In Cuba, a self-sustaining, repressive machine (still)

In 1886, Cuba’s liberal reformers and their allies in the international community pressured the Spanish government into abolishing the institution of slavery. Whereas in the United States, the slaves would have to suffer legalized discrimination in the “Jim Crow” South, no such thing would happen in Cuba. The blessings of freedom had been secured for all Cubans. Unfortunately, the liberals’ triumph would be all too short-lived. For nearly 50 years, the Cuban people have been enslaved by a caste of masters (the Communist elite) and slave drivers (the secret police, the bureaucrats, the heads of the CDRs, etc.) who secure the populace’s compliance through state-sanctioned violence, such as the “actos de repudio” (acts of repudiation) and other methods of coercion.

Why? Because brute force is required to maintain any system that institutionalizes the violation of individual rights.

Since the triumph of the Revolution, the Cuban people, like slaves, have been obligated to work for their overlords. Indeed, there is no clearer proof of the populace’s enslavement than article 45 of the illegitimate socialist constitution which affirms that there is a general obligation to work on the part of the Cuban people for the state.

Why? Because it is immoral to dispose of the fruits of one’s own labor.

Indeed, that is the sole justification left to the Castro brothers and their supporters because communism has generated none of the wealth that was promised.

Now, the regime has decided to increase the rations of its slaves. Working off the assumption that it can buy off the Cuban people’s support with trivial concessions, the regime has created an “opening”. Unsurprisingly, the usual suspects — the academics and the media — are beside themselves. Accepting the morality of the regime’s policies, these rather sordid individuals have glossed over the Castro brothers’ bloody 50-year record to heap praise upon Cuba’s new dictator, Raúl. Disgustingly, a March Associated Press story was even headlined “Thanks Raul: Cubans Can Stay in Hotels.” When I first read that article, I wondered how someone could be so crass as to expect the Cuban people to be grateful to their oppressor. Then, I thought to myself that the writer of that article probably does not realize the nature of the very repressive machinery that forces the Cuban people to live in bondage. Or, worse, he is aware of it and finds their oppression an acceptable price to see his infirm ideals put into action.

The fundamental truth, however, is that communism is not a moral system. No one has a right to coerce another person to work for his own benefit. Despite all the praise that has been heaped on Raúl’s recent wave of reforms, the incontrovertible truth is that the Cuban people remain enslaved. Freedom is not freedom to make insignificant choices about where we can go or what trinkets we can buy (though not afford), as the regime and its supporters would have us believe; rather, it is complete and indivisible power over the whole of our lives. Freedom consists of our right to determine what we do with our lives, and for the ends that we each determine to be fit.

After close to five decades of Communist oppression, the Cuban people deserve a government that respects their individual rights. More of the same by a different name is not the solution. If the current socialist experiment were to be continued, even in a watered-down form, nothing would change but the face of the despot that oppresses the Cuban people. The paper limitations of a constitution cannot protect one from an omnipotent state with the power of life and death over its people. The only real prescription for Cuba’s problem is a healthy dose of capitalism and liberal-democracy.

The Cuban people’s struggle to regain their lost freedom will be a difficult one. They will need support from abroad. The international community must stop naively swallowing Raúl’s new, “more palatable spin” on the same murderous dictatorship. Forgiving the past atrocities of this regime is treason to the thousands of victims that it has accrued. We should not be satisfied with the repackaged lies the same regime presents to the world to hide their human rights abuses. We should accept nothing less than a government that stands up for freedom and individual rights. After the nightmare of socialism, Cubans deserve the chance to live out the dreams that have kept them going.

Michael Fernández is a 2007 graduate of the Yale College.


  • Withheld for fear of retribution

    Hi Michael,

    Fine. You list the human rights abuses of the Cuban government and I'll list those of the U.S. and then we can see whose list is longer and contains more dead. If we get to count foreign nationals then I'm willing to bet mine will be a lot longer.

    What I'm saying is: get your own house in order… calls coming from within the borders of the U.S. to respect human rights are fairly laughable at the moment and really always have been. Sorry.

  • Anonymous

    Being a Cuban-American, I agree with the author's article. People living outside of Cuba who have never experienced the dictatorship do not realize the images of Cuba, and by default Cubans and their "government", they set forth. There is a lack of entendimiento in this country for what it means to be Cuban and what the experience entails.

  • anon

    Good article Mr Fernandez. It is not socially acceptable to criticize the people's regime at Yale. The Castro agitprop has seeped into the conscience of the American class of academically gifted. Obama campaign supports proudly hang Che flags. Mindless liberals wear his t-shirts to show how cool and revolutionary they are. He'd have shot them in an instant.

    Name withheld, get over yourself! Your critical theory nonsense is so 1980. Of course America is not perfect but our government didn't systematically execute or steal land of the hard working citizens to give to a coterie of elites.

  • A.C.

    Few people would deny that the Castro regime has repeatedly violated human and civil rights. Though I would agree with #1 that the same could be said for the United States, which you exiled Cubans revere so much.

    But even fewer will admit that when Castro's revolutionaries liberated Cuba in '59, the freed the country from an even worse dictator who had turned the island (Havana in particular) into a giant casino/whorehouse with ties to the American mafia. In fact, the U.S. government later approached mobsters for help with Castro assassination plots.

    The reason you usually don't hear about that is because all of the Cuban exiles in the U.S. who have parades whenever Fidel falls down are precisely those who were profiting from Batista's regime -- they were the ones with both motivation and means to get out of Cuba. Of course they resent Castro; he had the gall to take away their penthouses and swimming pools for such silly things as creating one one of the best (top 40 -- health care systems in the world, making sure every Cuban citizen could read and write (Cuba now has a 99.8% literacy rate -- 3rd best in the world) and have their education completely paid for. Hmm…health care and education. That reminds me more of an Obama stump speech than the crazy policies of an awful dictator.

    Again, I do not mean to minimize the admittedly bad things that have happened in Cuba for the last 50 years, I'm simply trying to provide a little perspective.

