In early 1957, when the only thing he commanded was a half-starved band of a dozen "rebels" in Cuba's Sierra Maestra mountains, Fidel Castro was approached by some of his rebel group's wealthy urban backers.
"What can we do?" They asked. "How can we help the glorious rebellion? We can write you some checks. We can buy you some arms. We can recruit more men. Tell us, Fidel, what can we do to help?"
"For now," answered Castro, "get me a New York Times reporter up here."
Bingo! The rest is history. They quickly complied and The New York Times' ranking Latin American expert, Herbert Matthews, was escorted to the rebel camp with his notepad, tape recorder and cameras. Within weeks Castro was being hailed as the Robin Hood of latin America on the front page of the world's most prestigious papers. Within two years he was dictator of Cuba, executing hundreds of political prisoners per week, jailing thousands more -- all the while being hailed as "the George Washington of Cuba!" by everyone from Jack Paar to Walter Lippmann to Ed Sullivan to Harry Truman.
One prominent American who wasn't snookered was Vice President Richard Nixon, and one American publication that bucked the "Castro-as-democratic hero," tide was Human Events, who had already outed him as a Communist-terrorist--and at the very peak of his heraldry by The New York Times a year earlier. (Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant, p. 13)
Alas, these were voices in the wilderness.
This April in front of "the Union of Young Communist Leaders, the Officers the Revolutionary Armed Forces and Relatives and Surviving Victims of the Empire’s Terrorist Attacks on our Country," Castro gave one of his famous "speeches." This one blasted John Bolton's nomination as U.N. ambassador.
"The longer John Bolton’s Senate hearing for the post of United Nations representative went on," Castro raved to the suffering crowd, "the more outrageous it seemed that President Bush could have nominated this man!"
Much applause erupted here (his honored guests knew they were being watched. They wanted their starvation rations that week.) "Mr. Bolton tried to have an intelligence analyst punished for stopping him from making false claims about a weapons program in another nation, notably Cuba! He's a kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy" (unlike Castro, I suppose) and this intimidation had a lasting effect on his department!"
Castro was simply reading from a (translated) New York Times article dated April 13th titled "Questioning Mr Bolton." Castro spent three-fourths of his time at the lectern reading from the article verbatim, spicing it up with exclamation marks and a few quips of his own. "See what kind of man this Mr Bolton is?" He asked while poking his finger skyward and arching his eyebrows. "This is one of those people who can walk on his long tongue, (much laughter here, for the same reason I mentioned above) They’d better watch him! This Mr Bolton is a Liar! A Cynic!--a Gangster!"
The rest of Castro's speech came mostly from Newsweek and the Washington Post. And who could blame him? Why put Cuba's propaganda ministers to work fashioning anti-Yankee diatribes and puff pieces on himself when he can simply pick up America's Mainstream media? For almost half a century now they've served him handily. During the Elian circus, in particular, they merited honors. Much better to put my captive propagandists to cutting sugar cane, rather than duplicating the work of the Yankee media, he reasons.
No one--not even his bitterest critics--calls Castro dumb.
Last year he laid off The New York Times and Newsweek a bit. For a few weeks he relied mostly on "that outstanding American!" (as Castro hails him,) Michael Moore. For weeks Castro showed Fahrenheit 9-11 in every theater in Cuba for free, then on Cuba's state TV. In fact, exactly one day after it opened in U.S. theaters, bootleg copies of Fahrenheit 9-11 were all over Cuba. Needless to say, in Cuba, this type of thing doesn't happen without connivance--indeed, without orders-- from on high.
Fidel Castro has good reason to fear and loath John Bolton. The entire brouhaha in the media and Congress over Bolton's "bullying" of intelligence officials stems from his concern that some of Clinton's Intelligence appointees (still in positions of influence), namely Fulton Armstrong and Christian Westermann, were heavily influenced by a Castro spy and were parroting "intelligence estimates" authored by this spy and planted by Castro. (It does not take bribes, or even coaching, from a Castro spy for a Clinton appointee to parrot Castroite propaganda. These people parrot the mass-murderer's propaganda out of pure leftist conviction, and absolutely free of charge.)
In the late 90's Ana Belen Montes was the Defense Intelligence Agency's ranking expert on Cuba. She had access to all U.S. intelligence on Cuba and led briefings on Capital Hill, at the State Department and the Pentagon regarding Cuban policy. "On Cuba," one government official said. "Montes was who you went to."
On September 20, 2001, Ms. Montes was arrested by the FBI as a Castro spy and charged with "Conspiracy to Commit Espionage," the same charge against Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and it carried the same potential death sentence.
"Ana Belen Montes was the crown jewel of Castro's intelligence services," wrote the Miami Herald, "one of the most effective spy agencies in the world. And Montes had access to the U.S.' crown jewels on Cuba." Besides handing over reams of sensitive documents and photos to Castro's DGI, Montes outed 4 U.S. undercover agents working in Cuba.
"Montes passed some of our most sensitive information about Cuba back to Havana" said then Undersecretary for International Security, John Bolton.
A year after her arrest Montes was duly convicted and today, after a plea bargain, she escaped the Rosenberg's fate and serves a 25 year prison sentence.
In a report from 1999 the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that "Castro poses no significant threat to the U.S. or any of it's Hemispheric neighbors. No evidence exists that that Cuba is trying to foment any instability in the Western Hemisphere."
From Havana Castro immediatly hailed the DIA report as "an objective report by serious people." (Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant, p. 9) The report had been authored by none other than Ana Belen Montes. John Bolton didn't buy this fable then, and he doesn't buy it now. Among the complaints against Bolton by senior intelligence analyst Fulton Armstrong and aired by the New York Times was that when testifying to Congress in 2002 about Cuba's weapons capabilities, Bolton actually hinted that Cuba might be a danger. More specifically, Armstrong sniffed that, "Mr. Bolton did not include cautionary caveats contained in a 1999 National Intelligence Estimate on Cuba" (emphasis added).
And for an excellent reason: that National Intelligence Estimate had been heavily influenced by none other than Castro's mole, Ana Belen Montes. The "caution" the Estimate recommended was not against Cuba itself, you see, but against the hysterical McCarthyite notion that Castro might be up to no good.
Alcibiades Hidalgo was once Raul Castro's Chief of Staff. Later he served as Cuba's ambassador to the U.N. He defected to the U.S in 2002 and disclosed that, "virtually every member of Castro's U.N mission is an intelligence agent." Just two years ago the Bush administration was forced to expel eight Cuban U.N diplomats for "undiplomatic activity."
The reason for Castro's discomfiture with John Bolton at the U.N. should be obvious.
Mr. Fontova is the author of Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant