Wednesday, December 31, 2008
By: Manuel A. Tellechea
The San Diego Union
January 1, 1989
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Castro officially proclaimed Cuba a Marxist-Leninist state in 1961, but prefers to date communism in Cuba from his assumption of power in 1959.
According to Castro, he had to wait till 1961 to proclaim the "true character" of the Cuban Revolution because "the Cuban people were not prepared in 1959 to accept Marxism." Apparently, Marxism can only be accepted when it has already been imposed and it can be imposed only through subterfuge.
That Cuba is a totalitarian state is no longer questioned today — even Sartre stopped questioning it long before he stopped questioning altogether. The absence of human rights in Cuba is also a widely accepted fact, and thanks to Armando Valladares, a fact acknowledged even by the United Nations. There persists, however, the belief that Cubans have benefited from the Revolution in other ways — that what they have lost in liberty, they have gained in social justice, economic independence (from the United States), dignity, or what have you.
Before the advent of "economic independence" in 1959, Cuba was the world's chief producer and exporter of sugar; but now, whenever a sugar crop fails due to the inevitable natural disaster or CIA-created fungus (and fail it will every year since God and the CIA are relentless), Cuba buys sugar on the world market at prices far below the cost of producing it for export, and re-sells that "nationalized" sugar with a 1000 percent mark-up to the Soviet Union.
With the credit it receives for its re-exported Dominican or Jamaican sugar, Cubans buy petroleum from the Soviets at cost, which it in turns sells at a substantial profit to other underdeveloped countries. Thus, 30 years after the Revolution, the vicious hold that sugar once had on the Cuban economy has at last been broken: Cuba is now an exporter of sugar and an exporter of oil (somebody else's sugar and somebody else's oil).
For some unknown reason, news of this revolutionary triumph was kept a state secret for many years. It was only in 1985, when the Cuban-American National Foundation obtained a copy of the National Bank of Cuba's annual report to its European creditors, that the world first learned of the peculiar scheme whereby Cuba receives the Soviet Union's dole "with dignity."
The report also revealed that Castro wants to borrow $60 million for feasibility studies to determine if Cuba could relieve its $30 billion national debt — the largest per capita indebtedness in the world — by exporting artificial teeth, marbles and a "synthetic fodder obtained from sugar-cane waste for the feeding of pigs." Also, Cuba's Western creditors were asked to finance the exploration of "Cuba's gold fields." (By the way, 500 years ago Columbus and his successors worked to death Cuba's indigenous inhabitants in a frantic and fruitless search for gold. When all the Indians were gone, the Spanish imported blacks. There are no snakes in Iceland and there is no gold in Cuba).
Diversification has certainly had a dramatic effect on Cuba's economy, though not perhaps what is exponents had anticipated: Before the Revolution, Cuba had the 3rd-highest GNP in Latin America, ranking just behind Venezuela and Argentina; it now ranks 15th, just ahead of Haiti and Bolivia, according to the World Bank's 1983 Development Report.
Of course, there is one aspect of Cuba's economy that cannot be factored into its GNP, but which nonetheless accounts for a significant part of its income. For years now, Cuba has been trafficking on the human exchange. It is the only market where Cuba still has something of its own to sell.
For a fee payable in Yankee dollars, Cuba supplies cannon fodder to more than 20 countries and one U.S. corporation (Gulf-Chevron of Angola). But a Cuban doesn't have to go abroad to shed his blood for the regime: he can do so right at home. In fact, he must. Cuban law requires every citizen over the age of 15 and under 55 to donate two pints a year to Cuba's version of the Red Cross. By use of coercion Cuba "pumps" more blood annually from its 10 million inhabitants than is collected by voluntary contribution in the United States. A small country like Cuba — even one perennially at war — does not require and could not use more than a fraction of what of what the Castro regime collects in plasma annually. The rest is sold on the world market, where Cuba has only recently displaced Haiti as the chief purveyor.
But Cuba has gone beyond vampirism in its quest for survival. Alone among the nations of the earth, Cuba sells humans for biological experimentation to the USSR and the Eastern bloc, according to Resistance International, a human rights group founded by Soviet dissidents Vladimar Bukovsky, General Piotr Grigorenko and Cuban writer and former political prisoner Armando Valladares, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations' Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Warmer than anything the gravedigger could provide but just as animate, these "living corpses" are cultivated in prisons and are especially coveted by medical researchers because the privations to which they've been subjected over a span of several decades cannot be duplicated in the laboratory. Thus Castro is able to turn even political prisoners to good account.
To nations that do not want for guinea pigs but have no quacks to torment their citizens, Castro exports "guinea doctors," tasseled orderlies whose zeal coupled with their inexperience has on more than one occasion caused their patients literally to take up arms, as in Bluefields, Nicaragua, where a community of 2000 rose up against three Cuban physicians in 1980, a revolt which required 1500 Sandinista soldiers to put down.
Every type of technician and engineer is also for sale by the regime. "Some 150,000 Cubans," according to Ernesto Meléndez Bachs, minister and president of the State Committee for Economic cooperation, have "lent their services as internationalists in 45 countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America."
Some markets in the human exchange are inexhaustible, but others clearly are not. Cuba's command of the "Hessian" market is especially tenuous and it appears that Cuba will soon have to relinquish it: A nation of 10 millions cannot supply the progressive world's needs forever. The will may be there (on the part of Castro) but not the materia prima.
If demographically things were not bad enough for Castro, Cubans insist on conspiring against him by denying him the use of their bodies. Every year thousands of Cubans embark on a 90-mile trek to freedom; for every Cuban that reaches the Florida coast strapped to an inner tube or hugging the wheels of an airplane, how many hundreds more must die in the attempt, shot by Castro's Coast Guard, eaten by sharks, or drowned in the world's most dangerous waters. Nonetheless, 1.5 million Cubans have managed to make it out alive and millions more await their opportunity. Not all, however, have the stamina to wait 20 years to emigrate or the courage to brave the seas. For these there is yet another way of denying Castro the use of their bodies — self-extinction.
According to World Health Statistics (the annual of the World Health Organization), Cubans now can claim the highest suicide rate in the hemisphere and the 2nd highest in the world: 27.5 suicides per 100,000 population. Suicide is the major cause of death for Cubans between the ages of 45 and 49 — the generation that fought Castro's revolution.
What they cannot bear themselves Cubans are loathe to bequeath to posterity. The official Cuban birth rate has declined by 60 percent since the Revolution from 35.1 per 1000 population in 1963 to 14.1 by 1980.
If a healthier and better-educated society were Castro's legacy to his slaves, it would not make him less of a despot or the Cuban people a whit freer. But Castro's claim to fame lies not in what he has done for his people but in what he has done to them. His vaunted "achievements" are Potemkin villages that survive only in the rarefied imaginations of those who have never felt his lash or been forced to subsist on his bounty.
By Manuel A. Tellechea
The San Diego Union-Tribune
Insight Section, p. G-1
January 2, 1994
Yesterday was the 35th anniversary of the triumph of Fidel Castro's revolution. After the sham "social achievements" of the former Communist countries were exposed for the Potemkin villages they have always been, it is no longer safe to argue that Cubans are fortunate to live in a one-party police state where a government doctor will set for free the bones that a government henchman broke, or where the regime is so solicitous of the formation of its people that it not only teaches them to read, but tells them what they can read and what they cannot.
Castro's apologists have seen the mantras of their devotions reduced to Castro's last surviving Guinness records: the longest tenure in unelected office in the history of Latin America, ancient or modern; and the creation of a Stalinist state in Cuba that has outlived its model. When all is said and done, it is the fist in everybody's face and the boots on everybody's ribs that is Castro's outstanding legacy.
For Cuba, Castroism has meant not only political repression on an unprecedented scale but the ruin of an economy which one boasted the third-highest gross national product in the Western Hemisphere, ahead of such demographic and demographic giants as Brazil and Mexico, but now vies with Haiti and Nicaragua for the subcellar of underdevelopment in the region.
Before the 1959 Revolution, Cubans enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in Latin America. Progress in social areas corresponded with the country's economy: the lowest infant mortality rate; the lowest general mortality rate; the third-highest number of physicians per capita; the third-highest caloric consumption; the third-highest literacy rate; the highest percentage of national income devoted to education; the third-highest number of university students per capita; and the third-highest number of newspapers and consumption of newsprint in Latin America (according to the U.N. Statistical Yearbook and U.S. Statistical Abstract, 1950s era).
