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Cuba After the Castros
by Lowell Ponte
Cuba was once the third most prosperous nation in the Western Hemisphere, before Fidel Castro replaced capitalism with a communist dictatorship that turned it into one of the poorest, with an average monthly salary of $31. Fidel died in 2016 at age 90.
The Castro dynasty ends this week when Fidel’s younger brother, former head of the secret police Raul Castro, retires after 10 years as Cuban President. (He will remain head of the Communist Party.) His hand-picked successor is said to be Miguel Diaz-Canel, who turns 58 this week, a committed Communist whose past is almost unknown to the press.
This is the way most revolutionary dictatorships slide into the dustbin of history. The charismatic founder holds his new government together by invoking what they shared during the revolution. When this leader passes, sometimes a family relative with his last name takes over, but it eventually devolves to a battle to the death between top lieutenants – such as Stalin versus Trotsky – fighting to seize power. Competitors for the love of the people such as Che Guevara are killed or sent abroad to die. After them, only the uncharismatic Yes-Men such as Nikita Khrushchev and Diaz-Canel survive and are left to take charge.
The new Cuban dictator faces difficult challenges. His island survives mostly by free oil from the Communist dictatorship of Venezuela, also a sinking economy kept in power by more than 14,000 Cuban secret police.
An American embargo of sorts remains in place, but Cuba has always been able to trade with Canada, Mexico, and Europe. Its problem is that it has repeatedly failed to pay for goods and thus has terrible credit with many nations. Castro also bet his slave island’s future on becoming a colony of the Communist Soviet empire, which failed and died before he did.
I remember being in Cuba in 1977, doing a piece for the Los Angeles Times. Cuba was Spain’s administrative center in the New World, populated mostly by business-savvy Spaniards from Barcelona. Cuba’s population is white and black, from African slaves imported to do the labor. But it is not brown; Spain exterminated the Native Americans who lived there.
I remember being taken to a showplace school where children studied half a day and burned their hands working at assembling batteries at an adjacent factory the other half – a throwback to child labor that liberal reporters never questioned.
The school’s principal was Black, the only non-white I met in any position of power. The liberal media also ignored that white Fidel Castro overthrew a mulatto socialist Cuban President, Fulgencio Batista.
Then as now, ordinary Cubans could not enter resort hotels. I remember the panic on the face of a Communist Bloc apparatchik who began chatting with me in the hotel pool; then when he realized I was American tried frantically to get away from me before anyone noticed.
“We used to watch ‘I Love Lucy’ too,” said my Communist Party guide, “but we saw it differently.” How many Americans knew that when Desi sang “Babalu” he was invoking a deity from African Santeria voodoo religion? I loved embarrassing my guide by asking why he always locked his car in this Workers’ Paradise, or why cigarettes for Cuban domestic consumption carried health warnings…but not cigarettes made for export.
How many Democrats helped the Castros? John F. Kennedy withdrew promised air support, leaving Cuban freedom fighters to be killed or captured at the Bay of Pigs (Playa Giron). Bill and Hillary Clinton violated the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child by sending commandos to snatch Elian Gonzalez so the boy could be returned to Castro as a trophy after his mother died bringing him across shark-filled waters to the United States.
Barack Obama ended wet-foot/dry-foot asylum for Cubans reaching the U.S. as refugees from Communism. Cubans understand the evils of Communism and tend to vote Republican, unlike the millions of other Democrat-voting Latinos Obama allowed to flood illegally into the U.S. We need to learn why so many Cubans have been willing to risk their lives by fleeing from the Castros to find economic and personal freedom. ####
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