Castro retires

by Chris Bertram on February 19, 2008

I haven’t looked yet, but I’ve no doubt that there’ll be lots of posts in the blogosphere saying “good riddance” to Fidel Castro (especially from “left” US bloggers like Brad DeLong who never miss the chance to distance themselves). And, of course, Castro ran a dictatorship that has, since 1959, committed its fair share of crimes, repressions, denials of democratic rights etc. Still, I’m reminded of A.J.P. Taylor writing somewhere or other (reference please, dear readers?) that what the capitalists and their lackeys really really hated about Soviet Russia was not its tyrannical nature but the fact that there was a whole chunk of the earth’s surface where they were no longer able to operate. Ditto Cuba, for a much smaller chunk. So let’s hear it for universal literacy and decent standards of health care. Let’s hear it for the Cubans who help defeat the South Africans and their allies in Angola and thereby prepared the end of apartheid. Let’s hear it for the middle-aged Cuban construction workers who held off the US forces for a while on Grenada. Let’s hear it for Elian Gonzalez. Let’s hear it for 49 years of defiance in the face of the US blockade. Hasta la victoria siempre!

{ 6 trackbacks }

» Castro
02.19.08 at 7:56 pm
DeLong Smackdown Watch? (Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Edition) « Pax Americana: Culture, Politics, and Ineffectual Debate
02.19.08 at 11:32 pm
UrbanGrounds » Blog Archive » Left vs. Left RE: Fidel Castro
02.20.08 at 11:44 pm
Club Troppo
02.21.08 at 12:51 am
Crooked Timber » » What have the Romans ever done for us?*
02.21.08 at 12:22 pm
Viva Castro! (Well, he does) « Liberal Fascism
02.21.08 at 10:36 pm

{ 374 comments }

1

neil 02.19.08 at 2:48 pm

Cool, now the right-wing bloggers searching for pro-Castro posts won’t come up empty-handed.

2

Javier 02.19.08 at 2:55 pm

I really don’t think Cuba should be celebrated. Yes, decent health care and some other good things. But I find it hard to celebrate a regime under which about one sixth of the population emigrated to escape political oppression and economic catastrophe.

3

Steve LaBonne 02.19.08 at 2:56 pm

Hope you weren’t planning a visit to the US, Chris- this ought to be enough to put you on the no-fly list. ;)

4

John M 02.19.08 at 3:06 pm

US blockade? Blimey. They’re not very good at it. I slipped through twice. I bet Chris B will be as insistent on celebrating the positive aspects of GWB’s term as well, when the time comes. It’s rotten always to concentrate on the negative, isn’t it?

5

franck 02.19.08 at 3:09 pm

Way to show your support for human rights and the rule of law there, Chris. Not to mention your support of the divine right of kings, since it seems Cuba is about to become a hereditary monarchy.

Lots of places have universal literacy and decent standards of health care, and they aren’t dictatorships. I think you even live in such a country. Why should we let Cuba off the hook?

6

ajay 02.19.08 at 3:12 pm

Let’s hear it for the Cubans who help defeat the South Africans and their allies in Angola and thereby prepared the end of apartheid

You know what? Let’s not. Let’s not hear it for either side in the Angolan civil war. Let’s not hear it for napalming villages, however admirable the health care policies of the bomber pilots in question. Let’s not hear it for another bloody little oil war pushed by nations far from the scene of conflict. Let’s not hear it for forced marches, strategic hamlets, free fire zones, collective punishments. Let’s not hear it for the brigade of Cuban troops who were sent in to protect Chevron’s oil installations.

In short, let’s not hear it for anyone who thinks it’s their god-given right to go half way round the world to teach the natives how to be good little subjects and not disturb the money flow.

7

Chris Bertram 02.19.08 at 3:14 pm

Um Franck, I think you must have missed the bit above where I wrote about dictatorship, crimes, repressions and denial of democratic rights. I’m not letting anyone off the hook, I’m responding to the standard US take on Castro, which is grotesquely unbalanced.

