Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Majority of Cubans Knew that Fidel Castro Was a Liar and a Fraud in 1959

Vana is right. By mid-1959 most Cubans had figured out that Fidel Castro was crazy, and not merely crazy in an inoffensive or even amusing way, but dangerously crazy, not-to-be-trusted-with-matches crazy. For him there were no isolated flashes of sanity that might cause one to hope that what ailed him was only a passing fad or a case of overwrought nerves. His nerves in fact were probably the least affected by his mental state, because his own logorrhea was usually enough to calm them; in any case, his penchant for inflicting pain on others did not require a steady hand, since wild blows upon a helpless victim will do the trick just as effectively as well-aimed ones if delivered consistently and over a long time. A coward on all occasions when courage was required, always at the rear in times of danger and at the vanguard during a triumph, it was not difficult to see through him even if one was cowed by him. And most Cubans did see through Fidel Castro long before his foreign admirers in Western countries did — it is always safer to admire a python from afar than at close quarters.

Cubans knew from the beginning that Castro had done very little personally to make "his" Revolution a success. He was never averse to being lifted on the shoulders of others, and, after a time, that became his natural perch. He acted always as what in fact he was, a loafer and scapegrace, whose expertise on all matters was not only bogus but delusional, and who except for his revolutionary calling would have clung to a political sinecure (botella) all his life after he had plowed through his inheritance. In short, Cubans knew that Fidel was a bitongo who got his meal ticket stamped "good for life."

Nor was it difficult for Cubans to discover his real nature. His type was hardly rare in the Cuba of the Forties and Fifties. There were hundreds like him, professional "revolutionaries" (Cubans called them gangsters), who rode the crest of Revolution all their lives and never got anywhere, or, rather, ended-up as middle-aged derelicts clinging to the fringes of an autonomous Havana University, the scene of their earliest and only "triumphs" as bomb throwers and armed robbers. Castro had belonged to that fraternity and would have ridden the trolley around the alma mater for 20 years, only to get off at the same stop, if he had not been adopted first by The New York Times and then by the U.S. State Department and catapulted to power on a wave of lies and broken promises which were fervently believed by his American sponsors but never as blindly or as unquestionably by those who had any firsthand knowledge of Castro's real trajectory, which a majority of Cubans did in 1959, though many, it is true, hoped against hope that he would be better than his résumé suggested (think of Obama).

Fidel Castro's Revolution succeeded, without winning a single battle, taking a single town or ever coming within 700 miles of the seat of government, only because of the direct intervention of the U,S. on Castro's behalf and against Batista, including the imposition of an arms embargo against the government, the funding of the rebels through U.S. corporations in Cuba, and, most importantly, the refusal to accept any successor to Batista but Fidel Castro, and, finally, the removal of Batista himself by threatening to withdrew recognition of his government and plunging Cuba into chaos and possibly a real civil war (as opposed to Castro's operetta revolution). Fidel Castro was the beneficiary of a resurrected Plattism and the U.S. did everything in its power to advance his cause except send in the Marines. And it was to conceal this fact or render it incredible that Castro assumed his "historic role" (as he saw it) as an American antagonist.

Castro's rabid anti-Americanism also provided Cubans with additional evidence that he was not in his right mind. How could anyone but a madman believe that Cuba could make active or even passive war on the U.S. and win? Certainly no Cuban except Fidel Castro did. In the past, Cubans had resisted American ambitions with some notable successes: they had checked its imperialist designs on the Isle of Pines, thereby preserving Cuba's territorial integrity, and had refused to grant Americans the ten naval bases which they had originally demanded as the price for ending U.S. military occupation in 1902 (in the end, they got only one, Guantánamo). These had been diplomatic victories, as was the abrogation in 1934 of the Platt Amendment, America's "original sin" in Cuba, which ended the prospect of future U.S. military interventions and assured Cuba's plenary sovereignty. Ironically, the chief beneficiary of the abrogation would prove to be Castro himself, who was only eight when it was signed. By 1959, the last physical vestige of America's imperialist past in Cuba was the U.S. Naval Base at Guantánamo. As a nod to the nationalist tradition that he would soon betray when he auctioned Cuba's sovereignty to the highest bidder (the Soviet Union, though it could just as likely have been China), Castro demanded the cancellation of the lease in perpetuity of the U.S. naval base and refused to cash the U.S. Treasury checks which were sent annually for its rental. "Gitmo" was already obsolete in 1959 as a coaling-station (its original purpose) and would have been returned to Cuba in 1979 as the Canal was to Panama but for the fact that Fidel Castro had again made the naval base a vital U.S. military asset.