    And part of that perspective is this principle, which applies not just to Cubans but to everyone: rich people love being rich and there's nothing they hate more (not even secret police) than having someone take some of their money or tell them they can't spend it on yachts. It is naive to think that 90% of the hatred towards the Castro regime by exiled Cubans and their capitalism-loving American friends is anything other than that. And while we all wish to see a freer Cuba (though the U.S. certainly has not helped in that regard), it is unfair to ignore the fact that most Cubans were much more worse off before Castro and that he instituted policies which are in line with today's democratic ideals.

  • Anonymous

    The repression of Castro's regime is real. There is no doubt about that. But to laud the Liberal reforms of pre-Castro Cuba is pretty ridiculous. I find that many exiles seem to remember their Cuba through a distorted glass, just as many socialists, college kids, and left-leaning people romanticize Communism in Cuba. Cuba wasn't exactly a Liberal democracy before the Revolution.

  • rsnlk

    Once and for all, let's dispense with the shibboleth that Cuba was a mob playground. The perception is false. The mob, it's casinos and prostitution, held sway over a small section of Havana, not the country. Would it be okay to condemn those in Las Vegas to life in a totalitarian dictatorship because the mob ran it for so many years?

    The people who fled, included the elite, but in a country of 7 million then and 11 million now, do you purport that over 2 million were the elite? I guess those who risk their lives on rafts can be said to have the means.

    Wake up, people. You have been fed a steady diet of lies about Cuba. Before you make pronouncements, make sure you have the facts, not the socialist pap that so often masquerades as history.

  • Marcos Maturell

    Well said Michael.

  • Peter

    Good article Michael and right on the money.

    To response #1, if you don't like the uS just leave, who is holding you here ?
    At least you can leave, but cubans have to sneak out and many times pay with their lives.

  • Spade

    love these comments; typical marxist dialectic argument; since they are incapable to rebutting the author's right on argument; they try to change the subject by attacking the evil US as if that would be a legitimization of the evils done in Cuba.

    Well written

  • Carli Quintanal

    Mr Fernandez,

    This needed to be said.

    Some in this forum have pointed out that the United States has certainly committed its own crimes – this is true – but not the focus of this article. As a 33-year-old man who came to this country at the age of 19, I am forever grateful.

    A.C. (unregistered user) claims that “when Castro's revolutionaries liberated Cuba in '59, the freed the country from an even worse dictator who had turned the island (Havana in particular) into a giant casino/whorehouse with ties to the American mafia.”

    I’m not quite sure how to respond to this, but I’ll try. I understand that A.C. is not Cuban, has never lived under a Stalinist regime and for that, I forgive his ignorance.

    The saddest aspect of the Cuban nightmare comes from the fact that in 1959, the Cuban people held great hope for the future after Castro toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista. Instead, we were bamboozled into supporting what would become a dictators dozens of times worse than the one overthrown. The old bait and switch. And here we are, 50 years later, still suffering.

    As for this tired old often repeated mafia myth . . . yes, the mafia was in Havana, as it is in every major metropolis. To say that the American mafia ran Havana, or ran Cuba however, is quite simply laughable and more to the point: blatantly offensive. As if “those brownskins” down south couldn’t run their own affairs and build immensely profitable businesses – as if we needed a bunch of corrupt gangsters to do it for us. Please, stop using Mario Puzo films to perform research. I find it amusing that people often forget that in the late 1950’s, Cuba’s peso was worth more than the U.S. dollar, the literacy rate was already rising, healthcare facilities and schools were in fact being built on the historically forgotten east side of the island. In short, Cuba had become an economic powerhouse. All we needed was the end of the Batista dictatorship and democratic elections. Note: elections were in fact held in 1958, however, the rebels threatened anyone going to polling stations with violence. Castro later promised us elections and of course reneged, choosing instead to maintain his stranglehold on power.

    A.C. goes on to say we have one of the best healthcare systems in the world? Again, laughable. Perhaps from your side of the Florida Straits sir, but not from ours. While it is true that preventative care is up to snuff (neighborhood clinics for example), God forbid you should ever require hospitalization. While foreigners and government party fat-cats enjoy state-of-the-art hospital facilities, those of us deemed “regular Cubans” are forced to suffer through treatment in filthy conditions – hospitals covered with cockroaches, rats, lacking event the most basic medications like aspirin. And yes, I have been back to Cuba in recent years – I travel every year to visit my loved ones.

    We are human beings sir, deserving of the ability to forge our OWN destinies – not those dictated to us by morally bankrupt, corrupt caudillos and dictators who use murder, coercion, theft, lies, and fear to preserve their power.

    In short sir, try supporting the Cuban people, not the dictatorship and its lies.

    Carli Quintanal

  • Carlton

    I had to laugh with a heavy dose of bitterness when I read commentator #4's assertion that the reason Cuban exiles are so anti-Castro is due to their losing their wealth, taking into account that by 1980 10% of the island's population had fled into exile. If a small island in the Antilles with scarce natural resources was able to produce such a large aristocracy I shudder to think what a huge middle-class the country must have had.
    You want to talk about the health care system in Cuba? Let's begin with the babble about a low infant mortality rate. When 70% of all pregnancies end in abortion you're going to have a low infant mortality rate, one must be born to die, but you also have 118 boys born for every 100 girls due to gender-based abortions with all the social problems that entails. Prior to 1959 Cuba was one of only three countries in Latin America-the other two being Chile and Uruguay-where dengue fever was not endemic, but it's a massive problem now, thanks to the disastrous state of public hygiene. There is a Cuban medicine that supposedly reduces cholesterol-PPG-and for the first time there are studies not financed by the Cuban government-one by the University of Cologne in Germany, the second by the University of Nova Scotia in Canada-and the result? It's an outright placebo, though to make it even more surreal it's exported to dozens of third world countries.
    Tremendous soil damage. People like to talk about petroleoum and nickle deposits, but you wanna know something? The wildest estimates come out to a few months of energy for the US and those estimates are always an exageration, and for a country of 11 000 000 you need a lot more than what that provides. Tourism? Look at the Dominican Republic. Massive tourism, massive poverty, and according to public opinion polls 65% of the population wants to get outta there. I point that out because I get the sneaky feeling that you're part of "If we only lift the embargo…" crowd.
    Oh, why should I even bother. You want to believe and you have every right too, but I get so tired hearing defense or better said"understanding" for a repressive system that nobody should wish on their worst enemy.

