The mainstream media tells a consistent story about Cuba’s past and present—Cuba’s healthcare and education are better than the United States’, and Fidel Castro is a romantic revolutionary who saved his people from the evils of Batista. Dan Rather was so enamored that he referred to Fidel as “Cuba’s own Elvis.” Castro's supporters admit that although he may have “infringed on a few human rights,” such is the cost of a revolution, one that has vastly improved the Cuban quality of life.
This narrative portrays Che Guevara as a young martyr, inspired by the injustices he saw. He looked to Marxism for the answer. This image is pervasive throughout every leftist center in the world. His face is plastered on t-shirts and stickers of trendy hipsters. Little do they know they are wearing the face of a sadistic mass murderer. Castro too is a cold-blooded killer who has kept 6 million people in an island prison for 60 years.
I was lucky enough to interview Humberto Fontova, a Cuban American author who escaped with his family in 1961. Tragically, his father was killed in the process. Fontova has worked for years to expose Castro’s lies. He wrote two books on the subject, Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him, and Fidel: Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant. For those who are skeptical of what follows, please note that Fontova’s work is all footnoted and well sourced.
Here are some facts he presents comparing pre Castro Cuba with the present Pre-revolution Cuba had a higher per capita income than most Western countries. It was a first world country from the 1940s until 1959 when Castro seized power. Today it is one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. Prior to Castro, Cubans were free to leave if they chose. Today emigration is not permitted and is punishable by death. Before Castro more Americans lived in Cuba than Cubans lived in the United States. Today Cubans risk their lives daily trying to escape. Before Castro, Cuba had the 13th lowest infant mortality rate in the world. Today it is 50th. Before Castro, Cuba had more doctors and dentists per capita than the US. Today 75% of doctors who have escaped to the US fail the exam to practice medicine. Worse, over half fail the examination to simply practice as nurses. The average height of Cubans has decreased over the last two decades, a clear sign of malnutrition. There have been outbreaks of Dengue fever, which had been completely eradicated prior to Castro. The "quality education" claims are preposterous. What Castro calls education is mere indoctrination. Cuba has the highest abortion rate in the Western hemisphere. Women undergo forced abortions if any pregnancy hints at trouble in an effort to keep the infant mortality rate down. Malformed infants are routinely murdered in secret. In short, it is a failed state run by a murderous tyrant.
What about political freedom? Cuba has the highest incarceration rate on earth right now. There are so many speech and assembly restrictions that it is hard to determine who is a political prisoner and who is a common criminal. Fontova thinks that 90% of those in jail are there for political reasons. Authorities can throw anyone into prison without reason if they perceive political threat.
So what’s the attraction? Why has Castro been so embraced by the left? Fontova said Che and Fidel exude coolness to liberals. “Look, Che looks like Jim Morrison. Fidel looks like Jerry Garcia. They both nailed the coolness cache of being hippies who were bringing freedom to Cuba. Picture the United States in the late 50s. The US is reigned over by an old bald golfer, Eisenhower. America is filled with white picket fences and families watching June Cleaver. All of a sudden these bearded long-haired guys pop up and they seem so cool. They were the first beatniks."
This cache persists. Fontova explained, “One might have hoped that the veil would have fallen by now. Castro and Che jailed more political prisoners as a percentage of the population than Stalin. They murdered more political prisoners in first three years in power than Hitler in his first six. They introduced Stalinist horror to western hemisphere imprisoning 10,000 women, hundreds of whom were murdered, and committed countless other atrocities. One would think the cache might have worn off. Well if you do think that, you are wrong.”
Fontova further explained why the world believes so many lies about Cuba. Castro has a genius propaganda machine. “He began the initiative before he reached ‘office’ to bamboozle the US media while he was still a so-called rebel,” said Fontova. “There is a passage in Che’s diary where he said ‘more valuable to us than military recruits for our guerrilla force were media recruits from America to spread our propaganda.’ In 1954 Castro was in jail in Cuba. He wrote a letter to a revolutionary colleague stating, ‘propaganda is at the very heart of our struggle. We can never abandon propaganda.’” He recognized the importance of his control of the US media. He still commits any number of heinous crimes that the world never hears about because of his skill in controlling the information flow.
Castro has a near flawless system controlling the media. Every mainstream American news source must report through the state controlled Havana Bureau, which reports only what the state approves. It seems that since the end of the Cold War, Americans have forgotten what news from a Communist regime is like. “Thirty years ago years ago during the Cold War, people knew what Communism was and no one would believe any reports coming from a communist source,” explained Fontova. “It’s really laughable. You knew they were liars. Nowadays, we have CNN (Castro News Network), ABC, CBS, Reuters, et. al. reporting out of Cuba only what is handed to them from Castro’s propaganda ministry. “
The left’s blind acceptance of this ruthless thug as an inspirational revolutionary is best highlighted by an episode here at Harvard. Castro had applied to Harvard Law School in 1948 and been rejected. In April 1959 Harvard Law Dean McGeorge Bundy decided to correct this "injustice." Encouraged by the adulation of the Harvard student body and faculty, the Dean had hardly declared, “I’ve decided to admit him!” before the crowd erupted with delight. In April 1959 while Castro was speaking at to standing ovations at the school, his firing squads were murdering hundreds of Cubans, including women and children as young as 17.
I asked Fontova about the debate between conservatives and liberals on how to deal with Cuba. Conservatives generally believe sanctions are the best way to bring Castro down, while liberals believe sanctions have not worked and engagement would be more effective. It seems like both sides make reasonable arguments. Fontova disagrees. “The verdict is in, and anyone who cares to look at the evidence will determine that engagement has failed abysmally.” He went on to list some frightening statistics. Contrary to US State Department claims, there is no real US embargo. Until last year, the US was Cuba’s largest food supplier and fifth largest commercial trading partner. Nearly 500,000 Americans legally visited Cuba last year. Nearly $3,000,000,000 reaches Cuba annually from the US. Only Chavez’s Venezuela is a larger trading partner with Cuba.
Obama’s recent policy changes allow even more open travel and money to be sent to Cuba. Fontova believes this is keeping Castro’s regime alive. He said that they are nearly bankrupt. This past December Raoul Castro (Fidel's brother and newly appointed head of the state) said, “the life of the revolution hangs in the balance. We either reform or we sink.” The Italian ambassador to Cuba publicly stated that Cuba would almost certainly be bankrupt by 2011. “But just as they reach the tipping point, Obama throws them a life line. Hundreds of thousands more Americans will put money directly into Castro’s pocket,” said Fontova. This is not just from direct payments. The government controls the tourism industry. Every type of travel there directly funds the regime.
He believes that that a real change can only occur after Castro and Raoul die. Raoul’s recent ascendancy has done nothing for change in Cuba. He was a Communist party member before Fidel. The regime is composed of “the abject failures and common criminals who have absolutely nothing to gain by adopting capitalism. But there are younger men in the bureaucracy who feel left out. The older guys make all of the money. The younger men, simply for materialistic reasons, want in. This will probably start the reform after the biological solution” (the death of the leaders). “It’ll unwittingly open things up.”A genuine embargo would certainly help. Fontova pointed to South Africa as an example of a successful US embargo. We should set the international example. Political support is essential to do this. The American public needs to be educated. Let us hope that with alternative news sources available, people will stop believing the nonsense spit out by the mainstream media and will start getting the true story.