8

franck 02.19.08 at 3:16 pm

Yes, Chris, but those obviously aren’t as important to you as sticking it to the capitalists and killing people in Angola.

9

Steve LaBonne 02.19.08 at 3:19 pm

those obviously aren’t as important to you

Wow, where can I get some of that mind-reading potion that franck seems to have scored? It would come in handy for all sorts of things.

10

Nicholas Weininger 02.19.08 at 3:20 pm

Man, I knew Chris B. was near the top of the CT bloggers for willingness to countenance any amount of trampling on individual freedom if done in the holy name of Equality, but this takes the cake.

Unless this is a joke or a troll; it does seem too close an imitation of one of those National Review types who write sentimental reminiscences about Franco and Pinochet. Just like this post, they usually start out with a pro forma tut-tutting about the eggs broken to make the omelet, and end by invoking some slogan of the Great Cause.

11

dsquared 02.19.08 at 3:20 pm

But I find it hard to celebrate a regime under which about one sixth of the population emigrated to escape political oppression and economic catastrophe.

I’ve always thought that if Cuban emigration was mainly driven by political opression and human rights, you would see a lot more Cuban refugees showing up in Jamaica and in the Dominican Republic, which are about the same distance east of Cuba as Miami is to the west. Actually, it looks a lot more like the sort economic migration you’d expect to see in a small poor country geographically close to a big rich country to me; Irealand had net out-migration of about 400,000 compared to a population of c3m in the 1950s.

12

Random African 02.19.08 at 3:21 pm

Let’s hear it for the Cubans who help defeat the South Africans and their allies in Angola and thereby prepared the end of apartheid.

that would work if South Africa didn’t get involved in Angola partly because Cuba did !

13

dsquared 02.19.08 at 3:22 pm

By the way, our new Republican friends, given what you’ve tolerated over the last five years in terms of restrictions on civil liberties, I wonder what your man George Bush would have done if the USA had a neighbour ten times its size which had financed two or three attempts at coup d’etat.

14

ajay 02.19.08 at 3:28 pm

I’ve always thought that if Cuban emigration was mainly driven by political opression and human rights, you would see a lot more Cuban refugees showing up in Jamaica and in the Dominican Republic, which are about the same distance east of Cuba as Miami is to the west.

???
this makes no sense. Even if every Cuban refugee were leaving purely for political reasons, why wouldn’t they pick the US rather than Jamaica, especially if, as you say, they’re equally close?

Say there were a dictatorship in the US, would you really expect equal numbers of fleeing dissidents to turn up in impoverished Mexico as in rich, welcoming Canada?

15

Chris Bertram 02.19.08 at 3:33 pm

Random African: I fail to see your point. The fact is that the Cubans did defeat the South Africans and thereby hastened the end of apartheid, a fact readily acknowledged by Nelson Mandela.

16

engels 02.19.08 at 3:33 pm

For reference, some not-left-wing opinions on Cuban health and social development–

If left-right prejudices really are as redundant as the prime minister reckons, his best-advised policy shift should be rather different. Within reason – and though hell will freeze over, while pigs cruise over Downing Street – he should go Cuban. John Harris, BBC Newsnight report

Cuba’s achievements in social development are impressive given the size of its gross domestic product per capita. As the human development index of the United Nations makes clear year after year, Cuba should be the envy of many other nations, ostensibly far richer. [Cuba] demonstrates how much nations can do with the resources they have if they focus on the right priorities – health, education, and literacy. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations

Cuba has done a great job on education and health and it does not embarrass me to admit it. World Bank President James Wolfensohn

The health system in Cuba guarantees accessibility to the entire population, is free of charge, and covers the spectrum from vaccinations to sophisticated interventions. The results are impressive: Cuba’s health figures are on a par with developed countries that have 20 times the budget. The country is experiencing a difficult period because of the collapse and loss of support from the Soviet Union; over 30 years’ trade embargo by the United States; and the gradual change from a centrally planned economy towards more of a free market system. Shortages are experienced in every sector, and maintaining health care services at the current level is too expensive. Doctors and nurses continue to work towards the goal of health for all Cubans, even though their salaries are minimal. Signs of negligence or corruption, often seen in other socialist countries where incentives for output are lacking, are unknown. Topics such as family planning and AIDS deserve immediate attention. Hans Veeken, Letter from Cuba in the British Medical Journal

17

John M 02.19.08 at 3:38 pm

“Wow, where can I get some of that mind-reading potion that franck seems to have scored?”

