nothing to admire about "Che" Guevara. His words (BoricuaEnLaLuna is fond of bromides like "Hasta la victoria siempre") are barely intelligible except when he is rhapsodizing about man as a "killing machine." As for the myth of the "Heroic Guerrilla," it is impossible to reconcile it with the actual facts of Guevara's life. How "heroic" is a man who tried to commit suicide with his own rifle when he heard that the "Yankees had landed" in 1961 and begged for his life when captured in Bolivia as no prisoner that he executed ever did?

The Babalunians have too long been occupied with their Che-tee shirt fetish, fighting Guevara from department store to department store across this land, while ignoring the propaganda that is the basis of his legend. They argue (and it is true) that the pasty-faced fools who don them don't know for the most part who Guevara was and what he did. They don't realize, however, that the solution is not to take their tee-shirts away but to disabuse them of their illusions about Che's image. This requires, of course, acquainting them with the real Che, that is, replacing ignorance with knowledge.

On Friday, they showed that this is not beyond them. Or, at least, that it is not beyond most of them. We hold out no hope for Val, because, as we have seen in his recent exchanges with LittleGator, he considers calling a man an "asshole" to be a polemical coup de grace. Henry, who does have the debating skills, prefers to "refute" BoricuaEnLaLuna by offending all Puerto Ricans.

If BoricuaEnLaLuna will stick around and others of his ilk surface because of the tolerance shown to him, and if Val and Henry can control the urge to sabotage their own work, Babalú's "Comments" section may again be instinct with life and the blog itself recover some measure of respectability and relevance. If, however, the Babalunians continue to abuse but not refute others like BoricuaEnLaLuna, they will surrender the high ground to them and do the cause of Cuban freedom no service.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Will Babalú Be the "Lastest with the Leastest" When Fidel's Death Is Announced? That is Val's Dread

There is a crisis at Babalú. The Founding Editor and the Managing Editor are in conference at El Intransijente [sic]. Besides the usual statemate about who will pick up the check, something else weighs heavily on their minds. Charlie Bravo has reported on Killcastro that Fidel underwent an emergency operation last night for an undisclosed ailment and that his doctors had debated whether to put him in an induced coma, which usually indicates swelling of the brain. Charlie received this privileged information from Killcastro's contacts on the ground in Cuba.

Our readers will recall that earlier this year Val Prieto disclosed Killcastro's real identity on his own blog setting off a chain of events that culminated in a cracked skull for one of Killcastro's relatives in Cuba and a stint in jail for another. Now Val is in a quandary. The very informants whose lives he compromised, at great peril to themselves due to Val's outing of Killcastro, have reported that Fidel Castro is in extremis.

This news greatly distressed Val, not because he doesn't long for it to be true, but because he can't stand the idea that he's not going to be the first to report the long-awaited news after so many dry runs. Getting there "firstest with the mostest" is an obsession with Val and the prospect that he might just be "lastest with the leastest" is more than he can stand. Last time Val paired off with PerezHilton, Henry's classmate from Belén2, to sound the false alarm that had to be shot down by the White House on a Friday afternoon, no less. In August.

Well, it's Friday again. Friday the 13th, in fact. (The number "13" and its double have always been regarded by Fidel himself as the loadstars of his life). And Val is again contemplating whether to announce orbe ex urbe Fidel's death. The stakes are high. He has cried wolf one too many times. It would also be tawdry in the extreme to steal Killcastro's thunder when Val's past actions have hardly been those of a friend. Still, this may be the scoop that he's savored all these years and it may just be getting away from him. Val wants to strike whether the iron is hot or cold. Henry is trying his best to restrain him, but for how much longer?


"One day we're gonna be right [about Castro's death]. " -- Henry Louis Gómez

Yes, everybody dies.

But what matters is not that Castro is mortal. That is not in dispute.

What matters is being certain that he is dead before reporting it as a fact.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

RCAB News: The U.S. Department of Justice Visits

Today is obviously the day for distinguished visitors. This morning the Vatican made a pilgrimage here. And just now, at 6:11:19 PM, RCAB was visited by (US Dept of Justice). Sad to say, they did not come to read the previous post but landed on my biographical sketch of Obama with accompanying photograph of baby Baracka and his mother:

Barack Obama: The Future Is the Past

The Supreme Court Ends the Other Tyranny on Cuban Soil

The United States would never think of violating Cuban sovereignty again by removing the tyrant it installed 50 years ago in our country, but it has no problem usurping that very sovereignty by committing atrocities on Cuban soil which U.S. law would prohibit on U.S. territory.

Guantánamo Naval Base, of course, is Cuban territory under U.S. jurisdiction. It was leased "in perpetuity" in 1901 as a naval coaling station during the U.S. Occupation of the island that followed the Spanish-American War. The U.S. refused to end its occupation unless Cuba's Constituent Assembly approved the lease of Guantánamo and incorporated the Platt Amendment into the new Cuban Constitution. Actually, the Americans originally wanted ten bases in Cuba. It was a pyrrhic victory that Cubans were able to keep them to one.

