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Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected]

The obsequious editorial by R. T. Luke V. Browne, a ruling Unity Labour Party senator in the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ (SVG) government, lionising the dictatorial rule of Fidel Castro cannot go unanswered.

No one can deny that the corrupt, undemocratic, and repressive Fulgencio Batista regime needed to be replaced by whatever means necessary, but this can never justify its replacement by an even more authoritarian regime in 1959.

Space does not permit a detailed discussion of all sycophantic misconceptions and obfuscations in Mr. Browne’s essay so a point-form outline must suffice.

  1. Linking the Cuban and Haitian revolutions and terming them the “two greatest revolutionary episodes in the Americas” ignores the greatest revolution of all — the creation of the United States of America as a beacon of freedom, democracy, and justice in the world in 1783. Conversely, history has shown that both Cuba and Haiti are worse off today, socially, politically, and economically, because of their violent revolutions that ended in 1959 and 1804, respectively, the best proof being their comparison to similar countries in the Caribbean, especially Puerto Rico (in the case of Cuba) and Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Saint Martin (in the case of Haiti) that continue to be freely tied politically to their former colonial masters, yet whose people are better off in every respect to those whose elites forced them to accept a different path.
  2. How can Mr. Browne say that Castro, “fought for freedom, genuine independence, equality, social justice” when thousands of Batista supporters were lined up and shot by firing squads, often without even the benefit of a kangaroo court, when the private property of hardworking people was arbitrarily seized without compensation, when political parties were banned, when peaceful opposition to the regime has meant an often long prison sentence, when the press is not free to print what it likes, when there is such a sharp contrast between the extravagant lifestyle of the party elite and the poverty of the downtrodden masses, and when gross bureaucratic mismanagement and incompetence meant that Cuba’s economy would have soon imploded without dependence on aid from the former Soviet Union?
  3. “The fact that Fidel Castro survived 50 years of assassination plots against his life, numerous attempts to overthrow his government” is simply a result of the reluctance of the United States to mount a full-scale invasion and occupation of Cuba, nothing more, nothing less. If this had occurred instead of the poorly planned and orchestrated Bay of Pigs assault, the government would have fallen in less than a day or two. In the world of realpolitik it has simply been in America’s interest to keep Cuba on a short leash of heavy manners (i.e., a trade and diplomatic embargo).
  4. As for the embargo itself, Mr. Browne, like countless other “useful idiots” for the Cuban regime, carefully forgets to mention that it was a direct and legitimate reaction to the illegal and immoral seizure of lawfully obtained and owned American property on the island that today is valued at US$7 billion.
  5. As for helping, “to break the back of Apartheid by an intervention on the African continent,” a diplomatically illegal imperialistic act, if there ever was one, I note again the reluctance of the United States to physically break the back of the oppressive communist system in Cuba, a feat that would have truly liberated its people decades ago.
  6. The “abolition of racism” in Cuba is a myth. Although most Cubans are mulatto or black, the ruling elite is mainly a white gerontocracy. One survey showed that white Cubans believe that blacks are “less intelligent than whites” (58 per cent) and “devoid of decency” (69 per cent). Anthropologists sent to Cuba by the European Union, found that racism was systemic and institutional. Black people are routinely excluded from positions in tourism-related jobs, where they could earn tips in hard currencies. The EU study also found that black people receive poor housing, are excluded from management positions, receive the lowest remittances from relatives abroad, and are five times more likely to be imprison Blacks also complain of suffering the longest healthcare waits. Carlos Moore, who has written extensively on the issue, says that “there is an unstated threat, blacks in Cuba know that whenever you raise race in Cuba, you go to jail. Therefore the struggle in Cuba is different. There cannot be a civil rights movement. You will have instantly 10,000 black people dead.” Frommer’s Cuba travel guidebook warns that black female tourists can be harassed when trying to enter hotels and restaurants because they are sometimes mistaken for Cuban prostitutes by the security forces. As for women, they are barely represented in the highest ranks of government.
  7. Browne’s claims that, “there is no hunger, homelessness, unemployment, begging on the streets, drug addiction, drug trafficking or high crime rates in Cuba” are also myths, as my own visit to the island some years ago substantiated. Sure, everyone has a US$20 a month “job,” shares the same monotonous belly-filling daily diet of beans and rice, and lives in a hovel that is about to crash down on their heads. But on the streets of Havana, night and day, I was offered marijuana when I inquired about its availability, children begged me for candy or a pencil, and beautiful English-speaking hookers asked me if I wanted a nice time.
  8. As for liberating, “his people from the bondage of ignorance and the scourge of diseases,” how can people be truly free if they can’t vote out a government they no longer want, can’t form an opposition political party, can access the internet, or can’t freely migrate to another country. And how can people be free from the “scourge of diseases” when — unlike the privileged facilities available to high-ranking persons, visiting diplomats and politicians, and medical tourists — the public hospitals are falling apart, ambulances are in short supply, equipment is scarce or archaic, toilet facilities are in disrepair, toilet paper is nowhere to be found, complex medical treatment is given by interns, the beds have no linen, the floors are filthy, orderlies are nowhere to be seen, and visiting families, “… have to bring everything with them, because the hospital provides nothing. Pillows, sheets, medicine: everything”.

Sounds to me a lot like the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in SVG, which, I guess, is why Mr. Browne loves Cuba’s communist system so much.

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Alas, for Cuban people, all I have written is just the tip of the iceberg.

C. ben-David

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

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