Whoever doubts Fidel Castro's demise--political if not physical--need only look at Hugo Chavez recent monkeyshines at the United Nations. If Castro is sentient he's furious. The organ grinder gets laid up, the leash comes off and in no time the monkey makes a mess of things. Chavez even provoked harsh words from Charlie Rangel!
In Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel, Fidel Castro has his main (of many) booster in the U.S. legislature. Sure, the accolades from Harry Belafonte, Steven Speilberg, Oliver Stone, Norman Mailer, Dan Rather, etc. are all nice. But Charlie Rangel provides more than mere atta-boys. He's also there to champion any and all legislation against the so-called embargo, to facilitate Elian's return, to rally votes against aid to the Contras and to bear hug Fidel during his last visit to Harlem. Best of all, he's poised to wrangle a seat in the House Ways and Means Committee, where his influence over international trade will be greatly enhanced.
In Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro has his main financial booster. Sure, the accolades from Britain's Galloway, Spain's Zapatero, Argentina's Kirchner are all nice. But given recent oil prices, the 100,000 daily barrels of essentially free oil from Chavez actually surpasses in value the daily subsidies from Cuba's former Soviet patrons. Sitting atop all that oil, Hugo is positioned to put his money where his anti-Yankee and pro-Cuba mouth is.
So a falling out between these two Cuba friends and benefactors cannot help the Castroite cause-- and would have never come to pass if Castro was still in a position to mentor his Venezuelan suitor. During his General Assembly rant, Chavez had the right idea by holding up Noam Chomsky's book. "That's the beauty of this type of thing, Hugo," a healthy Castro would have advised. "So many American leftists, scoundrels and fools are so eager to echo our ravings that there's absolutely no need for us to mouth them ourselves, you idiot! From Susan Sontag to Saul Landau and from Frank Manckiewics to Michael Moore I've relied on such people for decades! Now look what you've done! Prominent Democrats--my historic allies--from Rangel to Pelosi are speaking against you! Democrats saved me in the nick of time at Bay of Pigs. Democrats then provided my Mutually-Assured-Protection with the Kennedy- Kruschev deal. Democrats fought tooth and nail against help to the Nicaraguan Contras. Democrats returned Elian. Democrats (and farm state Republicans) whittled away the embargo. It takes a lot to get Democrats riled against a Latin leftist--and here you've managed it, you idiot!"
Chavez might have taken a cue from the Cuban Maestro's own visit in 1995 to New York (a city he twice tried to incinerate) for the UN's 50th anniversary festivities. "The Toast of Manhattan!" crowed Time magazine about Castro's reception by the General Assembly and later by Manhattan's Beautiful People.
"The Hottest Ticket in Manhattan!" read a Newsweek story that week, referring to the social swirl that engulfed Castro. After Castro's whooping, hollering, foot-stomping ovation in the General Assembly, he was feted by the New York's best and brightest, hob-knobbing with dozens of Manhattan's glitterati, pundits and power brokers. First, there was dinner at the Council of Foreign Relations. After holding court there for a rapt David Rockefeller along with Robert McNamara, Dwayne Andreas and Random House's Harold Evans, Castro flashed over to Mort Zuckerman 5th Avenue pad, where a throng of Beltway glitterati, including a breathless Mike Wallace, Peter Jennings, Tina Brown, Bernard Shaw and Barbara Walters all jostled for brief tryst, cooing and gurgling to Castro’s every comment. All clamored for autographs and photo-ops. Diane Sawyer was so overcome in the mass-killer's presence that she rushed up, broke into that toothy smile of hers, wrapped her arms around Castro and smooched him warmly on the cheek.
"You people are the cream of the crop!" beamed the bearded Cuban man of the people to the smiling throng that surrounded him.
"Hear-hear!" chirped the delighted guests while tinkling their wine glasses in appreciation and glee.
And the mass-murderer had barely scratched the surface of his fan club. According to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, on that visit, Castro received 250 dinner invitations from Manhattan celebrities and power-brokers.