If social progress could excuse the excesses of authoritarianism, the Cuban Revolution would never have happened. The Cuban Revolution was not predicated on the redress of social ills but on the restoration of political liberties.
After 35 years in power, Castro's greatest "social achievement" is that he has thoroughly crushed the revolutionary spirit of the Cuban people. Castro has, in effect, outlawed revolution in Cuba .
In his vision of himself, Castro is the messiah that all other revolutions presaged; and having established his kingdom on earth, he tolerates no dissent. With very few exceptions which are useful because they serve to illustrate the ugly consequences that will attend dissent of any kind in Cuba, most Cubans are content to suffer and determined to survive, certain that change will come but helpless to effect it themselves. There are too many lives now mortgaged to the Revolution and now past redemption. Others have had their lives so circumscribed that they have forgotten the natural boundaries of human existence.
How desperate life has become in Castro's Cuba may best be judged from a story that may or may not be apocryphal, but which in any case captures vividly the Cuban reality since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Before the Revolution, signs in the Havana Zoo warned against feeding the animals, as they do everywhere. Some time later, the signs were changed to read: "Don't take the animals' food." Now they read: "Don't eat the animals."
Castro is unlike any previous Cuban dictator: he is unafraid to overstay his welcome. Indeed, his final "vindication" — the only one to which he can at this point aspire — is to be the first Cuban dictator to die in office. He will then show, to contradict Martí, that one man can indeed be more powerful than an entire people. It is ironic but not surprising that he hopes to obtain his greatest victory at the expense of his own countrymen.
Contrary to popular assumption, Castro is more invulnerable today  than at any other time in the last 35 years. The United States is no longer a threat to him because because he has ceased to be a treat to anyone but his own people. Th Soviet Union can make no more demands on him in exchange for its past largesse, nor will he ever again find himself an expendable pawn in international power plays. Much of the world still indulges him, though now perhaps more as a curiosity than as a real threat, though he may yet prove that again if he can find another American antagonist to underwrite his escapades.
At home, Castro is still feared because he has taken care not to grow softer as things got harder. His greatest asset is precisely the expectation that he will fall at any moment, or, rather, the inertia that is thus fostered, which makes unbearable privations somewhat more acceptable. And because all are so firmly convinced that his days are numbered none dares to risk at this late hour the personal consequences of hastening his inevitable end. Castro, however, has made a career of avoiding the inevitable.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
By: Manuel A. Tellechea
The New York Tribune
Commentary Section, p. 11
November 29, 1989
Carlos Alberto Montaner has supplied a review of his own book, which appears unsigned except for his distinctive style, on the dust cover of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution. He describes himself as "perhaps the foremost social analyst and journalist on Cuban affairs," and his book as "the definitive study of the Cuban regime from the vantage point of the Cuban dictator."
Yet the only person that could write "the definitive study of the Cuban regime from the vantage point of the Cuban dictator" is the Cuban dictator. It is doubtful, however, that Castro would cast himself as the villain in his own account, or choose Montaner as his authorized biographer.
Is Montaner's book, then, the apologia which Castro would write if he ever repent of his sins? That would be a book worth reading, and no author would be better qualified to write it than Montaner, who can be as outrageous on paper as Castro is on magnetic tape.
Montaner's book begins with an apology for having written this book. "I am a Cuban who strictly for political reasons left Cuba in 1961," he writes. "I was not adversely affected by the Revolution's economic policies and could have easily benefited from the changes that have taken place in my country. I call attention to these aspects of my background to ward off suspicious conjectures, while admitting that my being a Cuban exile can call into question the objectivity of my evaluation regarding Cuba's revolutionary process." Strange, but that statement fosters in me "suspicious conjectures" which I should not otherwise have entertained.
Montaner apparently defines "objectivity" as indifference. You must be indifferent to the suffering of your country to write objectively about it. Or more shockingly still: You must be indifferent to the truth to write truthfully about it. Montaner,to his credit, does not live up to his own ideal. He is not indifferent.
The author charges that Castro has created a nation fit only for noble savages to inhabit, and has singlehandedly drawn the curtain of the Dark Ages on that barrenness. As Montaner points out, "in 1959, Cuba's urban centers lived synchronized to the West's temporal system. Science, technology, aesthetic currents, literary fashions, other fashions, and music, arrived at the island rather rapidly. At times very few as in the case of music and dance, Cuba contributed in addition to receiving." Montaner blames the Revolution for having "disconnected Cuba from its temporal system."
"The country," writes Montaner, "lives semi-paralyzed in the magic year of 1959... Circular time covers the island like a pneumatic bell." As a consequence of this isolation, Montaner laments that Cubans have missed out on "the relevant ideas, the knots of tension, the latest poetry, the latest movies, the latest plays, the latest literature that did not fit in with Marxist rhetoric, the anti-psychiatric movement, the militant feminist movement, the changes that liberated sexual behavior — sex resigned from the realm of ethics during those prodigious years — Marcuse, Watts, Goodman, Fromm, the renaissance of a certain religiosity, Eastern spiritualism, yoga, the rediscovery of Nietzsche, Zen Buddhism, the analysis of the subculture, the counterculture, underground movies, underground literature, pornography, hallucinogenics — all that is trivial, stupid, profound, noxious, or beneficial that shapes our time has been missed by the Cuban people."
I, for one, living in the United States, have missed out on all those magnificent boons, and do not feel the worse for it. I suspect, in fact, that the few rational minds surviving in the Western world were cloistered for these last 30 [now 50] years.
What Cubans have missed out on is not this neo-hippie garbage, but the opportunity to think freely, however little; to move freely, without restraints; and even to eat freely, and not in concert with their neighbors. These are the basics of culture and civilization, and since Cubans have not had access to them, they have had to struggle to keep body and soul from withering as all the foundations of their world were compromised and their world itself disappeared.
Montaner credits the Cuban Revolution with the development of the "Castron bomb," which differs from the neutron bomb in that it leaves the people alive but destroys their surroundings. In a strange twist on the tale of Atlantis, Cuba is crumbling into the ocean with every tropical breeze, while the waters surrounding it recede under the weight of all that human and material debris. The neutron bomb might have sunk Cuba into the ocean — a hope devoutly wished by Castro during the Missile Crisis — but the "Castron bomb" is raising a desert in the midst of an ocean. As Montaner notes, "daily life in the 20th century — flip the switch and make light, turn on the faucet and take a shower, or spin a disk and talk to your distant aunt — has disappeared."
Gone, too, is the full cupboard of pre-revolutionary times. Under Cuba's oldest-in-history rationing system, no one can "hoard" more foodstuffs than he could consume in a 24-hour period. Cubans receive from their master less than one-forth of the rations decreed for slaves by the Spanish colonial administration 100 years ago. The slightest infraction can result in the cancellation of one's ration card, which amounts to a sentence of death by starvation, unless you can find someone with whom to starve on half-rations. Rebellion entails the prospect of death or torture in prison which, despite its horrors unsurpassed by any country in the world today, at least puts you in touch with a better class of people.
Their are no rewards for exertion or self-assertion, except the sure contempt of your fellow countrymen. "Cuba today," writes Montaner, "is a country of loafers who pretend to work and of cynics who pretend to agree" with the regime. "What is happening on the island, from one end to another, is a secret but total civil insubordination." For more than a quarter [now half] century, t6he personal creativity of Cubans, of millions of Cubans, has been replaced by the creativity of one man, tireless and energetic, but, in the end, one man." Montaner forgets pedantic and vainglorious, self-serving and megalomaniacal.
The only hope for Cuba, Montaner maintains, is to release the creative energy of its people. "Singapore, Japan, and England have been able to prove, in totally different circumstances, that certain poor islands without energy resources are capable of prospering if the population is not handcuffed with dogmatic schemes." If Montaner were himself free of liberal dogma he would add to that list of happy isles pre-Castro Cuba. Before 1959, Cubans enjoyed the highest standard of living in Latin America, and far from being an undeveloped country, Cuba alone among the nations of the region had crossed the threshold of the First World, however tenuously or briefly.