  • Manuel A. Tellechea

    The Cuban Republic (1902-1958) had ten constitutionally elected presidents. The Cuban Constitution of 1940 (which Castro promised to respect but instead abolished) was the most progressive of its day and the model for the French Fundamental Law of 1958.

    No coup or revolution before Castro's included firing squads or political prisoners. There were a total of 184 casualties on both sides in the 1959 Revolution. In his first year in power, Fidel Castro shot without any semblance of due process 15,000 Cubans. In the intervening 49 years of unelected rule Castro has been responsible for the documented deaths of more than 104,000 of his countrymen, more, in relation to Cuba's population, than Hitler killed Germans or Stalin Russians.

    When he himself surrendered to Batista after the attack on the Moncada barracks in 1953 Castro did so knowing that he would not be subject to the death penalty because capital punishment did not exist in pre-Castro Cuba.

    Before the Revolution there were fewer prostitutes in Havana than 100 years earlier in Victorian London.

    It is Fidel Castro who sells Cuba's children to old men like himself who are encouraged and protected in their predations upon them by the Cuban state. Cuba is the destination of choice for sex tourists from Canada, Spain, Italy and other Western countries. This is the chief source of the revenue for regime besides hand-outs from Hugo Chávez (who dreams of incorporating Cuba into a Greater Bolivarian nation) and the billions in remittances which Cuban exiles send to their relatives on the island to stave off starvation.

    Would Cuba be better off if Castro had never come to power?

    In 1958, Cuba had the 3rd-highest GNP in the Western Hemisphere (beating out comparative giants like Brazil and Mexico); Cuba had a balanced budget; no external debt to the U.S. or any other country; the Cuban peso traded higher than the U.S. dollar; Cuba's rate of inflation was the lowest and its income per capita the highest in Latin America. Infant mortality in 1958 was lower than for Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland (all of which lead Cuba today in that area); and Cuba's literacy rate of 78% was higher than many experts claim the U.S. rate is today.

    Before Castro, Cuba was not the hell it is today (or "Socialist Paradise," which is a distinction without a difference).

    Doubtless Cuban democracy would have travelled a smoother road and never derailed without U.S. intervention, the Platt Amendment and the imposition of Fidel Castro by the Eisenhower State Department and The New York Times.

  • DosDedosDeFrente

    Congratulations to the author on a degree in Recalcitrance from the University of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. This is the same kid who used to wear guayaberas, play dominos and say that Lillian Guerra is a communist! Is this a joke? Michael definitely came to Yale, but Yale apparently never did anything to him.

  • A.C.

    rslnk (#6):

    Surely you wouldn't expect casinos to pop up in small mountain towns. Of course most of it was centered on Havana; that doesn't change the fact (and it is a fact) that Fulgencio Batista was in bed with the mafia.

    As to your second point, you simply have your facts wrong. The 2000 census showed about 1.2 million (not the 2 million you claim) Cuban-Americans, and surely they didn't all arrive in the states in 1960. The fact that the exiles were mostly well-educated middle/upper class people is simply the truth, whether you believe it or not. And while today's Cubans may come in rafts, since 1965 there have been over 3,000 flights transporting Cuban exiles to the U.S. More recent mass emigrations like 1980's "Mariel boatlift" involved Cubans already in the U.S. picking up their relatives in boats and yachts they hired in Miami.

    I find it amusing that you think "socialist pap" masquerades as history -- it's usually the other way around. The "steady diet of lies", however, is an accurate description for what the politically and economically powerful Cuban-American community would have everyone believe.

  • you're an idiot

    hey #8, why do you assume #1 is in or from the US? Has it ever occurred to you that those of us outside of the United States know English and even *gasp* have access to the internet?

  • A.C.

    I won't waste my time arguing the statistical arguments put forth by #10 and #11, mostly because I'm not inclined to spend hours verifying numbers that you probably got from or some such website of, to put it lightly, questionable objectivity. If I'm wrong and you can provide reliable, unbiased sources for those statistics, I'll gladly take a look at them and come to my own conclusions.

    I will tackle a few points though. #11 writes: "The Cuban Republic (1902-1958) had ten constitutionally elected presidents."

    Just out of curiosity, are you including the 1954 election in which he was the only legal candidate?

    Also from #11: "Before the Revolution there were fewer prostitutes in Havana than 100 years earlier in Victorian London."

    And there are fewer murders in Baltimore than in Detroit. Following your flawless logic, Baltimore is not a violent city at all.

    Finally, good for Cubans if 78% of them were literate in 1958. Nobody is claiming that they were particularly illiterate before Castro. I'm just claiming that they're outstandingly literate (again, 3rd in the world -- the U.S. is 15th) now and that Castro's policies deserve most of the credit.

    As for #10 and his claim that not all of that 10% of exiled Cubans could've been aristocrats…I don't think it's unreasonable to believe that 10% of Cubans could have been upper/upper-middle class people. Especially when it wasn't that 10% left at the same time but over a period of a couple of decades.

    Finally, I'm not part of the "If only we lift the embargo" crowd or any crowd for that matter. And it's cute that you and #11 list Castro's abuses but as I already stated several times, I neither question nor endorse them -- although one could certainly come up with a similar list about Batista and his military police; death penalty or not, arrests, beatings and torture were the order of the day.

    I am simply trying to say that, for as bad a dictator as he became, there were noble ideas behind the revolution and several of them were enacted and benefited the Cuban people. Or do you really expect to believe that he didn't get anything right in the past half century? And, again, I think it's myopic to speak so ill of Castro without mentioning the man he replaced. Batista may not have racked up the number of abuses Castro did simply because he wasn't in power as long, but he was just as ruthless and, worse yet, he wasn't interested in education and health, he was interested in gangsterism and its related vices.

