February 19, 2008

The Soft-Peddling of Castro's Tyranny

Monique Chartier

Ken Shepherd of the media blog NewsBusters has an excellent post about the noticeable absence of a certain word in main stream media reports about Fidel Castro's announcement that he is stepping down as ruler of Cuba.

The level of excusing and tip-toeing around the truth about Castro is staggering. As of 2:13 ET when you do a Google News search for "Fidel Castro" you come up with 7,520 results. Add the word dictator after it and you come back with 1,417. That's 81 percent less.

* * * *

None of those articles directly referred to Castro as a dictator.

Some quick history so we're all on the same page. The US Department of State summarizes Castro's ascension to power thusly:

Although he had promised a return to constitutional rule and democratic elections along with social reforms, Castro used his control of the military to consolidate his power by repressing all dissent from his decisions, marginalizing other resistance figures, and imprisoning or executing thousands of opponents. An estimated 3,200 people were executed by the Castro regime between 1959-62 alone. As the revolution became more radical, hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled the island.

To this day, there is a complete absence on the island of free speech, a free press or anything ressembling a genuine justice system demonstrated, for example, in 1989 by the kangaroo court trial and swift execution of Cuban General Arnaldo Ochoa Sánchez and his associates.

Turning back to one of the themes (the locale?) of Anchor Rising, I stumbled across some Castro sympathy here in Rhode Island completely by accident last week. In the process of researching late night eateries in Providence for the sake of Senator Juan Pichardo (there are none open past 1:00 am on a weeknight so it looks like the Senator will have to continue using his Pichardo Card to obtain after hours restaurant service), I clicked on the website of a Providence restaurant called the Cuban Revolution. After checking out their hours, I glanced over the rest of the front page, where I was a little dismayed to find the following:

Borne of a desire to rid Cuba of the US supported dictator Fulgencio Batista who ran Cuba as a Mafia-controlled "Latin Las Vegas," the Cuban Revolution was a popular rebellion of the masses led by the charismatic Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Athough it’s primary goal was to rid Cuba of decades of corporate and political corruption fueled by the heavy hand of American imperialism, it sought to restore basic human rights and an identity to a beautiful land of proud and distinguished people completely independent of the corporate interests of the United States. Although we sympathize with those whose lives may have been horribly disrupted by the Revolution, we blame a failed and misguided US policy that for decades supported the tyranny of Batista while allowing the Mafia to run wild... notwithstanding the subsequent failure of the US to embrace the Cuban Revolution and the US historical inability to support an independent and vibrant Cuba.

My understanding is that the food at the Cuban Revolution is excellent. The problem is the views of the Cuban revolution expressed on their website, to wit: Is the writer of these words under the impression that basic human rights were restored to Cuba when Castro (literally) took office? Are we to understand that corruption is acceptable in the pursuit of some things but not others? Do evil deeds - in this case, of certain US officials - justify evil deeds? If so, does that mean that evil deeds hypothetically provoked by Castro are in turn justified? Suppose another coup occurred in Cuba, one which employed the same violence as Castro, Guevara and the gang, and a pro-capitalist dictatorship were installed in Cuba. Would the writer pen the same words of sympathy and justification about that coup as s/he did about Castro's? As for the last phrase, I'm sure I speak for lots of Americans and American politicians when I say, we most certainly do support an independent and vibrant Cuba. How would embracing a dictatorship advance that vision?

The sentiments in the above excerpt are not exclusive to their author; that was the point of referencing them. On the contrary, they are representative of an unfortunate tendency seemingly to adhere to a section of the political spectrum instead of to principles.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Here's a Cuban American's take on RI's progressive Cuban themed restaurant


The comment section is coarse, but understandably so And they don't think very much of the food either....

A tragedy that the Cubans replaced Batista with someone as bad.

Posted by: chuckR at February 20, 2008 12:08 AM

Make no mistake about it, the progressives in this state have the exact ideology as the mass murderers in Havana. If they could seal the border and triple the income tax they would do it in a New York (or Havana) minute.

