Posted by: samhenry | September 16, 2009


by SamHenry, Editor


Last week, the UN honored  Fidel Castro and others.  Fidel Castro was named “World Hero of Solidarity” Joining those heaping encomiums and praise upon the aging leader was our own Congresswoman Diane Watson from California.  Part of her tribute included her joy that this man and Che Guevara  kicked the wealthy out of Cuba. Diane, hello – many were executed as a means of “kicking them out of Cuba.”

Actually many wealthy Cubans supported the revolution and stayed until Castro declared December 1961, “I am a Marxist-Leninist and I shall be to the last days of’ of my life.“”

The problem with “kicking the wealthy out of Cuba” or anywhere else is lack of money to support much of the economic activity. Representative Watson, this will not benefit you socialists if you are counting on taxing them to pay for your social programs.  Have you got an alternative method of proceeding?  Perhaps you will join Representative Waters in nationalizing the oil companies?  If you want to kick the wealthy out of this country I cannot see any better way of doing it – raise taxes; take over their companies – oh and insult them (not racism, of course).

I lived in Ft. Lauderdale during the first years of the Cuban Revolution. Exiles lived in my neighborhood and, without servants, walked to the grocers daily. I knew an attorney in his 70s who left and went back to work, taking the bus every day. This is what the “wealthy” were made of. I was at the Statler Hotel in Boston when Castro came to Speak at Harvard. I have pictures of  Cuban women in mink coats in his party – proof that either the wealthy were still behind him prior to his December declaration or that these coats had been “liberated.” My best friend and her family left Cuba after the revolution.

An article in the encyclopedia ENCARTA supports the view of many of the Cubans I know:

Prior to the Cuban Revolution of 1959, Cuba had sharp class divisions. The largest class was made up of peasants, who could barely support their families on the small plots of land they farmed. At the opposite end of the social scale was a handful of sugar mill owners, who enjoyed all the advantages of great wealth. Unlike most other Latin American countries, however, Cuba had a substantial middle class of lawyers, doctors, social workers, and other professionals. Industrial workers organized into very active unions, and they had a higher living standard than many workers in other Latin American countries. There was also a large group of fairly prosperous colonos, sharecroppers and tenant farmers, who grew sugarcane for the large mills under government protection. While Cuba’s social hierarchy allowed for some racial fluidity, the vast number of the poor and uneducated were people of color. The poorest were women of color.

Under the government of Fidel Castro, class divisions and social differentiations, such as elite education and membership in country clubs, disappeared. More equitable salaries, guaranteed housing, nationalized medicine and education, and employment for all leveled the social and economic hierarchy formed between 1902 and 1958. In protest, middle- and upper-class professionals left Cuba in large numbers between 1959 and 1962, which hastened the advent of a more socially level society. The income gap between peasants and urban workers narrowed as the government controlled wages and prices, and rationed commodities. After 1959, the highest-paid professionals, such as physicians who both practiced medicine and taught in universities, earned around 750 pesos per month, while unskilled laborers earned around 100 pesos per month. Prior to the revolution, successful sugar and tobacco growers were millionaires, while workers in their fields barely earned 160 pesos per month, and female domestic servants earned under half that amount.

However, the Cuban revolution did not eradicate all forms of privilege. Under the Castro government, people involved in the government, military, and the Communist Party formed a new privileged group. Although their salaries were maintained at a moderate level, they had access to better hospitals, homes, cars, and commodities.

Cuba’s success in creating a more even distribution of wealth became skewed when the government briefly loosened economic restrictions during the late 1970s. The government loosened restrictions again in the 1990s when it reintroduced small private enterprises and allowed Cubans to possess and spend U.S. dollars, which previously had been illegal in Cuba. Differences in wealth then became more noticeable, as some Cubans could purchase a wide variety of goods at special stores that accepted only dollars. Luxury items were also more accessible to citizens with dollars.

But Castro has never been known for his openness in governance.

[In 19080 he unexpectedly] announced to the Cuban-American community in Florida that if they came by boat to Mariel Harbor, they could claim their friends and relatives for transport back to the U.S. From dinghies to shrimp vessels and old wooden boats, the mass flotilla toward Cuba was an unusual and unexpected site, recalled CAPT Jim Decker, then commanding officer of the Cape York, a patrol boat assigned to Station Key West.

As Castro realized the international press had shifted attention away from the Cuban exodus and toward the United States, he began to send criminals, high-risk patients and the mentally ill to our shores. The INS detained prisoners, further straining federal resources.

“There is evidence that the Cuban government exported these undesirable elements to the United States in a calculated effort to support a propaganda contention that all of those Cubans who have come to this country are undesirable,” said Carter in 1980. [The release of all of the above was called the Mariele Boatlift because hundreds of boats left from us ports to pick up Cubans and transport them to the US.]