  • I R A Darth Aggie

    Tell me, my fine Castro apologistia, when has the US of A arrested a journalist for the simple crime of reporting?

    I can think of a few examples, but not during the current Administration's term. Yet five years ago, the Castro Brothers, Inc, tossed reporters and librarians into prison. Their crime? reporting the news, and lending people books.

    Why aren't you asking you friends to release them?

  • Manuel A. Tellechea


    I can well see why you would not waste your time attempting to "refute" pre-revolutionary statistical data. Facts are not refutable. And you will find them not at some mythical exile website but in the <i>Statistical Abstract of the United States</i> and the <i>United Nations Statistical Yearbook</i> for 1957-1958. I'm sure these are available at the Yale Library if that's where you are located.

    In the 1954 presidential election, Batista ran against Grau San Martín. The day before the election Grau withdrew from the race. The Electoral Commission ruled that the deadline for withdrawal had passed and Grau's name remained on the ballot. Batista was elected. If such a thing were to happen in the U.S., it would be handled in exactly the same manner. Certainly there is no merchanism in the U.S. Constitution for suspending elections. Neither was there such a mechanism in the Cuban Constitution.

    Victorian England is known for, well, victorianism. It is highly significant that there were fewer prostitutes in pre-Castro Havana than in Victorian London. It means that Cuba was more "victorian" than Victorian England. Imagine that!

    Of course, prostitution flourished (and flourishes) in all American cities great and small. Any comparably-sized American city then or now (and many that had only a fraction of Havana's population, such as Las Vegas) had just as many prostitutes. BTW, why is it that liberals oppose puritanism everywhere but in Cuba? You certainly prefer the Weimar Republic to Nazi Germany, don't you? [Oh, btw, neither the Weimer Republic nor Batista's Cuba put gays in concentration camps. Castro and Hitler did. One of an infinite number of similarities between them).

    If the Revolution had any "noble beliefs" they were all betrayed by Fidel Castro. A slavemaster who educates or provides medical care to his slaves is no less a slavemaster for it. Curiously, the argument of the "good master" was the same as Southern apologists used to justify the peculiar institution.

    In Cuba's case, too, such an argument is disingenuous, as I've already demonstrated. There is no such thing as a "good master" or a "happy slave."

    BTW, Costa Rica had a lower literary rate in 1958 than did Cuba. Now its literacy rate is exactly the same as Communist Cuba's. Costa Rica managed to raise literacy without imposing a 49-year police state on its people. Cuba could also have conquered illiteracy without Fidel Castro. It was almost there already in 1958.

  • free reader

    I would rather live in a country with 50% literacy and be free to read whatever I want, than to live in a country with 100% literacy and be forced to read only what a brutal dictator like Castro allows. Free Cuba!

  • Cat

    #4..I find your statements laughable as you group my family with rich elitist exiled Cubans like Mas Canosa in grandfather was shot in the town square on a rumor that he was against the Revolution and nothing more..he worked in a factory and made meager grandmother was a teacher on a normal wage..not extremely poor and by no means extremely rich..they lived in a one bedroom apartment when my mother was less than a year grandmother moved to Miami for fear for her own life and that of my mother's at the time and wouldn't you know it..had to become a MAID cleaning houses until she could pay for certification to be a teacher..the rest of my family living in Cuba ended up in prison, executed, or exiled to Mexico where they are still living since they couldn't afford anywhere else except the wonderful country of much for those riches that we had during Batista's time that you talk about..I understand that there were poorer people than my family and Castro did promise the poor equality (everyone equally poor that is) and that truly didn't set well with the rich at that time..but to mark all or most exiles of the 1960s as wealthy is akin to state all or most Southerners are "git r dun" hillbillies..try not to generalize next time ..
    As far as health care in Cuba, you should read the Anthropological Journal of Latin'll find that most of the Cuban people under the dictatorship have to bring their own blankets and whatever other instruments they can find when they go to surgery or to get treatment..nothing like the beautiful picture Michael Moore showed us in Sicko..
    If Cuba is still so great, then why are people still on rafts risking their lives to get out? Why is there a lottery that allows a Cuban to leave the country, but must choose to leave the country or leave his entire family behind not knowing what their future lies when they leave?
    Why, when you get to the airport, are there parents handing out their children to tourists for sex so they can put food on their table?
    I could go on and on about how Cuba is currently and will continue to be..the ability to stay at a hotel or buy a computer in Cuba is the same for the poor, they will never have enough funds to achieve these actions and the freedom to do so is a mockery..

  • Anonymous

    Of course you would, #19, as long as you were one of the 50% who could read.

  • A.C.

    I am sorry, Cat, if your family suffered under Castro. I repeat, hopefully for the last time, that I neither deny nor condone the injustices perpetrated by him, nor do I think that Cuba is "so great". I'm trying to make a very specific point; obviously that subtlety is lost on you but your sad personal story doesn't really contribute much to the discussion. WE KNOW, ok? But that's never been the point, or, at least, not my point.

    As far as your doubts about the Cuban health system, if you want to contradict the World Health Organization, I suppose that's up to you. As for your other comments, I know Cuba is not the greatest place in the world and I fully understand why people would want to leave. Again…that has nothing to do with what I'm talking about.

    Now, as for Mr. Tellechea:

    First, Grau San Martin withdrew from the race because his supporters were being abused and arrested on Batista's orders. In fact, if I remember correctly, Grau himself may have been arrested at one point. The election of 1954, like most of Batista's political career, was a sham and the fix was in from the beginning.

    As for your silly prostitution argument, Havana's population in 1959 was about half of Victorian London's. Of course there were less prostitutes. And Victorian England was as much a golden age for prostitution as for "victorianism". Finally, regardless of the numbers, the important part about this is that the prostitution in Cuba was a direct consequence of how mafia-infested Havana was.

    Oh, and Costa Rica's literacy rate, according to the UN's Development Programme '07-'08 report is a full 5% lower than Cuba's -- 75th in the world to Cuba's 3rd.

