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Gorbachev He's Not By: Humberto Fontova
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, February 22, 2008

The announcement this week of Fidel Castro's retirement was a mere formality. You'll recall the identical announcement July of 2006. In fact, many Cuba watchers will tell you that his little brother, Raul, as head of Cuba's Armed Forces, has been mostly running Cuba--the nuts and bolts of the thing--for decades, and more singlehandedly for the past five years.

In 2003 Fidel Castro probably had a stroke. Midway through that year, he was noticed babbling incoherently (more than usual that is) during speeches, and pausing repeatedly through them as his mind seemed to grope fruitlessly. Close Cuba watchers noticed that he soon started reading his speeches, ponderously and word for word, something utterly unthinkable during his entire career of speechmaking.

In fact, youtube.com has a video of a Castro monologue from just last year where (if you understand Spanish) you'll be convinced, beyond the slightest doubt, that the man has gone totally gaga that Fidel had lost control of his faculties. Among the many highlights: "C squared equals the speed of light"!, and "The radioactivity of Cobalt lasts half a billion years"!

"So what is the fate of Cuba?" many ask.  With a very heavy heart, I'll borrow a line from The Talking Heads: "Same as it Ever Was."

"If any Gorbachev raises his head around here," snarled Raul Castro as recently as 2002, "we'll promptly chop it off!" Yet this is the man who Democrats and the Mainstream Media (and the scholarly "Cuba Experts" they're all trotting out this week) assure us will engineer a Cuba regime "opening" based on the "Chinese mode." Not only would such an opening condemn Cubans to further tyranny, it would loot the U.S. taxpayer.

Cuba is a Military Dictatorship in the most genuine sense of the term, but you never hear it called that in the Mainstream Media. Raul Castro and his military cronies have been running Cuba for years already. Of the nineteen members of Cuba's politburo, nine are military men. Nothing of this sort existed in the Soviet Politburo or in Eastern Europe.

Raul crony, General Julio Casas Regueiro, controls 300 different "companies" (state agencies often in partnership with foreign investors) in Cuba under a holding company named GAESA. Among others is Corporacion Gaviota, headed by Raul Military crony General Luis Perez Rospide. Gaviota started operating in 1990 and today owns and manages a hotel chain, an airline, a taxi company, several Marinas, tourist stores restaurants and museums.

Over five times as many tourists visited Cuba last year, as visited in 1957 when Cuba was labeled a "tourist playground." Every dollar spent by these tourists lands in the pocket of the only outfit in Cuba with guns--and with the strongest incentive to maintain the status-quo.

Why would Cuba's military-barons voluntarily upset their own apple carts? None of those "Cuba Experts" even provide a clue.

The constant scribbling and gabbling about the "U.S embargo of Cuba" or "Blockade" as dubbed by the most rabid Castrophiles, omit the fact that the U.S is currently Cuba's biggest food supplier and 4th biggest trade partner.

A few months back, trade delegations from 27 of our 50 states attended a trade fair in Cuba and signed business deals with Cuba's Stalinist regime. In 2007, the U.S sold almost half a billion dollars worth of goods to Cuba. This is the rub with the Castro regime and with its agents (on the payroll or off) in the U.S. -- and accounts for much of the recent hoopla about an "opening" to Cuba.

The current U.S "embargo" of Cuba simply amounts to this: no U.S. Export-Import Bank can finance any deal with the current rulers of Cuba. In other words: no taxpayer bailout for politically-connected millionaires entering into business deals with known deadbeats and thieves (and mass-murderering Stalinists).

Currently, ADM and every other agricultural company in the U.S. is perfectly free to sell Cuba whatever they want. But because of the nefarious machinations and subterfuges of the dreaded "Miami Mafia" (and their Congressional Republican allies), the U.S. taxpayer will not be left holding the bag.

Despite all you're reading in the MSM, Raul Castro is not the one to upset the Cuban applecart. By all accounts, Raul Castro was a committed Communist well before Fidel. Unlike Fidel, Raul actually joined the youth wing of Cuba's Communist party. He did this in 1953 and traveled with his ideological cohorts to a Communist festival in Vienna that same year. From there, he traveled behind the Iron Curtain and met with Soviet officials. By 1957, Khrushchev had already assigned him a personal KGB handler named Nikolai Leonov.

Fidel Castro only officially declared Cuba "Socialist" in April of 1961 and himself a "Marxist-Leninist" only in October of 1961. Yet a mini-Communist state had existed in Cuba as early as 1958. This was Raul Castro's area of command during the anti-Batista rebellion in Cuba's Sierra Cristal mountains.

Many Americans of Cuban heritage vividly recall the Castro brothers' good-cop/bad-cop routine of 1959-60. Fidel played the good cop -- and his brother, Raul, the bad-cop. "Nothing had better happen to me," Fidel would warn from his ubiquitous pulpit, hinting that his sinister brother was poised in the wings. In August of 1960, Time magazine crowned Raul Castro "the fist" of the Cuban Revolution. Fidel was "the heart" and Che Guevara "the brains."

But let’s get some perspective from someone who actually knew and often interacted with Raul Castro. Romanian General Ion Pacepa was the Soviet bloc's highest ranking intelligence defector. He knew Raul Castro well for over two decades.  As he explains: "As head of one of Communism's most criminal institutions, Raúl has been the butcher. He has been instrumental in the killing and terrorizing of thousands of Cubans."

Note that Pacepa regards Castro's political police as "one of Communism’s most criminal institutions." Coming from a man who learned the ropes of his profession from Stalin's henchmen and who served as Nikolai Ceaucescu's chief spy, this is saying something. "I saw nothing in him suggesting he might ever want to democratize Cuba," continues Pacepa. "Fidel gave the speeches, hour after hour but Raúl ran Cuba’s economy, her foreign policy, her foreign trade, her justice system, her jails, her tourism - even her hotels and her beaches......(he is) an assassin and international terrorist who made a fortune from the illegal sale of arms, drugs, and human beings...and there is no question in my mind but that he would fight tooth and nail to preserve his powers. Otherwise, sooner or later Raúl would have to account for his crimes, and I do not know him to be suicidal."

During the economic crisis years of the early 90's, Raul Castro inspired a tiny crack in the system by allowing small farmer markets. In effect, this very briefly legalized a portion of Cuba's always thriving Black market and amounted to nothing more than permitting some oversized fruit and vegetable stands. As soon as tourist money started pouring in and the regime felt more financially secure, the door was slammed shut. This brief lapse in totalitarian control, is a far, far cry from "the Chinese model" -- assuming this would even be in the U.S. interest.

Nowadays, Raul and his crony generals are all in their mid-seventies and beyond. These men lived into their young adulthood under a robustly capitalist Cuba, where Cuban laborers earned the 8th highest wages on earth, where Cuba had a higher per-capita income than Austria and Japan, a larger middle class then Switzerland, and where Cuba was swamped with European immigrants.

Under these circumstances, Cuba's current robber barons achieved nothing. Honesty, hard work, property rights and the rule of law repel them. To think they'd voluntarily revert to a system that rewards such traits and institutions is ludicrous.

Neither of the Castros comes close in ideological outlook to a Deng or Gorbachev. In 1959, they could have easily left most of Cuba's economy in place, made it obedient to their whims, and been versions of Peron, Franco, or even Mussolini. They could have grabbed half of the economy and been Titos. They could have demanded a piece of the action from all involved and mimicked Marcos or Mobutu. But this wasn't enough for them. They had a golden goose land in their lap -- and they quickly and deliberately strangled it.


Humberto Fontova is the author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him. Visit www.hfontova.com

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