Under international law, then as now, the U.S. could not just take a chunk of Cuban territory as recompense for "liberating it." France, after all, did not claim Chesapeake Bay as its due for winning America's independence at Yorktown in 1789. Nor, do I think, will the U.S. claim the oil fields in Iraq as compensation for liberating it. Back in 1901, however, the U.S. was just getting its bearings as an imperialist power and pretty much did as it wanted in regard to its pseudo-colonies. That "lease in perpetuity" was a triumph of American gunboat diplomacy. Under international law, no such thing ever existed before or since.

No doubt the U.S. would have returned Guantánamo to Cuban jurisdiction at the time it agreed to cede the Panama Canal to Panama except for Fidel Castro. The Panama Canal Zone, where, incidentally, John McCain was born during his father's term of service there, was indeed U.S. territory, not "leased" from the Panamanians. Guantánamo is not. It is that legal fact which allowed the Bush administration to subvert the Constitution and the Rule of Law by aping the worst abuses of Fidel Castro in the land where, apparently, all rights end for everybody.

Since Castro does it to his own people, Bush figured that he was also entitled to torture his enemies on Cuban soil, deprive them of all rights under the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Convention, and, without bringing charges against them in an American court, hold them indefinitely as the U.S. once did the Mariel excludables. Infinitely worse than the internment of the Japanese during World War II as "enemy aliens," the confinement of these 270 political prisoners under truly inhuman conditions and in violation of all norms of international law has weakened the U.S. position as an advocate of human rights throughout the world and led directly to the revamping of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which in the past had condemned Communist Cuba but which is now controlled by its terrorist allies, and the election of a Sandinista relique as president of the General Assembly. George Bush not only did great damage to this country but empowered, indeed, resurrected its enemies when he agreed to stand on the same moral plane with them.

Today the Supreme Court restored America's moral equilibrium when it ruled that the detainees at Guantánamo have the right to challenge their detentions in U.S. Courts. In a 5-4 decision, it struck down the parts of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that would have created special military tribunals to hear their cases. Under the provisions of this Act the detainees would not have been allowed access to the evidence against them and hence would not have been able to refute it (if, in fact, any such evidence existed). It is the closest that the U.S. has ever come to establishing star chambres since the Sedition Act of 1798. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that "The laws and the Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, even in extraordinary times." We should all hope so.

RCAB News: A Visit from the Vatican

A visit from [Holy See (Vatican City State)] this morning at 5:52:23 PM. They used to search for "Catholic martyrs against Communism." Glad that someone there is still interested.

Read the articles that the pope (or a seminarian) read:

Notable & Unbelievable: "I Know What Newt Thinks Better than Newt"

"Great video of Newt, damn I'm pissed that he didn't run for president, talking about oil. Except for the last bit about the incredibly flexible theory of man-made global warming. I have to believe that he doesn't really buy into that garbage. If he does then it invalidates the whole first part of the video." -- Henry Louis Gómez, "Common Sense About Oil," Babalú, June 12, 2008

Henry's new mission in life is to solve the oil crisis. Anything that consumes some of his time and commandeers some of his brain matter to a subject other than Cuba is always welcome. Today he has posted a video of Newt Gingrich with a curious caption. First, of course, he laments that Gingrich "didn't run for president." I was under the impression that he did and nobody wanted him. In any case, if Newt had won the nomination, it would have been a hard call for me which to repudiate the most, the white or the black mountebank. Henry does not remember that Newt was the architect of the resurgence of xenophobia in this country with Hispanics targetted as the new blacks. But Henry can excuse a lot of things in his idols. He even forgives Newt's embrace of global warming because he "has to believe that [Newt] doesn't buy into that garbage." He doesn't give Bush or McCain the benefit of the doubt when they repeat the standard received wisdom about global warming. I guess that Henry really has to like a guy to believe that he's insincere.

Babaloo's Waterloos: Fanning the Flames of Xenophobia at Refugee Blog

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cuban-American History 901: The Virginia Ham

Monday, Dec. 08, 1947

Good Will

Flying a stripped-down P-51, Pilot Woodrow ("Woody") Edmondson had rushed the gift from Washington to Havana in a record-breaking 3½ hours. A palace photographer was on hand to snap the presentation — of a fine 15-lb. ham from Virginia's Governor William Tuck to Cuba's President Ramón Grau San Martín. Unwittingly, Virginia's Tuck had given habaneros their joke of the month.