    I do agree that many of the revolution's noble ideas were perverted by Castro. It's just that some of them weren't. For the last freaking time, you don't have to convince me that Castro has done a lot of bad things. Then again, when the CIA is plotting to assassinate you and there are people who celebrate every time you scrape your knees, you tend to get a little repressive. That may be no excuse, but it's all part of a narrative more complex than "Castro bad!" which includes the way he uplifted the poorest of the poor, the horrible acts committed by the man he replaced and millions of people who would've loved nothing better than to put a bullet through his head because he dared to redistribute wealth, which is a curse word in capitalist America but not for those of us whose values have nothing to do with the almighty dollar.

  • rsnlk


    You misconstrue. I did not deny that Batista was in cahoots with the Mafia. My point is that the sweeping characterization of Cuba as a Mafia fiefdom is inaccurate and used to justify the present day oppression.

    As to my statistics- much as I love the USA, there are other countries in the world. Did you forget?

    Secondly, to describe the earlier exiles as middle and upper class is a far cry from characterizing them as profiteers and Batistianos, lounging in their penthouses and by their pools. In that case, you would have to characterize the majority of Americans as "Bushies, profiteering from the administration."

    I am sorry you are so angered by our system, but the twisting of fact about Cuba to fit your prejudices and those of like minded people has done much to prop up a regime that enslaves over 11 million people.

    Why would you ever think you know more about a country with no freedom of the press than those who still have ties to the people there?

  • Manuel A. Tellechea


    No supporters of Grau were "abused or arrested" by Batista during the 1954 elections. Of course, Grau himself was never arrested. What Grau feared was that he would lose to Batista as he had in 1940 when they had last faced off. In 1944, when Grau won the presidential election, Batista turned power over to him and voluntarily retired to Daytona Beach, FL. Remember that? The New York Times editorialized on that occasion about Cuba: "Let no one doubt that democracy exists in Latin America; it does in the youngest of her republics." Of course, one wouldn't expect the NYT times to know that Panama, not Cuba, was the youngest of the Latin American republics.

    Still, you appear to believe that prostitution was invented and patented in Cuba. And, yes, you apparently do prefer Nazi puritanism to the hedonism of the Weimar Republic.

    So, Costa Rica's literacy late is 94% and Cuba's is 98%? So the 4 point difference was worth 49 years of tyranny? Costa Ricans are free to read whatever they want. Cubans have the official party organ "Granma" and any other publications issued by Communist Cuba's state press (the only press in the country).

  • Manuel A. Tellechea


    No supporters of Grau were "abused or arrested" by Batista during the 1954 elections. Of course, Grau himself was never arrested. What Grau feared was that he would lose to Batista as he had in 1940 when they had last faced of. In 1944, when Grau won the presidential election, Batista turned power over to him and voluntarily retired to Daytona Beach, FL. Remember that? The New York Times editorialized on that occasion about Cuba: "Let no one doubt that democracy exists in Latin America; it does in the youngest of her republics." Of course, one wouldn't expect the NYT times to know that Panama, not Cuba, was the youngest of the Latin American republics.

    Still, you appear to believe that prostitution was invented and patented in Cuba. And, yes, you apparently do prefer Nazi puritanism to the hedonism of the Weimar Republic.

    So, Costa Rica's literacy late is 94% and Cuba's is 98%? So the 4 point difference was worth 49 years of tyranny? Costa Ricans are free to read whatever they want. Cubans have the official party organ "Granma" and any other publications issued by Communist Cuba's state press (the only press in the country).

  • A.C.


    I do not characterize Cuba as a Mafia fiefdom to justify anything, simply to help paint a more accurate historical portrait. And I do think the characterization is mostly accurate. Batista constructed the dream casinos of his mobster friends and Havana hosted meetings which included such mafia luminaries as Lucky Luciano. Worse yet, as noted historian Hugh Thomas writes: "Batista's golpe formalized gangsterism: the machine gun in the big car became the symbol not only of settling scores but of an approaching change of government."

    As for the population stats, it was my mistake to only include the ex-pats in the U.S. However, two million is the figure now, which includes the children and grandchildren of the original emigrants, who I'm glad to see you agree were mostly middle/upper class. I will admit that it was hasty of me to count them all as Batista profiteers, his followers who fled Cuba were not a small number. And, by the way, I would also say that there are a fair share of Bush profiteers in the U.S.

    As to your final point, the fact that I have no ties to Cuba is precisely what I think allows me a bit more objectivity.



    I quote Philip Bonsal, former U.S. ambassador to Cuba:

    "Grau as the leader of the electoral opposition, traveled widely and spoke freely until, just before the end of the campaign, he was led by a flurry of insurrectionary activity and consequent repressive official measures to advise his followers to refrain from voting because of insufficient civic guarantees"

    Harvard prof and Yale alum Jorge Dominguez:

    "This electoral farce, along with the higher rate of nonvoting, clouded the legitimacy of a regime that was based on force but did not wish to admit it"

    Finally, UNC professor Louis Pérez:

    "The much anticipated elections of 1954 offended all but the most cynical 'batistianos'".

    Apparently, Manuel, that includes you.

  • Manuel A. Tellechea


    "I did not deny that Batista was in cahoots with the Mafia."

    I hope that you are not confirming it either.

    I suppose the simple answer would be: JFK was also "in cahoots" with the mafia. Or to refine it even more, his father was the mafia.

    In fact, however, Batista, unlike JFK and Joseph Kennedy Sr., was not "in cahoots" with the Mafia.

    This is a mythology built by propagandists for the Castro regime and their Hollywood sycophants to discredit not just Batista, but the Cuban Republic and the Cuban people.

    The only gangsters in Cuba before 1959 were criminal organizations of "revolutionary" hoodlums like Fidel Castro, who had already killed four men in cold blood before he started his operetta revolution. At that time, the 1940s, Castro and the other gangsters had their covert in the University of Havana, which under the 1940 Constitution enjoyed autonomy (the police or military were not permitted to enter its precincts).