But wait a minute – there is a statue in New York City honoring Castro – a leader revered in Harlem. This is a story of which Diane Watson would approve – looks like she is not alone in her adoration of the Cuban leader:

[Those who supported the project to place a statue of Castro in Central Park were perhaps unaware of some realities.] He [Castro] craved the nuclear incineration of the entire metropolis. “If the missiles had remained we would have used them against the very heart of the U.S., including New York City,” admitted his sidekick Ernesto “Che” Guevara, thinking he was speaking “off the record” to London’s Daily Worker in November 1962.

But Fidel Castro first tried baiting his Soviet patrons into the act. A full-scale Yankee invasion of Cuba was hours away, Castro disclosed to Khrushchev on October 26th 1962. His agents had ready proof. Don’t delay, he urged the Soviet premier! Now’s the time to launch a surprise Nuclear strike on America’s major cities! Hurry!

Khrushchev panicked. But not from fear of any Yankee invasion of Cuba. He knew better. He had JFK’s number from the Bay of Pigs and the Vienna Summit the previous year. Now the craven tone of Kennedy’s messages about those Missiles confirmed that Camelot’s backbone was still spaghetti-like.

No, what alarmed the Butcher of Budapest was the stridency and sincerity of his Cuban confederate’s craving to plunge the world into a nuclear war that would kill millions of Americans and Russians along with millions of Cubans (minus Fidel of course, who, along with Che and Raul, had secure reservations at the new Soviet-built bomb-shelter in Cuba.) “We’d better get those missiles out of Cuba, all right,” reasoned Stalin’s former henchman. “This Cuban lunatic might get his finger near the button!”

Camelot’s press agency (the Beltway media, academia, Hollywood and New York publishing) spun a sharply different version of the rationale for that decision, which still prevails among the cheese and Chablis set.

Foiled in October 1962 by Khrushchev’s prudence, the very next month Castro’s agents plotted to incinerate and entomb thousands of New Yorkers while employing more conventional means. 500 kilos of TNT were slated to explode in Manhattan’s most crowded settings during their most crowded stage.

Macy’s, Gimbel’s, Bloomingdale’s and Grand Central Terminal were the targets, and the day after Thanksgiving 1962 was when the 12 detonators would explode. In the nick of time J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI uncovered the plot, arrested the Castroite plotters, and nixed the slaughter of thousands of New York holiday shoppers (these plots are fully documented in “Fidel: Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant”).

So it’s only fitting that New York honor Fidel Castro with a massive monument in Central Park to be unveiled November 8th. “The portrait celebrates Castro’s humanitarianism,” gushes David Kesting, the spokesman for the statue’s sculptor. “Inspiration for the gilded head of Castro, large enough to belong to a 25 foot man, comes from Harlem’s acclamation for Castro’s contributions to civil rights,” reads a wire story. “This may be the last opportunity to say farewell” to the man some revere as a champion of civil rights … The Central Park unveiling of his portrait is an attempt to bring Harlem’s adoration for Castro to the rest of the world.”

“Useful Idiocy” simply wont do. American Castrophilia requires a term all it’s own. No tribute that Walter Duranty, Roger Baldwin, Dashiel Hammet, Albert Einstein, Woody Guthrie, Paul Robeson, or even Franklin Delano Roosevelt lavished on Stalin approaches Ted Turner’s, Harry Belafonte’s, Jesse Jackson’s, Norman Mailer’s, Charlie Rangel’s and those multitude of other plaudits to Fidel Castro.

A monument heralding Hitler in Warsaw, London or Rotterdam would make more sense. Had the wishes of the man commemorated in that Central Park statue prevailed, Central Park itself might still be radioactive, and the charred remains of New York residents Charlie Rangel (who specializes in passionate bear-hugs of Castro) and Norman Mailer (who hails Castro as “the Hemisphere’s greatest hero!”) would fit in a milk carton.

castro statue central park

Representative Watson, the United Nations is a changed institution and I can believe they would honor Castro.  Why is it that you have gone beyond your government’s policies and reached out to the Cuban leader so enthusiastically?  I hope you will read this and have some second thoughts. The Cubans in Miami are now citizens – many have been for several generations. We need to be careful before we discount their experiences with and knowledge of Fidel Castro.

Poet Jose Marti penned a famous poem following Cuba’s freedom from Spain that captures the spirit of the people:

The first verse of “Versos Sencillos” is the first verse of the song, Guantanamera.

Yo soy un hombre sincero
de donde crece la palma
y antes de morirme quiero
echar mis versos del alma.

Yo vengo de todas partes,
y hacia todas partes voy
arte soy entre las artes
en los montes, monte soy.

Yo sé los nombres extraños
de las yerbas y las flores,
y de mortales engaños,
y de sublimes dolores.

There are at least thirteen more stanzas to Part I alone, followed by Parts II through XXXIX

Find translation at:—Verse-I-


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