But Montaner was determined "not to use the past as a reference when judging the Revolution per se," which, simply stated, means that as a historian he has abandoned historical perspective. He would rather make a fool of himself than be accused of championing the status quo ante. He pities and empathizes with Cuban intellectuals who praise Castro by rote ("there but for the grace of God"), but scorns "certain nostalgic people of little intellect or dubious past who proclaim themselves Batista supporters." He believes that to speak well of pre-revolutionary Cuba is to join them in their nostalgia. Personally, I believe that being nostalgic about a glorious past is preferable to being disingenuous about the horrible present.
Montaner compares pre-revolutionary Cuba to Communist Cuba only when he believes that the latter had the advantage. "There is no doubt ," writes Montaner, that "blacks and mulattoes have seen their opportunities for economic and social integration in the country multiply" since Batista, a mulatto, was overthrown. Montaner is correct except that opportunities (so-called) have multiplied for Cuban blacks everywhere but in Cuba. Castro is currently sending myriads of black Cubans to Angola as colonizers under his peculiar "Law of Return." He has revived the African Colonization Society and created his own Liberia. Cuba blacks who refuse "repatriation," by the way, are tried in special all-black courts as "traitors to their race." Whites are not subjected to such treatment. They are merely "traitors to their country."
Montaner has his own equally nonsensical scheme for resolving the race question in Cuba: "The final solution [!] to racial conflicts is not that whites and blacks go to schools and cabarets together, but that they go to the bedroom together." Montaner also advocates sex as a cure for mental illness. Having diagnosed Castro as a manic depressive, Montaner counsels that he be treated just like any other lunatic: "locked-up, calmed down, given an aspirin, two slaps, three electroshocks and/or a little print of St. Jude, or — in any case — advised to get married to see if he can rid himself of his nervousness by means of the bed."
For "perhaps the foremost social analyst and journalist on Cuban affairs," Montaner at times proves incredibly naive. "Theft and corruption, old practices which date from colonial times, have disappeared," he avers. I suppose that Cuba's "Narcogate" must have been as great a shock to Montaner as it was to Castro.
If Montaner can credit Castro with "social achievements" which he in fact thwarted (going so far as to devote an entire chapter to such hallucinations), should he not at least credit Batista with not posing an obstacles to Cuba's economic development? By omitting these national accomplishments isn't he surrendering credit for them entirely to Batista? What of the creative energy of the Cuban people, which flourished under every Cuban government before Castro? Caught in this paradox, Montaner arrives at the usual compromise: what should have been the first chapter of his book becomes, instead, an appendix, "The State of the Cuban Economy Before Castro."
Here is an example, yet again, that the appendix of a book is not a supernumerary member, but often the most interesting part of it, since it is usually the place where inconvenient facts that do not conform to an author's prejudices are delegated.
Culled from numerous U.S. and U.N. statistical sources, the Appendix shows that what Cubans really need is a time travel machine back to that magical date of December 31, 1958. Contrary to popular belief, pre-revolutionary Cuba was not predominantly agrarian. In 1958, only 30.5 percent of its population was involved in the cultivation of the land. This contrasts notably with Western Europe (58 percent). 24% of the Cuban labor force in 1953 was employed in the industrial sector, putting Cuba at he midway point between the rest of Latin America (17%) and the U.S. (37%). Cuban ranked in the top third worldwide among 108 countries in the consumption of steel per capita ahead of Mexico and Brazil (titans in size and population compared to Cuba). Cuba placed 25th among 124 countries surveyed in kilowatt consumption. The Soviet Union ranked 22nd. In 1958, Cuba placed ninth in the world in kilometers of railroad tracks per 1000,000 inhabitants.
In 1958, U.S. investments in Cuba accounted for only 14 percent of a GNP that was the third-highest in the Western Hemisphere. Before Communism, Cuba had reached the point which W.W. Rostow calls the take off stage toward the economic maturity of a developed country. By 1957, the internal capital net formation had reached 15.5 percent of the national income, amply exceeding the minimum 10 percent propounded by Rostow as sufficient to feed the autonomous development process of a country's economy.
The Appendix alone is worth the price of the book, and I enjoyed also the author's piquant style, which even in translation reads like Mencken (with his same penchant for using hyperbole as a trompe-l'oeil. If you can overlook Montaner's constant genuflecting to the idols of liberalism, you will find him an impassioned advocate for the cause of Cuban freedom if one somewhat exasperated at times by the fact that this puts him outside the liberal fold.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Fidel and Raúl's "retirement fund" is already calculated in the billions. That might not be good enough for a Mexican president but it will certainly suffice the Brothers Castro in their declining years, which they are already well into. The profit from the sale of that ceiling fan or 10 thousand ceiling fans will not add substantially to their wealth and it certainly won't improve their standard of living. It is the hapless Cuban family, for whom global warming is already a reality because they have no way to escape the unrelenting sun, which will benefit by at least rotating the putrid air that surrounds them, supposing, of course, that they don't bring down the ceiling in attempting to install the fan, or that there is enough ceiling left on which to affix it.
I remember Val dedicated several gloomy posts to the week that he spent without air-conditioning in the aftermath of last year's hurricane season, which he described as the most miserable of his rather delicate life. Besides remaining cool himself, Val's chief worry was that the food in his refrigerator would spoil (massive quantities, no doubt). Such a concern would be the cherished hope of every man, woman and child on the island. If there is one thing that Cubans don't have to worry about is whether food will last long enough to go bad: living hand to mouth, and day to day, makes the thought of food going bad because there is too much of it and too few people to consume it sound rather fantastical.
Val's ordeal lasted a week or so, but if it had lasted 50 years he could not have been more despondent. Well, the Cuban people's ordeal has lasted 50 years and counting, but the quality of their lives is of no concern to Val & Co. Well, that is not exactly right. They do have a very keen interest in their lives, the same interest in fact that Castro Inc. does: they want Cubans as miserable and dependent on Castro as they can possibly be. This the Babalunians believe will foment an uprising: the same thing the Castroites are sure will prevent one. Castro has 50 years in power with which to back his position. Val has the boundless faith that if he can out-Castro Castro Cubans can be made to do his bidding rather than Castro's. And what does Val want Cubans to do? Well, what else? Shed "pools of blood" (have I not quoted him enough times?) Bleeding them is the cure for what ails him. Sort of like Washington having his slaves' teeth knocked out so that they could be used to fashion his dentures (yes, the true story).
It takes a heart of stone, especially at this season of the year, to begrudge Cubans on the island even the least surcease from their continual suffering. Though it costs them not a dime, they still resent that miserable ceiling fan as if it restrained their liberty or impinged on their comfort. Except they know that Cubans are suffering with every breath (or gasp for air) they are not content that they are doing everything in their power to advance the cause of Cuban freedom. Their concern for Cubans and Castro's are both sides of the same false coin. Cubans are for them an instrumentality and both have no qualms about driving their screwdrivers into their heads so that they can twist them one way or the other. The only difference is that Castro knows which direction benefits him. The Babalunians, of course, also twist in that direction whether from ignorance or the conceit that they can obtain a different result through the same method. This will never be the case.
At some point increasing the suffering of the Cuban people will become the end as it is now the means. They already believe that their only recourse now is to punish the Cuban people for enduring Castro's rule: punish them into their graves if necessary to rid the island of the monster that feeds on them. It need hardly be said that they are playing into Castro's hands. In fact, if Castro himself had written the script they could not have acted it more convincingly. The only question is whether they are too stupid to see this or see it and don't care.
I should not be surprised if one of the wits at Babalú rewrote "The Twelve Days of Christmas" citing what Cubans should not receive for each day. For the first day of Christmas we already know that they should not get ceiling fans. We wait to see what they should next be deprived of.
Can you name it?
Other Christmas-related posts:
Cuba Issued the World's First Postage Stamp Depicting Santa Claus in 1954
Los Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Kings)
What Easter Means to Cubans
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
We all know the answer. Because the U.S. wanted him to win. But I don't mean that.
What personal attributes facilitated his rise to power?
His aptitude for mendacity and deception, of course. His histrionic vent. His Nietzchian sense of "destiny" which he shared with other 20th century totalitarians. His instinct for self-preservation. And his bloodlust. Especially his bloodlust.