Even in 1959, Castro's anti-American rhetoric was nothing new to Cubans, either. It had been a mainstay of nationalist discourse for 50 years. What was new, however, and highly distressing to most of his countrymen, was his quixotic quest for vengeance against the U.S. for past wrongs, which, viewed objectively, amounted to national suicide. Cubans knew this from the first and were horrified by Castro's willingness to "sink the island into the sea" (as he put it) in order to obtain a "moral victory" comparable to that which Gandhi had advised Jews to pursue by committing collective suicide, thereby denying the Nazis the opportunity to decimate them. This was no mere braggadocio. Castro really was in earnest, as he would prove during the Missile Crisis, when blowing up the U.S. with nuclear missiles was more important than saving his own people from nuclear annihilation. (Of course, he provided himself with the best shelter that the Soviets had to offer, which is no doubt better than weathering Doomsday in your own skin).

Why, then, would Cubans have supported Castro's anti-Cuban Revolution? In fact, they never gave their informed support to the Revolution because they were never told of its real objectives, or, rather its real objectives were deliberately concealed from them, as Castro himself admits and as a comparison of his statements before and after 1959 proves. The Cuban people, then, were not prepared for the news that "their" revolution was actually the negation of everything they wanted and aspired to. The restoration of democracy was not its real object but rather what it wanted to prevent above all else. Cubans confirmed their worst fears about the totalitarian character of the Cuban Revolution when Castro failed to reinstate the 1940 Constitution or hold free elections.

The show trials, without due process or precedent, and the subsequent executions of thousands of Cubans, which were carried live on television and shown in all the movie theaters, made it impossible for Cubans not to know of the sanguinary character of Castro's revolution. And if witnessing such spectacles on a daily basis had not been enough to alert Cubans to the real nature of Castro's Revolution, then there was the fact that this "Jeffersonian democrat," as The New York Times styled him, executed more Cubans than died of natural causes in 1959. What did this personally mean to every Cuban on the island? Simply that the average Cuban was more likely to have known more people who were shot against a wall that year than died peacefully in hospitals or their own beds. Castro's mass executions were not concealed from the Cuban people as Hitler's genocide was from ordinary Germans. To claim that a majority of Cubans initially supported Castro or entered into a compact with him to endorse his worst excesses in exchange for bogus promises from a proven liar is to transfer the blame which belongs wholly to Castro and his henchmen to their victims and hostages.


Vana said...


They knew even before 1959, my stepdad was what my mom called a mercenary, he decided mid 1958 he wanted to see with his own eyes what was going on, so off he went to the Escambray, what he did up there I haven't a clue, I do know that when he reappeared barbudo he told us, get ready to leave, they are hanging innocent people up there with barbed wire, communism is what's coming down from the mountains, those who had eyes and ears knew, only those either too stupid or envious refused to see.

I say envious, because I believe that only those who wanted what others had and couldn't or wouldn't aquire it on their own, believed that the revolution would get it for them, even at others expense.

I remember rumors in my neighborhood in early 59, people were not as gullible as castro thought, when he declared himself marxist lenninist they were already making up songs against it.

Believing that it would not last led the people to be enslaved, when my sister and I left in May of 62 that's what we were told, you won't be gone that long, this won't last! Won't last, it's still there who woul have thought it back then.

Vana said...


By the way, my mom's friend Lucy, left Cuba in 1961.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


The rebels really were quite bored in their mountain retreats, but not bored enough, however, to venture outside and actually do some fighting. Instead, they occupied themselves by convening courts-martial against their comrades-in-arms for sundry acts of "cowardice" or "treason" and executing them without appeal under their "Articles of War."

How such articles could exist when, in fact, there was no war; or how a rebel could violate them, let alone be a coward or traitor, when he had never come within sight of the enemy during the whole course of that faux war, are questions that still beg an answer after 60 years.

The campesinos who lived in the environs of the rebel camps were the first victims of the Revolution. Hundreds were killed for target practice in what was in effect the first phase of the Revolution's "Literacy Campaign" (wipe out illiteracy by wiping out the illiterate).

If the guajiros refused to join the rebel ranks, then they were assumed to be "spies" and summarily executed. If they did agree to join, but returned home to visit their families living less than a kilometer away, upon returning to camp, they were summarily executed as deserters and spies.

Yes, Vana, the fruit was putrid long before it dropped on the unsuspecting(?) heads of the Cuban people.

Vana said...


Many knew, many more had a nagging intuition that things would take a turn for the worse, it was not only the elite and the Batistianos who fled before 1962.