Castro was a murderous gangster worthy of condemnation

Castro was a murderous gangster worthy of condemnation

by Brian Monteith
article from Wednesday 30, November, 2016

FIDEL CASTRO was a murderous gangster who feigned to be a revolutionary but imprisoned his people in permanent poverty on an island of natural riches they had no access to. That he has now died at his age of ninety is not unexpected, that so many are rushing to applaud his rise to power and his reign of discrete but ruthless persecution is shocking.

I never find it pleasant to witness people rejoicing at the death of another human being but the very fact that there have been spontaneous outbursts of celebration amongst Cuban refugees in the United States tells its own story – that Castro is not universally admired among his own people. There will be many in Cuba that feel the same way but dare not show it.

The Castro myth begins right at the beginning. Born into a relatively wealthy Cuban family, he was no downtrodden peasant. His father was a prosperous fruit farmer with 10,000 acres and 500 workers. Castro never had to work himself but was a gun-totting professional student who took part in a revolutionary invasion of the Dominican Republic and then helped foment riots in Bogota where 3,000 people died. Attempting to take power by force required no justification and would become his hallmark in every theatre he appeared.

Castro’s main attraction to leftists worldwide is the romantic narrative that he led a revolution against an American puppet dictator Batista and the mafia casino owners. Ironically it was Batista that was the son of a poor sugar plantation worker and had initially been a radical liberal the United States feared would deliver communism 40 miles from its shores. 

It is true that Batista had become an oppressive and corrupt ruler in his second period of President from 1952 onwards but his record compared to Castro’s makes him a lightweight.  Once Batista’s regime turned into a haven for graft the United States looked for someone to emerge who could oust him – and that man was Castro.

Once the guerilla war started in the fifties the US State Department decided that it should back Castro. On his appointment in 1957 as US ambassador, Earl Smith was told “You are assigned to Cuba to preside over the downfall of Batista. The decision has been taken Batista has to go.” When Smith later realised Castro was a greater threat to the US and advised against this policy the State Department simply cut him out of the loop and worked with the CIA to help Castro. Yes, the CIA were initially helping Castro.

A US embargo was placed on all arms supplies to Batista while guns and ammunition were allowed to be sold to Castro. Recognising the US had changed sides influential Cubans switched too. It was only a matter of time until the revolution – now supported by Cuban liberals, workers and middle classes alike – took hold and the unstable and cowardly regime of Batista lost its nerve and capitulated on New Year‘s Day of 1959.

There were no great battles, for Castro was pushing at an open door. Then, like so many revolutions before and since, he grabbed power from the provisional ruling group – taking control of the police away from the ministry of the Interior and declaring himself Commander in Chief. A decree was passed that all laws would be made by the unelected Cabinet; the new liberal President was excluded and popular elections were postponed indefinitely. By the end of 1959 the dictator Batista had been replaced by the dictator Castro, only the latter would become totalitarian rather than authoritarian.

Learning from Lenin and Hitler, whom Castro had studied, that all dictatorships require a focus of hatred he copied the example of Argentina’s Peron and took up against Yankee imperialism. It was a calculation for he had turned Cuba over to the Soviet Union and invited in their security and political advisers so that he could tighten his grip. political parties were abolished and being openly anti-communist would lead to arrest. This only convinced the US to give half-hearted support to the amateurish Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban émigrés that, without US air cover and naval support, was doomed to ignominious defeat and was the low point of John F Kennedy’s fledgling Presidency.

The Cuban missile crisis followed which, although often pitched as the high point of Kennedy’s international leadership, was in fact a strategic failure for the West. Cuban-bound Soviet missiles did indeed turn back but quietly and unknown to the public at the time the US nuclear missiles already based in Turkey were later removed as the quid pro quo.

Castro was now free to rule as he pleased, he had his own purges killing tens of thousands who had opposed him and imprisoning over a hundred thousand others. Quickly the groups that had dreamt of a liberal and tolerant society saw their last candles of hope snuffed out with the persecution of democrats and homosexuals while the hyped Cuban health service turned its back on HIV sufferers.

Internationally Castro was more than just a Soviet puppet, although he could dance to the tune of Brezhnev and then Andropov when asked. In 1968 he supported publicly the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and as a member of the "non-aligned bloc" at the United Nations he berated the United States, making a mockery of the UN in the process..

By 1975 Castro’s troops had landed in Africa as the Soviet’s proxy army fighting in Angola and other theatres of civil war and revolution. By the end of the decade ten nations had fallen under Soviet domination thanks to Cuban help – setting back the continent for a generation and leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

At home the Cuban people were enslaved in true communist fashion, requiring to become loyal communist party members before receiving any chance of a room to live in (never mind a house) or a chance of a decent job. The black economy was rife and tacitly permitted so as to keep the people above the breadline. Doctors and engineers moonlighted as cab drivers or tour guides. I know, because they drove me to and from the airport or around the country.

I visited Cuba twice, staying in Havana rather than the tourist compounds on the coast that are fenced off to keep tourists in and Cubans out. It was clear from Havanna’s beautiful stone buildings how sugar and its by-products such as rum had once made Cuba a wealthy country. Likewise, my tours of the countryside showed how the land still offers much hope of prosperity but is ploughed by oxen and donkeys pull trailers made from spare parts of fifty-year-old cars.

The US embargo, which was a strategic error – for it actually kept Castro in power where trade and knowledge of Western advances would have brought Castro down as it did other communist regimes – should have been ended once the Iron Curtain fell and Russia stopped paying the Dane geld of the Soviets. Now that it has been relaxed American money is flooding in due to the huge tourism potential. There is already a shortage of hotels and when Raul Castro also dies – as he too must – the wheels of reform will turn even quicker.

Most likely though, the heads of the current regime will effect a Chameleon-like change and become bosses, gangsters and even ‘democratic’ politicians in the new Cuba.

For the people to benefit Cuba must be opened to markets, deregulated and liberated from the cultural mindset of over fifty years of totalitarian collectivism. 

Castro was no liberator. Millions of Cubans became wealthy and successful under him – but they were all refugees in Florida. He was Cuba’s worst ever prison guard with his sub-machine gun at his side. Even in his death he will – like Mao in China – become an icon difficult to remove, and so the romantic myth of Castro as a justified revolutionary must always be challenged.

 

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