One Sad Thing About the Castro Situation

I heard about Castro stepping down this morning and my first thought was how bad I felt for the CIA agents who’s job it was to concoct some method of ending his reign early.  Do you think you get fired if your exploding cigar fails to do its job?

Do you think there’s like 100 retired semi-disgraced CIA agents in old folks homes around the country just going “Gah, I can’t believe he gets to retire!”?

23 thoughts on “One Sad Thing About the Castro Situation

  1. Aunt B.

    True enough.

    I was thinking of the thousands of political prisoners and their families who are hoping against hope that this will bring about their freedom and move Cuba toward Democracy. Of course, it won’t but at least they have hope and national health care.

    But your comment is wittier,


  2. Mark, everyone on that island is a political prisoner of sorts. But I think it’s weird to envision them as only poor, oppressed victims. People tend to be much more complicated and determined than that. I’m sure, were you to go to Cuba, you’d find that, while people might not like Castro, they take some great humor in the fact that we couldn’t kill him off. I share their opinion.

  3. The only political prisoners in Cuba that a U.S. citizen should be concerned about are the ones being held illegally by the U.S. government at Guantanamo Bay.

    As far as “Democracy” is concerned, I’d like to see my own country move toward it. If we could get that and national health care, then I might have some room to look down my nose at Cuba (not that I would).

    From Matthew chapter 7, the words of a spectacularly misrepresented prophet and philosopher:

    “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

    “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

  4. Aunt B,

    Fair points. But I wonder how many more would prefer the chance to control their own futures by exercising real self-government.

    Church Secretary,

    Democracy in America is quite healthy, thanks. Just because the natural moderation of the American people tends to deny the goals of people on both extremes doesn’t make us undemocratic.

    Wanting other people to have Democracy isn’t looking down one’s nose at them. Did you take the same position in the 80s when people wanted to use sanctions to make South Africa and Rhodesia become Democratic? Or are some planks more equal than others?

  5. Democracy in America is quite healthy, thanks.

    I guess that depends on what you consider healthy. I call a couple of corrupted presidential contests in a row a bit unhealthy, to say the least. Not to mention a two-party system that plays bad cop/worse cop with the electoral process, while it caters to corporate interests that oppose such no-brainer policies like universal health care and no elective wars.

    Anyway, the people of Cuba decided they didn’t want to be U.S. puppets any longer, so they threw out Batista. Many Cubans either preferred the status quo or didn’t like the regime that came with the revolution, so they left Cuba*. I can’t say I blame them, but there it is. In any case, democracy can not be imposed upon a country from without (see: Iraq). If freedom lovers in the U.S. want to see ‘democracy’ in Cuba, they should press for an end to the sanctions, embargoes, and other belligerence with which the U.S. antagonizes and strangles its tiny southern neighbor. Take the leg irons off Cuba, and see if democracy rises.

    One caveat, though: if the Cubans ever decide to reorganize their government and open it up to free elections, we should probably not send Katherine Harris or Kenneth Blackwell as advisers**.

    In a more general historical sense, there has been no greater enemy to democracy and self-determination in Latin America than the U.S. Here is a laundry list that doesn’t include support for the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela.

    I’ll leave it to someone else to discuss the laughable incongruity of your South Africa/Rhodesia comparison. Are you out there, Bridgett?

    *One could say something similar happened at the end of the American Revolution, with one key difference being that the Cubans didn’t have slavery.

    **tee hee!

  6. Church Secretary,

    I didn’t say that our democracy is perfect. But if the process were that corrupt, how do you explain the 2006 elections?

    If you think that our system is simply ‘two-parties’ then I submit that you really don’t understand the process. Just because we don’t have fifteen parties like Israel or Italy does not mean that the two major parties are monolithic. The presence of ‘blue dog’ Democrats and ‘Rockefeller Republicans’ and various regional or special-interest coalitions give us many of the benefits of a multi-party system within a structure that allows for some party discipline.

    Just because we don’t do things that you see as ‘no brainers’ doesn’t make the system flawed. It seems that your problem is that the system doesn’t do what you want.

    As for Cuba, why didn’t Castro hold free elections when President Clinton was in office? Clinton was not going to attack Castro. Holding free elections would have allowed Clinton to normalize ties, something I think he would rightly have done.

