Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Communism in Cuba, its international impact, the democratic resistance and U.S. Cuba policy

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -George Santayana

General Raul Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel
A decisive moment in the Western Hemisphere
The Western Hemisphere is at a crossroads, but not for the reasons touted in the press. Raul Castro will hand over the office of the presidency to Miguel Díaz-Canel on April 19, 2018. The Castro regime is using this to give the impression that there is change underway in Cuba. This is not the case. General Raul Castro will remain head of the communist party and in control of the military. Diaz-Canel, like Osvaldo Dorticos who was president of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, will be a puppet controlled by the Castros. Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas warned of this on March 30, 2012 that there was a fake change underway in Cuba. Some believe that this warning led to his extrajudicial killing on July 22, 2012. The Christian Liberation Movement leader spoke plainly at the time:
"Our Movement denounces the regime's attempt to impose a fraudulent change, i.e. change without rights and the inclusion of many interests in this change that sidesteps democracy and the sovereignty of the people of Cuba. The attempt to link the Diaspora in this fraudulent change is to make victims participate in their own oppression. The Diaspora does not have to assume attitudes and policies in entering the social activity of the island.' The Diaspora is a Diaspora because they are Cuban exiles to which the regime denied rights as it denies them to all Cubans. It is not in that part of oppression, without rights, and transparency that the Diaspora has to be inserted, that would be part of fraudulent change."
A presidential election will be held in Venezuela on May 20, 2018. The Venezuelan opposition has already boycotted the election and it will only serve to further consolidate the Maduro dictatorship.  The election that may be a game changer in the region is the Presidential election in Mexico to be held on July 1, 2018.  Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, an admirer of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, is the current front runner. Lopez Obrador claims to be a democrat, who will respect democratic norms, but this was the same line used by Hugo Chavez during the presidential election in Venezuela in 1998.

The next three months in Latin America may set the course for the next generation by further legitimizing the dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela while Mexico's democracy is taken over by another populist, in the Chavez mode with links to Havana. To understand the full extent of the danger requires some historical context and understanding the out-sized role played by Cuba in the hemisphere during the past six decades.

Communism took power in Cuba through deceit and intrigue in 1959. While Fidel Castro denied he was a communist, promising to restore democracy in the island, he began consolidating totalitarian rule, threatening and shuttering the free press, and exporting revolution in Latin America and Africa.

Fidel Castro in January of 1959 with Huber Matos on the far right.
Past is prologue
Cuba had problems, an authoritarian dictatorship imposed in 1952 that was unwanted, however it did have numerous newspapers, radio and television stations that challenged the Batista regime along with a vibrant civil society that struggled and protested against the dictator.

Fidel Castro's July 26th Movement successfully lobbied Washington to impose an arms embargo on Batista on March 14, 1958, and the old dictator seeing that Washington was siding with the enemy  made the calculated decision to flee on December 31, 1958.
Now with the arrival of the Castro regime in 1959 promising the restoration of democracy and the rule of law – the exact opposite was done. Mass executions were broadcast and filmed to terrorize the population. While Fidel Castro claimed to be a defender of  freedom of expression, independent newspaper editors, were first warned that their lives were at hazard if they wrote critically against the regime and by May 13, 1960 all of the independent newspapers were shutdown, on occasion by violent mobs organized by the dictatorship.  They were replaced with regime publications subordinated to the communist party line to the present day. The same was done with all radio and television stations. This took place while Cuba and the United States had normal diplomatic relations. Relations did not end until January 3, 1961

The United States attempted to overthrow the dictatorship in Cuba in April of 1961 at the Bay of Pigs with a force of Cuban exiles that failed and instead consolidated the Castro regime, but that did not end the Cuban resistance to the communist regime.

On December 2, 1961  Castro explained the reason for the lie that he was not a communist: "If we had paused to tell the people that we were Marxist-Leninists while we were on Pico Turquino and not yet strong, it is possible that we would never have been able to descend to the plains."  Communism and the communist party were deeply unpopular in Cuba because of its links to the Batista regime.

Huber Matos, Marta Frayde, Mario Chanes, Gustavo Arcos, Aramís Taboada & Jesús Yanez Pelletier
Cuba's democratic resistance
As the totalitarian dictatorship became evident, Cuba's democratic resistance defied the Castro regime in two phases: 1959-1966 (violent resistance) and 1976 - present (non-violent resistance).