According to CB, AJP Taylor had some which helped him understand why anti-Stalinists ‘really’ didn’t like the USSR, but he’s dead, so it may not help.

18

John M 02.19.08 at 3:41 pm

“Actually, it looks a lot more like the sort economic migration you’d expect to see in a small poor country geographically close to a big rich country to me; Irealand had net out-migration of about 400,000 compared to a population of c3m in the 1950s.”

That’s right. And remind me, how many of them escaped over the Irish Channel clinging to makeshift rafts? How many drowned along the way?

19

Farah Mendlesohn 02.19.08 at 3:41 pm

Cuba has been a nation at war. Compare its repression to other nations which consider themselves beleagured: the US in the past six years perhaps.

Which is *not* to say I approve.

20

Chris Bertram 02.19.08 at 3:42 pm

John M. Oh no, another commenter with questionable reading skills:

I wrote: “capitalists and their lackeys”

Your wrote: “anti-Stalinists”

I happen to think there were plenty of anti-Stalinists who were neither capitalists nor the lackeys thereof. (examples: Trotsky, Orwell.)

21

franck 02.19.08 at 3:55 pm

ajay’s right. Look at how many Chileans ended up in France after Pinochet instead of Spain, even with the language barrier.

steve labonne, the best answer to this is provided by nicolas weininger – just do a search and replace and it sounds exactly like the National Review.

22

lemuel pitkin 02.19.08 at 3:58 pm

Good for you, Chris!

Sometimes the simple, “naive” view is has more truth than the sophisticated one, and it takes courage to embrace it without all kinds of hedging-round. This is one of those cases.

I hope Cuba’s immense accomplishments won’t be lost in whatever comes next.

23

Steve LaBonne 02.19.08 at 4:00 pm

Shame on you, lemuel. Don’t you know that Cuba is PURE EVIL with no redeeming features whatsoever? Just as George Bush’s America is the very definition of all that is righteous.

24

Brautigan 02.19.08 at 4:02 pm

Virtually all the Cuban exiles in Miami look white. Cuba appears these days to be virtually 100% black.

Discuss.

25

Random African 02.19.08 at 4:04 pm

My point is that the cuban involvement triggered a lot of things. And sure, Mandela and South Africans can think it was decisive in the chain of events that led to the end of apartheid but angolan civilians who actually were the victims of the war may not think it was worth it.

26

Laleh 02.19.08 at 4:09 pm

The majority of the commentary on this thread just goes to prove Chris’s point about “posts in the blogosphere saying “good riddance” to Fidel Castro (especially from “left” US bloggers like Brad DeLong who never miss the chance to distance themselves).”

27

dsquared 02.19.08 at 4:11 pm

And remind me, how many of them escaped over the Irish Channel clinging to makeshift rafts? How many drowned along the way?

I suspect someone may have been inhaling a little propaganda. “Makeshift rafts” ye gods. The vast majority of Cuban emigres to the USA get there the sensible way; via people-smugglers.

28

John M 02.19.08 at 4:15 pm

“John M. Oh no, another commenter with questionable reading skills:I wrote: “capitalists and their lackeys”Your wrote: “anti-Stalinists””

Yes, But Chris, how could AJP Yaylor tell which were which? How can you? They would all have claimed to be anti-Stalinist and I believe people should choose their own title. ‘Capitalist lackey’ is just a code for anti-Stalinists that you happen not to like.

29

mpowell 02.19.08 at 4:15 pm


Cuba’s achievements in social development are impressive given the size of its gross domestic product per capita.