Posted by: Mike at February 20, 2008 8:39 AM

Please do not feed the troll above.

Posted by: rhody at February 20, 2008 11:09 AM

All of the crying about the "abuse" of human rights in Cuba since 1959 might have more significance if you had shown a similar display of hand wringing about the situation there prior to the revolution. Or better yet, if we would have heard more about the ousting and assassinations of Allende and Arbenz and the abuses heaped upon the poor peasants of Chile and Guatemala by U.S. puppets like Pinochet and Rios Mott and Stroessner and a host of others. To look with only one critical eye is to miss half of the action. Remember Archbishop Romero? I do!

But you spend your time spewing venom about the left and ignoring years of right wing death squads. If you were interested in social justice you would be also pointing out U.S. complicity in backing the brutal fascists who ruled in Paraguay, Guatemala, Chile, Ecuador and elsewhere in Latin America.

You are blind, disingenuous or both.


Posted by: Richard Tuoni at February 20, 2008 7:26 PM

Such misinformed insults. All of those incidents and abuses were unacceptable. In fact, your list stops too soon. What about recently deceased General Suharto of Indonesia?

Now, Richard, let's test your consistency. Wouldn't you say that Castro is (was) as bad as Pinochet?

Posted by: Monique at February 20, 2008 9:37 PM

If you want to know about the U.S. sponsored atrocities in Guatemala try reading “I, Rigoberta Menchu, An Indian Woman in Guatemala.” She describes what happened after the Garcia Lucas regime came to power in 1978. Her brother, father and mother were savagely killed by the Guatemalan Army in separate raids on their tiny Mayan village. The book was compiled and documented by anthropologist Elizabeth Burgos-Debray. You might also want to read “The War for the Heart and Soul of a Highland Mayan Town” by Robert S. Carlsen. Or you can do as I have done and visit Guatemala , travel around the towns bordering Lake Atitlan and speak directly to the people there.

Could you please explain what you mean by, “All of these incidents and abuses were unacceptable.” Where have you previously written about their unacceptability. Did you whisper it to your pillow one evening in a fit of conscience? Have you made public statements decrying such “unacceptable abuses”?

I didn’t mention General Suharto because Indonesia is on the other side of the world from the Caribbean and the argument was centered upon Latin America.

You just don’t seem to get it. Castro, despite what one may think of him came to power by leading a revolution which succeeded with little or no foreign intervention. Pinochet, despite what one may think of him was put in power because of U.S. intervention.

Sorry, Monique, but your ignorance is showing and sarcasm in no way substitutes for argument.


Posted by: Richard Tuoni at February 21, 2008 11:58 PM

I was not being sarcastic, Richard. Heads up - you're batting around .100 in accuracy about what I've written.

Specific to my not having written about past American foreign policy abuses:

A lack of words on my part does not constitute approval of horrors that have occurred on the planet or undertaken by misguided officials in American government abusing their power. In fact, I have no obligation to write about anything in particular and certainly not to certify my disapproval of any or all deplorable events in world or American history. If this were required, I would be writing non-stop for a week and Justin would probably kick me off A.R. after the first day for being boringly obvious. It would be easier all around, Richard, to assume that I do not approve of any evil deed, past or present.

Turning now to your comment about Castro, what you are saying is that it is acceptable under certain conditions that a government comes to power through violence and murder and then, once in power that it proceeds to deprive its citizens of democracy, free speech, a free press, due process and even basic necessities (through state ownership of the economy).

And that's where we part company. Because it wasn't acceptable for Castro to do it, under any condition. Nor was it acceptable for Pinochet to do it, under any condition, including to "preserve the economy", as certain Chileans have said.

Now, let's break it down, because for both Pinochet and Castro (and most other dicators, actually), they executed their evil in a two step process. They came to power through unacceptable means. Then they failed to institute democracy and justice.

