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Cuba's New and Improved Tyrant By: Humberto Fontova
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Humberto Fontova has dedicated his life to exposing the full extent of oppression, brutality, and kleptomania visited upon Cuba by Fidel Castro's regime, a task often performed at significant risk to his personal safety and always over the droning din of the leftist media. Castro's seizure of power could never have come about without the hagiographic coverage of the New York Times in the 1950s. Although the realities of post-Castro life have become well-known, the hemisphere's only full-blown Marxist dictatorship remains a beacon for many in the entertainment industry, the media, leftist religious associations, and far-Left pressure groups.  Below, Fontova reveals why his successor should not receive the same benefit of the doubt given to his brother 50 years ago.-- FPM Editors.

With Raul Castro's ascent to power in Havana, the news media have dutifully presented him as a potential Gorbachev. The Chicago Tribune headline blares, "Cubans Hope Raul Castro Brings Reform." True, the Associated Press reporter acknowledges, Raul has been a hardliner by his brother Fidel's side for five decades; however, he also introduced small farmers markets into the Cuban hinterlands! The AP gushes Raul "encouraged Cubans to open a fearless and critical debate, as long as they remember that the final decisions will be made by the island's Communist leaders." However, the story also mentions in passing that the younger generation set to replace Raul is so fervently Communist that they call themselves, "Young Talibans."

One would think after the media's sorry track record with the Castros, they would not resort to lionizing Fidel's murderous brother.

In 1956, when Fidel Castro's motley band of 82 guerrillas were training in Mexico for their "invasion" and "liberation" of Cuba from Batista, a trainee named Calixto Morales, suffering from a recent injury, was forced to briefly hobble away from one particularly strenuous training session. He was trussed up, dragged in front of what a guerrilla leader called a "court martial," and quickly sentenced to death by firing squad.

Fortunately the "maximum" guerrilla commander showed up in time and ordered his brother to rescind his hasty death sentence. Morales, after all, had the proper "revolutionary" attitude and had merely suffered an unfortunate accident.

Raul Castro had done the hasty sentencing. His big brother Fidel had ordered the pardon.

Two years later, the anti-Batista "guerrilla war" (occasional shoot-outs and skirmishes that the Cripps and Bloods would shrug off as a slow week) was chiefly centered in Cuba's eastern province of Oriente and consisted of  two "fronts." One was commanded by Fidel in the Sierra Maestra mountains; the other was commanded by Raul in the Sierra Cristal mountains slightly north of Fidel's group.

One day, a  teenage  rebel soldier named Dariel Alarcon overheard Fidel sputtering complaints to his assistant Celia Sanchez about the northern front. Raul's zeal for firing squad executions of "informers," "spies," counter-revolutionaries" etc., where he often applied the coup'd grace himself,  was  hampering progress on what Fidel had always treated as  the "war's" primary front.

This primary front, of course, was the media front: the almost effortless bamboozling of the swarms of gaping reporters who queued up to interview him. Thanks to these "gallant crusaders for the truth" (as Columbia School of Journalism hails its students) the stirring tale of Cuba's Thomas Jefferson/Robin Hood/Richard the Lion Hearted/Saint Thomas Aquinas--all in one heroic package, sporting a beard and combat fatigues--was thrilling audiences from New York to Paris.

The New York Times ignited the process in February 1957 with Fidel Castro on its front page. Soon a conflagration raged, in both print and video. CBS soon ran "The Story of Cuba's Jungle Fighters," a breathtaking  news-drama that ran on prime time. Look Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Boys Life (honest, even they braved the horrendous battlefield perils for a Castro interview) all added to the blizzard of B.S.

Every hair on every one of these reportorial heads, by the way, enjoyed a curious immunity to the slightest ruffling by the beastly police and army of the unspeakable Batista regime whose barbarities (especially against the exercise of free speech) these same reporters repeatedly described in their blood- curdling stories and broadcasts. Two years later, when these reporters' hero held office, the treatment of reporters who reported on Cuban regime brutalities would differ drastically.