    The reason Castro didn’t is that he was not going to give up power. And his brother won’t either. Think of it in the same way that some people on the Left like to think about the rich, that they are bad people who never get enough and don’t care who gets hurt in that quest. Well, the Castros are like Bill Gates on crack. Except Gates is giving his money up and the Castros are not doing anything to give up power.

    I would not dispute your point about American involvement in Latin America. Our behavior has often been shameful. But that is no reason for us not to want every nation to have free speech and free elections.

    ‘Laughable incongruity?’ The difference is that South Africa is democratic today while Cuba isn’t. And sanctions played a major role in bringing democracy to South Africa. Or don’t Cubans deserve the right to self-determination?

  7. Holding free elections would have allowed Clinton to normalize ties,


    seriously, how could the lack of free elections in Cuba be the one and only thing that’s holding up a normalization of diplomatic relations with the island? the U.S. has perfectly good relations with no end of other dictatorships, after all.

    far as i can tell, the one and only thing that’s preventing normal diplomatic relations with Cuba is U.S. intransigence and pigheadedness, and there’s no reason whatever to think that’d go away just because of some elections being held. if you know of any other reason we might have, i’d love to hear about it.

  8. If you think that our system is simply ‘two-parties’ then I submit that you really don’t understand the process.

    oh PLEASE.

    the nature of the U.S. electoral system and the ways in which it pretty much inevitably leads to a two-party system are so well known, they’re covered in high school civics. it doesn’t take a genius to see how the two-party system limits political expression and, hence, representation, but to anybody who’s got any experience at all of a multiparty system (*ahem* myself, for one) it’s painfully obvious.

    And sanctions played a major role in bringing democracy to South Africa.

    oh PLEASE.

    sanctions against South Africa were so darn effective, they managed to become a nuclear-armed power under them. they dismantled apartheid because their internal political situation made the system no longer viable; and, most likely, they dismantled their nukes because their political leadership could see apartheid would have to come down, too. sanctions were a band-aid on the consciences of the rest of the western world, and little more. they never are much more.

    really, if sanctions worked, North Korea would be a democracy now. the misery there is far worse than anything sanctions ever produced in Cuba, or South Africa.

  9. The consensus of historical opinion is that it was massive internal black resistance (exemplified by the Soweto Uprising of 1976), later organized and effectively channeled by the ANC and the increasingly divided white response to this resistance that played the biggest part of ending apartheid. “Sanctions,” such as they were, immiserated the black and colored population further — wealthy white Afrikkaners weren’t troubled by it much at all, and certainly not sufficiently to end apartheid.

  10. NN,

    If Castro had decided to hold free elections, the US would have been foolish not to have abandoned sanctions. Conservatives would have declared victory and gone on to something else. Big business would happily head for Cuba. Even the Cuban exiles would have to be silent since this is what they said they wanted.

    Regarding oh please #1, what are parties except different interests? In America various interests operate under the umbrella of the major parties. Consider how moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats united to pass the Civil Rights Act for example. Or how sometimes the Right and the Left will cooperate in Congress to kill something that appeals to moderates of both parties.

    I also note that a multi-party system seems particularly unsuited for a nation as sociologically and geographically diverse as America. The vast number of interests that would spawn parties would make ‘governing’ virtually impossible.

    You are, however, in good company. My most anti-government libertarian friends strongly support your position because they want the federal government to do end up effectively unable to act. And you would be popular with John C. Calhoun who saw a system of multiple competing ends as a defense against the abuses of the central government.

    Regarding oh please # 2, sanctions were far more important than you realize. Economic destabilization made the regime’s military power less sustainable and weakened the government’s credibility. Also, it was the Mandela government that got rid of the nukes not the white government, I believe.

    Sanctions have not influenced North Korea because Kim Jong Il keeps the troops well fed and better armed. Also, China keeps breaking them.

