Heads Roll in Havana, Baffling 'Cuba Experts'

The very week Obama proposed cozying up to Castro by dropping some economic and travel sanctions, the biggest political shake-up in twenty years rattled Cuba's regime. Last week Raul Castro purged almost twenty regime officials. The most prominent among the purged were the youngest and most reform-minded (as these things are measured within a Stalinist regime), and they've all been replaced by diehard Stalinist septuagenarians with military and secret police backgrounds.

The provisions of Obama's olive branch to Castro are tucked inside his $410 billion spending bill awaiting a vote this very week. They issue largely from recommendations in a recent "Report to the Committee on Foreign Relations," titled "Changing Cuba Policy" and heartily endorsed by the ranking Republican on that Committee, Senator Richard Lugar.

"Positive developments are occurring in Cuba," says the Lugar report, composed after some in his staff visited with Cuban Stalinist officials last month. "It is clear that the recent (Cuban) leadership changes have created an opportunity for the United States to reevaluate a complex relationship marked by misunderstanding, suspicion, and open hostility," further states the Committee report Senator Lugar released on Feb 24th.

Senator Lugar, as showcased by last week's purge, has it exactly back-asswards.

In perfect keeping with the Stalinist nature of the Cuban regime -- and especially in keeping with Raul Castro's rule, (Raul worked with a KGB handler as early as 1953) --  the more prominent among the purged (Carlos Lage, 56, VP of the Council of State, Felipe Roque, 45, Foreign Minister) have signed confessions seemingly lifted from the very template used by Zinoviev, Kanev and Bukharin in 1936.

Trotsky's murderer, Ramon Mercader, by the way, served as Cuba's "inspector of prisons" in the 1960's, was favorite companion of both Raul Castro and Che Guevara, and was buried with honors in a Havana cemetery in 1978. This grave, however, doesn't seem to feature among the more popular sites for the 2.4 million Canadian and European tourists who visit Cuba annually and whose estimated $2.5 billion in expenditures annually for the past 15 years provide the very lifeblood of the Castro regime.

Raul and his Cuban military cronies own most of Cuba's tourist industry. Obama's bill will allow American tourists to participate in Raul's racket and further enrich his regime coffers, while his police bludgeon and bayonet any "unauthorized" Cuban who ventures too near the sparkling tourist facilities.

Obama's reasoning seems to be to reward and enrich the KGB-trained and heavily armed guardians of Cuba's Stalinist status-quo, and magically convert them into instant opponents of that Stalinist status quo.

Amazingly, this line of reasoning fails to convince those with first-hand experience under Cuba's regime. And never mind the evidence. As mentioned, for almost each of the past 14 years almost 10 times as many tourists have visited Cuba as visited in any year during the 1950's, when Cuba was labeled a "tourist playground." Yet Cuba is as essentially Stalinist today as in 1965. Whatever trickle of foreign currency reaches the Stalinist regime's subjects (primarily from prostitution) is offset a thousand-fold by the millions that enters the Stalinist regime's coffers. Not that all of it stays there. According to prominent military defectors, much of it quickly winds up in Spain and Switzerland.

As mentioned, just last week, the few younger and more flexible apparatchiks that had worked up Cuban regime ranks were all purged and replaced essentially by apparatchiks who also held office in 1965. Don't look for this in the MSM, but similar purges have re-Stalinized the Cuban regime at least once a decade since 1959 -- and will continue as long as Fidel or Raul remain alive.

If the Mainstream Media and U.S. Governmental sources seem sheepish or downright mum regarding Raul's latest purge, there's an obvious reason. These organs, along with their pet think tank and academic "Cuba experts" on which they habitually rely for guidance, talking points and sound-bites are all sharing dunce caps that tower over the very Washington Monument. Particularly high dunce caps crown the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and especially its Republican head, Senator Richard Lugar.

Since Fidel Castro's "retirement" in July 2006, the name of the recently purged Carlos Lage had become a veritable mantra in MSM and scholarly reporting on Cuba. He's a young technocrat (not a military man) and an economic "reformer," we were assured. Raul Castro had tapped him as his point man for reforming the Cuban economy along more free-market lines, we were assured.

Lets' start with a show on American Public Radio's Marketplace dated Jan. 18, 2008:

"In March, (2008) Cuba's National Assembly will name Cuba's president and Cuba experts uniformly predict that for the first time in 50 years, Cuba's president won't be a Castro. So who will he be?"

"It's Carlos Lage...This is a time when Cuba's leadership moves toward generational change." ("Phil Peters is the oft-quoted "Cuba Expert" at the Washington D.C based Lexington Institute)

Now over to the prestigious BBC, Feb.21, 2008:

"Carlos Lage is already a kind of de facto prime Minister.. the new Cuban brand will be pragmatic and flexible." (Brian Latell is former head of the CIA's Cuba division and author of After Fidel: Raul Castro And the Future of Cuba's Revolution.)

Now over to the Miami Herald, Feb 2, 2007: 

Carlos Lage is key in all this. Lage wants to move ahead with economic reforms...Raul comes in and makes Lage his right-hand man." (Wayne Smith was chief of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana under Pres. Jimmy Carter and is director, of the Cuba Program at the Center for International Policy)

Now over to the New York Times from Feb. 21, 2008

"Fidel and Raúl Castro said in recent months that they have an obligation not only to lead but also to yield to a younger generation of leaders. At the top of the list of possible candidates to share power with Raúl Castro or become first vice president is Carlos Lage." (Julia Sweig is Cuba Expert at the Council on Foreign Relations)

Now over to CNN News. Feb. 19 2008

"Castro is now going out on his own terms, securing a smooth transition to his brother and to a younger generation of leadership in Cuba......such as Vice President Carlos Lage." (Peter Kornbluh is Senior analyst for the National Security Archive at George Washington University.)

A recent samizdat from Cuba reports that after his sacking, Carlos Lage remains under a form of house arrest in Havana. Here's part of his "confession," published in Cuba on March 3rd:

Compañero Raúl:

I recognize and assume all responsibility for my errors. My ousting has been very just. Be assured that I will always serve the revolution and will always remain faithful to the Communist party, to Fidel and to you."

Fraternally, Carlos Lage Davila

And finally over to Human Events, Feb/21/2008

"Raul Castro, despite all you're reading in the Mainstream media and hearing from their pet ‘experts,' is not the one to upset the Cuban applecart. Why would Cuba's military robber barons voluntarily upset their own apple carts? None of those ‘Cuba Experts' provide a clue. As for Cuba's immediate future, with a (very) heavy heart I'll borrow a line from The Talking Heads: ‘Same as it Ever Was.'"

Humberto Fontova is the author of 4 books including Fidel;Hollywoods' Favorite Tyrant and Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who idolize Him.