    When Cubans spoke of "gangsters" in the 1940s or early 1950s they did not mean the American mob but our own homegrown thugs, extortionists and assassins. American Mafia figures owned three casinos in pre-Castro Cuba. The mafia did not function as a criminal organization in Cuba as it did in the U.S. Cubans had their own homegrown criminal organizations headed by the likes of Fidel Castro.

    It was this fact that Fidel tried to obscure when he created the fiction that the Mafia owned Batista or ran Cuba.

    The real criminal enterprise, the only crimimal enterprise, is the one which the Castro brothers and their henchmen have run in Cuba for the last 49 years and counting, which is a continuation of their pre-revolutionary criminal activities.

  • fee reader

    I would still rather be illiterate and live in a democracy than literate and live enslaved in a communist dictatorship…better unread than Red.

  • A.C.


    First, I will assume from your silence that you are capitulating on the issue of the 1954 elections. You might as weel; as you, yourself, wrote earlier: it is hard to dispute facts.

    The relationship between Batista and the Mafia (particularly with noted gangster Meyer Lansky) and the depth of the mob's involvement in Havana is just as indisputable. I refer you to:

    T.J. English's "The Havana Mob: Gangster, Gamblers, Showgirls and Revolutionaries in 1950s Cuba"

    Matthew Reiss' "The Batista-Lansky Alliance" (,2322,217,00.html&#41;

    …and countless other accounts of the strong ties between Batista and La Cosa Nostra and of Havana's role as a gambling, prostitution and drug-trafficking haven.

    I'm really beside myself at the fact that you would go to such lengths to defend such a despicable dictator. Even I do not defend Castro or deny his wrongdoings; I repeat once again that the purpose of these posts has never been to justify what he has done, but to place it in the proper perspective for people who have lived all their lives believing the lies about pre-Castro Cuba that people like you constantly spew.

  • Manuel A. Tellechea


    Because Jorge Domínguez and Louis Pérez, neither of whom was a participant or witness to the 1954 election, say that it was "farce" does not make it so. The fact that one was a Yale graduate holds absolutely no sway with me, because what would one expect a Yale graduate and Harvard professor to say, after all? Persons who believe that the Cuban Revolution was a "legitimate process" must disavow the results of the 1954 election or else admit that Castro was making war against a legitimate government. It is interesting, though, that neither Pérez nor Domínguez contends that the results of the election were fraudulent, but the process. Pérez, a leftist and Castro accommodationist, characterizes the supporters of the electoral process as "batistianos." I would call its detractors fidelistas. Which, of course, includes you, Castro's apologist here. And we are again exactly where we begun.

    Hugh Thomas, long a member of the Cuban American National Foundation, btw, in the cited quotation, was referring to Castro's gangsters, not the U.S. mafia.

    As for Phillip Bonsal, the last U.S. ambassador to Cuba, he will always be remembered for betraying the first anti-Castro plot to the nascent revolutionary regime.

    I think it may be legitimate to mention that Batista has been dead a long time, and that his followers, if there are any left, are now older than Fidel.

    Of course, the bogeyman of Batista is very useful to you and others like you because you do not want to confront the actual crimes of a dictatorship which has ruled 4 times longer than Batista without the benefit of elections.

    The liberation of the Cuban people depends on the burial of Castro regime not on stringing up Batista's corpse.

  • A.C.

    Your contention that someone must have been a participant or witness to an event to be able to accurately or intelligently comment on it is ludicrous. By your logic, we shouldn't pay attention to you either because you weren't there in 1954.

    Your argument that an election in which the opposition's supporters are harassed and threatened should be considered legitimate simply because the actual voting was not tampered with (although historians also question that fact) is equally laughable. Just like it would be laughable to call the Revolution a "legitimate process". Revolution, by definition, never is -- even when it might be morally just and necessary.

    I fail to see how Thomas' quote: "Batista's golpe formalized gangsterism: the machine gun in the big car became the symbol not only of settling scores but of an approaching change of government." could refer to anyone but Batista and his cronies. The use of the word 'formalized' is key; it's not that Batista 'provoked' gangsterism against him -- he formalized; which means he validated it and made it part of official policy.

    I would also like to know from where you get the idea that Bonsal betrayed the U.S. assassination attempts -- which were, by the way, in conjunction with that Mafia you claim had no ties to Batista. That kind of high treason by a U.S. official sounds like an urban legend more than anything else. The worst you could say about Bonsal is that he was somewhat conciliatory towards Castro, to and about whom he nevertheless expressed strong concerns.

    I have tirelessly repeated that I DO NOT deny the "crimes of a dictatorship which has ruled 4 times longer than Batista without the benefit of elections". The fact that you nevertheless choose to believe I'm doing so and call me a Castro apologist simply shows that you either lack the capacity for intellectual subtlety or wish to cram Castro's atrocities down my throat (even while I've repeatedly admitted and denounced them) because it suits your argument.

    And, as I said before, the fact that you continue to defend a man and a regime that even most anti-Castro Cubans will readily admit was horrific and atrocity-laden in its own right tells us that you are either blind to history's truths, morally bankrupt or, most likely, some self-serving combination of both.

  • rsnlk

    Manuel: that there was some sort of financial relationship between Batista and the mob seems to be true. As to the extent of it, I bow to your greater knowledge.

    AC: only problem is that "objective" implies all facets, but when you characterize exiles that way and propagate castroite mythology about preCastro Cuba, you are coming down on one side. By the way, Fidel Castro is barely living proof that Batista was tame compared to this regime. After the attack on the barracks, he was imprisoned, released, and exiled. Under the Castro regime, the penalty would have been summary execution.

    I see the research you have put into this. A major problem with many of the so-called reputable sources is that they are based mainly on materials provided by the regime. If you would like to get an objective picture of Cuba preCastro, check out the UN reports for the years preceding the revolution. You might be surprised.

  • Jorge Vazquez Garcia

    "he dared to redistribute wealth, which is a curse word in capitalist America but not for those of us whose values have nothing to do with the almighty dollar."

