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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

Weekly Muse
My humble opinion on current events

January 21, 2002

Why the Attraction to Castro?

Anita Snow of the Associated Press wrote an interesting little story yesterday. Forty "influential women from Washington State" flew to Havana to meet with Fidel Castro, the Cuban dictator, or as Snow referred to him, Cuba's "president" and "head of state." Notice the press never refers to Castro as "dictator" or "strongman," though that's really what he is. 

Anyway, these women, who are bankers, business owners, government officials, and so on, came to Cuba to meet with Cuban women and understand them better. They later said they were "impressed by the gains women had made in Cuba," especially the women they had personally met.

Were these Americans that naive? No doubt Castro selected the women they met, women sure to sing the praises of the great Fidel. 

But that wasn't the worst of it. Panted Susan Jeffords, dean of Social Sciences at the University of Washington: "It was certainly exciting to meet with him (Castro). He is a very charming and eloquent man."

To be fair, Jeffords isn't the first American to be snowed (seduced?) by Castro. He's had a host of American admirers. Norman Mailer said he was the "first and greatest hero to appear in the world since the Second World War." Abbie Hoffman even thought he was a phallic symbol, of all things, writing of Castro, "He is like a mighty penis coming to life, and when he is tall and straight the crowd is immediately transformed." Democrat Congressman Charlie Rangel gave Fidel a great bear hug when Castro visited New York several years ago. Legions of movie stars have traveled to Cuba, genuflecting before the socialist relic of yesteryear. A clothing manufacturer recently released a new line called Fidel wear, and in case you missed the reference, the shirts and pants all incorporate some element of the Cuban flag.

So what's the big deal? Why are so many Americans and others enamored with Fidel? It's obvious his own people aren't so thrilled with him. Over a million Cubans fled the island in the 1960s, and thousands of others every years brave shark-infested waters and try to make it to America. Cuba was once one of the richest Latin American countries; it's now the poorest.

Besides that, Fidel kills people. The Black Book of Communism estimated that 15,000 to 17,000 people have been killed under Castro, nearly all of them dissenters or faithful followers who fell out of favor. Countless others have drowned in the seas trying to escape. Shortly after seizing power in January 1959, Castro conducted Stalin-like show trials, purging the government of opponents or even potential opponents. Historian Paul Johnson in Modern Times recounts this all-too-typical episode:

"The fist unambiguous act of tyranny came on 3 March 1959, after forty-four Batista (the dictator Castro deposed) air force men, accused of 'war crimes,' were acquitted in a Santiago court for lack of evidence. Castro immediately announced on TV that the trial was a mistake. There would be another. The president of the court was found dead. A creature of the Castros was appointed in his place. The men were retried and sentenced to twenty to thirty years' imprisonment. Castro announced: 'Revolutionary justice is based not upon legal precepts but on moral conviction.' It was the end of the rule of law in Cuba."

Castro employed other methods to consolidate power, using Lenin and Hitler (he carried a copy of Mein Kampf around with him as a student) as his models. He monopolized the government's force, moving the police and army under his control. He forced rival forces to give up their arms. He forced the provisional president to delay elections for 18 months, and ruled by decree, the "Lenin technique," Johnson notes. Castro later canceled all upcoming presidential elections, claiming that his socialist dictatorship expressed the will of the people. He abolished all political parties except his Communist party. He transferred all legislative powers to his puppet Cabinet, the embodiment of Hitler's Enabling Law. He took over as Prime Minister and barred the president from cabinet meetings. As of 1965, Castro himself admitted he held 20,000 political prisoners. In 1968, this so-called progressive leader decreed that long hair was morally degenerate and forcibly sent all miniskirted girls who had made "passionate love in their school uniforms" to forced labor camps. To this day, Castro uses child labor, forcing schoolchildren to work in the sugar fields. Castro allows little to no private property. Cuban citizens get paid in worthless pesos while Castro's government collects valuable dollars, enriching the political class and impoverishing most of society. Housing is "free," if you define free as building the house yourself with government-provided construction materials and paying rent for 15 years. Cuban citizens are not allowed in many hotels and government buildings - only wealthy foreigners with dollars are permitted. Castro treats rich tourists better than his own people, who live off a meager government subsistence package, and scratch for dollars to buy items off the black market. Child prostitution is rampant.

These are not the actions of a freedom-loving democrat. Castro craved power, and he didn't care how many or who he killed to get it, and he continues to kill and imprison and torture to maintain power. He has ground the Cuban people under his heel to satisfy his monstrous ambition. 

So I ask again. Where's the attraction? Why is such a cretin treated like a hero by so many people who should know better? 

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