Castro didn't prevail because he was courageous; no more cowardly a man ever lived. By the age of 20, he had killed three men. All shot in the back. Castro was a serial killer before he became a mass murderer.
Of course, personal courage was never a requisite for attaining power if you surround yourself with proselytes willing to do the dying for you, which he always did.
That he found such men is itself remarkable because loyalty is a foreign concept to him. Ruthless as he has always been with his enemies, Fidel Castro has been a worst friend than enemy if it can even be said that he was a "friend" to any man.
We could inventory all the human virtues, and find, in the end, that he possesses none.
Then why did Fidel win?
Because he is a man without principles and the very incarnation of opportunism. That is his lesson and his legacy to his countrymen.
To their credit they have not learned the lesson or accepted the legacy.
There is no more compelling proof of this than the general rejection of Raúl Castro's proposal to swap the 5 (anti-)Cuban spies in U.S. jails for Cuba's 220 or so internationally-recognized prisoners of conscience and their families (there are, of course, a thousand times that number imprisoned in Cuba for asserting their rights as humans which human rights organizations have not the resources to "adopt" and perhaps not even the discernment to recognize).
Apples are routinely traded for oranges but not in the moral universe. That is a place that Castro has never inhabited or even visited. The Cuban people, who are neither opportunistic nor unprincipled, know the difference between heroes and henchmen. A prisoner of conscience will not act against his convictions to secure his freedom. A common criminal, on the other hand, would consider dishonor the cheapest price that could be paid for freedom.
Castro, when he was briefly a prisoner, never tired of petitioning Batista for an amnesty through family and political connections, and made it clear himself that he would not refuse it were it offered to him. In fact, Castro did accept Batista's amnesty, which necessarily entailed the recognition by him that Batista, re-elected in 1955, was the constitutional president of Cuba and hence empowered to decree an amnesty freeing him and his cohorts from jail. Here was the most vocal critic of Batista's legitimacy suddenly recognizing that Batista was Cuba's legitimate president when exercising his authority on his (Castro's) behalf. This was much worse than a prisoner swap which would not entail the recognition on either side of the legitimacy of the other. Castro's opportunism allowed him to grovel before Batista (or at least to allow his wife to grovel) and his lack of principles made it quite easy for him to buy his freedom at the price of betraying everything and everyone whom he claimed to represent.
And still he won.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Val has asserted yet again that Yoani Sánchez is the creation of his own feeble imagination. He willed her into being 5 years ago when he made the decision to bestow on the world the gift of his own genius. On ground as fertile as the desert did wonders grow; and the most wonderful of these the unique and universal genius of Yoani Sánchez. I do not know what witch's spell Val used to conjure her; but suspect that the proceedings took place in his "Human Pressure Cooker" where he has conducted his experiments on Cubans in the past. Now there is nothing unusual in stupid parents (or grandparents) producing brilliant offspring, though the inverse is still more common. So we shall not dismiss on account of the intellectual disparity between them Val's claims of being Yoani's organic ancestor.
If Val is indeed Yoani's spiritual or political grandfather, then he bears the same relationship in respect to her that slaveholders did towards their sons' biracial babies. These children were only "wanted" because they increased the family's patrimony, and the best way to turn them to good account was to sell them down the river. This is in effect what Val did the moment he laid eyes on her. He viewed her suspiciously from the first, as he inevitably regards any Cuban who is not in jail or actively being persecuted by Castro's henchmen. The "enemy" in Cuba is the 90 percent of the population that have not yet decided to be martyrs, which, incidentally, is not incumbent on any man or woman (as Val himself should know). Martyrdom is by definition voluntary or else it is not martyrdom.
Had he merely been indifferent to her or even ignored her, Val would have greater claims to consider himself her patron. But he did not ignore her. He made his unfounded "suspicions" about her abundantly clear from the first and for a long time afterwards. Some Babalunians asserted when this was pointed out to them by Rick not long ago that Val was merely being prudent in sizing up Yoani because we Cubans (some of us, anyway) have been misled by false prophets before. Well, there is nothing wrong with prudence; but prudence would have required of Val that he maintain a respectful silence until he had verified for himself Yoani's real intentions. But he did not.
Val attacked her from the very first with an intensity that was bewildering. One would have thought that he had been granted a peak into her DGI dossier. When interviewed for The Wall Street Journal last year, he voiced his suspicions about her authenticity and declared that it was too early to know whether she was the real thing or not. Val's input was solicited for a WSJ story on Yoani. Imagine. By that time Yoani was already Cuba's most famous blogger, with both a national and international following that Val himself might envy (and probably did), famous enough to merit a front-page story in the WSJ but still suspect in Val's eyes, though he had no problem leeching on her reputation for a passing mention in The Journal.
As her fame grew and it became obvious even to him that nothing was to be gained and much loss by vilifying her, Val joined at last the chorus of her admirers. In fact, in his awkward and bumptious way, he became the choirmaster, praising in post after post her "balls" while wondering why other Cubans' are not as pendulous as hers. His fawning has become almost as insupportable as his erstwhile hostility and is no doubt intended to overshadow it. But really, when even Rick can recall his duplicity, is there even one Cuban blogger who is not aware of it? Perhaps only one -- Yoani herself. But, then again, she also endorsed Barack Obama. Like all Cubans on the island, her sources of information about what happens outside of it are very limited. Or perhaps she is as diplomatic as Val is reckless and self-defeating.
Val has claimed to be Yoani's "blog grandfather" before. But before this connection can be verified, Val must provide us with the name of the father. Who is this putative father who stands between putative grandfather and putative granddaughter? The question is not without significance and at present no plausible answer suggests itself.
The only Cuban blogger that Val Prieto ever "inspired" to start a blog is me. He "inspired" me with his arrogance, ignorance and presumption. I do not discount the possibility that he may also have inspired Yoani in the same way. But only in that way.
Other posts relating to Val and Yoani:
Val Prieto Visits RCAB for the Last Time
Yoani Endorses Obama and Val Endorses McCain
The Many Colors of Val Prieto
Friday, December 19, 2008
When Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, he, too, chose moderates for most key government positions, men like Manuel Urrutia, Roberto Agramonte and Miro Cardona, who had been fixtures of Cuban politics for 30 years and served in previous democratic administrations. But not only that: all were well-known anti-Communists and had helped to purge the Communists from the labor unions, control of which had been handed to them by Batista in the days of the Popular Front.
What better way was there for Fidel to reassure the nation and the world that he was not a Communist than to surround himself with clean-shaven, accomplished civilians twice his age who had never exhibited in their public careers any tendency towards totalitarianism, establishment figures who could be expected (or so it was thought) to uphold the establishment and restrain the revolutionaries' more radical impulses. Indeed, it was almost as if Castro had appointed tutors for himself. Except, of course, that the student knew more than his teachers, or, rather, knew what they didn't know.
Castro recruited them in order to co-opt, discredit and marginalize the democratic opposition to Batista. As proof of their loyalty to the Revolution (or new order), much more than a blood oath was required of them: they had to soak their hands in the blood of its victims. These honorable men, authors of the Constitution of 1940, agreed to its suppression. The upholders of the Rule of Law under Batista enacted ex post facto laws and suspended habeas corpus and all other civil liberties. Those who accused the previous regime of censorship from their own newspapers and radio stations condoned the seizure and closure of all independent organs of opinion. These guardians of the commonweal before the Revolution agreed to mass confiscations, expropriations and nationalizations which destroyed the economy, leaving the regime as caretaker of all the island's industries and businesses. And, after legalizing capital punishment, which was abolished in the 1940 Constitution, they signed the death warrants of 15,000 men, women and children in one year when never before in the history of the Republic had any Cuban been executed for "political crimes" (not under Batista or any other Cuban leader).
The most ironic thing of all, however, is that none of these eminent men, Cuba's "best and brightest," realized until the very end that he was part of a shadow government. The real power was in the hands of Fidel and his pack of bearded henchmen, who decided all pertinent matters before they were presented for their consideration, and, while they deliberated, acted in disregard of them. Still, they rubber-stamped every measure and approved every decree dictated by Castro. As the Revolution consolidated its position and moved inexorably to a formal declaration of what was already obvious to all but them, these respectable names, now much less respectable, became also expendable, and one by one they were forced from power (or, rather, the illusion of power).