Those who had fought by Castro's side in good faith believing it was a struggle to restore democracy became uneasy with the course of the revolution. Some, like Huber Matos, Julio Ruiz Pitaluga, and Mario Chanes de Armas who spoke out spent decades in prison. Many, who had fought alongside Fidel Castro, returned to the hills of the Escambray to carry on the struggle for the democratic restoration. This resistance was crushed in 1966 after the Castro regime had five years of assistance from 400 Soviet counterinsurgency advisors.

Ten years later on January 28, 1976 a candle was lit in Cuba and a new type of struggle for freedom initiated when Ricardo Bofill together with Marta Frayde at her home in Havana founded the Cuban Committee for Human Rights. Carlos Alberto Montaner described how this movement came into existence during a speech in 2009 in Madrid, Spain:
Finally, in 1976, half a dozen Cuban opposition activists with leftist backgrounds were summoned by Professor Ricardo Bofill and founded in Havana the Cuban Committee for Human Rights, the first political organization in the nation's history to expressly renounce violence as a method of struggle. The group decided to abide by the rule of law to reclaim the rights quashed by the dictatorship. Meanwhile, in exile in Washington, about the same time, Mrs. Elena Mederos, former minister in the revolutionary government, and activist and political scientist Frank Calzón, founded Of Human Rights with the same objective: to defend, by nonviolent and legal means, persecuted individuals, dissidents and political prisoners in Cuba.
These groups documented human rights violations in Cuba, and distributed copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their reports reached the United Nations Human Rights Commission and non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Over time this dissident movement went from documenting abuses to mobilizing Cubans to demand their rights.

On September 8, 1988 the Christian Liberation Movement was founded in Havana in the neighborhood of El Cerro by Catholic laymen. Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas was the first leader of this movement that in 2002 would express the desire of millions of Cubans to be free with a petition drive called the Varela Project. Over 25,000 Cubans would sign the petition and have their signatures confirmed and turned into the rubber stamp National Assembly of Peoples Power demanding that their rights be respected in Cuba, but the response of the Castro regime was to declare the constitution unchangeable and in March of 2003 to round up many of the organizers of the petition drive, along with other human rights activists and independent journalists in a crackdown that became known as the Black Cuban Spring. 75 activists were sentenced to long and unjust prison terms.

In the midst of this crackdown a new movement arose. The wives, sisters, daughters and mothers of these activists formed the Ladies in White. Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, a former school teacher, was the first leader of this movement. Sunday after Sunday braving violent repression from the agents of the Castro regime these women marched with white gladiolas in their hands demanding the freedom of their loved ones. By 2010 all of their loved ones would be out of prison.

Fidel Castro and Augusto Pinochet
Castroism's international impact
From the start the Castro regime planned to turn the Andes into the Sierra Maestra of South America with the aim of achieving a hemisphere wide projection of power to spread their revolutionary project.  Fidel Castro was skeptical of democratic elections ushering in revolutionary change and preferred training and exporting weapons and armed guerillas to undermine existing governments. 

The Castro regime's interest in Venezuela began from the earliest days of the dictatorship. Venezuelans understood the threat poised by the Cubans by 1960 when Ernesto "Che" Guevara was giving unsolicited advice to Rómulo Betancourt, the democratically elected president of Venezuela. Guevara called for Betancourt to use the firing squad against his "rightist opponents." In 1963 Congressional Quarterly reported on how:
"Riots led by Communists and other pro-Castro elements in Caracas [in the autumn of 1960] took the lives of 13 persons and injured 100. Venezuela recalled its ambassador to Cuba, and Betancourt ordered out the army to end the rioting, which he termed an attempt to “install a regime similar to that in Cuba.”
Cuban Communist leader Blas Roca, told a Havana rally on January 23, 1963 that when the communists gained full control and “make themselves owners of the great riches in oil, aluminum and everything their earth imprisons, then all of America shall burn.”  A cache of three tons of weapons was found on a Venezuelan beach in November 1963 that was to be used to disrupt the democratic elections there. 