The stories leaking out regarding the "Revolutionary justice" practiced in Raul's front, though completely ignored by the foreign media throng, were causing a bit of grumbling in the Cuban press. Fidel requested that Raul please cut down on the firing squad bloodbaths, as it could hurt the image Fidel was so expertly crafting of their "humanistic rebellion," with the eager help of  media dupes and acolytes.

Raul's response is what caused Fidel's sputtering to his assistant. "Got your message and will take immediate corrective measures," Raul responded to his brother. "No more bloodbath. From now on we'll start hanging the counter-revolutionaries."

Agustin Soberon  was a reporter for Cuba's Bohemia magazine ( a combination Time/Newsweek) and was the first Cuban reporter to interview the Castro rebels while in the hills. "Raul was very much like Che Guevara," he says. "I had never interviewed anyone with as cruel, arrogant and despotic a nature as Ernesto Guevara." Not that Che was unforthcoming or discourteous with Soberon. "When I visited his camp, Guevara motioned me over. They were trussing up and blindfolding a teen-aged boy to the firing squad stake. 'Revolutionary justice' had somehow found the boy guilty of being a  'counter-revolutionary informer.' Che wanted me to view the execution with him. I declined and left. I'd seen and heard plenty enough. Raul operated in much the same manner."

Shortly after Soberon's visit  to Guevara, Raul Castro ordered the  kidnapping of 50 Americans then residing or traveling through his Northern Front. Most were Marines and Navy men on leave from Guantanamo. A few were civilian workers from a U.S. mining company headquartered nearby. Most of these were on a bus on their way to a local town for the weekend when Raul Castro and a band of his guerrillas hijacked them at gunpoint.

Raul's plan was to use them as "human shields" against  the Batista army and air force's desultory campaign against them. And it worked.  Now, for fear of an errant bomb or bullet  provoking (an even bigger) hullabaloo in the New York Times and CBS against him,  Batista ordered a ceasefire in the area. Fidel Castro, most say,  was not overly fond of this scheme. The CIA, State Department, and the U.S. media were all lending his July 26 Movement a very helpful hand. Raul's little ploy just might backfire. Fidel should have known better by then.

A "crisis" was also brewing in Lebanon that summer of 1958. Oddly, it involved militant Sunni Moslems. They threatened violence and mayhem against the elected (but Christian and pro-Western) president of  Lebanon, Camille Chamoun. President  Eisenhower dispatched 5,000 Marines, and the crisis abated.

Raul Castro released his American hostages the very week our Marines were splashing onto the shores of Tripoli. Coincidence? Whatever the motivation, Fidel Castro's heroic image survived intact, along with the U.S. State Department-inspired arms embargo against Batista.   

The world's -- certainly the hemisphere's -- first terrorist airplane highjacking came two months later on the orders of Raul Castro. His guerrillas highjacked a Cubana  Airlines prop-jet bound for the U.S. and tried to force it down near Raul's guerrilla headquarters.
"That landing strip's too short!" gasped the pilot. The gun was shoved a little closer to his nose. "I'm tellin ya -- you're crazy!" yelled the desperate pilot at the Castroite terrorist. "Can't be done!" The gun was cocked.

"The plane crashed with few survivors. The hijackers were not among them." says the St. Petersburg Times story from November 1958.

When Agustin Soberon visited Che's guerrilla campsite, Cuba's liberation by the Castroites was only a year away. According to a study by the U.S. Information Agency that Cuban "guerrilla war" that raged in the Cuban countryside for two years, as reported by the New York Times, had actually cost 184 deaths on both sides, about half New Orleans' annual murder rate.

Following the "liberation," the bloodbath started in earnest. The leftist mantra during the Vietnam War had it that withdrawing U.S. troops would promptly "stop the killing." Yet from the Russian Civil War to the Cuban rebellion to Vietnam -- the pattern is identical: the killing cranks into high gear only after the Communist triumph.