Fidel's reception at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 was no less rapturous. Afterwards he made his way to Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church where pastor Calvin Butts gushed: "It is in our tradition to welcome all who are visionaries, revolutionaries and who seek the liberation of all people. God Bless you, Fidel!"
"The mainly African-American audience, which included New York Democratic representatives Charles Rangel and Nydia Velasquez, enthusiastically greeted the Communist leader with a ten-minute standing ovation." reported People's Weekly World. "Chants of "Cuba, SI! Embargo NO!" resounded from the rafters and sent a strong message of protest to New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani."
Harlem's delirious ovation for the incarcerator of the world's longest suffering black political prisoner rose to the level of an earthquake - to a hurricane. The very walls and rafters shook with shrieks of "FIDEL! VIVA FIDEL!!" Elombe Brathe, head of the "Patrice Lumumba Coalition" and chair for the meeting, asked the audience, "Who would you rather come to Harlem? Fidel or Giuliani?"
"FIDEL!" They erupted. "FIDEL! VIVA FIDEL!" Then with Congressperson Maxine Waters looking on in rapture, Charlie Rangel waddled up to the podium beside the Great One. Fidel - oomph! - finally caught his breath, beamed and returned the rotund senator's mighty bear hug.
Chavez, scurrying from a hostile New York with Rangel's carping ringing in his ears, can only read these stories and weep. For simply saying the UN "smelt of sulphur," Chavez got censured by New Yorkers. After trying (twice) to make the entire city smell of charred flesh, his former mentor, Fidel Castro, got a reception to shame Simon and Garfunkel's in Central Park.
Actually, Hugo Chavez might be more than a blustering buffoon. Some secret meetings at last week's Non- Aligned Conference in Havana might point to Chavez in a role quite similar to his host and mentor's in October 1962. Israel's intelligence webzine Debkafile has received numerous awards including Forbes "Best of The Web" award. Last week they reported that during the Non-Aligned Conference, "Iranian, Cuban and Venezuelan teams were putting their heads together on ways of translating their leaders' hostile rhetoric and slogans into effective war action against the United States... The Iranian and Venezuelan teams then moved their talks to Caracas where Ahmadinejad continued his talks with Chavez on Sept 17 and 18."
Castro started chumming up with Iran from the day of the embassy take-over in 1979. "Together Iran and Cuba can bring America to her knees!" raved Castro to a thunderous ovation at Tehran University in August 2001. The following year he built Iran a Biotechnology plant.
"Iran's Islamic revolutionary leaders have maintained warm ties of cooperation and mutual assistance with Castro's Cuba since they came to power in Tehran in 1979," reports DEBKA. "Chavez ..is just as anti-American but also rated by Tehran an easier mark.....our Iranian sources report that Ahmadinejad also talked persuasively to Chavez about making a show of deploying a few Iranian-made 2,000-km range Shahab-3 missiles - first in Venezuela then in Cuba - as a menace to the United States."
"The three-cornered meeting in Havana between the Ahmadinejad, Chavez and Raul Castro at the beginning of the week reached a number of decisions in principle although they remain to be fleshed out with operational details."
But the DEBKA report continues: "The three-way talks have thus far yielded a solid decision for Iranian intelligence agents, some of them sabotage specialists, to be sent soon to Cuba and Venezuela. They will operate in the guise of road network and industrial development experts. Their real mission will be to conduct surveys on the practicability of using Cuba and Venezuela as bases for subversive activities against the United States and other parts of Latin America."
There's a Republican in the White House, so this missile plan may remain "in principle," indefinitely. And regarding Cuba "as a base for subversive activity against the U.S. and Latin America"? Since they specialize in mideast intelligence, DEBKAfile might be forgiven for overlooking that Cuba has been just such a base since January 1959.
Humberto Fontova is the author of Fidel; Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant, A Conservative Book Club "Main Selection."
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