Meh. What is the point of education and literacy if you don’t have an economy to participate in? Well, I can see some merit, but it’s just not the same thing. Yeah they have good health care, but that low GDP per capita is a big part of why it’s so cheap! The doctors aren’t paid much. So maybe Cuba achieves a decent minimal quality of life, but it’s not an economically prosperous society and they don’t have any political freedoms. I’m not sure how this lesson could be applied elsewhere and it doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment to me.

30

John M 02.19.08 at 4:19 pm

“I suspect someone may have been inhaling a little propaganda. “Makeshift rafts” ye gods. The vast majority of Cuban emigres to the USA get there the sensible way; via people-smugglers.”

But a sizeable minority get there, or die trying, on makeshift rafts. As opposed to, er, none escaping from Ireland in this way. And how many left Ireland via ‘people smugglers’? Your analogy is limping a little.

But, obviously, the Cubans who risked their lives to homemade rafts or put themselves in hock to organised crime in order to escape Cuba can’t have been motivated by political oppression. They must just have been chasing the cash (that’s what Fidel says, after all).

31

John M 02.19.08 at 4:22 pm

“I’m not sure how this lesson could be applied elsewhere and it doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment to me.”

It’s true that Cuba stands out compared with other dictatorships in the region, but it is so often represented as much better than that. All Fidel has proved is that you can provide adequate social medecine if you sacrifice politcal and economic freedom and are prepared to live in poverty. But surely we could all have guessed that? Imagine a UK party running on that ticket.

32

Cian 02.19.08 at 4:23 pm

A sizable minority of people trying to get to the US from Haiti and the Dominican republic are on makeshift rafts. A sizable minority of people trying to get into the EU from North Africa are on makeshift rafts. How exactly is this any different?

33

Steve LaBonne 02.19.08 at 4:24 pm

The majority of the commentary on this thread just goes to prove Chris’s point about “posts in the blogosphere saying “good riddance” to Fidel Castro (especially from “left” US bloggers like Brad DeLong who never miss the chance to distance themselves).”

Well, I can think of somebody who would not have been surprised:

Je ne connais pas de pays où il règne, en général, moins d’indépendance d’esprit et de véritable liberté de discussion qu’en Amérique.

34

P O'Neill 02.19.08 at 4:31 pm

The government of Angola leaves a lot to be desired. They can stash the oil money in secret bank accounts with the best of them. Of course they’re clever enough to avoid Swiss — it’s all in Brazil, with their linguistic cousins. So I’m not sure Cuba gets a positive in the balance sheet from that outcome.

On the other hand, one hears lots of stories in Africa about the role of Cuban doctors in fighting AIDS early on, since they were often the first to come across it with some sense of how serious it was. Don’t know if it’s been written up anywhere. All before combatting AIDS in Africa became a legacy-rescuer for unpopular presidents.

35

lemuel pitkin 02.19.08 at 4:33 pm

All Fidel has proved is that you can provide adequate social medecine if you sacrifice politcal and economic freedom and are prepared to live in poverty. But surely we could all have guessed that?

Um, no.

Most of humanity lives with as little or less political freedom as Cubans, and with far worse education, housing and health care. The tradeoff you describe is evidently quite difficult to achieve, at least in a poor country — like most — with a weak state — like most.

Imagine a UK party running on that ticket.

From the U.K. to Cuba would be a big step backward, for sure. But how about Haiti, or El Salvador, or the Phillipines, or any of dozens of other countries that have enjoyed the benevolent tutelage of Washington and the “international community” for the past 40 years?

36

Righteous Bubba 02.19.08 at 4:39 pm

A sizable minority of people trying to get to the US from Haiti and the Dominican republic are on makeshift rafts. A sizable minority of people trying to get into the EU from North Africa are on makeshift rafts. How exactly is this any different?

Honest question: is there a difference in the access to information of the immigrants?

37

John M 02.19.08 at 4:45 pm

“Most of humanity lives with as little or less political freedom as Cubans, and with far worse education, housing and health care. The tradeoff you describe is evidently quite difficult to achieve”

It is easy enough to achieve if the political administration is powerful and wills it. Fidel did, and that is to his credit. You could say the same for Pinochet. But if Fidel changed his mind, the whole system would change to. That is because he is (or was) a dictator and that is to his discredit.

