Saturday, January 31, 2015

Notable & Quotable: Wisdom from The New York Times

James, Houston, Jan. 30, 2015 Cuba is in a mess because it is a Socialist economy. Embargo? Cuba could have bought everything we buy at Walmart because it is made in China. Cuba had no restrictions related to buying things from the rest of the world but couldn't because Socialism killed their economy. This entire Obama show is a fraud and will make no difference to anybody.

Wisdom from The New York Times?


Never in its news stories, editorials, or opinion pieces.

But occasionally in the "Comments" section of its online edition.

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Line-by-Line Analysis of Fidel Castro's Statement on U.S.-Cuban Relations

Dear compañeros,

In 2006, as a result of health issues which were incompatible with the time and effort required to fulfill my duties – which I myself assumed when I entered this University September 4, 1945, 70 years ago – I resigned from my official positions [how can anyone "resign" from a position that he did not hold legitimately?].

[So Fidel's "duties" began at age 18 when he matriculated at university, ironically, on the twelfth anniversary of the Sergeants' Revolution. It is not this anniversary, of course, which is celebrated in Cuba on that day, but Castro's assumption of his "duties" on his first day in college. What, exactly, were those "duties?" Certainly not the duty to work, which he has avoided all his life like the eternal niño bitongo that he is. At University, Fidel ran for president of the Student Union and lost, which taught him to loathe elections and the democratic process. There also he committed the first two murders attributed to him: both victims shot in the back. Most of his undergraduate life was spent outside the precincts of the University, where he rarely attended classes. His real apprenticeship was as a gangster, which is what Cubans called university students or ex-students who toted machine guns and belonged to so-called "revolutionary" organizations which vied for the patronage of then Presidents Grau and Prío, who allowed the rival groups to massacre each other but were always careful to reward the winners. The turf wars between these groups had turned Havana into a battle zone. It was to end this state of affairs that Batista toppled Prío in a bloodless coup, which was supported at first by a majority of Cubans. So, in effect, it was Castro and others thugs like him who paved the way for Batista's coup, not Batista's coup that paved the way for Castro. It is to the U.S. that Castro owes his rise to power in 1959 and his 49 years of personal rule, and to the U.S. also that his heirs will owe the perpetuation of the Castro dynasty]. 

I was not the son of a worker, or lacking in material or social resources for a relatively comfortable existence; I could say I miraculously escaped wealth.

[Fidel's father Angel did begin life as a laborer, and through his hard work and cunning — the cunning his son inherited from him — rose to a relatively comfortable position as a sub-contractor for United Fruit, stealing shamelessly from the Americans at every opportunity — another trait he passed on to Fidel — by moving property markers at night and other manner of dishonest dealing, until his holdings rivaled those of his employer in the area. He never handed a cent in wages to his laborers, but (against the law) paid them in script that was accepted only at his own store, where he charged exorbitant prices for shoddy goods and was not afraid to cut off his peons if they complained, leaving them with a worthless scrap of paper that wasn't honored anywhere else. Having impoverished his workers, he lent them small sums at uxorious rates and when they could not re-pay him demanded that they work for rations until the debt was discharged, which, of course, would be never. Those he entrapped and enslaved on his estate were Haitian migrants, who were never allowed to return to their own country or see their families again. Angel worked in cahoots with the Haitian consul in Oriente, who furnished the manpower. This man, named Louis Hypolyte Hibbert, was Fidel's godfather and guardian for two years (until his first wife's death allowed Angel to bring his mistress and illegitimate children to live in his house, which was built on stilts over the family pigsty). 

Fidel's father did not lack material resources and he did his best to confer "social resources" on his son by sending him to Cuba's elite schools. But Fidel's refusal to work made him a constant drain on the family until his father finally cut him off. In fact, during Castro's incarceration for the Moncada attack, his wife and infant son were supported by a botella (no-show political sinecure) obtained for Marta by her brother with Batista's approval, Castro's family contributing nothing. (In a letter from jail, Castro excoriated his wife for accepting the botella, preferring that she and his son starve rather than accept Batista's largesse). No, Castro would not have had a "relatively comfortable existence" if he had persisted in his determination never to work. Fortunately for him, the Revolution provided him with the greatest botella in Cuban history. He didn't "miraculously escape wealth," he miraculously attained it, without exertion on his part, a marketable idea or any understanding of economics. Like his father, he made his money the old-fashioned way: he stole it]. 

Many years later, a richer [than himself] and undoubtedly very capable [unlike himself] U.S. citizen, with almost 100 billion dollars, stated – according to a news agency article published this past Thursday, January 22 – that the predominant system of production and distribution of wealth would, from generation to generation, make the poor rich.

[Maybe Castro should invite this man (whoever he is) to Cuba and have him instruct Raúl on how that's done. Fidel certainly couldn't figure it out in more than 50 years. He always knew how to make the rich poor; and the middle class poor; and the poor poorer. But to make the poor rich was never his area of expertise. It was easier to convince them that they would be poorer except for him]. 

Since the times of ancient Greece, during almost 3,000 years, the Greeks, without going very far, were brilliant in almost all activities: physics, mathematics, philosophy, architecture, art, science, politics, astronomy and other branches of human knowledge [the "3000 years" of continuous Greek brilliance is certainly debatable as is the Greeks' supremacy in certain of those spheres of human knowledge and achievement cited here, but my purpose is not to instruct Fidel on Classical Antiquity].

Greece, however, was a land in which slaves did the most difficult work in fields and cities, while the oligarchy devoted itself to writing and philosophizing, [This is so delicious that one almost wishes that Fidel were lucid enough to have actually written this line himself. Whoever ghosted for Castro was certainly thinking of Cuba's own slaves and their emeritus philosopher-king when he wrote it, although Fidel is certainly not as "Greek" in his predilections as is Raúl]. The first utopia was written precisely for them [this makes no sense. Maybe he means that the word "utopia" was invented by the Greeks, which would be wrong because it dates to Thomas More's book of the same name]. 

Observe carefully the realities of this well-known, globalized and very poorly shared planet Earth, on which we know every vital resource is distributed in accordance with historical factors: some with much less than they need, others with so much they don’t know what to do with it [income disparity is certainly a subject that Castro is well-qualified to pontificate about: he is an expert at making others "live on less than they need" while he and his henchmen have "so much that they don't know what to do with it" (philanthropy being left to the capitalists)]. 

Now amidst great threats and dangers of war, chaos reigns in the distribution of financial resources and social production. The world’s population has grown, between 1800 and 2015, from one to seven billion inhabitants. Can this population increment be accommodated, in this way, over the next 100 years, and food, health, water and housing needs met, regardless of whatever scientific advances are made [this modern-day Malthus is predicting exactly what the Englishmen did 200 years ago: overpopulation will deplete the world's resources and lead to the extinction of mankind. Instead, as Castro points out, "the world’s population has grown, between 1800 and 2015, from one to seven billion inhabitants." Some extinction!].

Well, setting aside these perplexing problems, it is astonishing to recall that the University of Havana, during the days when I entered this beloved, prestigious institution almost three fourths of a century ago, was the only one in Cuba. [Before the Revolution. Cuba had more university students per capita than did Great Britain (13.5 per 1000 inhabitants vs. 1.9 per 1000). Indeed, though the population of Great Britain in 1957 was 51.5 million and Cuba's 6.4 million, there were 86,500 students enrolled in Cuban universities as opposed to 96,128 in British universities. Cuba was also ahead of the U.S.S.R., Japan, France, Italy and Germany in the number of  students attending institutions of higher learning (UNESCO Basic Facts and Figures, 1957-1958)]. 

Of course, fellow students and professors, we must remember that it is not just one now, but rather more than 50 institutions of higher learning distributed across the entire country.

[The University of Havana was not the only institution of higher learning in pre-Castro Cuba. There were also private Catholic and Masonic universities, which Castro confiscated and closed, in effect, creating a monopoly for the state institutions. Moreover, he invalidated all degrees granted by these private institutions, reducing, not increasing, the number of university graduates in Cuba. He did the same thing with degrees awarded by Havana University during 1956-1958 to penalize graduates who were attending university rather than fighting in the hills with him. He regarded their attendance at university as a "counter-revolutionary activity"]. 

When you invited me to participate in the launch of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of my admission to the University [why is there such a celebration? Do they also celebrate in Cuba the day that Fidel was potty-trained the first (1929) and second (2006) times?], which I was surprised to learn of, during days when I was very busy with various issues in which I can perhaps still be relatively useful [he's never been "relatively useful" at anything, let alone useful], I decided to take a break and devote several hours to recalling those years [this screed took him or his ghostwriter "several hours?"] 