Fidel Castro would continue to agitate for revolution in Venezuela. A well documented incident occurred on May 8, 1967 and was reported by Francisco Toro in The Washington Post who described how: "two small boats carrying a dozen heavily armed fighters made landfall near Machurucuto, a tiny fishing village 100 miles east of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. Their plan was to march inland and recruit Venezuelan peasants to the cause of socialist revolution." An all night gun battle with the Venezuelan military led to nine guerrillas dead, two captured, and one who had escaped.
This led, at first, to American governments seeking to isolate Cuba in order to protect themselves from armed expeditions. 

The Castro regime achieved only one success in Latin America with armed interventions: the overthrow of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua and the installation of the Marxist-Leninist Sandinista regime. Robert A. Pastor, of The Carter Center in July 1992 in the report "The Carter Administration and Latin America: A Test of Principle" explained the crucial role played by the Castro regime in the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua, "by May 1979, with Cuban President Fidel Castro's help, the three Sandinista factions had united and established a secure and ample arms flow from Cuba through Panama and Costa Rica." The Sandinistas drove out the Somoza regime on July 19, 1979 and would remain a force there to the present day.

Efforts to subvert the Colombian government through a combination of training and arming communist guerilla groups while funding them through drug trafficking did not lead to the overthrow of the Colombian government but it led to the Castro regime being placed on the U.S. State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism on March 1, 1982

Fidel Castro greets Hugo Chavez in Cuba on December 13, 1994
The Castro regime's efforts in Venezuela would not begin to bear fruit until December 1994 with the arrival of Hugo Chavez in Havana to a hero's welcome following two years in prison for a 1992 coup attempt in Venezuela. Four years later Chavez had won the presidency of Venezuela and the Castro regime finally had its entry to Venezuela.  By 2007, Chávez had declared that Cuba and Venezuela were a single nation. “Deep down,” he said, “we are one single government.”  When Hugo Chavez died in 2013 the succession to Nicolas Maduro was planned in Havana.

On July 19, 2017 the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro testified before US lawmakers that “[t]here are currently about 15,000 Cubans in Venezuela ... It’s like an occupation army from Cuba in Venezuela.”

The Castro regime in Africa
However the Castro regime's international objectives extended beyond Latin America to Africa and Asia.

Fidel Castro lounging with war criminal Mengistu Haile Mariam, in Ethiopia in 1977
In the case of Africa, Cuba projected its military forces on the continent for decades with two high profile “victories” according to government news sources: Ethiopia and Angola. The reliance on military force and successes on the battlefield obscured some hard truths that over time are revealed by history.

Fidel and Raul Castro were both deeply involved in sending 17,000 Cuban troops to East Africa in assisting Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam in consolidating his rule and eliminating actual and potential opposition in Ethiopia.

Charles Lane of The Washington Post in the December 1, 2016 article "Castro was no liberator" raises the following question that touches heavily on Ethiopia:
Mengistu participated in a successful military coup against the U.S.-backed Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, eventually seizing power on Feb. 3, 1977,by massacring his rivals in the officer corps. Castro admired this bloody deed as a preemptive strike against “rightists” that showed “wisdom” and cleared the way for Cuba to support Mengistu “without any constraints,” as he explained to East German dictator Erich Honecker in an April 1977 meeting whose minutes became public after the fall of European communism. [...] With the Cuban forces watching his back, Mengistu wrapped up his bloody campaign of domestic repression, known as “the Red Terror,” and sent his own Soviet-equipped, Cuban-trained troops to crush a rebellion in Eritrea. The last Cuban troops did not leave Ethiopia until September 1989; they were still on hand as hundreds of thousands died during the 1983-1985 famine exacerbated by Mengistu’s collectivization of agriculture. 
Human Rights Watch in their 2008 report on Ethiopia titled outlined "Collective Punishment War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in the Ogaden area of Ethiopia’s Somali Region" some of the practices carried out by Cuban troops sent there by Fidel and Raul Castro excerpted below:
In December 1979, a new Ethiopian military offensive, this time including Soviet advisors and Cuban troops, “was more specifically directed against the population’s means of survival, including poisoning and bombing waterholes and machine gunning herds of cattle.”
The last Cuban troops did not leave Ethiopia until 1989 and were present and complicit in the engineered famine that took place there.