And let’s not get too excited about Cuba’s achievements. Housing in Cuba is awful, crowded, insanitary and very dangerous (in the cities anyhow), and education for most is rudimentary. The state will tell you that there is zero illiteracy, but the smallest non-official contact with Cubans gives the lie to that.

38

Cian 02.19.08 at 4:46 pm

“It’s true that Cuba stands out compared with other dictatorships in the region, but it is so often represented as much better than that.”

Cuba is a tiny island in the Carribean, with no natural resources, poor farmland, a legacy of colonial exploitation and slavery, which endures an economic embargo from the local super-power, has almost no access to investment capital. Oh and let us not forget, where the neighbouring superpower has been trying to destroy the government (dictatorship, fairly benign) and replace it with a “friendlier” dictatorship (lets not kid ourselves). Despite this, the average Cuban is wealthier than the average inhabitant of almost any of the neighbouring islands and has a real export industry (pharmaceuticals). No, its far from ideal, yes I would like it to be more democratic (and Raul seems serious about moving things this way). On the other hand its a lot more impressive than the achievements of many democracies in the world.

39

John M 02.19.08 at 4:47 pm

“A sizable minority of people trying to get to the US from Haiti and the Dominican republic are on makeshift rafts. A sizable minority of people trying to get into the EU from North Africa are on makeshift rafts. How exactly is this any different?”

The difference is that the states they are fleeing from are not being apologised for on CT.

40

mijnheer 02.19.08 at 4:48 pm

Two cheers for the little country that has stood up to the U.S. for so long. Cuba’s crime, from Washington’s point of view, was never lack of democracy — Washington being quite comfortable with dictators — but, as Chris Bertram suggests, that it removed itself from the U.S. empire and ran its own affairs. What made this action particularly unacceptable to Washington is that Cuba is only a few miles from Florida, very much in the U.S.A.’s “own” backyard. As such, Cuba has posed a particularly intolerable threat — what Chomsky has called “the threat of a good example”. After all, if one poor, Third-World country can defy Washington and get away with it, other nations may be infected with similar ideas of independence.
http://www.gocuba.ca/en/index.asp

41

mpowell 02.19.08 at 4:48 pm


From the U.K. to Cuba would be a big step backward, for sure. But how about Haiti, or El Salvador, or the Phillipines, or any of dozens of other countries that have enjoyed the benevolent tutelage of Washington and the “international community” for the past 40 years?

I’d be willing to grant that Cuba may have ended up better off under Castro than the plausible alternatives, but I’m not much presuaded by the rest of your argument. Cuba is a very strong state. Okay, great. In a strong state you can trade off poverty for social medicine. You could also do a lot of other things with a strong state. So we get the lesson that having a strong state is good, not that there’s anything special about Cuban health care. But we already knew that having a strong state was one of the most important preconditions for a successful society.

42

John M 02.19.08 at 4:49 pm

“On the other hand its a lot more impressive than the achievements of many democracies in the world.”

If you do not place a high value on political, social and economic freedom. Liberals used to think those things were quite important.

And the Cuban pharmaceutical export industry? Please.

43

novakant 02.19.08 at 4:50 pm

The problem with people like CB et al is, that they make it impossible for the left to establish an uncompromising, credible and consistent position on human rights.

44

Cian 02.19.08 at 4:50 pm

You could say the same for Pinochet
Pinochet didn’t improve education, health care and housing in Chile, so it would be a stretch to make that claim for him.

But if Fidel changed his mind, the whole system would change to. That is because he is (or was) a dictator and that is to his discredit.

As opposed to the various democracies where the government has decided to change the whole system once it got into power (and without telling anyone). Or the democracies where the government promised change, and once in power… And that’s in the west – in the developed world democracy often means a choice between plutocrat dee, or dum.

45

Steve LaBonne 02.19.08 at 4:52 pm

If you do not place a high value on political, social and economic freedom. Liberals used to think those things were quite important.