I am overwhelmed recalling that 70 years have passed [and that you are still here (if you are). Everybody is "overwhelmed" about that]. In reality, compañeros and compañeras, if I were to register again at this age, as some have asked me, I would respond, without hesitation, that it would be to pursue scientific studies [the lack of a formal BS never stopped Fidel from engaging in scientific investigations as an amateur, which led to the destruction of Cuba's cattle industry, coffee industry, citrus industry, etc.]. I would say, like Guayasamín: "Leave a little light on for me" [I bet this has them in tears]. 

In those years, already influenced by Marx, [and to think that Castro denied it more times than any rooster has crowed!] I was able to understand more, and better, the strange, complex world in which it has befallen us to live. I may have harbored some illusions of the bourgeoisie [to which Fidel belonged], whose tentacles managed to entangle many students, when they possessed more passion than experience [as most 18-year olds do and as Fidel has all his life]. The topic would be long and interminable [indeed].

Another genius of revolutionary action, founder of the Communist Party, was Lenin. Thus I did not hesitate a second when during the Moncada trial, when they allowed me to attend, albeit just one time, I stated before the judges and dozens of high-ranking officials of the Batista regime that we were readers of Lenin [confident, no doubt, that the Cuban media would not report it, as they never did; and that the Batista officials wouldn't be believed, as in fact they weren't. Moreover, it is highly unlikely that Fidel or anyone else in his group ever read Lenin except under compunction: as a writer he is completely unintelligible and the bitterest of pills, unlike Marx, who occasionally strikes off a memorable phrase or aphorism. Castro did read the Complete Works of Benito Mussolini, about whom Lenin said, "What a waste that we lost Mussolini. He is a first-rate man who would have led our party to victory in Italy." Mussolini, a more engaging writer than either Marx or Lenin, could explain the Marxist dialectic in language that even workingmen could understand. It is from him and no one else that Fidel made his first and only contact with theoretical Marxism. And if it is true, as he has affirmed elsewhere, that he became a Marxist at university, it could only have been through exposure to Mussolini's writings].

We didn’t talk about Mao Zedong, since the socialist revolution in China, inspired by the same principles, had not yet ended. I insist, nonetheless, that revolutionary ideas must always be on guard as humanity expands its knowledge [this makes no sense].

Nature teaches us that tens of billions of light years may have passed, and life in all of its expressions has always been subjected to an incredible combination of matter and radiation [neither does this: the candle must be ready to burn out. If this is indeed (as I suspect) a parody of Fidel's writing, it is far more caustic than my annotations].

A personal greeting between the Presidents of Cuba and the United States took place at the funeral of Nelson Mandela, the distinguished, exemplary combatant against apartheid who had become friendly with Obama [but worshiped Fidel as his inspiration. Tell us now, Fidel, how much Mandela owes to you, which no amount of praise can ever repay, though Mandela laid it on with the proverbial trowel].

It is enough to indicate that, at that time, several years had passed since Cuban troops [serving as the Gurkhas of the Soviet Empire] had decisively defeated the racist South African army [only a propaganda "victory;" if Cuban troops had really defeated the South African army, the Soviets would have taken over the Horn of Africa] directed by the wealthy bourgeoisie, which had vast economic resources [though not so vast as those put at Cuba's disposal by the Soviet Union ]. This is a story of a conflict which has yet to be written [the story of the struggle against apartheid "has yet to be written" because in no account has Castro been accorded the central role which he thinks that he deserves].

South Africa, the government with the most financial resources on the continent, had nuclear weapons supplied by the racist state of Israel [yes, we know that Cuba was the sponsor of the 1973 U.N. Resolution declaring Zionism to be a form of racism, though the leaders of Israel seem to have forgotten it] as the result of an agreement between this party [what party?] and President Ronald Reagan, who authorized the delivery of devices for the use of such weapons [what devices and what weapons?] to attack Cuban and Angolan [Cubans get top-billing in an Angolan War?] forces defending the Popular Republic of Angola against racist troops attempting to occupy the country.

[What Castro appears to be saying is that Ronald Reagan wanted to use nuclear weapons provided by Israel to South Africa against the Cubans and Angolans. These Israeli nuclear weapons, apparently, would not work without special parts that the Americans alone could supply. Regardless of what Castro may believe were Reagan's intentions (and Castro is the worst judge), the fact remains that nuclear weapons were not used in Angola. The only one since 1945 to have urged the use of nuclear weapons against another country is Fidel Castro himself, who demanded that Khrushchev fire the Soviet missiles in Cuba against the United States, thereby precipitating World War III and, incidentally, turning the island of Cuba into the world's largest nuclear dump].

Thus peace negotiations were excluded while Angola was attacked by apartheid forces, with the best trained and equipped army on the African continent. [Clearly, the 350,000 Cuban mercenaries that were stationed in Angola over a 12-year period were there to promote peace negotiations]. In such a situation, there was no possibility whatsoever for a peaceful solution [quite right].

Continual efforts to liquidate the Popular Republic of Angola, to bleed the country systematically with the power of that well-equipped and -trained army, was what led to the Cuban decision to deliver a resounding blow to the racists at Cuito Cuanavale, the former NATO base which South Africa was attempting to occupy at all costs [it is well known that Fidel Castro directed the Cuban troops at Cuito Cuanavale from his bathtub in Havana].

That powerful country was obliged to negotiate a peace agreement which put an end to the military occupation of Angola, and an end to apartheid in South Africa [so Fidel was responsible for securing Angola's Marxist regime and ending apartheid in South Africa!].

The African continent was left free of nuclear weapons. Cuba was forced to face, for a second time, the threat of a nuclear attack [don't forget that it was Castro who put Cubans in the path of nuclear weapons in the first place].

Cuban internationalist troops withdrew from Africa with honor [all the "honor" that cannon fodder can muster. But it was not just the Cuban troops that were withdrawn from Angola after 12 years of fighting but also the bodies of Cubans killed there during the course of the war. No Cuban casualty from that war was brought home for burial until its conclusion. Castro didn't want Cubans to protest the war as Americans had when they saw planeloads of flag-draped coffins returning from Vietnam. So for twelve years, Cuban mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters were kept in the dark about the fate of their loved ones because it served the geopolitical interests of Castro's Soviet allies. There are infinite instances of Castro's disdain for the Cuban people, but I think this is the worst. And yet, he will still brag about it].

Then Cuba survived the Special Period in peace time, [imposed by Castro's refusal to let the Cuban people be free even after losing the support of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc] which has already lasted for more than 20 years without raising the white flag, something we have never done, and will never do [since Castro has never shared the privations imposed upon the Cuban people by his policies, not for 20 but for 56 years, there is no reason for him to raise the white flag. If he were the one doing the suffering and the dying, the flag of surrender would have been raised long ago. Now, of course, that flag will never be hoisted by him or his heirs because Barack Obama has surrendered unconditionally to him].

Many friends of Cuba know of the Cuban people’s exemplary conduct, and I will explain to them, in a few words, my essential position.

[The real friends of Cuba know of Castro's deplorable conduct and it is not necessary for him to explain anything to us].

I do not trust the policy of the United States [nor should the United States trust the Castro regime], nor have I exchanged one word with them [noli me tangere], though this does not in any way signify a rejection of a peaceful solution to conflicts or threats of war [Castro will accept any capitulation as a "solution"]. Defending peace is the duty of all [people of good-will, which necessarily excludes the Castros]. Any negotiated, peaceful solution to the problems between the United States and peoples, or any people of Latin America, which does not imply force or the use of force, must be addressed in accordance with international principles and norms [which have never guided the conduct of the Castro regime].

We will always defend cooperation and friendship with all of the world’s peoples [if it is in the Castro dynasty's interest], and with those of our political adversaries [again, if it is in the Castro dynasty's interest]. This is what we are demanding for all [no, you are demanding a great deal more, including $1 trillion in reparations for the pain and suffering that you and your brother have inflicted on the hapless Cuban people].

The [unelected and unelectable] President of Cuba has taken pertinent steps in accordance with his prerogatives and faculties conceded [rubber-stamped] by the [puppet] National Assembly and the Communist Party of Cuba [still the #1 party because it is the only one]. The grave dangers which today threaten humanity [to which Castro has contributed for 56 years] must yield to norms which are compatible with human dignity [like appeasing tyrants and underwriting the persecution of their subjects, in accordance with the Obama Doctrine]. No country can be denied such a right [what right? To be unfree?].

In this spirit I have struggled, and will continue to struggle [for my life, my liberty, and my pursuit of happiness, to the exclusion of everybody else's] to my last breath [which can't come soon enough, if it hasn't come already].