When Cubans want to say a politician has been grafting, they say está en el jamón—he's in the ham. That was why last week's picture of Grau receiving the Virginia ham was good for Page One of Prensa Libre. Other papers and the radio joined the fun. So did Grau himself. Said he to his friend Congressman Primitivo Rodríguez: "Primitivo, I'll give you a good slice."


Grau was famous for his dry wit in Cuba and beyond, as this "news bite" from Time Magazine shows. A thousand anecdotes in a similar vein could be told about him and some like this one would actually be true. But Grau was more than just a colorful personality. When he took the oath of office in 1933, Grau, a university professor installed as president by his students, refused to swear allegiance to the 1901 Constitution because it contained the Platt Amendment and instead swore allegiance to the Cuban people. 28 U.S. warships in Havana Harbour waited the order to land. It never came. Instead, a year later Cuba and the U.S. signed a protocal abrogating the Platt Amendment.

Grau's first (and only) "Hundred Days" in office were the most productive in Cuban history in terms of social legislation thanks to his minister of the interior Antonio Guiteras y Holmes, who created Cuba's version of the "New Deal" before Roosevelt coopted Mussolini's programme. The other signal event of Grau's administration was the promotion of a sergeant named Batista to colonel-in-chief of the Army. Batista then removed Grau.

Ironically, after losing to Batista for president in 1940, Grau became his successor four years later when Batista presided over free elections that saw his own handpicked candidate defeated. Grau's second administration, which his followers believed would be a continuation of his first, was instead rife with corruption and anarchy. But even the venality of public officials and the unchecked lawlessness of gangsters like Fidel Castro could not slow down the progress that was already integral and self-perpetuating in Cuba. Nothing, indeed, could ever have stopped it except the destruction of the republic and imposition of a communist regime on the island.

Jamón of all kinds was plentiful in Cuba before the Revolution and was not the limit of a man's aspirations in life but the foretaste of bigger and better things to come. Jamón was never as literal then as it is today. When one says that someone "está en el jamón" today it literally means that ham is not a figment of imagination as it is for most Cubans. Before 1959, practically everybody was "en el jamón" in Cuba if we limit the definition to the pork product. Cubans were also the third-largest per capita consumers of beef in the hemisphere, after Argentina and Uruguay, the world's biggest. So, yes, neither ham nor beef were the rarities on the Cuban table that they are today and eating a bistec was not punishable by 10 years in prison nor eating a ham an existential experience in the Cuba of yesteryear.

I find it alike unacceptable to hear Cubans from the island speaking resentfully of the ham which exiles consume here (as if the governor of Virginia sent us all hams) as I do when Val Prieto asserts that Cubans on the island are not supposed to want ham much less eat it, which, true to form, he does in a post entitled "Everybody Wants Ham." It is Val's fantasy that Communist Cuba is some kind of voluntary "Club Unfed" where nobody works but everybody wants ham. His ham.

Val is especially angry with Cubans who return to the island of their own volition because they were not able to acclimate to life in this country as some birds return to their cages even after having been freed. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the Republic of Cuba was an original signatory, guarantees to everyone the right to enter or leave his country of birth without restrictions whatsoever. We cannot demand that the Castro regime recognize that inalienable right and at the same time ostrasize Cubans who choose to avail themselves of it to return to Cuba whatever their reasons (even if to their detriment). We are no more master of them than Castro is.

Yoani Sánchez and her husband are among those who returned. From Switzerland. With their young son. Will Val impugn their character or allege that they did it for the "jamón," as the regime does in fact claim? He is nobody to judge them. Neither does he have the right to judge any other Cuban for what in every case is a private decision.

And what is this curious chant and declination of jamón?

"Jamon jamon jamon. Jamas jame jamon."

Some kind of personal mantra?

The Prieto family motto?

Or a petty and puerile taunt directed at starving Cubans for wishing to eat above their station in life?

We must not forget that Val believes that (more) starvation is a necessary imposition on them if Cuba is ever to be free.


LittleGator again unmans Val, as is becoming customary in the "Comments" section:

People returning permanently to Cuba, particularly from the U.S., is an extremely rare event. Although, I guess the guy in the video made what to him was a logical choice. He has his entire family there. He missed them. He is a musician, and apparently got no gigs here. He was born and raised in the revolution, and found it difficult (impossible) to adapt to life here.

I have one question though, what is the point of this post? What is the "larger lesson" you seek to impart? Why
"jamon"? Are you suggesting that all Cubans in Cuba are lazy and don't want to work?
Posted by: LittleGator at June 11, 2008 06:54 PM

Geez, LG, were you born a sanctimonious asshole, or do you have to work at it?
Posted by: Val Prieto at June 11, 2008 07:36 PM

So, what was the point Val?
Posted by: LittleGator at June 11, 2008 08:32 PM

The point is that your an asshole. Anything else? You need me to cut your steaks and spoon feed you your compota as well?
Posted by: Val Prieto at June 12, 2008 11:25 AM