Thank God there’s no such hypocrisy from conservatives in the US, who have made it quite clear that they don’t care about (or actively dislike) the first two items on that list.

46

Sean Carroll 02.19.08 at 4:53 pm

Count me in with those on the “left” who are eager to distance themselves from dictators. Hysteria is bad, but it’s hard to distinguish this kind of “balance” from that offered by Pinochet apologists.

47

franck 02.19.08 at 4:53 pm

brautigan,

That’s not true. The vocal, politically active (usually right-wing) Cuban exiles are almost all white. But there are a lot of Cubans in Miami who are not white – they just tend to be less politically active, less well-educated, poorer, and more willing to engage with the larger community around them, including the African-American part. (There was an interesting series of articles in newspapers a while back that followed two Cuban exiles in Miami, one white and one black, who were friends before they left and have drifted apart since then and race was a big factor. Unfortunately, I can’t find the link.)

Cuba is not 100% black, either, unless you believe in the one-drop rule, and anyway, surely the white Castro family qualifies.

48

John M 02.19.08 at 4:53 pm

“But we already knew that having a strong state was one of the most important preconditions for a successful society.”

Quite. And it is a lesson that we could equally learn from Chile whose acheivements have been much greater my most measures. But nobody stands up for ‘plucky’ General Pinochet round here (thank god for small mercies, although I am sure there are commentators on CT who will suddenly find virtue there too if the record throws up some evidence of ant-American activity by the Pinochet regime).

49

Steve LaBonne 02.19.08 at 4:54 pm

The problem with people like CB et al is, that they make it impossible for the left to establish an uncompromising, credible and consistent position on human rights.

Because more groupthink is always a good thing.

50

Cian 02.19.08 at 4:54 pm

The difference is that the states they [people trying to get into US from Haiti/Dominica and EU from N. Africa] are fleeing from are not being apologised for on CT.

They’re economic migrants.

51

John M 02.19.08 at 4:54 pm

“Thank God there’s no such hypocrisy from conservatives in the US, who have made it quite clear that they don’t care about (or actively dislike) the first two items on that list.”

Surely we shouldn’t be taking our ethical bearings from such types, though.

52

ajay 02.19.08 at 4:56 pm

cian: well, that clears matters up. Obviously, as long as you provide a decent standard of living for your own people and keep the exports flowing, your little overseas adventures and their body counts are not worthy of criticism.

In that case… let’s hear it for Richard Nixon!

53

Tracy W 02.19.08 at 4:58 pm

What made this action particularly unacceptable to Washington is that Cuba is only a few miles from Florida, very much in the U.S.A.’s “own” backyard. As such, Cuba has posed a particularly intolerable threat—what Chomsky has called “the threat of a good example”.

Or alternatively, most Americans don’t particularly give a toss one way or another, Cuban refugees in Miami feel very strongly about the issue (because they want their land back), Florida is a swing state in US presidential elections, and most American politicians feel very very strongly that they themselves should get reelected.

54

John M 02.19.08 at 4:58 pm

“Because more groupthink is always a good thing.”

No, because Chris B et al only appear to oppose human rights abuses when they are not ideologically sympathtic to the regime perpetrating them, but find all sorts of jesuitical reasons for forgiving such abuses when they approve of the policial stripe of the abuser. This weakens the ethical standing of left-wing opposition to human right as abuse in may people’s eyes and pushes them to the right.

55

mijnheer 02.19.08 at 5:00 pm

On Cuba’s biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector:
http://www.ats.agr.gc.ca/latin/3722_e.htm

56

Tim in NorCal 02.19.08 at 5:00 pm

Cuba is for Cubans. The US obsession with Cuba has always struck me as either a typically American capital-biased reaction, or, pychopolitically, a direct result of Castro’s audacious flipping the bird at big ole’ US daddy all those years ago. What US policy since Eisenhower vis a vis Cuba reveals rather starkly is the 20th century American government’s imperial disposition, a disposition, my friends, that has nearly destroyed republican virtue.

57

Cian 02.19.08 at 5:00 pm

If you do not place a high value on political, social and economic freedom. Liberals used to think those things were quite important.

