from revolutionary firebrand to cantankerous old man.
dictator Fidel Castro lashed out after two of his country’s best
young baseball players defected in late July at a
world junior tournament in Edmonton,
Canada. In a
column that he wrote for the Cuban newspaper Granma, the
82-year-old Castro unsurprisingly blamed everyone except himself for
the young athletes’ defection.
Comandante rebuked the tournament’s host country, implying
Canada stole his
players, as well as the United
“luring” the young Cubans with big salaries. As expected, Castro
dragged out the tired, old canard of the American economic blockade,
indicating his thinking has become as ossified as
under his leadership.
“Japan and the
States are big
countries,” he petulantly wrote. “They do not have to deal with an
economic blockade. Both countries have great resources. No one
steals or plunders their athletes.”
also angry previous defections may cost
Cuba five gold
medals at the Beijing Olympics. But his bile was specifically
reserved for the two young Cuban ball players, calling their
decision not to return “a despicable betrayal.”
Castro’s choleric name-calling, other Cubans, like boxer Erislandy
Lara, a world amateur champion in 2005, are still fleeing Fidel’s
“socialist paradise.” A speed boat picked Lara up
from Cuba’s shore
and whisked him away to Mexico. Lara now
plies his trade out of Germany with
several other Cuban fighters who also deserted the Marxist-Leninist
cause. Ironically, Castro, the head of
accused the promoter who signed Lara of “human trafficking.”
Mexico is the
destination now of many ordinary Cubans who are tired of Fidel’s
island prison and desire a better life. By going first to
avoid Florida’s Coast
Guard patrols and can still reach the
Unfortunately, such refugees face still face violence and danger
using this land route. Thirty-three Cubans, for example, were
believed to have been kidnapped by a human smuggler gang in
Cubans are still escaping the communist state shows that no real
improvements have occurred in Cuba after Castro’s much ballyhooed
“retirement” last February. He was replaced as president by his
brother Raul, whom Humberto Fontova, author of Fidel: Hollywood’s
Favorite Tyrant, called a man “more swinish and bloodthirsty
than his brother Fidel.” True to family tradition, Raul quickly
dashed Cubans’ hopes for any changes for the better.
Revolution Day speech last July before a huge portrait of brother
Fidel, Raul told Cubans they should expect things to get worse
economically. After blaming rising oil and commodity prices rather
than finding any fault with the ruling Communist Party and its
Marxist-Leninist ideology, Raul said there would not be any
deviation from the socialist path. In other words, it is still rice,
beans and ration cards as usual.
circles regarded the government’s decision last spring to allow the
legal sale of kitchen appliances, cell phones, DVD players and
computers as a sign that Cuba’s finally opening up to the world. It
was announced as well that Cubans would be allowed to stay in luxury
hotels and rent cars.
Cubans must have found this laughable, since the average Cuban
salary is about $20 a month, making such luxuries unaffordable. The
Chinese-made computer (possibly equipped with stolen American
software) now available in Cuban stores alone costs $750, and most
will never be hooked up to the internet. One German report stated that only trusted
government officials and journalists get home internet access -
although ordinary Cubans do buy email access on the black market.
the incentive of consumer goods, the Cuban government hopes the
elimination of the equal salary policy, announced in June, will
improve the country’s bleak economic situation by rewarding more
productive workers. Under the old, egalitarian wage policy in force
for decades in Cuba, good
workers received the same pay as inefficient ones.
similar incentive for the flagging agricultural sector was also
introduced. To increase production there, farmers are being offered
unused state land for private cultivation.
communists have obviously learned nothing from the
In attempting to save Soviet communism, Mikhail Gorbachev introduced
similar reforms to reinvigorate a moribund economy. Like
Gorbachev’s, the Cuban measures are also doomed to failure, since
the core problem, the state’s controlling 90 per cent of the
economy, remains unaddressed.
than Gorbachev, the Castros should be imitating their fellow Cubans
in Miami, whose
125,300 privately owned companies, according to the U.S. Census
Bureau in 1997, generated $26.5 billion in revenues. The legal and
human rights environment that made this prosperity possible should
also be introduced.
spring’s measures, some believe, were introduced solely to influence
the European Union to drop its diplomatic sanctions against Cuba
that were imposed in 2003 because of the regime’s persecution of
dissidents. It is presumed this is why Raul Castro commuted numerous
death sentences to life imprisonment last May (though he said
capital punishment will be reintroduced in the future) and why in
May a large gay rally was held in traditionally homophobic Cuba. The
fact that Mariela, Fidel Castro’s niece, led the rally and Cuban
state television showed a homosexual-themed, American film,
indicates high government backing and a political purpose.
superficial steps succeeded in their goal. The EU canceled its
sanctions in June despite the fact no real societal reforms, such as
an easing of restrictions on travel abroad, had taken place. The
Cuban government’s repression against dissidents also never ceased,
a fact President Bush confirmed himself in a 45-minute telephone
conversation he held with Cuban dissidents living in
Cuba last May.
biggest cosmetic change, however, occurred last February when Fidel
gave up the presidency, but not his powerful posts as first
secretary of Cuba’s communist party (Raul is second secretary) and
in the politburo. And with no real transfer of power away from a
cranky, complaining Fidel,
will continue to suffer or leave for the prosperity and freedom of
America. And in a
Cuba under the
Castros, that, one can rest assured, will never change.