Cuban Stalinism at 50--and the Media Lies Continue
The following day, just below San Juan Hill in eastern Cuba, a bulldozer rumbled to a start, clanked into position, and started pushing dirt into a huge pit with blood pooling at the bottom from the still-twitching bodies of more than a hundred men and boys who'd been machine-gunned without trial on the Castro brothers' orders. Their wives and mothers wept hysterically from a nearby road.
On that very day, the U.K. Observer ran the following headline: "Mr Castro's bearded, youthful figure has become a symbol of Latin America's rejection of brutality and lying. Every sign is that he will reject personal rule and violence."
These two events perfectly symbolize the Castro/Cuba phenomenon, even half a century later. The Castro regime oppresses and kills while issuing a smokescreen of lies not merely devious but downright psychopathic. The worldwide media abandons all pretense as "investigators" or "watchdogs" and adopts a role, not merely as sycophants, but as advertising agency. As Cuba's Stalinist nomenklatura celebrates fifty years of repression and high living this week --from Time magazine to USA Today, and from the BBC to Der Spiegel to the very U.K. Observer (now the Guardian) -- the usual idiocies on Cuba are spouting forth their usual sources, but in much greater profusion.
If what we constantly heard and read about Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution in the mainstream media and college textbooks was merely in error it might be less obnoxious. Instead the media/academia clichés usually upend the truth. We get the precise opposite of the truth. Ignorance (usually willful) of conditions in pre-Castro Cuba, of Fidel Castro's background, of U.S.-Cuba relations pre-1960 all contribute to the cliché-ridden Castro legend. With the media wallowing in a Castro-cliché orgy on this hideous anniversary let's examine them one at a time, in no particular order of importance.
Cliché no. 1: A plucky Castro succeeded in defying a relentlessly hostile U.S. that worked ceaselessly to topple him.
The Facts: “We ended up getting exactly what we'd wanted all along," wrote Nikita Khrushchev about the Missile Crisis Resolution.
"Security for Fidel Castro's regime and American missiles removed from Turkey. Until today the U.S. has complied with her promise not to interfere with Castro and not to allow anyone else to interfere with Castro. After Kennedy's death, his successor Lyndon Johnson assured us that he would keep the promise not to invade Cuba."
Henry Kissinger, as Gerald Ford's secretary of state, renewed the pledge. After the Missile Crisis "resolution," Castro's "defiance" of the U.S. took the form of the U.S. Coast Guard and even the British Navy (when some intrepid exile freedom fighters moved their operation to the Bahamas) shielding him from exile attacks. Far from "defying" a superpower, Castro hid behind the skirts of two superpowers, plus the British Empire.
Cliché no. 2 : Pre-Castro Cuba was a veritable U.S. colony, greedily exploited by U.S. corporations and by her most notorious gangsters who maintained the hapless island as a sordid casino and bordello teeming with wretchedly poor and desperate natives. Castro rectified this shameful condition.
The Facts: In 1958, only 7 percent of invested capital in Cuba was American, and less than one-third of Cuba’s sugar output (its main crop) was by U.S. companies. Cuba had a grand total of six gambling Casino's at the time. (Gulfport/Biloxi Mississippi has double that number today.) Cuba's Gross Domestic product in 1957 was $2.7 billion. Cuba's foreign receipts in 1957 were about $750 million--of which tourism made up only $60 million. Gambling was a small fraction of this $60 million. Exactly two Havana hotels were mob-owned (compare this to Las Vegas history.)
In 1958, Cuba had approximately 10,000 prostitutes. Today an estimated 150,000 ply their trade on the desperate island, many as young as 14.
And to cap it all off: in 1950 more Cubans (out of a population of six million) vacationed in the U.S., than Americans (out of 200 million) vacationed in Cuba. At that time, Cubans didn't come to the U.S. in any great numbers to settle. In fact as a percentage of population, Cuba took in more immigrants (primarily from Europe) in the early 20th century than did the U.S. In the 1950's, when Cubans were perfectly free to emigrate with all their property and U.S. visas were issued to them for the asking, fewer Cubans lived in the U.S. than Americans lived in Cuba.