Fidel Castro Ruz 
January 26, 2015
12:35 p.m.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fidel Castro: Heir of Sam Adams and Patrick Henry, Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson

"For Fidel Castro swept into Washington last Wednesday night not only out of another world, the world of fierce Latin passion, but also out of another century — the century of Sam Adams and Patrick Henry and Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson. Perhaps because he stirred memories, long dimmed, of a revolutionary past, and recalled a revolutionary ardor, once deeply felt ("Bliss was it on that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven"), Fidel Castro succeeded in achieving a suspension of disbelief — at least partial and temporary."E.W. Kenworthy. The New York Times, April 19, 1959, p. E7

No, the adulation was not limited to Castro's creator, the unctuous Herbert Matthews, with his throbbing Pygmalion man-crush; but was embraced by all and sundry at The New York Times both before and after 1959. E[dwin] W[entworth] Kenworthy was The Times' correspondent in Washington, D.C. He is reporting on Castro's visit to the capital during his 11-day "victory tour" of the United States, in April 1959, which included a ticket tape parade down Wall Street's "Canyon of Heroes,"  a snubbing by President Eisenhower (who went golfing rather than meet the man that his State Department had vetted and installed in power four months earlier), visits to the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and Mount Vernon, and a day-long excursion to New York's Central Park, where he poked his finger inside a tiger's cage (not quite wrestling with lions, as his hero Mussolini had done, but still metaphorical enough).

I googled this passage and confirmed that no one had quoted it in 56 years. Suspiciously, there wasn't even a link to The New York Times' Archives. Its inclusion on this blog is its only citation on Google. I wonder how many other gems are buried in The Times' Archives? More, no doubt, than they would like to publicize. Something else to look into when blizzards (don't) strike.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

José Martí (1853-2015)

Today marks the 162nd anniversary of José Martí's birth. It is also the 57th time that we are obliged to commemorate this occasion outside of Cuba and with the knowledge that everything Martí lived and died for — liberty, justice, democracy and independence — is now but a distant memory for the most elderly Cubans and figures not at all in the life experiences of those born after 1959. It was our failure as a nation to heed and apply the lessons Martí taught us, and, above all, to profit by his example, which is the real cause of our national tragedy. Perhaps the lessons taught us with whips and chains by his antithesis will leave a more lasting impression on us. We have learned from Castro what we should avoid in the future. It was Martí who said that we must work with men as they are and not as we would wish them to be. In the past, we sought perfection in our leaders and condemned them for mirroring our own failings. Finally we elevated one to supreme power who was indifferent to our disapproval or disdain. Martí attributed to us virtues that we perhaps did not possess; but Castro despised, vilified and degraded us till we acclaimed his vices as virtues and embraced them ourselves. But evil, of course, has no more permanent a hold on men's affairs than does good. When this shameful chapter in our history is concluded, the Cuban people will  become acculturated to freedom at least as successfully as they did to tyranny. Martí's writings will be read, understood and put into practice; and the great work of national redemption which he began will at last be complete and his faith in us and hopes for us fulfilled. May we all live to see that long-awaited day.

A Sincere Man Am I (Verse I)

A sincere man am I
From the land where palm trees grow,
And I want before I die
My soul's verses to bestow.

I'm a traveller to all parts,
And a newcomer to none:
I am art among the arts,
With the mountains I am one.

I know how to name and class
All the strange flowers that grow;
I know every blade of grass,
Fatal lie and sublime woe.

I have seen through dead of night
Upon my head softly fall,
Rays formed of the purest light
From beauty celestial.

I have seen wings that were surging
From beautiful women's shoulders,
And seen butterflies emerging
From the refuse heap that moulders.

I have known a man to live
With a dagger at his side,
And never once the name give
Of she by whose hand he died.

Twice, for an instant, did I
My soul's reflection espy:
Twice: when my poor father died
And when she bade me good-bye.

I trembled once, when I flung
The vineyard gate, and to my dread,
The wicked hornet had stung
My little girl on the forehead.

I rejoiced once and felt lucky
The day that my jailer came
To read the death warrant to me
That bore his tears and my name.

I hear a sigh across the earth,
I hear a sigh over the deep:
It is no sign reaching my hearth,
But my son waking from sleep.

If they say I have obtained
The pick of the jeweller's trove,
A good friend is what I've gained
And I have put aside love.

I have seen across the skies
A wounded eagle still flying;
I know the cubby where lies
The snake of its venom dying.

I know that the world is weak
And must soon fall to the ground,
Then the gentle brook will speak
Above the quiet profound.

While trembling with joy and dread,
I have touched with hand so bold
A once-bright star that fell dead
From heaven at my threshold.

On my brave heart is engraved
The sorrow hidden from all eyes:
The son of a land enslaved,
Lives for it, suffers and dies.

All is beautiful and right,
All is as music and reason;
And all, like diamonds shining bright,
Was black as coal before its season.

I know when fools are laid to rest
Honor and tears will abound,
And that of all fruits, the best
Is left to rot in holy ground.

Without a word, the pompous muse
I've set aside, and understood:
From a withered branch, I choose
To hang my doctoral hood.

Yo soy un hombre sincero (Verso I)

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.

Yo he visto en la noche oscura
Llover sobre mi cabeza
Los rayos de lumbre pura
De la divina belleza.

Alas nacer vi en los hombros
De las mujeres hermosas:
Y salir de los escombros,
Volando las mariposas.

He visto vivir a un hombre
Con el puñal al costado,
Sin decir jamás el nombre
De aquella que lo ha matado.

Rápida, como un reflejo,
Dos veces vi el alma, dos:
Cuando murió el pobre viejo,
Cuando ella me dijo adiós.

Temblé una vez —en la reja,
A la entrada de la viña,—
Cuando la bárbara abeja
Picó en la frente a mi niña.

Gocé una vez, de tal suerte
Que gocé cual nunca:—cuando
La sentencia de mi muerte
Leyó el alcalde llorando.

Oigo un suspiro, a través
De las tierras y la mar,
Y no es un suspiro,—es
Que mi hijo va a despertar.

Si dicen que del joyero
Tome la joya mejor,
Tomo a un amigo sincero
Y pongo a un lado el amor.

Yo he visto al águila herida
Volar al azul sereno,
Y morir en su guarida
La vibora del veneno.

Yo sé bien que cuando el mundo
Cede, lívido, al descanso,
Sobre el silencio profundo
Murmura el arroyo manso.

Yo he puesto la mano osada,
De horror y júbilo yerta,
Sobre la estrella apagada
Que cayó frente a mi puerta.

Oculto en mi pecho bravo
La pena que me lo hiere:
El hijo de un pueblo esclavo
Vive por él, calla y muere.

Todo es hermoso y constante,
Todo es música y razón,
Y todo, como el diamante,
Antes que luz es carbón.

Yo sé que el necio se entierra
Con gran lujo y con gran llanto.
Y que no hay fruta en la tierra
Como la del camposanto.

Callo, y entiendo, y me quito
La pompa del rimador:
Cuelgo de un árbol marchito
Mi muceta de doctor.

From: José Martí, Versos sencillos/Simple Verses. Translated by Manuel A. Tellechea. Arte Público Press: Houston, TX. 1997. Revised 2011.

Fidel: "No Country for You!"

"I am sure that Cubans are not content just to be free men in their own country. I am sure that Cubans also want to enjoy their country. I am sure that they also want to share the bread and the wealth which their country produces. How can we say that this is our country when our country gives us nothing? 'My country?' But if we receive nothing from our country, if our country does not support us, if we are starving in our country — then that is not our country! It might be a country for a few, but it is not a country for the people. Country doesn't just mean a place where we can shout, speak and walk without the fear of being killed. Country is a place where one can live, country is a place where one can work and earn an honest living, and be paid fairly for the work that one does. Country is a place where citizens are not exploited, because a country that exploits its citizens, which takes from them what belongs to them, robs them of all they have — that is not a country."Fidel Castro, speech delivered in Camagüey, January 4, 1959

This, Castro's "Ask Not What You Can Do for Your Country, But What Your Country Can Do for You" speech, with its mock-biblical cadences and hypnotic use of repetition, should literally have sent all Cubans to the hills, to reclaim the country which the bearded poseur had just "liberated" into perpetual slavery. We cringe at the thought that here, encapsulated in less than 200 words, is the history of Cuba for the last 56 years. A country is what Fidel Castro intended to take from each and every Cuban. The means whereby he would accomplish the theft are outlined here as are the results. He was not speaking about the past or about the present, but was prophesying the future: a place in time where Cubans cannot enjoy their country because they are not free men there; where they share neither the bread nor the wealth which their country produces or should produce; where they are not supported in any sense by the feudal state which is reared on their backs; where living on the cusp of starvation is the common lot; where the privileged few alone benefit from the labor of the disinherited many; where citizens can shout and march in defense of tyranny but are killed or brutalized for opposing it; where no one can make an honest living or expect to be compensated fairly for his work; where all are exploited and robbed without appeal or hope of relief; a place where it is impossible to live, and impossible to keep body and soul together, for one or the other must be sacrificed: dignity at the cost of survival, or survival at the price of dignity.