The case of Angola is not as clear cut. Non-violent scholar Michael Nagler on page 43 of his important book "The Nonviolence Handbook: A Guide for Practical Action" offers the following analysis of the decision to embrace violence in South Africa and its consequences:

“When sixty peaceful demonstrators were shot dead at Sharpeville, South Africa, in 1960, the African National Congress leaders decided that nonviolence was not enough to overcome the apartheid regime. They subsequently lost nearly thirty years trying to fight the regime with acts of violence before Nelson Mandela was released from prison and they regained their nonviolent momentum.”
It was not the African National Congress and the armed struggle that brought the Apartheid regime to the negotiating table but the United Democratic Front (UDF) and mass civic nonviolent action combined with international sanctions.  The inspiration for violent resistance arose from the example of the 1959 Cuban Revolution.

I've been to South Africa and met with members of the African National Congress (ANC) and engaged some of them in civil discussions on the nature of the Castro regime and found differences of opinions within the ranks. However, the open letter by the ANC to the Cuban Communist Party released in July of 2014 re-writes South African history and the end of Apartheid ignoring that it was the nonviolent struggle that freed Nelson Mandela and brought the racist regime to the negotiating table. Mandela's greatness, in my opinion, is that he presided over a nonviolent transition and left office after serving out a full term as president following a free election.

The legacy of violence that did not succeed in defeating Apartheid may in the end destroy South African democracy by glorifying a regime such as the one that exists in Cuba.  Time will tell what the end result will be in South Africa. However, in Angola the Cuban involvement left another Marxist autocrat, José Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled Angola for thirty eight years from 1979 through 2017.

Raul Castro and Fidel Castro with ally Mengistu Haile Mariam
Castro's intelligence services tortured American prisoners of war in Vietnam.  During the Vietnam War, the Cuban government sent advisers to Vietnam who tortured U.S. prisoners of war between 1967 and 1969 in what became known as "The Cuban Program" in an effort to demonstrate to the Vietnamese how to most effectively break the will of American soldiers. An account of what took place is found in Honor Bound: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1961-1973 by Stuart I. Rochester, Frederick T. Kiley and published by the Naval Institute Press in 1999. In 2008, Senator John McCain said that American POWs imprisoned with him in Hanoi had been tortured "by a couple of Cubans."

Fidel Castro visiting Vietnam in 1973
In May of 2005 official media of the Castro regime revealed that Cuban military engineers "took part in the widening of the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail in the midst of Vietnam's war with the United States," and a former participant retired Cuban colonel Roberto Leon who called it "one of the greatest secrets" of the 1965-1975 war, "when he led a team of 23 Cuban military engineers and about 50 Vietnamese nationals in work on the trail over seven months." According to Leon, Cubans began work on the trail in 1973 after Fidel Castro's September 1973 visit, when Vietnamese authorities asked the Cuban dictator for technical help on expanding the trail.  On December 2, 2015, the Ambassador of Vietnam in Havana, Duong Minh spoke to Granma, the official publication of the Cuban Communist Party, and went into greater detail:
The government of Cuba also helped in the construction of major works in Vietnam in the midst of the war, including the Victory Hotel in Hanoi, and a highway stretching over 40km close to the capital, vital in linking strategic points during the conflict. “Our Cuban brothers also contributed to the building of the historic Ho Chi Minh Trail, used to transport food, medicine, arms and ammunition from north to south, and a 400-bed hospital in the midst of the conflict zone.”