  11. In America various interests operate under the umbrella of the major parties.

    which means American parties are NOT interest groups.

    coalition building and compromises between interest groups are necessary things in any real government, of course. but having that happen inside the parties instead of inside the government the parties form hides important facets of it; duplicates important effort in each of the parties; and, worst of all, means you can’t vote for a party and expect everybody to understand that that party’s platform and political philosophy is what you want to further when it comes time for coalition-building and compromising.

    because, in the U.S., you didn’t vote for a platform and a philosophy, you voted for a haphazard, halfway-secretly built, ready-made coalition… and you only had two of them to choose from. what if the philosophy and platform you would like to see isn’t in either of those two? you don’t get adequately represented, that’s what.

    in multiparty systems, parties have much more freedom to actually stand for their principles and have principles to stand for, because the way compromises are made lets there be more parties to make them.

    I also note that a multi-party system seems particularly unsuited for a nation as sociologically and geographically diverse as America.

    oh PLEASE.

    this is a union, after all. if you had a point, we might have a two-party system on the federal level and about half the states (which are smaller and often less diverse!) experimenting with various proportional representation systems. laboratory of democracy, wasn’t it? eh?

    but we don’t see that. there’s a reason why not. extra credit for any students clever enough to spot it!

  12. Cubans do laugh about their situation, and it has helped them survive the decades of sad and horrid dictatorship and scarcity. But, given the choice between a charismatic dictator who allows no free will and a bumbling dope for president in a free country, guess which one they’d take?

    And please, don’t be fooled by “national health care.” We’ve had to send medicine and medical supplies to my relatives for decades. Embargo to blame? No. Cuba does business with Europe and Asia.

    I would agree though that free trade with Cuba, and free flow of travel, would be a move toward liberty because it would give everyday Cubans a more realistic picture of the outside world, and what they too could dream of if they were free. Castro was able to use the embargo as an excuse for why the countrymen were suffering. That was BS though, because on trips there, I had fine wine, great food, and American brands such as Kodak, Coca Cola and Jack Daniels. The embargo exists for those without means.

    Me, by the way: I’m the daughter of Cuban immigrants.

  13. If Castro had decided to hold free elections, the US would have been foolish not to have abandoned sanctions. Conservatives would have declared victory and gone on to something else. Big business would happily head for Cuba.

    The U.S. would have been foolish to invade Iraq… oops. The U.S. would have been foolish to invade Vietnam… oops. The U.S. would have been foolish to underfund and neglect the levees protecting a precariously situated but nationally vital port city… oops. Shall I continue? Perhaps later.

    The reason I mentioned the U.S.’s evil* history in Latin America is precisely because of highlighted boner number 2 in the above quote, Mr. Rogers. Our government’s habitual (and usually bloody) subversion of democracy in Latin America was almost always done at the behest of “big business.”
    Why do you think Hugo Chávez is so reflexively denigrated in our corporate media? For the same reason we overthrew Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973: if the majority of voters in a Latin American country are going to foolishly elect a government that puts their own needs before the desires of our multinational corporations, then those voters don’t deserve democracy! Harumph!

    *Notice I said “evil.” You called our history in Latin America “shameful.” Perhaps its merely semantic preference, but I think it is “shameful” when some of my coworkers take trips to Costa Rica so that they can have sex with 14- to 16-year-old hookers. Shit like Operation Condor is evil.

  14. CS,

    You’re always quick to the draw to invite people to expatriate.

    Maybe you could catch a plane to free healthcare and a workers paradise?

  15. i wrote a most snarky response to Mark, but wordpress ate it. tried to submit it again, only to have wordpress tell me i’d already submitted it, yet still it’s a no-show.

    oh well, it’s not like my ramblings really matter, so WTF.

  16. The only political prisoners in Cuba that a U.S. citizen should be concerned about are the ones being held illegally by the U.S. government at Guantanamo Bay.

    Yeah? Tell that to the families (U.S. citizens, they are) whose relatives have been or for all we know are political prisoners in Cuba. I’m sure they would beg to differ with you, CS.

    …then I might have some room to look down my nose at Cuba (not that I would).

    Do you really think that’s what this is about? We look down our nose on Cuba? No. I look down my nose at a regime who has oppressed generations of wonderful people while they live in bread lines and have nothing to show for any of the hard work of their grandparents.

    You have seriously misinterpreted what those who hate what has happened to Cuba in the past 50 years are concerned about. It has nothing to do with judging others, and all about wishing for them to be free. Sure, the U.S. has some serious faults, but damn, folks…go live in Cuba for a month…you’d come home and kiss our ground.