Cuban-American scholar Dr. Armando Lago, who with Maria Werlau run the Cuba Archive Project that meticulously attempts to document the tally of Castro regime murders, has documented 278 executions in Oriente province on Raul's orders within the very first week of the Revolutionary triumph on January 1, 1959. Potential contras lurked from one end of Cuba to the either. So Raul rolled up his sleeves, spit on his hands, and got to work as eastern Cuba's version of Cheka chief Feliks Dzerzhinski, while his bosom friend Che Guevara handled the matter in western Cuba by converting Havana's La Cabana fortress into a tropical Lubyanka.

Dr. Lago has documented 550 executions on Raul's direct order by mid-1959. Eyewitness defectors report that Raul gleefully administered the coup'grace to at least 78 of these. Raul's chum Che Guevara was breathing down his neck in the competition,  however. Dr. Lago documents 1,168 executions islandwide by that time.  The best man at Che's first wedding in 1955 in Mexico City was Raul Castro. Maybe there was some friendly competition involved. The media dutifully branded these murdered men and boys as "Batista War Criminals." How a guerrilla war with 184 deaths on both sides could produce 1,168 war criminals on one side none of those "gallant crusaders for the truth" cared to investigate. Their crusading journalistic zeal of a year before (with Cuba under Batista) seemed to dissipate dramatically with Cuba under the Castro's. Read recent CNN, AP, and Reuters dispatches from their Havana Bureaus and you'll see that absolutely nothing has changed -- except towards more sniveling servility to Castroism by the media.   

In fact, vengeance, much less justice, had nothing to do with the Communist bloodbath. Vengeance -- much less justice -- had nothing to do with the Che ordered bloodbath in the first months of 1959. Che's murderous method in La Cabana fortress in 1959 was exactly Stalin's murderous method in the Katyn Forest in 1940. Like Stalin's massacre of the Polish officer corps in the Katyn forest, like Stalin's Great Terror against his own officer corps a few years earlier, Che's firing squad marathons were a perfectly rational and cold-blooded exercise that served their purpose ideally. His bloodbath decapitated -- literally and figuratively -- the first ranks of Cuba's Contras.

Cuban Communists differed from their Bolshevik mentors and suitors mainly in the speed with which the Cuban Revolution began devouring its own children. Rebel leader Huber Matos boasted the rank of comandante and actually arrived in Havana atop a tank(which had never fired a shot) with Fidel Castro in January 1959. By October of that year Matos was overheard grumbling about "Communist influence" in the Revolutionary regime and he finally offered to resign. He was quickly arrested and put before a kangaroo court where both Raul and Che demanded his prompt execution by firing squad. Fidel, with his expert grasp of publicity matters, probably didn't want to create a martyr and kindly suggested a 20 year prison sentence, of which Matos served many in solitary confinement. Matos' trial and sentence was the final straw for most of Cuba's Mensheviks. Most went into the resistance, either in Cuba or in exile.

Stalinist type purges of Cuba's military have continued sporadically for decades. "In one week during 1963 we counted 400 firing squad blasts from our cells," recalls former political prisoner and freedom-fighter Roberto Martin Perez. Most of these were junior officers accused of being disloyal to the regime. Much more highly publicized was the Stalinist show trial, confession and execution in 1989 of General Arnaldo Ochoa and the attendant purge of any military man even rumored as his friend or supporter.

Arnaldo Ochoa was the Cuban General widely credited with Cuba's victories in both the Angolan Civil War and in Ethiopia's early crushing of the Eritrean rebellion. "Every officer in the Cuban armed forces admired Ochoa, " according to Cuban defector General Rafael Del Pino, who was close to Ochoa both personally and professionally.

They say he was a soldiers' general, who always showed genuine interest in the welfare of his men and so had the respect and admiration of  the lowliest troops. Ochoa was on especially close and friendly terms with Raul Castro, whom Ochoa always affectionately called "Jefe."