The Tricontinental and International terrorism
The CIA library has a three page document that was approved for release on November 1, 2001 titled "Foreign Intervention by Cuba" that explains the nature of a 1966 gathering in Havana that set the course for international terrorism in the 1970s:
"The current phase of Cuban intervention outside Latin America began with the Tricontinental Conference in Havana in January 1966, attended by more than 500 delegates, which created the African-Asian-Latin American People's Solidarity Organization (AALAPSO) to assist and coordinate the activities of assorted insurgent and terrorist groups. ... Cuban pilots flew combat as well as training missions in Soviet-supplied MIGS for the "People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) during active phases of that country's conflict with North Yemen in 1973--74. A Cuban armored brigade using Soviet vehicles, later turned over to the Syrian Army, was on the Golan Heights front in Syria in the wake of the Yom Kippur war [against Israel]."
The Castro regime views terrorism as a legitimate tactic to advance its revolutionary objectives. In 1970 the Cuban government published the "Mini Manual for Revolutionaries" in the official Latin American Solidarity Organization (LASO), a publication  of the Tricontinental and translated it into many languages. The manual is written by Brazilian urban terrorist Carlos Marighella, and it gives precise instructions in terror tactics, kidnappings, etc. and distributed worldwide by the Cuban dictatorship. There is a chapter on terrorism that declares, "Terrorism is a weapon the revolutionary can never relinquish." This manual is still circulating today and the Cuban dictatorship has trained terrorists that targeted the United States and other countries in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s with acts of violence with the objective of altering political behavior. John Hoyt Williams in a 1988 article in The Atlantic reported: "In the Arab world some 3,000 [Cuban advisers] can be found in Libya and Algeria, among other things training terrorists and Polisario guerrillas."

Mystery: How did a US Hellfire missile (pictured above) end up in Cuba?
Continued outlaw behavior in recent years

U.S. Military technology mysteriously ends up in Cuba
The Castro regime got a hold of a U.S. Hellfire missile in 2014 and refused to return it to the United States for almost two years, despite ongoing secret negotiations for most of that time, until the media broke the story raising ominous questions about U.S. national security and the Castro regime. 

Military cooperation and intelligence sharing with North Korea
In March 2016, the month that President Obama visited Cuba, the Castro regime signed a confidential military cooperation and intelligence-sharing agreement with North Korea reported the Paris based publication Intelligence Online. The Cuban dictatorship, under Raul Castro, has had extensive relations with the Hermit Kingdom that has included violating international sanctions to smuggle tons of weapons in 2013. 

The Cubans were caught trying to provide the North Koreans with surface to air missile systems (SA-2 (C-75 Volga) and SA-3 (C-125 Pechora), two MiG 21 jet fighters, and 15 MiG-21 engines, eight 73 mm rocket propelled projectiles (PG-9/PG-15 anti-tank and OG-9/OG-15 fragmentation projectiles) to be fired with recoil-less rifles, as well as a single PG-7VR round, a high explosive antitank tandem charge to penetrate explosive reactive armor, were also in the shipment.  

Colombian government seizes smuggled weapons shipment bound for Cuba (2015)
On March 2, 2015 news broke that the government of Colombia had seized a shipment of ammunition bound for Cuba on a China-flagged ship due to a lack of proper documentation. The BBC reported that "Officials said about 100 tons of gunpowder, almost three million detonators and some 3,000 cannon shells were found on board. The ship's records said it was carrying grain products." Blogging by Boz, founder of Hxagon, a consulting and technology company that provides risk assessments and predictive analysis in emerging markets, reached a reasonable conclusion: "Two big shipments of weapons seized in 20 months means that this is probably a regular occurrence."

On May 15, 2016 Henry Ramos Allup, the head of the National Assembly of Venezuela was complaining over social media of the leadership role played by a Cuban general and 60 Cuban officers over the Venezuelan military to maintain Maduro in power and continue exploiting Venezuela's natural resources. Despite this long time reality Secretary of State John Kerry in August of 2015 said "the United States and Cuba are talking about ways to solve the Venezuelan crisis."

Fidel Castro conversing with Argentine military dictator and ally
A negative force at the United Nations
In the 1970s in addition to supporting guerrillas and terrorists the Castro regime also began an unusual relationship with the military dictatorship in Argentina helping to block efforts to condemn it at the United Nations Human Rights Commission for thousands of leftists disappeared by the regime.
 Reynaldo Benito Antonio Bignone Ramayón, brutal military dictator of Argentina between 1982 and 1983 (in the picture above with Fidel Castro). On April 20, 2010, the Argentine despot was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the kidnapping, torture, and murder of 56 people in a concentration camp. 

On March 28, 2008 the Castro regime’s delegation together with the Organization of Islamic Congress (OIC) successfully passed resolutions undermining international freedom of expression standards at the United Nations Human Rights Council.  

On February 2, 2009 during the Universal Periodic Review of China the Cuban Ambassador, Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios encouraged the Chinese regime to repress human rights defenders in China with more firmness.

