Fidel Being Fidel

By Miguel Perez

April 27, 2009 7 min read

Just when America's useful fools were getting ready to sing "Kumbaya" with Cuba's Castro brothers last week, just when they thought they had heard from Raul the kind of conciliatory remarks they never had heard from Fidel, that's when they got the door slammed on their naive faces.

In remarks that should not surprise anyone who has followed his despotic trajectory, Fidel threw a bucket of cold water even on the people who are willing to overlook his atrocities. He said that when Raul proclaimed that Cuba was ready to discuss "everything" with the United States, including "human rights, press freedom (and) political prisoners," his brother was "misinterpreted."

This has to be the ultimate disclaimer. In effect, he was saying that if we think the Castro brothers have good intentions, if we think they would give up their dictatorship, we are sadly mistaken!

Nevertheless, Fidel is right about the context of his brother's speech. As noted in this column last week, Raul's diatribe before Latin America's leftist leaders in Venezuela was not conciliatory toward the United States, but an act of defiance that conveniently was taken out of context by leftist Americans who — regardless of the consequences — want the U.S. government to lift its economic embargo against the Castro regime.

When the Castro brothers demand respect for Cuba's sovereignty, as Raul did in a part of his speech often omitted by the media, they are referring to their delusional beliefs that they can do as they please with the Cuban people and that no outsider has the right even to suggest that they should make concessions.

So when many in the U.S. media and government chose to ignore the fact that Raul was being defiant instead of friendly, when even President Barack Obama qualified Raul's remarks as "a sign of progress" and began to push the envelope and ask for demonstrations of good will from the Cuban government, Fidel apparently felt he had to put a stop to all the nonsense.

In an essay published April 22 in a government-controlled newspaper, Fidel said Obama "without any doubt … misinterpreted Raul's statement." He noted that when Raul said he was ready "to discuss any issue with the president of the United States," he meant he was not afraid of "approaching any issue whatsoever," Castro wrote. "That is a demonstration of courage and confidence in the principles of the Revolution."

It was Castro being the same unyielding, ruthless dictator he has been for the past 50 years; Fidel being Fidel!

He claimed that his political prisoners — known worldwide to be peaceful dissidents of conscience — are, in effect, American spies "in the service of a foreign power that is threatening and blockading our homeland." He claimed that Cuba only would speak of its political prisoners in the context of negotiating with the Unites States for the release of five real spies from Cuba, who were convicted of espionage on U.S. soil in 2001 and are serving time in U.S. prisons.

Although Obama recently changed U.S. policy and lifted travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans who want to visit or send remittances to their relatives back home — clearly an overture in search of dialogue between the two countries — Fidel dismissed Obama's suggestion that Cuba should cut taxes on the dollars Cuban-Americans now are able to send to the island. He even suggested that because Obama has not lifted the embargo altogether, the new U.S. president has taken ownership of that "failed" policy. He said there has been "smugness" and superficiality in Obama's approach.

Castro obviously can't stand the fact that the American presidential candidate who vowed to meet with him "without preconditions" has turned into a U.S. president who insists on using the embargo as leverage to seek freedom and democracy in Cuba.

"He didn't invent it," Fidel wrote about Obama and the embargo. "But he has made it his just like the other 10 presidents of the United States," he added, shamelessly reminding the world that his reign has outlasted 10 American presidents and that nothing has changed. The Castro brothers still want the U.S. government to lift the embargo without their budging an inch.

This is nothing new. False expectations have been raised many times before. Over the years, many congressional delegations have visited Cuba looking for some sort of concession, only to come back recognizing that the Castro government is strikingly uninterested in discussing human rights, a free press or free elections.

Just when American liberals start getting ready to sing "Kumbaya" in Havana, it's always the Castro brothers who find a way to kill any talk of lifting the embargo. In 1996, when the Clinton administration was flirting with Fidel, the Cuban air force shot down two small American airplanes and killed four pilots, including three American citizens, who had been on a humanitarian search and rescue mission. They were flying over the Caribbean trying to save the lives of fleeing Cuban rafters. Clinton was forced to toughen the embargo.

Bottom line: It's the Castro brothers who refuse to part with the 47-year-long U.S. sanctions. After all, the embargo always has been good to them. Although they can trade with the rest of the world, they always have used the U.S. embargo as a convenient excuse for all the failures of the Cuban communist system and for ruling Cuba with an iron fist. If there were no embargo, whom would they blame for transforming Cuba from a prosperous Caribbean paradise into one of the most impoverished, repressive places on earth?

To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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