A report from the Geneva-based International Labor Organization that documented the following in 1957: "One feature of the Cuban social structure is a large middle class," it starts. "Cuban workers are more unionized (proportional to the population) than U.S. workers. The average wage for an 8 hour day in Cuba in 1957 is higher than for workers in Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany. Cuban labor receives 66.6 per cent of gross national income. In the U.S. the figure is 70 per cent, in Switzerland 64 per cent. 44 per cent of Cubans are covered by Social legislation, a higher percentage than in the U.S."
Cliché no. 3 Okay, so Cubans can't vote-- but they have free and exquisite healthcare. No one can deny this achievement by Castro's regime.
The Facts: An infant mortality rate that plummeted from 13th lowest in the world in 1958 (lower than in Germany, France, Japan, Israel among many other first world nations) during the unspeakable Batista era to 40th today, that finds most of the nations behind it in 1958 now ahead of it – this rate qualifies as an "achievement" in the lexicon of news agencies that have earned a Havana bureau.
This current infant-mortality rate, by the way, is also kept artificially low by an abortion rate of 0.71, the Hemisphere's (and hovering among the world's top five for the past two decades) highest, which "terminates" any pregnancy that even hints at trouble. Cuba's suicide rate is also currently the Hemisphere's highest, triple its rate during the unspeakable Batista era.
In the 1950's this writer's parents paid $3.50 a month to a private-sector HMO for full health care coverage for their entire family.
For Cuba's indigent (or those who preferred buying a couple bottles of Rum or lottery tickets with their $3.50) the unspeakable Batista regime maintained the Calixto García, Reina Mercedes, Emergencias, Hospital de Maternidad, and El Infantil hospitals – all providing what socialists term free health care, in the manner of New Orleans Charity Hospital.
Cliché no 4: Fidel Castro overthrew the "U.S. backed" Batista whose patrons and puppeteers went instantly ballistic at his ousting.
The Facts: Former U.S. Ambassador to Cuba, Earl T. Smith, during Congressional testimony in 1960, declared flatly: "We put Castro in power." He referred to the U.S. State Department and CIA's role in aiding, both morally and materially, the Castro rebels, to their pulling the rug out from under Batista with an arms embargo, and finally to the U.S. order that Batista vacate Cuba. Ambassador Smith knew something about these events because he personally delivered the messages to Batista, who was then denied exile in the U.S.
"Me and my staff were all Fidelistas," boasted Robert Reynolds, the CIA's "Caribbean Desk's specialist on the Cuban Revolution" from 1957-1960. "Everyone in the CIA and everyone at State were pro-Castro, except ambassador Earl Smith." This statement is from former CIA operative in Santiago Cuba, Robert Weicha. The U.S. gave Castro's regime its official benediction more rapidly than it had recognized Batista's in 1952, and lavished it with $200 million in subsidies.
In August 1959, the liberal U.S. ambassador to Cuba, Philip Bonsal, even alerted Castro to a conspiracy against his regime by anti-communist Cubans. Thanks in part to Ambassador Bonsal's solicitude for a regime then insulting his nation as "a vulture preying on humanity!" and poised to steal $2 billion from U.S. stockholders, the anti-Castro plot was foiled, hundreds of the plotters imprisoned or executed, and the regime that three years later came closest to vaporizing many of America's biggest cities (including Bonsal's home) with nuclear missiles, survived.
In 1958, at the very time the U.S. State Dept. and CIA were helping his movement, Castro had written in confidence to a colleague, "War with the U.S. is my true destiny." Castro had sent armed guerrillas to attempt the violent overthrow of four sovereign Latin American countries, stole $2 billion from American businessmen at Czech machine-gun point, invited in thousands of Soviet military and police agents, kidnapped 50 U.S. citizens from Guantanamo Bay, and jailed and executed several Americans before we lifted a finger against him.
In fact, during this period the State Dept. made over 10 back channel diplomatic attempts to ascertain the cause of Castro's tantrums. Argentine President Arturo Frondizi was the conduit for many of these and recounts their utter futility in his memoirs. At long last the U.S. started contingency planning for what came to be known as the Bay of Pigs invasion, and imposed the so-called embargo, about which more next week.
Humberto Fontova is the author of four books including Exposing the Real Che Guevara. Visit hfontova.com.