    Hate to break it to you A.C., but wealth redistribution has never worked. Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union - Nope. China and Vietnam - Nope (see their nouveau rich).

    Communism (and its derivatives) limits the potential and capacities of individuals. The only way to limit these most-natural of human traits is through tyranny.

    Given the chance, I suspect you too would be a totalitarian dictator using "wealth redistribution" as a slogan.

  • anon

    Zero sum economics is a fallacy. Wealth is created. There is not a fixed amount of it to be distributed in a free market. There is always a new market, a new invention that allows a new person to create their own wealth if they are enterprising enough.

    When the government takes over the economy and "redistributes the wealth" economic collapse and stagnation are the only possible outcomes. The economy needs a market to set prices based on demand. Governments cannot do this. People need incentive to do their best. There is no point in working your tail off to then be told by the authorities what you are entitled to(for example, we don't need good tasting food and could survive just fine on a cheap, bland diet but who would choose that.)

    We all know that this redistribution really involves stealing form the productive and giving to those loyal to the regime.

    If equality is the point, socialism will get that. All equally poor as a result of no drive to produce.

  • A.C.


    The fact that Batista let Castro go should not be seen as a testament to his leniency, but as self-preservation and political shrewdness. Executing a powerful and popular revolutionary leader would've made a martyr out of him and further inflamed those who opposed him. Look at the spikes in violence in Iraq after the deaths of prominent clerics, etc.

    As for reliable facts and statistics, I agree that they're potentially hard to come by, and I'll gladly take a look at those UN reports but to discount the facts put forth by reputable organizations like the WHO and the recollection of intelligent, thoughtful individuals on the assumption that it must have been tainted by the state-provided information seems hasty.


    We all know communism hasn't worked; nobody was claiming that it has -- although a country in which everybody can go to school and to the doctor should be considered a partial success. The redistribution of wealth, however, has worked. European countries with high tax rates and fantastic health care & education systems and social programs are basically redistributing wealth, just in a much more subtle way. Of course, just as you're sure I would love to be a dictator (I wouldn't), I'm sure you're against those things too. I mean, fuck the poor, right?

    And while you're right that Communism, by definition, must curtail some liberties and deny some opportunities, it mostly denies people's wallets from getting too fat while others starve. That's what people really resent, and that's why tyranny becomes necessary. *Now, read the next sentence carefully so you don't consider me worthy of the Hague* Is the tyranny justifiable? No, probably not. Is it understandable? Absolutely.

  • adc

    I'm not going to comment on all the statistical arugment going around. I am only going to respond to #8 who gives the tired response "if you don't like (insert an issue here) about America, then leave!". That is such an infantile response. I don't like filling in numbers into an excel spreadsheet once a week, should I quit my job? Perhaps this person isn't from the US. Or perhaps he/she would love to leave but cannot afford to do so… or maybe, just maybe, decrying the US abuses on human rights means he wants his country to do better and thinks it can do better….But I guess believing that your country can do better is unpatriotic.

  • Anonymous

    I am nowhere near as informed as any of the people discussing Cuban history on this thread, so forgive me if I sound ignorant. This is more of a question (and i really do mean question) for those who are attacking A.C. I ask: If the charges against Batista are simply myths, then how is it possible then that Castro could succeed? Basically this question stems from the common-sense fact that people do not support the toppling of governments if there isn't already widespread oppression, poverty and dissatisfaction.

    I am not that what replaced Batista was a bastion of fairness and success, or even human decency. The point that A.C is making though is that it is absolutely ludicrous to praise what became before Castro simply because Castro was/is also a nightmare.

    Oh, and in response to #34… Many would say Canada is a socialist country. Where are all the "equally poor" people there? Canada seems to be doing pretty well for itself. I don't ever advocate the government's complete control of the economy, but a little government intervention and redistribution (hello taxation) doesn't equal stagnation and collapse. I don't think the collapse of the housing market is a result of government intervention, do you?

  • AL

    Michael-- all important points made….well done!

  • Manuel A. Tellechea


    What can be more ridiculous than your assertion that Batista spared Fidel Castro's life because he did not want to make him a "martyr?" How many martyrs has Fidel Castro created without the least compunction about making martyrs? If your supposition were correct then there would never have been any political executions in history.

    The fact is that before 1959, there was no death penalty in Cuba. Therefore it would have been impossible, under the Rule of Law, for Batista or any Cuban president to order the execution of Fidel Castro.

    That, incidentally, would have posed absolutely no problem in this country where there is no such proscription. In fact, it would be difficult to conceive of a group of armed terrorists attacking a U.S. military barracks and not being subject to the death penalty for it.

    The Cuban Revolution was not fought in the mountains but in the cities where terrorists from the July 26th Movement placed hundreds of bombs in public places and accommodations, such as theatres, buses, schools and public squares -- all civilian targets. It is this that Hugh Thomas means when he says that "Batista's golpe formalized gangsterism: the machine gun in the big car became the symbol not only of settling scores but of an approaching change of government." The batistianos would hardly wish to effect a "change of government." It is clearly the fidelistas whose goal it was to effect such a change and whose methods for doing so Thomas is describing.

    You continually say that you do not support Fidel Castro but you have done nothing here but to attempt to justify his actions. These attempts take the form of suggesting that Batista was either as bad as Castro or worse.

    For you, as for Castro and his henchmen, the Cuban Revolution is still being fought 49 years after the Eisenhower State Department and The New York Times installed Castro in power. All the batistianos are long dead and buried, most murdered without legal recourse by the man whose life Batista spared.

    Yet you are still fighting Batista while Fidel Castro continues his predations on the Cuban people. 70 percent of Cubans were born after 1959. They had nothing to do with Batista, yet they have had to endure for 49 years a dictatorship whose sole claim to legitimacy is having toppled Batista a half-century ago.

  • A.C.


    After #37's comment, I feel that my work here is done. Unlike you, whose common sense and potential for even the semblance of objectivity is clouded by your rabid partisanship, he seems to have gotten the point. Fortunately, my goal was always to share some ideas for people like #37 to consider, not to convince you -- who are surely unconvincible -- of anything. Of course, I wanted saw myself forced to debunk some of the more outrageous lies you've told to defend and otherwise indefensible position, and I believe any reader with a modicum of common sense would believe I have done so.