We can always speak to futurity, but that serves no practical purpose in our time. If it were only possible to telegraph the past and raise the cry of alarm! Well, if they wouldn't listen to their own ears, what hope would there be that they would heed the warning? Their complete disassociation from reality, which is always costly and sometimes fatal, proved no defense against the imposition of that reality. We do not hold that generation to blame for its lack of prescience, but for its detachment from and indifference to reality. It is not that they were fooled which made them victims, because they were not fooled: they were captivated by the siren's song not because it was beautiful, but because it was not. Reason would have steered them right, but reason they dismissed because they preferred to ignore rather than face the facts. That was the easier but not the safer course. And though I hold that a majority of Cubans could see through Fidel Castro from day one, and that every successive day that majority grew till by 1962 it comprised almost the entire nation, the fear and opportunism also grew apace with the knowledge that Cuba was the hostage of a madman and that to oppose him meant immediate rather than gradual extinction. Most Cubans chose to die over the course of decades; the rest set an example of resistance, short-lived and glorious, which there was no one after them to follow, not because the overthrow of the Castro regime was not desired, but because it was not possible.

  48 Years Ago Fidel Castro Said

  Fidel: "No Elections in the Name of Fairness"

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Blizzard of 1888 as Reported by José Martí

As I look out my window, what is forecast to be the greatest blizzard ever to hit the New York metropolitan area has just begun. When it is all over, the city may be covered with three feet of snow, which would surpass any previous accumulation by eight inches (itself a formidable amount). To anyone acquainted with José Martí's writings, or, perhaps I should say, to someone who lives his life in Martí's shadow — or to update the metaphor, with Martí as his wallpaper — the onset of such a snowstorm cannot but remind him of Martí's famous crónica about the Blizzard of 1888. Whatever may be our feelings of awe and anticipation now, more redolent of adventure than of tragedy, we cannot know the terror and despair which gripped Martí's New York when confronted with a natural catastrophe that it was both unprepared for and unable to prepare for even if it had been forewarned. 

The translation is by Juan de Onís and appears in his anthology The America of José Martí [1953], the first collection of Martí's prose writings in English translation. As a rule, Onís is an excellent translator and I prefer him to any other. I have, however, made some minor revisions in the original translation when I thought that Onis' rendering did not do full justice to Martí:

[Onis] It is amazing and frightening, as though a shroud should suddenly flower in blood, to see the red roofs of the houses reappear in this city of snow. The telegraph poles ruefully contemplate the destruction, their tangled, fallen wires like unkempt heads.

[Revision] It terrifies and amazes to see this city of snow receding and its red brick houses starting to reappear as blood stains upon the snow. The telegraph poles ruefully contemplate the destruction, their tangled, fallen wires like unkempt hair.

New York Under the Snow

[New York, March 15, 1888] The first oriole had already been spied hanging its nest from a cedar in Central Park; the bare poplars were putting forth their buds of spring; and the leaves of the chestnut were emerging, like chattering women poking their heads out of their hoods after a storm. Alerted by the chirping of the birds, the brooks were coming out from under their icy covering to see the sun’s return, and winter, defeated by the flowers, had fled away, covering its retreat with the month of winds. The first straw hats had made their appearance, and the streets of New York were gay with Easter attire, when, on opening its eyes after the snowstorm had spent its force, the city found itself silent, deserted, shrouded, buried under the snow. Dauntless Italians, braving the icy winds, load their street-cleaning carts with fine, glittering snow, which they empty into the river to the accompaniment of neighs, songs, jokes, and oaths. The elevated train, stranded in a two-day vigil beside the body of the engineer who set out to defy the blizzard, is running again, creaking and shivering, over the clogged rails that glitter and flash. Sleigh bells jingle; the news vendors cry their papers; snow-plows, drawn by stout horses, throw up banks of snow on either side of the street as they clear the path for carriages; through the breast-high snow, the city makes its way back to the trains, paralyzed on the white plains, to the rivers, now turned into frozen bridges, to the silent wharves.

The clash of the combatants echoes through the vault-like streets of the city. For two days the snow has had New York in its power, encircled, terrified, like a prize fighter knocked to the canvas by a sneak punch. But the moment the attack of the enemy slackened, as soon as the blizzard had spent its first fury, New York, like the victim of an outrage, goes about freeing itself from its shroud. Leagues of men move through the white mounds. The snow already runs in dirty rivers in the busiest streets under the onslaught of  its assailants' feet. With spades, with shovels, with their own chests and those of the horses, they push back the snow, which retreats to the rivers.

Man’s defeat was great, but so was his triumph. The city is still white; the bay remains white and frozen. There have been deaths, cruelties, kindness, fatigue, and bravery. Man has given a good account of himself in this disaster.

At no time in this century has New York experienced a storm like that of March 13. It had rained the preceding Sunday, and the writer working into the dawn, the newspaper vendor at the railroad station, the milkman on his round of the sleeping houses, could hear the whiplash of the wind that had descended on the city against the chimneys, against walls and roofs, as it vented its fury on slate and mortar, shattered windows, demolished porches, clutched and uprooted trees, and howled, as though ambushed, as it fled down the narrow streets. Electric wires, snapping under its impact, sputtered and died. Telegraph lines, which had withstood so many storms, were wrenched from their posts. And when the sun should have appeared, it could not be seen, for like a shrieking, panic-stricken army, with its broken squadrons, gun carriages and infantry, the snow swirled past the darkened windows, without interruption, day and night. Man refused to be vanquished. He came out to defy the storm.

But by this time the overpowered streetcar lay horseless beneath the storm; the elevated train, which paid in blood for its first attempt to brave the elements, let the steam escape from its helpless engine; the suburban train, halted en route by the tempest or stalled by the drifting snow, higher than the engines, struggled in vain to reach its destination. The streetcars attempted one trip, and the horses plunged and reared, defending themselves with their hoofs from the suffocating storm. The elevated train took on a load of passengers, and ground to a halt half-way through the trip, paralyzed by the snow; after six hours of waiting, the men and women climbed down by ladder from their wind-tossed prison. The wealthy, or those faced with an emergency, paid twenty-five or fifty dollars for carriages drawn by stout horses to carry them a short distance, step by step. The angry wind, heavy with snow, buffeted them, pounded them, hurled them to the ground.

It was impossible to see the sidewalks. Intersections could no longer be distinguished, and one street looked like the next. On 23rd Street, one of the busiest thoroughfares, a thoughtful merchant put a sign on a corner-post: “This is 23rd Street.” The snow was knee-deep, and the drifts, waist-high. The angry wind nipped at the hands of pedestrians, knifed through their clothing,froze their noses and ears, blinded them, hurled them backward into the slippery snow, its fury making it impossible for them to get to their feet, flung them hatless and groping for support against the walls, or left them to sleep, to sleep forever, under the snow. A shopkeeper, a man in the prime of life, was found buried today, with only a hand sticking from the snow to show where he lay. A messenger boy, as blue as his uniform, was dug out of a white, cool tomb, a fit resting place for his innocent soul, and lifted up in the compassionate arms of his comrades. Another, buried to the neck, sleeps with two red patches on his white cheeks, his eyes a filmy blue.

The old, the young, women, children, inch along Broadway and the avenues on their way to work. Some fall, and struggle to their feet. Some, exhausted, sink into a doorway, their only desire to struggle no more; others, generous souls, take them by the arm, encouraging them, shouting and singing. An old woman, who had made herself a kind of mask of her handkerchief with two slits for the eyes, leans against a wall and bursts into tears; the president of a neighboring bank, making his way on foot, carries her in his arms to a nearby pharmacy, which can be made out through the driving snow by its yellow and green lights. “I’m not going any further,” said one. “I don’t care if I lose my job.” “I’m going on,” says another. “I need my day’s pay.” The clerk takes the working girl by the arm; she helps her weary friend with an arm around his waist. At the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge, a new bank clerk pleads with the policeman to let him pass, although at that moment only death can cross the bridge. “I will lose the job it has taken me three years to find,” he supplicates. He starts across, and the wind reaches a terrible height, throws him to the ground with one gust, lifts him up again, snatches off his hat, rips open his coat, knocks him down at every step; he falls back, clutches at the railing, drags himself along. Notified by telegraph from Brooklyn, the police on the
New York side of the bridge pick him up, utterly spent.

But why all this effort, when hardly a store is open, when the whole city has surrendered, huddled like a mole in its burrow, when if they reach the factory or office they will find the iron doors locked? Only a fellow man’s pity, or the power of money, or the happy accident of living beside the only train which is running in one section of the city, valiantly inching along from hour to hour, can give comfort to so many faithful employees, so many courageous old men, so many heroic factory girls on this terrible day. From corner to corner they make their way, sheltering themselves in doorways, until one opens to the feeble knocking of their numbed hands, like sparrows tapping against the window panes. Suddenly the fury of the wind mounts; it hurls the group fleeing for shelter against the wall; the poor working women cling to one another in the middle of the street until the snarling, screeching wind puts them to flight again. Men and women fight their way uptown, struggling against the gale, clearing the snow from their eyes, shielding them with their hands to find their way through the storm. Hotels? The chairs have been rented out for beds, and the baths for rooms. Drinks? Not even the men can find anything to drink; the saloons have exhausted their stock; and the women, dragging their numb feet homeward, have only tears to drink.

