The Coastal Post - May 2000

Punishing Uncle Fidel

By Edward W. Miller

The disgusting Washington-Florida charade with six-year-old Elian Gonzalez as the unwitting puppet and co-starring Janet Reno, President Clinton, Miami's mayor, Joseph Corollo, Lazaro Gonzalez (a body and fender mechanic and Elian's self-appointed guardian), the relatives' lawyer, Jose Garcia-Pedrosa, and Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, has for weeks obliterated much of the day-to-day news save for the stock market's free-fall on April 14th. Nevertheless, this shameful political spectacle has served to pull aside that media curtain which usually obscures Washington's dismal 40-plus-year human rights campaign against the Cuban people.

A generation of Americans don't remember that 41 years ago a young lawyer, Fidel Castro, gave up his Havana practice, grabbed a gun and with his friends eventually overthrew one of the meanest dictators in the Caribbean, Fulgio Batista, a petty tyrant long supported by our government and agribusiness. As writer Saul Landau put it, Castro "forged a nation out of what had been an appendage of the United States." Not long after Castro seized control, our President Eisenhower in 1959 ordered the CIA to destroy Fidel and his government. Meanwhile, Batista's old millionaire cronies had fled Cuba to settle in southern Florida. It is that crowd who still cavort in Miami where they intermittently threaten Washington with their electoral votes while supporting anti-Castro policies with their millions in lobbying money. They are the ones who are creating all the fuss over little Elian, not for the sake of the six-year-old boy, but to stir up anti-Castro feeling in this country. They are not succeeding.

Today, across those 90 miles of Caribbean water many older Cubans who survived "American style capitalism" under Batista also remember their land and property being seized by international agribusiness, while their wages were reduced to poverty level, their women, often sexually molested, forced to slave over machines for pennies in 12-15 hour shifts, Batista's police routinely answered their protests with the machete and rifle or torture in prison. In the background they could hear Uncle Sam laughing. They remember.

After the disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs, an angry President Kennedy initiated a U.S. embargo against Castro's people. Most are unaware that Kennedy had in 1960 secretly authorized four CIA political murders: Fidel Castro (Cuba), Patrice Lumumba (Congo), Karum Kassam (Iraq), Rafael Truillo (Dominican Republic). By 1963 Castro had survived 12 CIA-directed assassination attempts. On November 22, 1963 Kennedy was murdered in Dallas by a Castro supporter. Kennedy's famous stand-off with Premier Khrushchev over ballistic missiles in Cuba was the Soviet's response to our positioning ballistic missiles on Turkey's border with Russia; U.S. missiles aimed at the heart of Khrushchev's empire.

Since 1990 when Cuba lost its multi-billion Soviet subsidy, the Cuban government lacking outside support has had to fight to stay afloat. Our government tightened the economic strings on Cuba in 1993 with Representative Robert Toricelli's Cuban Democracy Act, and in 1996, the Helms-Burton Act, which followed Cuba's downing of two American planes which violated Cuban airspace. These anti-Cuban measures have managed to slow Cuba's economy, which by 1998 recorded a growth rate of only 1.2 percent.

Way back in June, 1996 representatives of the Organization of American States (OAS) at their meeting had unanimously criticized the Helms-Burton Act as both harmful and a violation of international law. Those sanctions allowed U.S. citizens to sue those foreign companies which benefitting from properties nationalized by Castro following the 1959 Revolution. The Act denied U.S. visas to foreign businessmen and stockholders investing in such properties, and withheld foreign aid from countries helping Castro build his nuclear generator (for electric power).

In response, Canada, Mexico and several European countries actually threatened legal action against us for what they call our illegal restriction of international trade. These countries, many of whom have investments in Cubas, bitterly resent the U.S.' "imposing its foreign policy on other friendly countries in this way" as one editor so aptly put it. (The Economist, June 1, 1996). Canada's legislature actually passed laws blocking both companies and businessmen from complying with the Helms-Burton Act. The UN General Assembly votes against our Cuban embargo increased from 59/3 in 1992 to 117/3 in 1995 with only Israel and Uzbekistan in dissent. President Clinton, though he signed the Hill-Burton measure, has withheld his power to punish foreign companies and persons who might otherwise be prosecuted under this act.

The U.S., which has for years embargoed Cuban's major crop, sugar, has expensively supported our own sugar beet industry in Florida. As a result of this largesse we have not only destroyed much of our Everglades National Park while American housewives pay three times the world price for sugar.

For almost 35 years Fidel Castro, the revolutionary hero, has given his people universal medical care, free housing and education and a secure old age. Unlike the U.S., which imports foreign physicians, Cuba trains more than it needs, exporting them to Third World countries. Investing heavily in bio-tech research, Cuba has 1,080 scientists working in one laboratory alone and supports 38 pharmaceutical and biotech establishments in West Havana. Two very promising anti-cancer drugs are being handled by York Medical of Toronto which has an $8 million joint-venture with six of Cuba's top medical research centers, while biotech laboratories from Boston, Manhattan and California are actively cooperating with scientists in Cuba.

Of recent months, Castro, accommodating his people to a degree of capitalism by welcoming foreign investment and tourism, has improved his economy as well as his world image. Uncle Fidel by now has survived nine U.S. presidents.

Fidel Castro has always been an activist in world politics. Most Americans won't remember that when South Africa's troops besieged neighboring Angola's army in their 1987-88 war, it was Castro's Cuban special forces which broke the encirclement, freeing the Angolan forces. Castro's Cuban MIGS then mercilessly pounded President de Klerk's apartheid troops. The political fallout from this defeat led to de Klerk freeing Nelson Mandella from prison, followed by the African National Congress' victory at the poles. At Mandela's inauguration, a tearful embrace of Castro expressed his admiration for Cuba's sacrifice for political freedom in South Africa.

Meanwhile, this last week, Fidel was busy hosting in Havana the Third World leaders of the group of 77, including representatives of some 133 countries, and those 77 heads of states. Amongst the celebrated guest was UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who told the assembled world leaders that even against international political odds, Cuba, "has shown that consistent policies aimed at providing a solid foundation of social services pay off in better health conditions and higher literacy rates than those found in many countries with greater economic resources." Annan added; "Cuba should be the envy of many other nations ostensible richer." With a population of 11.1 million, Cuba's per capita income runs about $1,300. However, with a low infant mortality, a Cuban's life expectancy at birth is a high 76 and their literacy rate a hefty 96 percent.

The U.S. is coming to terms with Communist China and talking with Communist North Korea, but the old Washington guard hasn't forgiven Castro for the Bay of Pigs debacle or the Khruschev missile crisis. Starving the Third World for "democracy" and multi-national business has become a way of life in our Capitol. Meanwhile, this April our State Department just asked the CIA for an "in-depth psychological profile" of dear Fidel.

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