On May 28, 2009 amidst a human rights crisis in Sri Lanka the Cuban government's diplomats took the lead and successfully blocked efforts to address the wholesale slaughter there.

On March 17, 2014 the UN Human Rights Council “was divided” in its discussion of the atrocities in North Korea between those who want the case to be elevated to the International Criminal Court and those who reject outright the existence of a commission of inquiry and conclusions. The Castro regime vigorously defended the North Korean regime and denounced the inquiry.
Castro regime's links to Nazis
In 2012 formerly classified documents by the German intelligence service were released to the world revealing that Fidel Castro personally recruited former Nazi SS Waffen members to train Cuban troops in 1962 and that he also reached out to Otto Ernst Remer and Ernst-Wilhelm Springer, of Germany's extreme right to purchase weapons. Bodo Hechelhammer, historical investigations director at the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND)—the German foreign-intelligence agency, in an interview with German newspaper Die Welt said: “Evidently, the Cuban revolutionary army did not fear contagion from personal links to Nazism, so long as it served its their own objectives.”

Firing squad in Cuba
The cost in lives under Castroism in Cuba
In The Black Book of Communism in chapter 25 "Communism in Latin America" by Pascal Fontaine states that in Cuba between 1959 through the late 1990s "between 15,000 and 17,000 people were shot." International human rights bodies such as The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) documented some of what was taking place during this period of time. 

The IACHR in their April 7, 1967 special report on Cuba documented that on May 25, 1963 the Castro regime issued orders to the armed forces that any peasant seen out of their home after 8:00pm and before 5:00am be executed without a trial by an official of the army or the militia. They also provided numerous examples of young Cubans who were detained and summarily executed. The same human rights body also documented the October 24, 1964 armed invasion of the Uruguayan embassy in Cuba by forces of the Cuban government in order to machine gun to death four Cubans that had sought asylum there.

On the dawn of May 27, 1966, around six in the morning until sunset, about six in the afternoon they were, executing, by firing squad and with single shots (coup de grâce) in the fortress of La Cabaña in Havana, political prisoners, civilians and military. The firing squad was composed of three members of the militia and one officer. The severity of these events is even greater, when one adds that the executed were previously subjected to the procedure of blood extraction to replenish the Blood Bank. On the above mentioned May 27th Cuban civilians and military were executed and subjected to the medical procedures for drawing blood at a rate of an average of 7 pints per person. This blood was being sold to Communist Vietnam at a rate of $ 50 per pint. Relatives to see their imprisoned loved ones also had to "donate" blood.

Cuban exile activist Frank Calzon writing in National Review on November 10, 1978 about the six year peasant uprising in the Escambray (1960 - 1966) and numbers killed citing official and non-official sources. "Raul Castro estimated that five hundred government soldiers died in order to kill or capture 3,591 "bandits." Writing in 1971, the British historian Hugh Thomas put the total slightly higher: "Minor guerrilla skirmishing has gone on most of the time in Oriente and other mountainous districts in an unsung war; rumors abound but probably at least four thousand guerilleros have been killed since 1962." 

Columnist Mary O'Grady in The Wall Street Journal on November 12, 2017 reported on the beginning of "how the Soviets crushed the Escambray rebellion, which at one point numbered 8,000 insurgents. Castro had sent 12,000 soldiers and 80,000 militia to the region in late 1960, but they’d made no headway. So in January 1961 the Kremlin stepped in. It sent a contingent of Soviet coaches to a military compound near the city of Trinidad. That compound became a “KGB redoubt. ..."From there, the Soviets secretly directed a major offensive to quash the insurgency.” ..."The operation mobilized 70,000 Cuban soldiers and 110,000 militia. They 'uprooted most of the peasant families living in the area, and dragged them into concentration camps' in the far western part of the country. ...'The obsessive goal was total extermination,' so the government forces 'destroyed crops, burned huts and contaminated springs as they systematically combed the region for rebels or suspects.'”