We do not think that Barack Obama is a student of the Cuban Revolution, but he has intuited its lessons and is applying them with great deftness.
Fidel Castro's First Resignation (1959)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The words in the title are from Yankee Doodle Dandy (1941), the amiable biopic of legendary Broadway showman and composer George Cohan, portrayed flawlessly by fellow Irishman James Cagney. In the movie Cohan is invited to the White House to receive a Gold Medal voted by Congress in recognition of his wartime services, which included composing the most popular song of World War I, "Over There."
Cohan relates his life's story from birth to a delighted Franklin Roosevelt, who has been a fan of Cohan's all his life. He concludes his narration 2 hours later with the words with which he used to close his act for 50 years: "My father thanks you, my mother thanks you, and I thank you."
Well, Val has remade the classic picture with himself as Cohan and Bush as FDR (a big stretch for them both). Val is under the delusion that he was summoned to the White House to receive the thanks of a grateful nation and entertain a weary president with the particulars of his storied career. He considers his family's struggle to succeed in this country as more important than the Cuban people's struggle to be free in their own country.
In fact, for Val, "Cuba" is his own family's story. No doubt it is a story of merit on many parts as most Cuban family sagas are; but is does not constitute the sum of our history as a people nor can its struggle for assimilation replace the Cuban people's struggle for survival. Martí said all there is to be said in these words: "Para Cuba que sufre, la primera palabra." He didn't say, "Para la familia que triunfa, la primera palabra." Val's trip to the White House was not about vindicating the rights of the Cuban people but consummating his journey as an American.
As we leave Val he's skipping down the stairs of the White House humming "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy" (another Cohan composition).
A week has now transpired since Val lurked the corridors of power on a day pass, and met and pow-wowed with the "Great White Father" as the chosen representative of our tribe: chosen for us, not by us. He promised on several occasions to inform his "constituents" of the results of his meeting but has to date said not one word about it. He did publish a photograph to document the preposterous scene and foster curiosity about it, which "Silent Val" does not seem disposed to satisfy. Supposedly, Val is still suffering from nervous exhaustion masquerading as a cold, and we can well imagine that such a melding of minds (as it were) between Bush and Val must have been trying on both master and hireling.
The absence of facts has resulted in much speculation about Val's participation at the Bloggers Summit, some perhaps frivolous but not on that account less instructive. Someone even suggested that Val threw his underwear at Bush during the meeting. This would, I suppose, be the opposite of throwing a shoe at him, though not less frightening in other respects. Taking this suggestion as a metaphor, I can think of no other reason that Val Prieto would be chosen as the sole representative of Cuba's international blogging community. At most, Val represents Babalú and its satellites, which is one of the least effulgent constellations in the Cuban blogosphere. Bush's snubbing of Yoani Sánchez, who, unlike other overseas participants, was not invited to appear via teleconference, was the only tangible news that emerged from that event. Her absence might be explained by her naive support for Obama, but, more likely, it seems that it was her lack of support for Bush's policies which led to her exclusion -- that is, the exclusion of the world's most famous and honored dissident blogger. Even more insulting to her was the fact that Val Prieto was chosen as her substitute. We are sure that Yoani would not have lowered the curtain of silence on those proceedings. Even if she were not physically present, she would have intuited more than Val could see with his own eyes. Because the tragedy is not that Val is silent, but that he is blind.
Monday, December 15, 2008
We must admit that George Bush comported himself with great aplomb in this the most personally dangerous moment of his presidency. He also exhibited lightening-quick reflexes, which proves conclusively that he did kick his alcohol dependency but at the same time removes that as an excuse for what has transpired in the last 8 years. But let us not exaggerate, either. In 1912, while delivering a campaign speech, Theodore Roosevelt was shot by an assassin, and though wounded and bleeding from his chest, continued speaking for an hour more. There is grace under fire and then there's grace under fire.
It was pointed out in another thread that if George Bush had liberated Cuba instead of Iraq nobody would be flinging shoes at him now. That is certainly true, not only because the Castros are universally hated in Cuba, but because most Cubans have only one pair of shoes.
Bush would have been as justified in invading Cuba for the September 11th attack as he was in invading Iraq. In fact, Cuba, unlike Iraq, once did have weapons of mass destruction on its soil and its leaders were intent on using them against the U.S. In more recent times, it was revealed that Cuba has an active biological weapons programme and stockpile. Castro also hosts training camps for Hamas terrorists and several of those involved in the attack on the World Trade Center were trained in Cuba and, like all foreigners who come under the aegis of the Castro regime, had been recruited as operatives by the DGI (Cuban Intelligence). Finally, Fidel Castro himself, as the elder statesman of international terrorism, was accorded the "professional courtesy" of being informed beforehand of the terrorists' plans and did not warn the U.S., which makes him an accessory before the fact.
In the scheme of things, however, it made more sense to scapegoat Saddam Hussein for Sept. 11th than Fidel Castro. Iraq is in the Middle East, so the dart, even if it was thrown randomly, still landed in the region that is generally considered the axis of Arab terrorism. Saddam, also, had fewer friends in the media than does Fidel. Iraq's total collapse in the Persian Gulf War had proven beyond a doubt the monumental incompetence of Saddam Hussein and his Republican Guard. The Bay of Pigs, which was won by the Communists because of Kennedy's guilty conscience, was deemed too dangerous to repeat even without betraying the freedom fighters as in 1961. Besides, if Bush had liberated Cuba, what would have happened to the Republicans' electoral lock on the Cuban-American vote? It might actually shift (shhh, don't tell Henry!). "Cuba Libre!" is going to sound like a stock phrase once Cuba is actually free (in fact, it was never anything else to American politicians since 1898).
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Roger Cohen tells us what a "top official at [Castro's] Ministry of Economics" wanted him to "grasp" and he grasps it with both hands, embraces and attempts to flesh out this enormity, which bears no relation to the facts except to contradict them. Mr. Cohen is a South African and we suppose that he would not so readily have believed a "a top official from [Botha's] Ministry of Economics" who assured him that apartheid was actually good for blacks from a socio-economic viewpoint. Cohen would have dismissed that as propaganda, though, as things turned out, blacks did in fact enjoy a higher standard of living in Botha's South Africa than in Mbeki's (and let's not even compare Mugabe's Zimbabwe to Ian Smith's Rhodesia). But whereas Cohen would have dismissed the claims of Botha's propagandist, he has no qualms about accepting those of Castro's. That kind of double-standard is not at all unusual for Cohen or for any scribe of the mainstream media.
He tells us elsewhere, without making the obvious connection to apartheid (which should be more obvious to him than to most), that Cubans were barred for 50 years from staying at "international hotels" before Raúl Castro saw fit to let them earlier this year (supposing they have a year's wages to spare for a night's stay). Where are these "international hotels" located? Madrid, Buenos Aires, New York? No, these "international hotels" are all in Cuba. So, in fact, they are not "international hotels" but national ones. It is in their own country that Cubans were prohibited from staying at, or even setting foot in, facilities and accommodations which were reserved for foreigners. Cuba's majority mixed population was excluded from venues reserved for the predominantly white tourists; but Cohen failed to grasp the class and racial implications of such a policy, which made Cubans second-class citizens in their own country as blacks were once in South Africa.
Now let us consider Cohen's "proof" for the claims of Elena Alvarez, his rapporteur at Castro's Ministry of Economics:
"Illiteracy was running up to 40%..."
According to the 1953 Census, Cuba had a illiteracy rate of 22 percent. This meant that 78% of Cuba's population could read and write. In 1953, this was the exact inverse of literacy rates in the Third World, where only 20 percent of the population was literate. Castro "Literacy Campaign" claims to have "alphabetized" 700,000 Cubans, or slightly more than 10 percent of the population at the time (6.6 million). If Cuba's illiteracy rate before the Revolution was indeed the 40% that Alvarez claims, then the Cuban Revolution left 30% of the population illiterate.
"A quarter of the best land was in U.S. hands..."