After the first surprise of the dawn, people find ways to adjust their clothing so the fury of the tempest will not do them so much harm. There is an overturned wagon at every step; a window shade, hanging from its spring, flaps against the wall like the wing of a dying bird; an awning is torn to ribbons; a cornice dangles from its wall; an eave lies in the street. Walls, hallways, windows are all banked with snow. And the blizzard blows without respite, piling up drifts, scattering destruction, whistling and howling. And men and women keep walking to the snow to their armpits.

One has made a mask of silk from his umbrella, with two holes for the eyes, and another for the mouth, and thus, with his hands behind his back, he cuts his way through the wind. Others have tied stockings over their shoes, or bags of salt, or wrapping paper or strips of rubber fastened with twine. Still others protect themselves with leggings, with fur caps; one, half dead, is being carried, wrapped in his buffalo-hide overcoat. “Sir!” pleads the voice of a boy who cannot be seen for the snow, “get me out of here, I am dying” It is a messenger boy whom some heartless employer has sent out in this storm. There are many on horseback; one, who came out in a sled, is carried away with it at the first gust, and nearly loses his life. A determined old lady, who set out to buy a wreath of orange blossoms for her daughter's wedding, loses the wreath to the wind. Night fell over the arctic waste of New York, and terror took over.

The postman on his round fell face down, blinded and benumbed, protecting his leather bag with his body. Families trapped in roofless houses sought madly and in vain to find a way out through the snow-banked doors. When water hydrants lay buried under five feet of snow, a raging fire broke out, lighting up the snowy landscape like the Northern Lights, and swiftly burned three apartment houses to the ground. The fire wagons arrived! The firemen dug with their hands and found the hydrant. The walls and the snowy street were scarlet, and the sky was blue velvet. Although the water they sprayed against against the flames was hurled back in their faces in stinging pellets by the fury of the wind, although the tongues of crimson flame leaped higher than the cross on the church steeple, although the wind-tossed columns of smoke bearing golden sparks singed their beards, there, without giving an inch, the firemen fought the fire with the snow at their breasts, brought it under control, and vanquished it. And then, with their arms, they opened a path for the engine through the snow.

Without milk, without coal, without newspapers, without streetcars, without telephones, without telegraph, the city awoke this morning. What eagerness on the part of those living uptown to read the newspapers, which thanks to the intrepidity of the poor newsboys, finally came up from the downtown presses! There were four theaters open last night, but all the stores and offices are closed, and the elevated struggles in vain to carry to their places of work the unwitting crowds that gather at its stations.

The trains and their human cargo stand snowbound on the tracks. The city is cut off from the rest of the country and no news goes in or out. The rivers are ice and the courageous cross them on foot; then suddenly the ice  gives way, and sheets float aimlessly with men aboard them; a tug goes out to rescue the stranded, skirting the ice cake, posing it toward the bank, edging it to a nearby dock. They are saved. What a cheer goes up from both sides of the river! There are also cheers as the fireman passes, the policeman, the brave postman. What can have happened to the trains that never arrive? The railroad companies, with admirable dispatch, send out food and coal, hauled by their most powerful engines. What of those at sea? How many bodies lie buried under the snow?

Like a routed army that unexpectedly turns on its vanquisher, the snow had come in the night and covered the proud city with death.

We saw yesterday that these attacks from the unknown are worthwhile for utilitarian peoples whose virtues, nurtured by their labor, are capable of compensating, in these solemn hours, for the want of those virtues that are weakened by selfishness. How brave the children, how loyal the workers, how uncomplaining and noble the women, how generous the men! Everybody in the whole city speaks in a loud voice today, as if to reassure one another that they are not alone. Those who unfeelingly push and jostle one another  all the rest of the year, smile on each other today, tell of the dangers they escaped, exchange addresses, and walk along with new friends. The squares are mountains of snow, over which the icy lacework clinging like filigree to the branches of the trees glitters in the morning sun.

Houses of snow crown the rooftops, where the merry sparrows dig fragile nests. It terrifies and amazes to see this city of snow receding and its red brick houses starting to reappear as blood stains upon the snow. The telegraph poles ruefully contemplate the destruction, their tangled, fallen wires like unkempt hair. The city digs out, buries its dead, and with men, horses, and machines all working together, clears away the snow with streams of boiling water, with shovels, plows, and bonfires. But one is touched by a sense of great humility and a sudden rush of kindness, as though the dread hand had touched the shoulders of all men.

Published originally in La Nación (Argentina), April 27, 1888

Friday, January 23, 2015

Liberation Theology Almost Sinks the Catholic Church In Latin America

Remember Liberation Theology, that unnatural coupling of Catholicism and Marxism which was supposed to save the Church from becoming irrelevant or even extinct in Latin American? Well, they've just counted hands and the results are in: it is precisely in countries where Liberation Theology exerted the greatest influence from the 1960s to the 1990s that the percentage of Catholics has declined most sharply while evangelical Protestant denominations which never flirted with Marxism are on the ascendancy everywhere in Latin America.

According to the Pew Research Center, the countries where Catholics have experienced the largest declines are: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Brazil, and Uruguay, all down approximately 20 or more percentage points. The countries where Protestants have experienced the largest gains: Honduras (41 percent), Guatemala (41 percent), Nicaragua (40 percent), and El Salvador (36 percent). So that was the tangible effect of the Church's de facto support for Marxist insurgencies in Central America.

We may conclude, therefore, that the greatest calamity that ever befell Catholicism in Latin America was the fusion of  Christ's parables with Marx's dialectics, which did not in fact yield a "liberation" theology but an alienation theology.

Sorry, Pope Francis: Protestants Are Converting Catholics Across Latin America

Hialeah Leads Nation in Sign-Ups for Obamacare

Florida leads the nation in sign-ups for Obamacare, and Hialeah leads the state followed by Miami. In fact, of the ten zip codes with the highest number of people who have registered for coverage using the federal marketplace, Hialeah zip code "33012" ranks number one in the nation. Hialeah's other three zip codes are also represented in the Top-Ten. Miami zip codes account for three placements on that list; Fort Lauderdale for two; and Pompano Beach for one. All ten zip codes with the highest Obamacare enrollment nationwide are in South Florida.

The area with the highest concentration of Cuban exiles in the nation also has the most card-carrying beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act. Well, clearly there is one Obama policy that Cuban-Americans overwhelmingly support, and it isn't the resumption of diplomatic relations with Communist Cuba or the lifting of the trade embargo.

Along with free satellite wi-fi, President Obama should offer to extend Obamacare to the people of Cuba as reparations for the infinite harm which was done to our country when the U.S. installed Fidel Castro in power 56 years ago (the first cause of our troubles, not the absence of an American ambassador or the embargo). Even the Obamacare bronze plan would be infinitely better than the island's basest metal plan, which once upon a time offered Cubans nothing but a doctor, sans everything else. But now that Cuba is exporting its doctors to the Third World for ready cash (we would call this slavery except for the fact that the slaves are only to happy to go), even doctors are scarce on the island and nothing about Cuba's "free and universal health care" is either free or universal. 

Since Obama believes the cooked-up polls which purport that a majority of Cuban-Americans support his recent initiatives on Cuba and there is no doubt that a supermajority does support the Affordable Care Act, the president should consider coming to Hialeah to sign the legal instruments that will restore diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Communist Cuba.

One Hialeah Zip Code Leads the Nation in Obamacare Enrollment

An Obstacle to Normalization: Human Rights in the United States

When asked whether human rights had been brought up during the 18 months of clandestine meetings between the U.S. and Communist Cuba, Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and head of the U.S. delegation currently in Havana, replied: "I do not necessarily think that we are talking about direct human rights conditionality in the restoration of diplomatic relations part. That is a legal process, if you will, or a diplomatic process, that will be fairly mechanical." Or in one word, no. Diplomatic recognition of the Castro regime is not conditioned on the recognition by the Castro regime of the human rights and civil liberties of the Cuban people. Nothing as incendiary as that will be allowed to damage the internal works of the well-oiled machine of American diplomacy. This is just a "mechanical" process which is best accomplished by letting the normalization juggernaut find the straightest line to its goal and plunge ahead. Sentimental quiddities must not be allowed to derail this historic moment; for time is of the essence if President Obama hopes to shake hands with Fidel's automaton in Havana. Great, then, must have been the shock of the U.S. delegation when their hosts introduced the subject of human rights at their meeting on Thursday. Yes, the Cuban delegates expressed their shock at human rights abuses in the United States and offered their esteemed expertise at creating a more just and equitable society. Faced with such provocation, Jacobson had no choice but to bring the juggernaut to a shaky stop. She claimed at a news conference that she had "pressed" the Cubans about human rights, but when they objected to the use of that word (which they interpreted as "pressure"), she was quick to clarify that she would never pressure the Cuban "government" to do anything, and we believe her. No doubt the juggernaut will be in full gear tomorrow. ¿Derechos humanos, para qué?