In the dawn hours of  July 13, 1989, General Arnaldo T. Ochoa  was executed by a firing squad outside Havana. A sickening trial and confession had preceded his execution, all of it on camera. Raul -- not Fidel -- Castro was the main instigator of the Ochoa trial and execution. Cuban defector Rafael Del Pino who once headed Cuba's Air Force explains that: "Ochoa was a pragmatic man who was flexible enough to recognize the sense behind Gorbachev's reforms of the time. Even worse, Ochoa, like many other Cuban military officers, was trained in the Soviet Union and had close ties to the Soviet leaders then involved in the reforms with whom they had served in Africa."

That Glasnost and Perestroika stuff  could be contagious. Yet media and scholarly wizards keep telling us it's Raul himself who will inspire "an opening" in Cuba.

By now, however, Raul Castro's high-ranking military cronies are fat and happy. Essentially, they run Cuba. If anyone craves this successful succession to Raul's rule, it's these high-rolling graduates of Cuba' Military Academy, and not just because of fiduciary considerations.     

Tito Rodriguez Oltmans, a former Cuban freedom-fighter and political prisoner, watched many of these men, as young cadets, perform one of the requisites for graduation from Cuba's military academy of the time. "They were all armed with Belgian .308 caliber FALs as they lined up for the firing squad"  recalls Mr Rodriguez , a prisoner in La Cabana prison in the early 1960's. "Every evening the cadets would be bused in from the Military base in Managua and the naval Academy in Mariel. As darkness fell the  condemned patriot -- shirtless and gagged -- would be dragged to the execution wall and bound. The cadets would line up only four meters in front of the patriot and all had loaded weapons."..... FUEGO!

I could proceed with the "fuegos!' All the way to 14,000 executions, the equivalent, given the relative populations, to 3.5 million executions in the U.S. The figure comes from The Black Book of Communisn, written by French scholars and published in English by Harvard University Press, neither an outpost of the vast right-wing conspiracy nor of Miami maniacs. 

"The facts and figures are irrefutable. No one will any longer be able to claim ignorance or uncertainty about the criminal nature of Communism," wrote the New York Times (no less!) about the Black Book of Communism. "The Black Book is enormously impressive and utterly convincing," seconded The New Republic.

A brief aside: historically and almost universally, most members of a firing squad shoot blanks, to assuage their conscience. But such assuaging would contradict the Cuban firing squads' most vital purpose, secretly named "El Compromiso Sangriento" (the Blood Covenant). This tried and true Soviet scheme was presented by Soviet GRU agent Angel Ciutah to Che Guevara just days after he and Fidel  entered Havana in January 1959. Every candidate for officer, suggested Ciutah, would take his place in a firing squad and pull the trigger with live ammo. Raul had a KGB handler named Nikolai Leonev since 1953 when he'd visited behind the Iron Curtain.  So we can well imagine that he "got behind" the scheme with a loud whoop and a high-five to Che.

The point of the Blood Covenant  was to bond the murderers, especially those in line for future leadership, with the murderous regime. The more shooters the more murderers. The more murderers thus manufactured, the more people on hand to resist any overthrow of  their system. After those 14,000 murders Cuba's officer corps was plenty "bonded" to the regime. The fanatical and suicidal resistance by Hitler's SS troopers against the advancing Red Army to the bitter end saw the same theme at work. These SS troops knew they were fighting the sons and fathers of people they'd murdered in places like Babi Yar.

Cuba's current rulers, besides their multi- millionaire status, find themselves in a similar spot. Yet we keep hearing that they're "pragmatists" who will "open up" Cuba. Despite the rotten egg splattering the faces of the MSM's pet "Cuba Experts" after last weeks Cuban "elections" Cuba (where the hardest of the hard-line Stalinists prevailed) stay tuned for their next expert prognostications. After all, those who correctly predicted the Stalinist results are all: "anti-communist crackpots! and revanchists!'"

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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