Which means that 75% of the "best lands" were in Cubans' hands before the Revolution. How much of the best land or any land is in their hands now? The regime's so-called Agrarian Reform confiscated landholdings without ever distributing one acre. For 50 years, Cuba's best lands were turned into communes or left uncultivated until Raúl Castro decided this year to allow Cubans to sharecrop fallow lands. Now would-be farmers can rent land which they are legally forbidden ever to own.
"A corrupt bourgeoisie lorded it over everybody else."
In Marxist Newspeak the bourgeoisie is always "corrupt" and always "lording it." We know, of course, that they are the engine of the economy and the key to a country's prosperity. Cuba once had the largest middle-class in Latin America. Castro preserved and expanded poverty in Cuba and created his own enclaves of the very rich and corrupt. But he completely decimated Cuba's middle class. This is why Cuba now vies with Haiti for the lowest GNP in the Western Hemisphere whereas before the Revolution it could boast the third-highest.
But his failure to do so does imply that something went terribly wrong in the White House for Val. We are not to suppose, however, that he said or did anything to challenge Bush on human rights or otherwise strike a discordant note in these convivial proceedings. Perhaps that is the rub: his own cravenness in the face of authority does not live up to his own image of himself or that which he desires others to have of him. It is highly embarrassing for Val to declare himself our "representative" and then fail to represent us. Then there may be a recording or transcript of the meeting which cannot be gainsaid: even the apprehension that such might exist would be sufficient deterrent against him inventing fanciful scenarios that place him at the center of things or at least in a flattering light. There appears to be very little wiggling room between Val's "truth" and the truth, and wiggling is not that easy for him nowadays.
Friday, December 12, 2008
There he sits rapped in deep meditation, Rodin's "Thinker" as interpreted by Botero. Yes, externally, it may seem that Val Prieto has a blank expression on his face, as if in the culminating hour of his life, he had been transported to another world more fantastical even than the scene that is being played out before his vacant eyes. Perhaps he was transported to his native Bayamo and the tree that is emblematic of it in his childhood memories. Or, perhaps, he's wondering why nobody has refilled his glass of water. Or why this couldn't have happened two years ago when he was 100 lbs thinner. Or that it would be nice to be able to cross his legs like the president.
What is important, however, is that he is not living in the moment, which is unfortunate for him because Val will not pass this way again; and more unfortunate still for the Cuban people, whom this somnolent genius pretends to represent. Any other Cuban blogger or just plain Cuban, even one who doesn't speak a word of English, would struggle to make himself understood even if that meant playing charades with the president (Bush would like that) or setting a chair on fire to make smoke signals (or, better yet, Theodore Roosevelt's "Rough Rider" painting). But Val sits there impassively, caught up in himself, tongue-tied and mind a-wondering, as if he had stumbled unto the set of an Oliver Stone movie and was portraying the director's idea of a cloddish, brutish hardliner, capable of speaking only one word to power: "Jes."
Note, finally, the writing tablet in front of Val, which is as blank as his expression. The gentleman to his left, in a saffron robe, [Burma's Maung Maung Win] is busy scribbling away. Even if he's there only to provide color (and hence seated closest to the president) at least he wishes to report what transpired at the meeting accurately to his readers. The "island on the net" and the greater island that Val purports to represent do not even merit this consideration. This Nero won't even doodle while Rome burns.
For the last 48 hours Val Prieto has been trying to remember what transpired at the Bloggers' Summit in order to put together 100 words of narrative. Whether this is because he got ripped at the after party, as Henry suggested on the Babalú [Faux] Radio Hour, or he is still seasick from his trip on the Greyhound bus, as an anonymous commenter suggested in the previous thread, I do not know or care. But I would be lying if I said I wasn't anxiously awaiting the opportunity to annotate and deconstruct his report from the Bloggers' Summit. I think he knows that, too, which may explain his hesitation in writing it. The Bloggers' Summit is no longer front page news (it never was). But if Val waits much longer his account may have to appear in a chapter in his future Autobiography, I Met George W. Bush.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
No reader of Babalú could fail to note Val's obsequiousness to George Bush. There hasn't been anything like it since Reagan was president. Although Reagan, also, defrauded us, Grenada being the closest that he ever got to Cuba, at least his interest in defeating Communism was sincere. For Bush, fighting Communism is not the lodestar of his existence. It is at best a rhetorical flourish unearthed from his bag of tricks whenever speaking to an audience of Cuban-Americans. For Barack Obama, alas, not fighting Communism is as strong an instinct as fighting Communism was for Reagan. Of course, you can't jump from Reagan's position to Obama's without a Bush declaring, in words and conduct, that Communist Cuba is no longer a threat to the security of the United States or its neighbors, and that the real threat now is instability in Cuba: in other words, a Cuba without Castro.
If Val addresses even one word to the president at the-Bloggers' Summit, it will be "thanks" for inviting Hialeah's "welder's son" (his phrase) to the White House. We have no idea what his father's occupation -- really, an art -- has to do with anything. If Val himself were a rail-splitter like Lincoln, then a reference to his origins would be entirely appropriate since it would indicate a very uncommon progression in life which merit alone could account for. Val's road to the White House, already prefigured by an invitation to listen-in on a conference call about Cuba and to participate earlier this year at the May 20th fete there, is the kind of reward given to party hacks who qualify for neither political appointments or Medals of Freedom, but whose unconditional loyalty is at least worth a presidential photograph. (At this time, they have a great many of those lying around the White House).
I suppose that some may think that at this late date there is nothing that Bush could do to affect Cuba policy having squandered 8 years of opportunities, and, what's worse, strengthened Castro's hand at every chance while weakening the Cuban people's. This assumption is simply wrong. Bush is still POTUS and his powers are not in the least limited by his lame duck status. In fact, he is freer now to act than at any other time because it is too late for there to be any personal repercussions for his actions.
With a stroke of his pen, for example, Bush could end the disgraceful "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" policy, which this year resulted in the apprehension and repatriation to Cuba of 2000 refugees. Quite apart from the fact that this policy actually violates U.S. law (namely, the Cuban Adjustment Act  which grants all Cuban refugees asylum without distinction), is it really worth it for the U.S. to turn its back on 232 years of tradition and renounce its historic mission as a haven for the world's oppressed in order to act as Fidel Castro's piratical enforcer so that he won't unleash a massive exodus as he did in 1980? Couldn't the U.S. have simply told him that it would regard such a provocation as an act of war? Instead, the U.S. is content to place its Coast Guard at Castro's orders and have them act as his bloodhounds on the high seas.
It has not occurred to Val & Company, though they have published numerous posts for Human Rights Day, that the "Wet Foot/Dry Foot Policy" is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which upholds the right of citizens of every nation to leave and freely return to their own country. Castro denies all Cubans that right and the U.S. is his accomplice, held hostage by him the same as his people are, with the distinction that it is a voluntary hostage.
But don't expect Val Prieto, a consistent apologist for the "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" policy, to raise any objection. He is there to ingratiate himself to the president not to embarrass him.
Everything that he hasn't done in the last 8 years.
What is he actually going to do?
Meet with Val Prieto and other bloggers against totalitarianism to highlight the importance of their work.
What the hell?
The importance of their work?
Is this guy kidding, delusional, or what?
He is the president of the United States and he wants to confab with bloggers about the prospects for freedom in their respective countries?
Nothing that a blogger can do individually or all bloggers as a group to advance the cause of freedom in the world can compare even remotely to the potential for good, largely unexercised, which Bush might have brought to bear on behalf of the world's oppressed.
Eight years of sounding off from his bully pulpit about human rights in other countries while endeavoring to curtail them here, with star chambers, renderings, water boarding and indefinite sentences, has resulted in the U.S. losing the moral high ground in a contest where it was always outnumbered but never discredited. On George Bush's watch, the U.N. Human Rights Commission, in Geneva, which had condemned human rights abuses in Cuba throughout the 1980s and 1990s, was abolished and replaced with a Human Rights Council, controlled by the world's worst abusers of human rights, on whose itinerary Cuba has not and will never appear except as an aggrieved party. In response to being outmaneuvered by the world's totalitarians, Bush quit the game, that is, he withdrew the U.S. from the new sham Council rather than contest its actions or at least protest its hypocrisy. Perhaps this retreat was inevitable or even prudent under the circumstances. The glass house was more important than casting stones at freedom's enemies.