    I will not, therefore, continue to defend myself against the charges that I am in favor of the Castro regime, and since that seems to be the only argument you have left, I will abandon the discussion before it turns into the sort of petty feud that you engage in on so many Cuba-related blogs and then publicize in your own, complete with comment-counts. As I said, my interest here was always to present a set of facts and ideas that are not often talked about -- nothing more.

    Finally, thank you for your numerous posts and responses. Not just because there's nothing like a good argument, but because it's always important to be reminded that there are people like your in the world. I'm sure you know what I mean by that, and I'm sure you feel the same way.


  • Manuel A. Tellechea


    Trust me when I say that I do not need to be reminded that there will always be people like you in the world who excuse the bloodshed of today by appealing to the bloodshed of yesteryear, keeping their favorite bogeymen, long dead, perpetually on the dock of history while absolving genocidal tyrants because they share their hate for the United States and are willing to use their own people as cannon fodder in a war that you and your ilk will always be content to watch from the sidelines.

  • #3 again

    You wrote:
    "European countries with high tax rates and fantastic health care & education systems and social programs are basically redistributing wealth, just in a much more subtle way."

    No, socialism is not working in Europe. In Britain you can be denied health care is you smoke or are obese, but you still have to pay for it and have nooption for private care. Waiting lists are long to see a specialist.

    In Sweden, they have an aging population and a low birth rate. The low birthrate is directly related to the high tax rate (70%). So who will pay for the mounting costs of health care of the elderly as this continues?

    Wealthy European who need specialized treatment usually come to the US.

    Wealth redistribtution is quite simply stealing from the productive to reward the lazy, stupid, or incompetent.

    Universal health care does not equal quality health care. If all Cubans had access to free QUALITY healthcare they likely wouldn't risk their lives to cross the ocean to Florida.

    Socialism is like the perpetual motion machine of politics. It is a Ponzi scheme doomed always to fail.

  • A.C.

    My dear #3:

    For someone who is against rewarding the lazy, stupid or incompetent, you should have no problem with denying care to smokers and obese people, most of whom easily fall under a couple of those categories.

    Anyway, the World Health Organization must have some hidden socialist agenda because they rank pretty much every major European nation ahead of the US, including the United Kingdom (18th in the world -- twice as good as the US rank)

    The fact that "waiting lists are long to see a specialist" is your main complaint about a country's health care system says a lot. My main complaint about a country's health care system would be "15% of its population (50 million people) can't go to the doctor", as is the case in the United States. Of course, you don't know any people like that, so why should you care? Surely they're all failures who should be left to rot and die.

    Wishing you a devastating financial and medical crisis,


  • Manuel A. Tellechea


    The 15% that "can't go to a doctor" can go to a hospital, where they do not require an appointment and will not be turned away.

    When was the last time (if ever) that you read of someone dying from, say, a ruptured appendix because he was denied admission to a hospital on the grounds that he couldn't pay?

    If there were even one such case the liberal media would never stop writing about it and liberal politicians would never stop making political capital out of it.

    I'd tell you to move to Communist Cuba and get the health care that you deserve, but since Castro has a two-tier medical system, one for party bosses who expect the best and foreigners who can afford it, and the other for ordinary Cubans who get whatever is left over or can be recycled from the first, I am sure that you would not cast your lot with Cuba's hapless proles but go to where the elites go.

  • A.C.

    Your outrageous examples shows your ignorance about the experiences of regular people.

    Of course people can and will go to the hospital when they're seriously ill or injured. The problem comes after the appendicitis has been performed and the bills start rolling in. It may not be as big a tragedy as dying in the waiting room, but ending up homeless because of one unforeseeable, unavoidable medical emergency doesn't sound so great either.

    Of course, this is an extreme example. What more commonly happens is this: millions of Americans forsake their regular doctors visits and checkups because they don't have health insurance -- checkups that not only lead to better overall health but could mean early detection of life-threatening diseases. Even when they are sick, they will wait until deathly ill to seek medical attention for fear of the bills which will follow. Your guy with the appendix problem might walk around for three days with a pain in his side hoping it will go away because he dreads the financial aftermath of going to the hospital. Mothers hesitate to seek medical attention for their kids, knowing that a doctor's visit could leave her without enough money for food. These are the things real people go through; trust me, I see them everyday in my line of work.

    As for Cuba, I will keep my promise in not speaking to that subject anymore. I will say, though, that I'm a little offended that you haven't written in your blog about the Che-loving Yalie to whom you so righteously delivered a verbal smackdown. Surely you can find some space in between bashing Barack Obama and counting how many more comments you received than your blogging arch-enemy to squeeze me in. Show me some love, Manuel. Or, some hate, as the case may be.

  • Manuel A. Tellechea


    I can finally commend you for something, to wit, your firm and unshakable promise not to engage me on the subject of Cuba again. In a world where people tend to be fickle about such resolutions and pronounce them mostly for effect, I admire someone who says "¡No más!" and means it.

    As for my blog, I do not debate phantoms. If you had used your real name, I should have been pleased to link to this discussion.

    Obama, of course, is in favor of negotiations without prior conditions with the Castro regime, which would mean that Castro's henchmen could be torturing a political prisoner in the next room and that would make absolutely no difference to Obama. Nor, I suspect, would it make any difference to you.

  • Elena Maza

    Excellent article, Michael. I'm happy to see though you are probably too young to have been born in Cuba, you have not forgotten your parents' and grandparents' native land. I commend you for your efforts to bring truth to academia, despite their overwhelming resistence to the truth about Cuba. Keep up the good work!

    PS: I want to clarify one issue regarding comment #12 and others. To my recollection, the Cuban peso was never valued higher than the U.S. dollar, but traded on par, that is to say, one peso = 1 dollar. Look it up.

    I invite you all to visit take a look at the new issue of the Biweekly. I would welcome your comments about my article there.

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