The question then becomes: why the second step? Though they committed evil deeds in coming to power, if they really wanted what was best for the people, why could they not have set up a democracy with all the accoutrements once they got into power?

Posted by: Monique at February 22, 2008 9:32 AM

Until my recent comments you never said a mumblin' word about right wing dictators and you used up an ink factory on Fidel.

See if you can understand this.
1. Pinochet was set up and sponsored by the United States government.
2. We both live in the United States.
3. We should concern ourselves with the actions of our own government, then look outward.

Until this thread you ignored Pinochet, Rios Mott, United Fruit's well known subversive activities, killing of peasants over land reform, rapes and murders of clergy in churches and nuns in convents, but you take off after Fidel. It looks like you are more concerned with who the perpetrator is than what the perpetrator has done. And your previous silence on the subject gives our country a free pass on its own atrocities.

You would do well to remember that Cuba has the highest literacy rate in Latin America and has trained and has exported more doctors than any Latin American country. Can you point to any such accomplishments by the Pinochet regime, even though it had millions of U.S. dollars poured into it while Cuba has suffered from a 49 year blockade and economic sanctions.

Posted by: Richard Tuoni at February 22, 2008 2:15 PM

You seriously are comparing two dictatorships, Richard? Once again, you have confirmed your own unfortunate point. Violence, murder, repression, an absence of justice, free speech and a free press - all acceptable under a dictatorship on one side of the political spectrum but not another.

And no, it is not impressive that a dictator attempts to make up for his sins by providing education and medical infrastructures. Everyone who points to this "achievement" completely misses the point that provision of these services are a distant second to the absence of democracy, free speech, free press, due process, etc.

Posted by: Monique at February 22, 2008 8:08 PM

Richard and Monique

The toughest thing about leading the US is that you have to choose allies. Some are good people, some are not.

Lets go back a little further in history than Richard has. When a certain national socialist doublecrossed a certain international socialist, the latter became an ally of the US. Under FDR. Yet it is well documented that Stalin was one of history's greatest mass murderers. So what say you Richard? Was FDR and the America he led wrong?

And as part of an overall strategy, was blocking the commies' expansion in Latin America - with some extremely unsavory characters - worth the eventual collapse of the USSR and liberation of the other half of Europe we missed the first time around?

Posted by: chuckR at February 22, 2008 9:13 PM

FDR and Stalin learned to deal with one another. It was Truman who greatly soured U.S. - Soviet relations. You might want to read Walter LaFaber's, "America, Russia and the Cold War" to get an even handed grasp on what was going on between 1940 and 1989. But, if you insist on good guys and bad guys, the world becomes very simple; invective replaces argument and jingoism replaces thought.

Monique, you poor benighted soul.

Violence and murder? The U.S. leads the world in death by firearms. Most of the world has outlawed capital punishment, we haven’t. In the U.S. water boarding doesn’t equal torture and evidence obtained by water boarding is admissible in court. We play hocus-pocus with habeas corpus.

Justice? Scooter walks, black man with a crack pipe gets mandatory prison time. Ollie North gets pardoned, Richard Nixon retires with full pension and Secret Service guards, etc, etc., etc. This tells me that some people are more equal than others and that "equal under the law" becomes a joke.

Free Speech? When Justice Scalia tells us that one buck equals one decibel speech isn’t so equal. Some speech is more equal than others.

That crap happens here, where you and I live, but you only see it over there. To quote my Italian grandmother. “When you have a devil in your kitchen and one in your yard, you better take care of the one in the kitchen first.”

The reason that you cannot point to any accomplishments of the Pinochet regime in Chile or the Garcia Lucas - Rios Mott regimes in Guatemala is because there were none. They existed on U.S. aid in order to stuff their own pockets and to make sure that companies like United Fruit profited on the backs of tenant farmers. They did so by brutally repressing native populations, enabled by U. S. blessing and arms.

So, let’s look at the mess we caused, help clean it up and then look at Cuba.

Posted by: Richard Tuoni at February 23, 2008 12:15 AM