Jimmy Carter's idea of human rights was to replace authoritarians friendly to the U.S. with totalitarians hostile to it. George Bush's policy was a lot simpler: leave the totalitarians alone (except in Iraq and Afghanistan). It is thanks to Bush's policy of destructive non-engagement that an ideology discredited everywhere else in the world has come to die in Latin America. On his watch and with his blessing Communism finally took root in the Americas by grasping onto its unnurtured democracies and killing them by strangulation. Was democracy a plant of unnatural growth in Latin America or were the weeds left untended till they overran the garden? Not too long ago every country in the region except Cuba was a democracy however imperfect or fragile. Bush's tenure set Latin America back 100 years, politically, socially and economically; and the regression to barbarism is not yet complete and promises greater horrors in the next fours years, when its elected caudillos will not be ignored anymore but encouraged on their path to Socialism (i.e. total annihilation).
And the last minute solution to this and countless other international crises incubated for the last 8 years is -- a Bloggers' Summit!
Part 2: Will Val Prieto Be At Least the Man that Yoani Sánchez Is?
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
In 1957, according to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, there were 65oo physicians in Cuba for a population of 6.4 million. The ratio of physicians per population was approximately 1 per 1000 inhabitants. This was the same ratio as in France and Holland and better than in Great Britain, which had only .83 physicians per 1000 population. The corresponding figure for the U.S. at that time was 1.27 per 1000.
There may be "close to 80,000" Cuban doctors today, but the great majority are not in Cuba but are posted throughout the world as Castro's medical Ghurkas, their salaries paid by foreign governments to the Cuban state, which dispenses about 5% to them for living expenses. These doctors are in fact nothing more than slaves rented out by their master on a per diem basis. Their families are not allowed to accompany them on internationalist missions but must remain as hostages at home to discourage them from running away to freedom.
Fidel Castro wasn't killed in the attack on the Moncada Army Barracks because he did not participate in it. His car, supposedly, broke down on the way to the barracks, or he got lost in the streets of a city he had known since childhood. In any case, when he finally arrived to take command, the rebels had been routed and were endeavoring to retreat. Rather than join in a last stand, or at least share the fate of the men he had pointed (but not led) to slaughter, Fidel drove away. The car that couldn't get him there in time managed to get him out of harm's way without difficulty.
Castro didn't take refuge "in the mountains" nor was he "captured" a few days later by Batista's troops. What Castro did was to avail himself of Cuba's longstanding tradition of ecclesiastical asylum. He sought the protection of the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Msgr. Enrique Pérez Serantes, who arranged for Castro's peaceful surrender to the authorities. That would have been the end of Castro in any other Latin American country. But Cuba was like no other Latin American country at the time because it was governed under the Rule of Law and boasted an independent judiciary, most of whose members had been appointed before Batista's 1952 coup and retained their positions despite their opposition to him. Most importantly, Cuba's 1940 Constitution had abolished the death penalty. If a terrorist attacked a U.S. military installation, then or now, it is highly unlikely that he would escape execution. In Cuba, Castro was sentenced to 15 years in prison and amnestied by Batista in less than two.
When Castro seized power in 1959, thanks in no small part to The New York Times' unrelenting advocacy, he abolished ecclesiastical asylum; the Rule of Law; the independent judiciary; and the Constitution of 1940. He also reinstated the death penalty, and, for the first time since Spain ruled Cuba, applied it to "political crimes." The firing squad, which had formed no part of the history of the Cuban Republic (1902-58), was made the symbol of his Revolution and nearly 15,000 Cubans were paraded before it in his first year in power (more than died through natural causes in 1959). And, of course, Castro has never issued a general or partial amnesty in 50 years of unelected rule, as had been the custom in Cuba since the earliest days of the Republic upon the election of a new president.
Archbishop Pérez Serantes was the first Cuban prelate to condemn the imposition of Communism in Cuba. In a pastoral letter dated May 30, 1960, he stated that "It can no longer be said that Communism is at the gates, because in truth it is within, speaking powerfully. Not in vain have some clear-sighted persons been preparing to fight those who try to impose the heavy yoke of the new slavery."
Monday, December 8, 2008
After 50 years of unrelenting tyranny, the heirs of Herbert Matthews have handed down their final verdict on Fidel Castro:
So much for those who expected a 50th anniversary apology from The New York Times for inflicting on us Herbert Matthews' "Jeffersonian democrat." Of course, there has been no apology either from The Times for concealing the Ukrainian Famine so that Stalin could consolidate his power or for dismissing reports of The Holocaust because the Ochs-Sultzbergers did not want The New York Times labelled a "Jewish newspaper."
All that is now blood under the presses, long dried and nearly forgotten. Our story, though, is still in the news and our blood has not yet congealed.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
"I am now and I will always be on the side of liberty as my principles and sense of duty dictate. You say that we are confronted by insurmountable obstacles, but what was impossible yesterday may prove possible today. It is easy and fashionable for the defeatists among us to claim the gift of prophecy and condemn an entire people to perpetual degradation when even death by the tyrant's sword is preferable to living like debased savages under his heel. Given Cuba's present situation, what could be worse than to have our rights trampled by rapacious foreigners; our people exploited by befouled henchmen and political intriguers and submitted to hellish tortures and executions without end? Prison, chains, gallows, all this is still to be preferred to the shame of never having fought without respite for our liberties." — Antonio Maceo
Today marks the 111th anniversary of the death in battle of General Antonio Maceo, which was commemorated in Cuba as our Memorial Day. Half a million Cubans died besides Maceo in our wars of independence. Maceo exemplified for Cubans that vast legion of heroes who shed their blood more generously for freedom's cause than any other people in the history of this hemisphere. To appreciate the magnitude of that sacrifice, it is enough to point out that 4000 Americans died in Washington's Revolution and 10,000 South Americans in Bolívar's. Maceo was the greatest soldier and the greatest loss that the cause of Cuban arms ever sustained. No date is more fitting to remember all who have laid down their lives for our country, then and in all times, than the anniversary of Maceo's death.
José Martí said of Maceo that his mind was just as powerful as his arm. His letters, both personal and public, show him to have been a profound student of history who synthesized its lessons in sculpted sentences worthy of Caesar. Yet he is known, and has always been known, not as one of the political architects of our country — though he certainly was that — but as the intrepid soldier; the tireless fighter for his country's freedom; a veteran of three wars and more than 1000 battles; the man who bore on his body the scars of 22 combat wounds; and, of course, the peerless general — in sum, the arm of the Revolution. His military genius has always been acknowledged even by his enemies, who rejoiced at his death as at no else's because they believed, wrongly, that it would mean the end of the war so sure were they that no one could replace him (and, indeed, no one man could; but many men did). As a leader of men, it is enough to say his general staff included white men from Cuba's first families and that their loyalty and obedience to him were absolute and transcended race and all other superficial differences which then were less superficial than today. In him the general stood no higher than the citizen. His commitment to republicanism and the Rule of Law, his abhorrence of anarchy and barbarism, his fundamental sense of justice, and, above all, his noble intransigence, made him an exemplar of not only military but civic virtues.
Some day his tomb, desecrated hundreds of times by the Communists, who not only buried Blas Roca beside him but paraded troops destined for mercenary wars before it, will again become the altar of patriotism which it always represented to our people before history was buried in our country.
nonee moose said...
MAT, pregunta tecnica: I am aware that the revolution which began in 1868 is referred to as the War of Independence. Yet I have seen history books which mark 1895 as some starting point for the independence movement. Though it is easy to reconcile the two as part of a continuum, what is the correct way to mark the progression, historically?
Sorry to go off-topic...
12/07/2008 7:42 PM
There were intermittent uprisings in Cuba before 1868, including three successive invasions launched from the United States by Narciso López.
But it is the Ten Years War (1868-78), also known as Cuba's Great War, initiated by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, which spread from one end of the island to the other, cost hundreds of thousands of lives and laid waste to the island. All for naught because the U.S. refused to recognize the rebels' belligerency rights much less do for Cuba what France had done for it because it did not want to alienate Britain, whose financiers were underwriting Spain's war effort.
The U.S. had just fought a civil war to end slavery, and Britain had abolished slavery in its dominions 30 years earlier, but neither could see its way to support Cuban revolutionaries whose first act in fact had been to emancipate Cuba's slaves.
The U.S. proposed to the Cubans that they buy the island from Spain with a loan secured from American bankers. If they defaulted, however, the U.S. could intervene to collect the debt. The Cubans wisely declined to purchase their freedom on credit and with such a guarantor.
The first War of Cuban Independence ended in an armistice in 1878 and resumed briefly in 1879 (the "Little War") before the Spaniards finally "pacified" Cuba.
Alone the Cubans had held out for 10 years against the Spanish-British-American axis. No doubt they would succeeded in securing Cuba's independence without he interference of the greatest power in Europe and the greatest power in the Americas.
In 1895, José Martí organized a new uprising, known as Martí's Revolution or Cuba's second War of Independence, which was indeed a continuation of the first war after a 16-year hiatus (which allowed a new generation of Cubans to be born to replace that decimated in the Ten Years War).
The military leaders of the 1895 Revolution were the most prominent generals of the previous war, Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo.
The U.S., once again, refused to recognize the Cubans' belligerency rights, enforcing its Neutrality Laws against the rebels while its arms manufacturers were allowed to sell armaments on credit to Spain.
Desperate by what it recognized as its impending defeat, Spain established the world's first concentration camps in Cuba, where it interned the families of the rebels, killing more of them than it did rebels on the battlefield.
When the "apple was ripe," that is, when nearly a quarter of Cuba's population had been exterminated and the rebels were in effective control of 90% of the island, the U.S. finally decided that it would intervene "on the side of humanity and Christianity."
Martí and Maceo were already dead, but had they been living would have aggressively opposed U.S. intervention; but there was nothing that the Cubans could do to stop the advance of their newfound sunshine allies.
The Spanish-American War, as the Americans renamed Cuba's War of Independence -- the French, to their credit, did not call the American Revolution the "French-English War," though they had more reason to do so -- lasted only a few months with only 400 casualties on the American side, most of whom died of chronic diarrhea.
This was Theodore Roosevelt's "Splendid Little War" and the beginning of American imperialism. Cubans were its first victims. Our country was occupied, our independence curtailed and a chunk of our territory (Guantánamo Bay) stolen by the Americans. (Again, imagine if the French had seized Chesapeake Bay and established a naval base there!)
Cuba's War of Independence will not be concluded till the Americans quit Guantánamo and their last overlord Fidel Castro, installed by them in 1959, is driven from power.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Although Val says he is not free at present to reveal the details, we are certainly not constrained from speculating on the nature of his trip. I think we can presume that he has not received an invitation to Barack Obama's inauguration, though from the beating that John McCain took on his blog for more than a year, he certainly earned one. No, I am sure that it is Bush, not Obama, who has invited Val to attend a final Bush bash at the White House.
Let us hope that it is not what I think it is, for the sake of decorum at least, not because the parties involved are beneath such conduct but precisely because they are not. I mean that Bush may be intending to mark the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution with some kind of commemoration of the "betrayed Revolution."
There were plenty of traitors in the Cuban Revolution, to be sure, but they betrayed God and Country, not their Communist tenets and beliefs. The biggest traitor of all, of course, was the United States itself, which delivered Cuba to Castro and has maintained him in power for 50 years.
Is that what President Bush proposes to celebrate? He himself is responsible for keeping Cuba in bondage for 8 of those years. If he invites all living presidents (Carter, Bush and Clinton), together they will account for 24 years of Cuban oppression. If Obama is invited that would mean 200 years of oppression.
It's "incredibly important" to Val that he should be there, hobnobbing with the architects of Cuba's destruction and especially with the idol of his devotion George W. Bush. Val is "astounded," "amazed" and "honored to have been considered for participation." He respectfully requests a "few bucks" to defray the cost of his sojourn to Washington and promises to do his best to "represent you, Cuba and her people."
Well. Really, what can we say? That the next four years will cure Val of his delusions of grandeur? We hope so.
In today's [Dec. 6] edition of Babalú there is a post by Alberto de la Cruz entitled "We Talk, You Listen and Send Money." When I saw it, I thought it was another appeal for donations to underwrite Val's state visit to Washington. But actually the words are attributed to the Castro regime.
Cry Me a River, Val
Tío Val Cuenta Cuentos (Uncle Val's Tales)
Mr. Prieto Builds His Dream House
The Villa Valentina
The hour of anti-Americanism has arrived. In truth, Castroism is nothing other than a U.S. intervention, an alternate means of control imposed on us by our American masters. Fidel the Astute has transformed Cuban politics -- that is, the politics of our subjugation -- into an American affair. The gringos are our real oppressors. To govern against the interests of the gringos should be the utmost imperative of any opposition party. Some will object, no doubt, that there are some gringos that we should count on in the future. But to count upon just one group of gringos is impossible: we must take them in bulk, as a bloc. To condemn the gringos is the first step towards our freedom, and it is a matter that concerns all of us. Especially the old men protesting in front of a theatre in Miami Beach. That demonstration would have been very different if, instead of feeding into the obsession with "Ché's" image, it had focused on the bigger problem posed by U.S. imperialism, that is, if it had been an anti-imperialist protest! The imperialists in this case are the gringos who decamped in Miami to tell us how we should think.
This is something we can all agree on. A nation at war needs an enemy to hate, and what better enemy is there than the gringos! The Cuban opposition should be first and always in opposition to the gringos. That is why I think that Martha Beatriz is wrong, and I said as much in an article some years ago. Like her, elderly exiles live in a similar cave in Miami and see the real world only as shadows. The image of Benicio and Soderbergh with their coterie of overwrought actors cast on a movie screen, can anything be more incorporeal? Yet they loom high in the fevered imaginations of the opposition in Miami who see them only as shadows on the wall of their cave. We have to view them in the open, on the street, where they become nothing more than gringo shitheads. The Bolivian coca growers saw them for what they are; so did the chavistas and the Muslim Fundamentalists, too. There is our model, tried and proven.
Those who oppress Gorki are the gringos; those who humiliate Yoani are the gringos; those who ignore Biscet are the gringos; those who suppressed Cuba's independent libraries are the gringo librarians. The gringos are the reaction. The gringos produced Castroism and are its publicists. The cult of Castroism is not Cuban, but gringo. Castro is an invention of Dan Rather, Herbert Matthews and bishops from UC Berkeley. We must go to the root of the problem. What Gorki and Porno Para Ricardo need in their ideological war against Castroism is to add this verse to their lyrics: "Don't be such a cocksucker, Danny Glover." Or "Gringos, don't be such a nation of cocksuckers." What Sandra Ceballos must dare to say is, "Gringos, Go Home!" But this is far more difficult to do, simply because we live from the gringos and for the gringos, and through the gringos and with the gringos. We are whatever the gringos say we are: the image which they have of us in their imaginations. The opposition should decree a boycott of gringo products; of gringo cultural exchange programs; of gringo merchandise. What we need is a New Anti-Americanism. Anyone can oppose Castro, the difficulty lies in opposing the United States, because it is all-powerful and omnipotent, spies on our conversations and knows how we think. And the gringos know where we live.
The gringos give things their names: for them, Guantánamo is Gitmo, and Fidel is Castro. The gringos are the expropriators of our moral and spiritual patrimony. We demand the immediate return of Guantánamo and Fidel to Cuban sovereignty! Let us remember that Fidel is not a cocksucker and never was; on the contrary, he is incredibly astute: the cocksuckers (defined here as anyone who believes in "History," or, which is the same thing, who swallows the myths of "History," though, as we all know, in the Castroite universe "History and dick are the same thing") are the gringos: the Soderberghs, the Glovers, the Penns, the Benicio del Toros. Cuba has been an Associated Free State since the triumph of Socialism, and there Hollywood actors and actresses still vacation as their counterparts did before the Revolution and the experience for them is no more out of the ordinary than visiting Florida; the only thing that has changed is that they are looking for another kind of "brothel." Today Cuba is the gringos' ideological brothel. Today Benicio del Toro and Sean Penn go to Havana as Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra did in the Batista era. Cuba continues to be the whore of the gringos. The Havana of the movie Guys and Dolls was made of cardboard and the Havana of the Guerrilla is also made of cardboard because the gringos have never been able to see beyond the fascade.
By Néstor Díaz de Villegas