A Cuba también le importan los derechos humanos en EE.UU.

Juventud Rebelde

22 de Enero del 2015 18:18:21 CDT

Gustavo Machín, vicedirector general de Estados Unidos en el Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Cuba y quien funge como vocero en las conversaciones, afirmó que los representantes de los dos países han avanzado sobre varios temas de interés bilateral como las nuevas regulaciones a partir de las medidas anunciadas por el presidente Barack Obama. Entre los temas que refirió como abordados se encuentran las telecomunicaciones. También, dijo, se ha hablado de derechos humanos, democracia y operaciones internacionales, dijo.

«Mi delegación expresó sus preocupaciones sobre el ejercicio de los derechos humanos en Estados Unidos», sostuvo. Además, Cuba habló de la contribución que, a partir de su experiencia, puede hacer al mundo en materia de derechos humanos.

«Propusimos sostener en un futuro un diálogo respetuoso sobre bases recíprocas donde abordemos nuestras preocupaciones sobre derechos humanos», reveló el segundo jefe de la delegación cubana a las conversaciones oficiales con Estados Unidos. «Ha sido un diálogo constructivo», añadió Machín. 

Cuba Also Cares About Human Rights in the U.S. 

Juventud Rebelde

January 22, 2015 18:18:21 CDT

Gustavo Machín, vice director general of the U.S. desk at the Cuban Foreign Affairs Ministry, who also serves as spokesman for the ongoing talks, affirmed that representatives of the two countries had made progress on several areas of bilateral interest such as new regulations to implement the measures announced by President Barack Obama. Among the topics which he mentioned were discussed during this latest round of talks was telecommunications. Also mentioned, he said, were human rights, democracy, and international operations.

"My delegation expressed its concern about the human rights situation in the United States," he said. Moreover, Cuba spoke about the contribution which, on the basis of its own experiences, it can make to the world on the subject of human rights.

We proposed to hold a future dialogue, upon a mutually respectful and reciprocal basis, where we will voice our concerns about human rights," revealed the second chief of the Cuban delegation to the official negotiations with the United States. "It has been a constructive dialogue," added Machín.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Parsing Statements on Cuba in Obama's "State of the Union" Speech

In Cuba, we are ending a policy [not a policy but codified law, which the president intends to subvert and nullify by presidential fiat] – (applause) -- that was long past its expiration date [there was never an expiration date on the rupture of diplomatic relations or on the trade embargo primarily because there was never an expiration date on the regime; clearly, letting the policy expire will not remove the regime; the expiration of the regime, however, would long ago have removed the policy]. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time to try something new [of course, the embargo has accomplished exactly what it was intended to do: not to overthrow the regime, but to deny it the financial resources that would allow it to fund its internal repression and external excursions on America's dime.] (Applause.) And our shift in Cuba policy [without consulting Congress and in contravention of U.S. law] has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere [the mistrust was fully justified: to mistrust a liar certainly makes more sense than to trust him] and removes the phony excuse [if  the excuse is already phony, why does it have to be removed?] for restrictions in Cuba*** ["restrictions?" Is that all that the Castro regime has imposed on Cubans in 56 years of totalitarian rule? And what "restrictions" precisely did Obama succeed in easing or eliminating when he surrendered unconditionally to Raúl Castro? The only restrictions that Obama eliminated were those that prevented the U.S. government and its citizens from underwriting the rule of Castro and his henchmen], stands up for democratic values [betrays democratic values by preferring a stable Cuba (courtesy of Castro) to internal strife that might result in an unstable (i.e. free) Cuba]  and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people [not to the Cuban people, whose hands are tied, but to their henchmen, who get to decide what's "best" for the hapless Cuban people without any input from them, just as Obama himself has now done]. And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo [fat chance on that, even with the near-unanimous support of the Democrats and of a few Republican appeasers]. (Applause.)

As -- as his Holiness, Pope Francis, [who certainly deserves a hat tip from Obama for his shameless shilling for the Castro regime] has said, diplomacy is the work of small steps [actually, only one little step is necessary for unprincipled and opportunistic diplomacy, such as practiced by Obama, to "work": when one side is willing to give the other side everything it wants and asks nothing in return except to have its capitulation accepted]. These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba [if one understands "the future in Cuba" to be the Castro dynasty]. And after years in prison [because Obama refused to demand his release or take punitive steps against the regime], we are overjoyed that Alan Gross is back where he belongs [having been exchanged for three of the Five Cuban Spies (the other two had already been returned to Cuba)]. (Applause.) Welcome home, Alan [and you're getting $3.2 million from your fellow Americans to compensate you for your pain and suffering]. We’re glad you’re here [yes, but you should never have been there, in a Castro jail, a fact which most of Obama's listeners wouldn't know and should have been pointed out to them. Maybe they just assumed, from the context of Obama's speech, that Gross was the guy responsible for negotiating this new policy and bringing democracy to  Cuba].

*** "Our shift in Cuba policy [...] removes the phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba." What Obama actually means but does not dare to say for fear of offending his new Cuban friend is: "Our shift in Cuba policy [...] removes" the phony excuse of the embargo as the cause of Communist Cuba's economic failures. But, again, if the excuse is phony, why bother to disprove it? And if Cuba's economy does improve because of renewed U.S.-Cuban ties, then does that mean that the "phony excuse" wasn't phony, after all? Paradoxically, if the wreck of the Cuban economy was due to the embargo rather than to the regime's Marxist economic model, then Obama would be wrong to claim that this was a failed policy. On the contrary, the embargo would have been shown to be the most successful economic sanctions in U.S. history.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Now Martí Was a "Plagiarist"

I often ask myself — "What's the next slander that will be directed at Martí?"

Once upon a time, his hagiographers, with all the best intentions in the world, encumbered Martí with enough praise to break the reputation of any other man; for Christ Himself, to whom Martí was often compared, would have strained to bear the weight of so many perfections. Still, that is Christ's job; it is not Martí's.

As might have been expected all along, the hagiographers have now been challenged by the detractors, whose intentions are decidedly not good, though they claim that by presenting Martí "warts and all," they are doing a service to his memory by making it possible for mortals to relate to him as what he was — a man, not a bundle of perfections, but, rather, a bundle of imperfections.

Between the hagiographers and the detractors, I will cast my lot with the hagiographers; they may exaggerate Martí's virtues and accomplishments, but they do not invent them; there is always a foundation and usually a firm foundation on which to build their panegyrics. It is otherwise with his detractors. They are the real fabulists. Whether claiming that Martí sired an illegitimate daughter while living under the roof of her legal father, or alleging on the basis of a misinterpreted poem that he was gay or at least homoerotic (while, also, paradoxically, homophobic),  or asserting, in the absence of all evidence, that Martí was a Marxist, or a racist, or an elitist, Martí's detractors must rely on convoluted thinking and a profound ignorance of his life and writings to fabricate these libels, which because they can be easily disproved in every case do not so much alter his biography as distort his public image.

The latest of these misrepresentations is found in Pablo L. Calvi's The Parrot and the Cannon: Journalism, Literature and Politics in the Formation of Latin American Identities. I read this doctoral dissertation presented at Columbia University in 2011 with interest and even admiration until I came to the chapter on José Martí. Professor Calvi (who now teaches at Ithaca College) did not have to allege that Martí was a "plagiarist" to "illustrate the difference between the notions of factuality, reality and journalistic truth as conceived in Latin America and the United States, while describing the origins of Latin American militant journalism as a social-historical." But it was useful, I suppose, to expose at least one (actually, one) Latin American "plagiarist" to bolster the supposed superiority of U.S. journalism over Latin American journalism, especially when the alleged "plagiarist" happens to be the most famous and influential journalist in Latin America history.

Since Calvi's thesis concerned truth in journalism as practiced in the U.S. and Latin America, plagiarism was not even germane; a plagiarist may, after all, tell the truth even if he does so in another's words. He is personally and professionally dishonest but not necessarily a purveyor of factual untruths. In fact, a plagiarist may tell the truth in borrowed words when an original writer does not in his own words; and a plagiarist may also be right when an original writer is not. In writing his thesis, Calvi should have been more concerned with journalistic frauds (such as Walter Duranty and Herbert Matthews; Miguel Quevedo and Gabriel García Márquez)) than with apocryphal plagiarists. Of course, it would have been another matter if Calvi had been writing about journalistic ethics rather than journalistic truth.

