For those who still had naive illusions about changing Cuba by befriending a couple of old tyrants, Raul Castro offered a dose of reality Saturday.
"I wasn't elected president to return capitalism to Cuba or to surrender the revolution," said the younger of the Castro brothers in an obvious response to the Obama administration's calls for social and political reforms on the communist island. "I was elected to defend, build and perfect socialism, not destroy it," he said as he addressed the Cuban Parliament, composed entirely of militants of the Castro dictatorship. The Associated Press reported that they gave him a standing ovation.
Between Fidel and Raul, the Castro brothers have ruled Cuba with an iron fist and without free elections for 50 years. They have done everything humanly possible to crush their critics and political opponents. Yet Raul has the gall to keep claiming that he was democratically "elected" when he took over for his dictator brother last year.
Because he was "elected" by the Cuban Parliament, Castro claims he was chosen through a democratic process. The whole world knows they have a one-party system, that Cuban legislators are simply a bunch of puppets of the regime and that the Cuban people would boot the Castro brothers out of office if real elections ever were held.
But these old cynics just keep repeating their tired rhetoric, all about how the United States should not try to interfere in Cuba's internal affairs, blah, blah blah ... and Cuba's sovereignty, blah, blah blah.
Of course, what they want is for us to butt out of the way they keep violating the human rights of the Cuban people. They use repression, fear and intimidation to prolong their stay in power, and they simply will not allow anyone to challenge or weaken their absolute control of Cuba.
Castro said his government "won't negotiate (its) political or social system and ... won't ask the United States to do so. We should mutually respect our differences."
Respect? Does this mean we should respect his right to imprison people simply because they disagree with his regime? What about his right to organize goon squads to verbally and physically assault political dissidents? Or his right to keep the island as a prison from where you need government permission or risk drowning in order to escape? Should we respect his right to censor the press and the churches and violate every civil right and freedom that we hold dear?
Can we respect a regime that systematically violates all the principles that make us proud Americans? Can we look away as atrocities are committed only 90 miles away from U.S. shores? I don't think so!
The cynicism of the Castro brothers is such that you want to dissect their sentences in order to expose just how arrogantly they try to insult our intelligence.
When he says the Free World doesn't have the right to butt into Cuba's internal affairs or even to ask about how he treats the Cuban people — because he doesn't ask the United States to negotiate its political and social system — anyone can see that the man's face must be made of stone.
Anyone can see that in order to improve relations between these two countries, it is not the Americans who need to change. It's the Cubans! We already have a free press, free elections, freedom to express ourselves, a free country!
Yet as long as the Castro brothers are alive, they simply will not allow such freedom to flourish in Cuba. In fact, they think their totalitarian system will survive even after their much-anticipated demise. In a rare comment about life in Cuba after the Castros are gone, Raul said Saturday that those who expect the regime to perish with "the death of Fidel and all of us ... are doomed to failure."
They want Cuba's enslavement to be permanent.
Remember when, back in April, Raul said he was willing to talk to the United States about "human rights, press freedom, political prisoners — everything"? Remember how all the "useful fools" in the American news media assumed that was the end of the U.S.-Cuba cold war? Remember that the media described those comments as "an extraordinary overture" and "a major softening of the communist island's stance"? Remember that one week later, Fidel Castro took it all back and explained that Raul had been "misinterpreted" and that they had no intentions of changing the system that sustains their dictatorship?
Well, this time it is Raul who has made it perfectly clear that he and his brother intend to die in power and that no one — including President Barack Obama — will be allowed to stand in their way.
But he says he still is willing to negotiate with the United States. And that probably will be enough for some naive Americans to argue that they see an opening and that we need to lift the U.S. embargo against the communist island without preconditions. These are the same fools who think that somehow, American tourists will go to Cuba and help liberate the Cuban people, even though tourists from all over the world have been going there for many years and have been unable to put a dent in the Castro repression machine.
These are the same useful fools who actually believe that after a half-century of perfecting their repression, the Castro brothers somehow will be willing to give it all up. Let's not be so naive; the Castros want the embargo lifted, but only if it doesn't require them to loosen their grip on power.
When he spoke to his puppet Parliament Saturday, Raul noted, "I wasn't elected president to return capitalism to Cuba or to surrender the revolution." But if he had stopped talking after the first four words, for the first time in 50 years, he would have been honest.
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.