Firing squad executions continued to be documented into the 2000s. Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, were among a group who hijacked a Cuban ferry with passengers on board on April 2, 2003 and tried to force it to the United States. The incident ended without bloodshed, after a standoff with Cuban security forces. The three men were executed nine days later, following a summary trial, by firing squad.
Miami Herald journalist Glenn Garvin on December 1, 2016 an article titled, "Red Ink: The high human cost of the Cuban Revolution" cited "University of Hawaii historian R. J. Rummel, who made a career out of studying what he termed “democide,” the killing of people by their own government, reported in 1987 that credible estimates of the Castro regime’s death toll ran from 35,000 to 141,000, with a median of 73,000." 

This does not take into account non-Cubans killed by the Castro regime. 
 US policy on Cuba 1959 - 2018
Vice President Richard Nixon greets Fidel Castro in Washington D.C. in April of 1959
 Recognized Castro regime
The Castro regime has a revolutionary project to spread communism. They sought within the first months that they were in power to destabilize and overthrow governments across Latin America. The United States did not understand this at first and quickly recognized the Castro regime in January of 1959.

Severed diplomatic relations and tried to overthrow regime
After two years of increasingly hostile behavior by the Castro regime the United States severed diplomatic relations  with Cuba and attempted to overthrow the dictatorship in April of 1961 at the Bay of Pigs. The Cuban exile force did not receive the promised support and the military mission failed and instead consolidated the Castro regime.

The economic embargo, first erected following the massive confiscation of U.S. properties without compensation, became an instrument of containment to raise the cost for the Soviet Union and Castro to export revolution in the Americas. Following attempts by the Castro regime to violently overthrow governments in Latin America and the Cuban Missile Crisis the Organization of American States voted to isolate Cuba, and it worked. No governments were violently overthrown.

Engagement and concessions
The Carter Administration was the first to lift the travel ban and hold high-level negotiations with the Cuban dictatorship, and both sides opened Interest Sections in their respective capitals between 1977 and 1981. Then from 1981 to 1982, the Castro regime executed approximately 80 prisoners, which was a marked escalation when compared to 1976. Furthermore, during the Carter presidency, Fidel Castro took steps that resulted in the violent deaths of US citizens.  

During the Mariel crisis of 1980, when over 125,000 Cubans sought to flee the island, the Cuban dictator sought to save face by selectively releasing approximately 12,000 violent criminals or individuals who were mentally ill into the exodus. This first attempt at normalizing relations saw a worsening human rights situation and migration crisis. 

This effectively ended the era of isolation of the Castro regime. It is not a coincidence that the Sandinistas came to power in Nicaragua two years later during the Carter Administration.

Reagan's rollback of Carter concessions
Nor does easing sanctions improve the situation for Cuban dissidents. The only time the Castro regime permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Cuban prisons, and Amnesty International to visit Cuba was in the late 1980s after Ronald Reagan took a hard line on human rights violations in Cuba at the United Nations, rolled back the Carter Administration’s 1977 opening of the travel embargo in 1982, toughened economic sanctions, and began broadcasting uncensored news to Cuba over Radio Marti.

President Clinton pursues engagement again
The Clinton Administration in 1994 initiated regular contacts between the U.S. and Cuban military that included joint military exercises at the Guantanamo Naval base. Despite this improvement of relations the 1990s saw some brutal massacres of Cubans that are rightly remembered such as the July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre and the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. The shoot down involved two planes blown to bits over international airspace by Cuban MiGs killing three American citizens and a Cuban resident who were engaged in the search and rescue of Cuban rafters 

The worsening human rights situation was a contributing factor in the August 1994 rafter crisis in which 35,000 Cubans fled the country. Experts have identified that this was a migration crisis engineered by the Castro regime. The Cuban dictatorship did this because it successfully reasoned that it could coerce the Clinton Administration to the negotiating table to obtain concessions which indeed it did and prolonged the life of the dictatorship for another twenty years.  

President George W. Bush did not rollback Clinton economic openings 
The Bush Administration didn't rollback cash and carry trade with the dictatorship, but following March 2003 crackdown on Cuban dissidents by the Castro regime did toughen some sanctions.