If you’re poor and live in a third world “representative democracy” you’re unlikely to have much access to any of those things. Political freedom is only meaningful if you can exercise it on things that you care about, and free of threat of violence (the violence of rich men’s thugs is no better than that of the state. Anti-union violence is just as deadly) and where there is no corruption. Economic freedom is meaningless if you’re poor, with no access to education or capital. And there’s often very little social freedom at the bottom of the heap.

I agree that all these things are important – but plenty of western liberals seem to think that voting is a magic wand that cures everything, or the only thing that really matters.

And the Cuban pharmaceutical export industry? Please.

Your point being?

58

Steve LaBonne 02.19.08 at 5:00 pm

Surely we shouldn’t be taking our ethical bearings from such types, though.

No indeed. We should be thinking for ourselves. Which includes understanding that most things aren’t pure black or pure white. Did you really think their was such a dangerous lack of anti-Castro comment out there that Chris had some sort of duty to provide more of it than he already did in the second goddamn sentence of his post?

59

ajay 02.19.08 at 5:04 pm

Did you really think their was such a dangerous lack of anti-Castro comment out there that Chris had some sort of duty to provide more of it than he already did in the second goddamn sentence of his post?

No. I did think that singling out the Angolan civil war as a Good Thing was frankly pretty stomach-turning, though. As I hinted above, if I were writing an obituary of Richard Nixon I might well mention the bad (Watergate) along with the good (EPA, diplomatic relations with China, arms-reduction talks) but I wouldn’t call for three cheers for the bombing of Hanoi.

60

Cian 02.19.08 at 5:05 pm

Ajay:
Err, what?

61

noaman 02.19.08 at 5:06 pm

Viva Fidel.

62

Chris Bertram 02.19.08 at 5:06 pm

Novakant:”The problem with people like CB et al is, that they make it impossible for the left to establish an uncompromising, credible and consistent position on human rights.”

John M: “Chris B et al only appear to oppose human rights abuses when they are not ideologically sympathtic to the regime perpetrating them, but find all sorts of jesuitical reasons for forgiving such abuses when they approve of the policial stripe of the abuser.”

Since I am, in fact, opposed to human rights abuses, and haven’t said anything to contradict this, these remarks are rather puzzling. Unless, that is, you imagine that it is not possible to admire anything at all about a regime that is guilty of human rights abuses. But that would be an absurd position to take, for obvious reasons.

(Incidentally, please lay off “et al” – it really isn’t their fault.)

63

engels 02.19.08 at 5:10 pm

ET is certainly blameless. I’m not so sure about Al…

64

andthenyoufall 02.19.08 at 5:14 pm

To chime in re: boat people, surely it is also a factor in the proportions of immigration flow from each of these island nations that America still grants legal status to any Cubans who hit Florida.

65

Sam C 02.19.08 at 5:15 pm

Novakant:

The problem with people like CB et al is, that they make it impossible for the left to establish an uncompromising, credible and consistent position on human rights.

The hard question is, which human rights? Political rights to vote, hold office, etc., or social rights to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, education, etc.? Both kinds of right are asserted, for instance, by the UN Universal Declaration. Trade-offs may be unavoidable. Is it so troubling that Chris Bertram thinks the second kind worth celebrating, at the same time as deploring the loss of the first?

66

Tim Worstall 02.19.08 at 5:16 pm

“I’ve always thought that if Cuban emigration was mainly driven by political opression and human rights, you would see a lot more Cuban refugees showing up in Jamaica and in the Dominican Republic, which are about the same distance east of Cuba as Miami is to the west.”