Here is how doctoral candidate (now Professor) Pablo L. Calvi determined that Martí was a "plagiarist" based on the "proof" presented forty years ago by Professor Kessel Schwartz:

Martí was not strictly a reporter but rather a foreign correspondent. In that vein, and contrary to the trend of journalist-witness that had started in American journalism during the Civil War, the Cuban was rarely a direct witness of the events he wrote about (González 1993, 91; Tucher 2006, 145). With a few notable exceptions, Martí’s chronicles from New York were summaries of weekly events gathered from local newspapers, magazines and other news sources. It is therefore relevant to note that, as Kessel Schwartz has documented following Martí’s coverage of the assassination of President James Garfield, in his compositions “Martí relied heavily on and rephrased, paraphrased, and plagiarized from his favorite newspaper, the New York Herald” (Schwartz 1973, 335-342). A paragraph from the Herald coverage of Garfield’s assassination quoted by Schwartz stands out as the proof of this mechanism. By an unknown Herald’s writer it reads:

No verdict of yours can recall him. He sleeps the sleep that knows no waking on the banks of Lake Erie whose limpid waters wash the boundaries of his native state, overlooking the city he loved so well, and beneath the sod of that State whose people had crowned his life with the highest honors. It is too late to call that husband back to the bereaved wife and fatherless children. For that waiting little mother whose face will never fade from the nation’s memory there will be no relief in this world. The fatal deed is done, and its horrors and griefs must remain.

Without attribution, Martí translated for his article in La Nación as follows:

Ningún veredicto vuestro, decía a los jurados, puede ya llamarlo: duerme el ilustre Garfield el sueño que no conoce despertar, sobre la pacífica ribera del lago Erie, cuyas límpidas aguas bañan los límites de su nativo Estado; duerme en aquella ciudad que él amó tanto, y bajo el suelo del Estado aquel que coronó su vida con los más altos honores. Es demasiado tarde para volver aquel esposo a la doliente esposa, a los desheredados hijos: que en cuanto aquella vigilante madrecita, cuyo rostro no se borrará jamás de la memoria de la Nación, no hay ya en la tierra alivio para ella. Cierto es el fatal caso, y vivos quedan para siempre sus horrores y penas.

Schwartz and Calvi are very poor readers of Spanish, or else they would have known immediately that both the Herald writer and Martí were quoting the District Attorney's summation to the jury at Garfield's trial. This obvious conclusion does not require any deductive thinking or research: Martí states clearly his source within the quotation itself, and if he does not footnote it, it is only because this is a newspaper account, not an academic paper. Martí called attention to the quotation with "decía a los jurados," or "he told the jury." Who was addressing the jury? Clearly, the District Attorney, for it is inconceivable from the content that the defense counsel would so have prejudiced the jury against his own client. Although nothing could be more apparent to any competent reader of Spanish, I still took the time to google the quotation and found its source immediately. It appeared in the Court Transcript of Guiteau's trial and was, indeed, spoken by District Attorney Mr. George B. Corkhill.

Pedro Calvi said...

Estimado Manuel, 

 Hay muchísimas instancias en las que Martí traduce literalmente al Herald en su cobertura del juicio a Guiteau. 

 La primera de estas referencias es la que toma del diario del 15 de noviembre: “Guiteau entered. His face evidenced fear. His eyes gleamed and danced as if he were inspired by dread of some danger. He threw a quick but timid glance at the crowd and then sat with head downward,” escribe el reportero del Herald. Y Martí traduce literalmente: “Va lleno de espanto. Sus ojos giran de prisa como los de quien busca un peligro que teme. Con mirada rápida y humilde, como para no excitar ira, ve al público. Y se sienta con la cabeza baja.” 

 Martí también toma sin cambios las descripciones de los miembros del jurado que el periodista del Herald envía en su despacho del 17 de noviembre: Al hablar de William Browner, por ejemplo, el reportero señala que “[he] believes in different phases of insanity, and though not a church member, he believes in God and a future state of rewards and punishments.” Martí lo sigue así: “William Brawner [sic] cree que existen diversos grados de demencia y que aunque no es persona devote, cree en Dios y en una vida futura de penas y castigos.” 

 Martí también toma sin modificar la descripción del ataque a Guiteau de la edición del 20 de noviembre del Herald que dice: “The ball penetrated the side of the van, grazing the top of his left arm. Guiteau’s coat and shirt sleeve were torn by the bullet.” Martí traduce: “De pronto una bala rompe la pared de hierro del carro… La bala tibia ya, rompió su levita e hizo una contusión en uno de sus brazos.” 

 Se puede seguir enumerando ejemplos de este mecanismo hasta agotar la cobertura completa del Herald y la de Martí, Manuel. Claro que hay variaciones, porque el Cubano está traduciendo del Inglés al Castellano. Y aunque a veces embellece la prosa y agrega detalles imaginarios, en muchos de estos pasajes la traducción se ciñe al original sin escena tras escena. 

Además, resulta bastante improbable que Martí haya tenido acceso directo a las transcripciones de los testimonios del juicio, por lo que seguramente también éstas las obtenía del Herald. Esto sería muy fácil de probar, simplemente triangulando las transcripciones oficiales, lo que el Herald reprodujo y lo que Martí tradujo. 

 Mi trabajo del 2011 no intenta menospreciar la calidad literario-poética de Martí, que es uno de los escritores que más admiro. Lo que intento rastrear en mi tesis es una tradición de periodismo que no se basa en la observación directa del evento y que en América del Sur llamamos crónica. 

Te recomiendo que releas el trabajo que escribí sin ofenderte de antemano, si es que de verdad te interesa saber cómo trabajaba Martí. Y mucho más te recomiendo que leas el paper de Schwartz que es inobjetable. Y en cuanto a las defensas de Martí, dejalo que se defiende bien solito. 

 Un cordial saludo.


Dear Pablo:

First, I must commend the alacrity with which you answered me. Google is really a marvel. I google my own name every day to see what others are saying about me, too.

Do not think that your allegation of "plagiarism" on Martí's part surprised much less shocked me. Kessel Schwartz's accusation didn't surprise or shock me in 1973, either. In fact, Professor Schwartz was not the first to document that Martí had relied heavily on his sources. That distinction belongs to Marcia Yoskowitz, whose "El arte de síntesis e interpretación: un estudio de 'El Terremoto de Charleston' de José Martí" was published in Cuadernos Americanos, XXVII, 6, (Nov.-Dec. 1968). Yoskowitz, however, never used the word "plagiarism" in her article, though pointing out even more commonplaces than Schwartz did. In her introduction she writes: "La crónica de José Martí, titulada 'El Terremoto de Charleston", es una síntesis bellamente transformada e interpretada del reportaje periodístico neoyorquino sobre el desastre que tuvo lugar en Charleston, South Carolina, durante la primera semana de septiembre de 1886". After having compared, side by side, similarities between Martí's crónica  and articles published in The New York Tribune, The New York Sun and The New York World, Yoskowitz concludes: "En esta crónica Martí ha eliminado la monotonía de los artículos periodísticos y ha dado a su síntesis de los hechos otras funciones además de la de resumir y describir lo que había ocurrido. Aunque a veces se parezcan bastante los artículos y la crónica, sólo la crónica de Martí revela un propósito artístico y filosófico. Impregnado de los ingredientes estilísticos salientes de Martí, 'El Terremoto de Charleston' es una de las crónicas que les presta a las 'Escenas Norteamericanas' la belleza y profundidad propias de la obra de José Martí".

Kessel Schwartz, the first to level the charge of "plagiarism" at Martí, was a professor at Miami University when the first wave of Cuban exiles arrived in Florida. Among them, of course, were the leading Cuban academics and intellectuals of the Republican era. Kessel, an Hispanicist of some note in this country, suddenly found himself surrounded by an army of experts (or "rivals") who knew profoundly what he only knew superficially and as a dilettante. Their "invasion" and eventual conquest of his domain could not go unchallenged: at Miami University he was literally on the front line of this attack and naturally felt more besieged and paranoid than others in his position elsewhere. That was the genesis of his article "José Martí. The New York Herald and President Garfield's Assassin," published in Hispania 56 (1973), where he first alleged that Martí was guilty of "plagiarism." Of course, Martí was only the instrument; it was really those exiled academics that were his real target. By claiming that Martí was a "plagiarist" and hence a fraud who had made his reputation by pilfering lines from anonymous New York newspaper reporters,  Kessel believed that not only would he prove that he knew more than the Cubans did about the seminal figure in their history and culture but also wound them in their heart's core as Cubans. It was a great disappointment to him that his article went unanswered by any Cuban academic, who really regarded it as beneath contempt or even notice. This reaction (or, rather, non-reaction) infuriated Schwartz. He bode his time, and ten years later rehashed the same accusation in "A Source for Three Martí Letters — The Art of Translation and Journalistic Creation," published in Revista de Estudios Hispánicos XVIII (1984). Again, the same predictable reaction: Schwarz's canard was once more ignored on both sides of the Florida Straits. That he was a crackpot who was best ignored is practically the only thing that anti-Castro martianos and pro-Castro martianos (an oxymoron) have ever agreed upon.

If Professor Schwartz were still alive today, he would be in his mid-nineties. I sincerely hope that he is if only so that he can have the satisfaction of knowing that he finally managed to entrap a disciple and that his canard will live on after him.