President Obama doubles down on engagement and normalization
The Obama Administration beginning in 2009 loosened sanctions on the Castro regime. On his watch concluding on December 17, 2014 the Obama administration freed all five members of the WASP spy network, including Gerardo Hernandez -- who was serving two life sentences, one of them for conspiracy to murder four members of Brothers to the Rescue murdered during the previous attempt at normalizing relations during the Clinton Administration. They de-linked the pursuit of full diplomatic relations from the rise in human rights violations in Cuba and in the region by Cuban state security. The Obama administration has doubled down in concessions even were the Clinton administration did not ignoring the Castro regime's continuing sponsorship of terrorism and smuggling of weapons to sanctioned countries in order to take Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism.  In 2016 Obama and his family paid an official state visit to Cuba further legitimizing the dictatorship. During the Obama Administration the exodus of the Cubans increased to numbers not seen since the Clinton Administration.

Cuban migration crisis 2015
Castro had some success first in Nicaragua in 1979, then in Venezuela in 1999 and today the regime is a strong and anti-democratic force in the hemisphere and at the United Nations Human Rights Council. No surprise that these regime offensives coincided with normalization policies of the United States.

President Trump has rolled back some policies and shifted rhetoric
The current Administration has rolled back some, not all, of the Obama era Cuba policies, spoken out on the human rights situation in Cuba, and Ambassador Nikki Haley defended the morality of U.S. sanctions on the Castro regime. Despite the claims by the architect of the previous Administration's Cuba policy, that President Trump's turn around on the Obama Administration's Cuba policy would fail, trade between the United States and Cuba was at its highest level in 2017 following its collapse between 2014 and 2016 when the previous Administration was pushing its new Cuba policy.

Summit of the Americas: Panama 2015 and Peru 2018

The 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama marked the first time the Castro regime had been invited to attend. Latin American leaders threatened that the VII Summit would not take place if the Castro regime was not invited. On September 22, 2014 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at a Americas Society/Council of the Americas meeting in New York City said, "if Cuba doesn’t go, then probably no Summit.” On December 17, 2014 President Obama announced that Cuba and the United States would seek to normalize relations. Four months later at the Summit of the Americas in Panama he held a bilateral meeting with General Raul Castro.

President Obama deemed the April 2015 gathering a success despite the Castro regime filling the event with shock troops that engaged in acts of harassment, in an atmosphere of hostility, and acts of violence so extreme that some were hospitalized as a result of physical attacks carried out by agents of the Castro regime.

In 2015 Castro regime agents disrupted civil society events, attacked peaceful demonstrators in a public park, and attempted to stop human rights defenders from being granted entry to the country to attend the regional gathering.

The pattern repeated itself in 2018. The regime brought in shock troops to disrupt events and physically and verbally threaten and assault attendees who dissented from the regime's official line.  One of the Castro regime's shock troops attending the Summit of the Americas was identified when he arrived in Peru. His name is Ronaldo Hidalgo Rivera. He was one of the men who knocked down Daniel Llorente Miranda (age 52) a Cuban dissident on May 1, 2017 as he ran with a flag of the United States outstretched in his arms over his head.

 In contrast with the 2015 Summit during the 2018 Summit, Cuban human rights defenders got a full hearing and Vice President Mike Pence met with Rosa María Payá Acevedo and affirmed his support for human rights in Cuba and the desire of the Cuban people to live in freedom.

Equally as important was that Peru's Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Salvador Heresi, recognized at this gathering that “Cuba is the mother of all evils in Latin America.” Latin America is at a dangerous crossroads and recognizing the damage done by the Castro regime in the hemisphere and its continuing threat is an important step that other countries need to understand before it is too late.

1 comment:

  1. Your mention of the fact that the Peruvian Justice Minister called Cuba "the mother of all evils in Latin America" seems to be overdue recognition that conservative heads of state in Chile, Argentina, and probably Brazil and Peru, are heartbroken that Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela continue to hail Fidel Castro and Che Guevara as great and not evil. You pointed out that Hugo Chavez considered Fidel Castro his ideological godfather, and I'm sure that some Latin American heads of state who cheered Barack Obama for opening the door to Cuba are slowly embracing Trump's clampdown on some trade and travel to Cuba because they're sick and tired of the Cuban government accusing human rights activists of wanting to destroy Cuba and make it a US appendage. After all, OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro has praised Trump for slapping economic sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela while calling Cuba's leadership change a recipe for continued repression of the Cuban people.