    All due respect, folks, but Mark is right on a lot of points here, and Carrie has been there. (I have been to other countries under communist dictatorship during their reign (the most oppressed being Romania while Ceausescu was still in power).) You think the government is running our life here? You think it’s bad here? It doesn’t even scratch the surface…

  17. Maybe you could catch a plane to free healthcare and a workers paradise?

    Actually, my wife and I are seriously considering a move to Canada. The healthcare there isn’t ‘free,’ but it won’t bankrupt me or leave me out in the figurative cold.

    Ginger, you seriously miss my point. It isn’t about praising or even excusing the Castro regime. But do you think– given our government’s track record– that they are interested in installing “democracy” in Cuba? That’s why I offered the laundry list of our involvements in Latin America; we have a long history of subverting democracy whenever it interfered with the maximization of our corporate profits. Animosity toward our support for a brutal and antidemocratic regime is what catapulted Castro to power, and our endless antagonism toward Cuba is what helps keep his regime in power. What do you think would happen if the Cubans ousted the Castro regime, but voted in a government that resembles that in Venezuela?

    I offer you Iraq as another shining example of what I describe. Sure they had elections, as the assholes here with the purple fingers will be happy to tell you. But can we say the Iraqis have democracy, and, even if so, that it’s doing them an iota of good (what with their country having been bombed and starved for a decade, then pounded down and eviscerated for another five after that)?

    I’ve been to totalitarian countries, too, and I know people who have relatives in horrible places. As a U.S. citizen (for now) with a responsibility for what my government does, though, I am duty-bound to be more interested in what my government is doing here and abroad than what another state is doing.

    My nation’s constitution is being treated like toilet paper. My nation is torturing and killing innocent people, and it is kidnapping people and holding them in secret without due process. My nation is supporting dictators who do shit to their own people that would make the Castro regime recoil in horror. So, yeah, I sympathize with the plight of the Cuban people, but it don’t mean squat as long as my government remains a major obstacle to any future path of Cuban self-determination. And I’m not singing the praises of my own ‘democracy’ while I should be fighting to save it. Nothing we have is so special that it can’t be shit-canned through arrogance and neglect; it can happen here.

    If my point is still not clear, perhaps you can ask the Haitian people how our love of freedom has helped their struggles for self-determination and democracy.

  18. No, no, no. This is YOUR favorite strawman, CS. You don’t get to go part way. If you’re going to invite people to move to Afghanistan and North Korea (you couldn’t get any strawier on that one) to avoid taxes, you don’t get to JUST go to Canada.

    Let’s ignore for a moment, all of your sources and all of my sources for information, how do you account for the massive number of people jumping onto innertubes and trying to paddle 90 miles across shark infested waters, in order to go from there to here?
    And comparatively no traffic in the other direction, without personal risk.

    Does that tell you anything?

  19. Except that no one is saying that Cuba is a better place to live than the U.S. …

    Aw, fuck it.

    Just let me know when y’all are to the point where you’ve stripped down to your drawers and are hot and glistening and ready to grapple and settle this like men, like the men of Women in Love.

    That I’d like to see.

  20. If I’m going to wrestle with Exador, Aunt B., he and I would have to be on the same planet.
    As your comment indicates that you noticed, he accuses me of building a straw man(“you keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means…”), then he proceeds to argue against a position that I had already gone out of my way to make clear that I was not taking (i.e. “…It isn’t about praising or even excusing the Castro regime.”). Like Olson Johnson said, “Now who could argue with that.”

  21. CS, I get your point, it’s just that I felt the need to address certain statements you make. It pains me that you are so fed up with this country when, in spite of all that is wrong here, it is still SO much better than any other place I’ve ever been.

    It appears that you only have two options: 1) do something about all that you see wrong by running for office, get on the inside, and be a part of the solution, or 2) catch the next thing smokin’ to the border.

    If you choose option 2, I will be sad because I would hate to see our great country lose such an amazing hottie as you. We need to retain all of them we can! (As if you all didn’t know I’d go there!) ;)

    God bless America!

  22. To misquote O’Rourke,

    “These were people who believed everything about the Soviet Union was perfect, but they were bringing their own baby oil.”

    You’re so Dreamy.

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