Everyone knows because Martí never concealed it that he gleaned his news from the New York dailies. You are right when you say that except on rare occasions Martí was not a reporter; nor did he pretend to be one; nor did his editors in Mexico or Argentina regard him as one. Martí was what we would call today an Op-Ed writer. He was given a more extensive canvas than Op-Ed writers are today so that he could also provide background information for his readers, who because they did not live in the United States were unacquainted with current events here and required some precis of them in order to understand Martí's commentary. Perhaps he should have saved himself some trouble and simply quoted articles from the New York papers verbatim, something which he rarely did. Instead, he synthesized reports from numerous sources, analyzed their reliability and objectivity, removed the racism and jingoism with which they were often tinged, and presented the facts to his readers in his own inimitable style, which did not need to be "embellished" with tropes from forgotten hack writers. Of course, there were many commonplaces in Martí's summary of the news and the English-language newspapers' of his day. There are no less striking similarities between, say, reports in The Sun and reports in The Tribune on the same story. How could anybody expect it to be otherwise?

It is instructive that the instance of "plagiarism" which you chose to highlight in your dissertation, and which, obviously, was the most egregious example you could find, actually turned out to be a quotation from the court transcript of remarks made by the prosecutor at Guiteau's trial. And still you will not admit that this was not an instance of plagiarism, but counter that Martí surely got the quotation from The New York Herald and not the original court transcript! What does that matter? What does that prove? Does the fact that you yourself got the quotation from Schwartz's article show that you "plagiarized" it, too? I have no doubt that most if not all of the commonplaces cited by Schwartz have their origin in the court transcript, which, incidentally, was not consulted by Schwartz. The New York Herald — to use another example which you provide of Martí's "plagiarism" —  described juror William Browner as he described himself under cross-examination before he was seated on the jury, and so, of course, did Martí. Did you expect the American reporter or Martí to interview the juror during the course of the trial on his opinion of insanity or his religious beliefs? The only recourse which both had was to quote from Browner's testimony. That's OK when the American reporter does it, but somehow "plagiarism" when Martí follows suit?

 By accusing Martí of being a "plagiarist," you simply wanted to create an effect; perhaps your intentions were not malicious, as in the case of Schwartz; but you definitely wanted to reduce Martí a few pegs, which is the height of presumption and self-delusion and can only revert to your discredit.

Wishing you the best, and hoping that you will be able to recognize it when you see it.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

What The New York Times Said About José Martí When He Died

[As we await the publication of Fidel Castro's obituary in The New York Times, already written by Anthony De Palma, it is well to remember what The Times had to say on the occasion of José Martí's death in 1895. By way of contrast, we reproduce also Charles A. Dana's tribute in The New York Sun].

Published in The New-York Times, June 5, 1895

The news of the death of José Martí, the so-called president of the Cuban Republic,  has caused a real sensation. Martí was the soul of the revolution. He had initiated and prepared it, in spite of the little aid that he could find in Cuba every time he had attempted to create a revolutionary movement. Naturally, his death gives hope that the war will soon be ended. Martí was not a fearful rebel, nor was he one of the exceptional men who may overturn a country by force of talent. A commonplace poet and writer, a prolix orator of diffuse style, he had written and talked so much that he had obtained a reputation among the Separatists. These, lacking a chief having any prestige at all, gave him their money.

It would be unjust to deny that he had remarkable tenacity, activity, and perseverance. Perhaps he was also a man of conviction, as his friends assure. But he must be severely judged. To put into turbulence a country which asked nothing more than peace and work, to expose it to a ferocious race, thinking always of revenge against the whites, to light the fires of civil war, pillage under the pretext of "Cuba libre," and put obstacles in the way of reforms which had been demanded for years, are not acts that claim indulgence.

However, there are men more guilty than he was, and more deserving of public censure. They were paid by him or they expected to gain something if he could be victorious. To sustain the revolution he had to recourse to all sorts of means; lies, false news, calumny. The end of Martí is the beginning of the end... The war will be hereafter conducted by negroes only, and bandits.


Editorial published in The New York Sun, May 23 1895

We learn with poignant sorrow of the death in battle of José Martí, the well known leader of Cuban revolutionists. We knew him long and well, and esteemed him profoundly. For a protracted period, beginning twenty odd years ago, he was employed as a contributor of The Sun, writing of subjects and questions of the fine arts. In these things his learning was solid and extensive, and his ideas and conclusions were original and brilliant. He was a man of genius, of imagination, of hope, and of courage, one of those descendants of the Spanish race whose American birth and instincts seemed to have added to the revolutionary tincture which all modern Spanish inherit. His heart was warm and affectionate, his opinions ardent and aspiring, and he died as such a man might wish to die, battling for liberty and democracy. Of such heroes there are not too many in the world, and his warlike grave testifies that, even in positive and material age, there are spirits that can give all for their principles without thinking of any selfish return for themselves.

Honor to the memory of José Martí, and peace to his manly and generous soul!

Friday, January 16, 2015

"News of Fidel's Death Spreads Like Bushfire"

No, not that Fidel, alas. But Barack Obama's cousin, Fidel Castro Odinga, son of former Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga, is dead at age 41. There are persistent rumors in Kenya that he was the victim of foul play whether by human agency or supernatural means. His father has endorsed this suspicion and sent tissue samples to Germany for analysis (we suppose that his entrails were entrusted to some competent local expert for purposes of divination). Hopefully, the malicious speculations of rival politicians will be proved wrong (according to his critics, Fidel Odinga died of a drug overdose after a lifetime of addiction).

It is likely Fidel Castro Odinga's death on January 4th gave rise to rumors of the demise of his namesake and ideological godson.

Back in 2008, the Review of Cuban-American Blogs was the first to reveal that Barack Obama had a cousin named Fidel Castro Odinga (Meet Fidel Odinga). It is fitting, therefore, that we should be the first in the Cuban blogosphere to report his death. To The Star of Africa (whose delicious English proves that the mother tongue is more alive in the hinterlands than in London or New York), we owe the news of Odinga's passing and the title of this post, which illustrates that even a cliché can sound new when invested with local color.

We urge you to read and ponder Khainga O'okwemba touching tribute to his boyhood idol, Ode to Fidel Castro Odinga," which begins:

The nude body in that coffin belongs to my brother,
Although he is clothed in a three-piece suit
That will never cover the naked truth
That he is a victim of murder.

What's in a name? Apparently, everything. Fidel Castro Odinga's notoriety in Kenya was not due only to his being the son of Raila Odinga or the grandson of Oginga Odinga, founder of Kenya's Communist Party. It was, rather, his adoptive bloodline that was used to prove his worth and authenticity, much as Jesus' descent from David through his adopted father Joseph is used to prove that He fulfills the Bible prophecy that the Messiah must spring from the loins of David. Fidel Castro Odinga's pedigree was also traced to and validated by an indirect ancestor: "When Fidel's name popped out in public, he immediately became famous and attracted admiration, because of the political spirit the revolutionary Cuban leader Fidel Castro, that he was named after, evoked." One would think that the "political spirit" evoked by Fidel Castro would hardly be a recommendation, but let us not judge the Dark Continent too harshly when the Enlightened West is no better informed about the last white colonizer of Africa, successor to King Leopold and Cecil Rhodes.

Fidel Castro Odinga leaves a 2 year-old son as his only heir. We have been unable to discover if he's named after his late father. We'll know, one day, if "Fidel Castro Odinga, Jr." comes to prominence.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cuba Is Not On the 2015 World Watch List of Countries Where Christians Are Most Persecuted

Nope. Communist Cuba is not on this list. Its political twin North Korea tops the list, and present are many of the usual suspects from the Islamic world. There are two Latin American countries represented on the list. I won't have you guess because these two countries are absolutely the last that you or anyone would guess: Colombia (35th) and Mexico (38th). Colombia ranks just above Algeria and below Tunisia. Mexico ranks above Malaysia and below Oman. China (29th) is almost in their league. And far more tolerant of Christians than Colombia and Mexico are: Mali; Turkey; Kazakhstan; Bangladesh; Sri Lanka; Tajikistan; Azerbaijan; Indonesia; Mauritania; United Arab Emirates; and Kuwait. Yes, all these Muslim countries are more tolerant of Christianity than Colombia and Mexico with their super majorities of  Christians!

But this is a Cuban blog, and what concerns us most is that the only country in Latin America that actively persecutes Christians is not listed among the Top-Fifty Worst Offenders, and if that were not bad enough Cuba's exclusion from the Open Doors Watch List implies that whatever religious persecution may exist there does not exceed or even approach that which Colombia and Mexico are supposedly guilty of, which is tantamount to saying that there is no persecution of Christians qua Christians in Cuba.

2015 Open Doors World Watch List Ranking of 50 Countries Where Persecution of Christians for Religious Reasons Is Most Severe

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.