Not really convinced there, you know?
http://www.1yachtua.com/caribbean_sailing/caribbean_sea.asp
Jamaica is to the south of Cuba and the general current is south to north at that point. Even in a powered vessel that wouldn’t be the destiniation of choice.
Dominican Republic (and Haiti) are to the east of Cuba and that current appears to be east to west, so, again, not the destination of choice.
Florida is to the north east of Cuba and the current there seems to flow from Cuba to Florida.
A small test of this could be that The Bahamas also lie on that same current from Cuba. Do Cuban refugees end up there?
http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-133839188.html
Why, yes, they do.
“IT’S a wretched story, like so many out of Cuba, but it has a twist: the wretchedness of the government of the Bahamas. These islands are located in an awkward position, just northeast of Cuba, just southeast of Florida. When Cubans flee on rafts and other pathetic craft, they sometimes drift into Bahamian waters, and are picked up by that country’s coast guard.”
Now I realise that’s lifted from National Review but I doubt neo-conness extends to mis-reporting the ocean currents.

67

engels 02.19.08 at 5:18 pm

However, the correct expression I believe is “Chris Bertram and his ilk“…

68

Chris Bertram 02.19.08 at 5:19 pm

My ilk is quite unwell, and the vet fears the worst.

69

franck 02.19.08 at 5:20 pm

Just to add something to what ajay is getting at, something like 500,000 people died in the Angolan Civil War. It was one of the major proxy wars of the Cold War.

http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/sanction/angola/001109.htm

http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/africa/9909/25/angola.legacy/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angolan_civil_war

70

mpowell 02.19.08 at 5:24 pm

Nice one engels.

71

MattD 02.19.08 at 5:32 pm

Meh. What is the point of education and literacy if you don’t have an economy to participate in?

Seriously? See, I would have said the exact opposite: who cares about economic prosperity if you aren’t healthy, educated, and so on. That’s because I think that education and health are intrinsically valuable, whereas ‘participating in the economy’ is mostly just instrumentally valuable. But if free-market economic activity is the point, then I suppose Cuba seems pretty evil.

Part of the reason people are keen to defend Cuba is that the American position is just so, well, pathological. The US has no problem trading with China or Saudi Arabia, but they maintain a 40 year trade embargo on Cuba? They threaten to jail Canadians who invest in the country? That’s just crazy, and completely out of proportion. So defenders of Cuba see themselves as sticking up for the little guy who’s getting unfairly picked on. If America were a bit more rational towards Cuba, maybe people would be less inclined to give Castro’s regime a free pass.

72

claudia 02.19.08 at 5:34 pm

“So let’s hear it for universal literacy and decent standards of health care.”

I made much the same argument recently, on this forum, WRT Suharto’s Indonesia.

Curiously, it was not met with universal acclaim.

Doug M.

73

Timothy Burke 02.19.08 at 5:49 pm

The Angola component of the post bothers me a lot, for reasons stated above. How is this different from saying, “Well, the Iraq War did get rid of Saddam Hussein, after all”? The Cuban intervention in Angola played a crucial role in turning the country into a major proxy theater. It’s not as if the lack of such an intervention spared other African nations from being caught up in the Cold War, I’d agree, but there was a difference of magnitude and type in Angola that had grevious consequences for Angolans themselves, which are still very apparent there. Given that at best, the impact of Cuito Cuanavale on the South African regime was no more than one contributing factor in the end of apartheid, arguably a minor one, I don’t know how that can be said to stack up as a marvelous achievement for Castro. Particularly given that it wasn’t what the Cuban intervention in Angola was originally intended to achieve.

74

ajay 02.19.08 at 6:03 pm

Err, what?

52 to 38.

75

aaron_m 02.19.08 at 6:22 pm

Sam C

“The hard question is, which human rights? Political rights to vote, hold office, etc., or social rights to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being, education, etc.? Both kinds of right are asserted, for instance, by the UN Universal Declaration. Trade-offs may be unavoidable. Is it so troubling that Chris Bertram thinks the second kind worth celebrating, at the same time as deploring the loss of the first?”

????

Why would we need to trade political rights to get social rights? Evidence overwhelmingly indicates that it is only when those in positions of less power (esp. economic) get political rights that their social rights are recognised/satisfied. Existing practice in the vast majority of liberal democracies shows that a well ordered political system can simultaneously respect political rights and provide all or nearly all its citizens with access to health care and education. What is special about Cuba is that it is a rare case where political rights are not respected but some measure of social rights are satisfied, but this rare case gives us no reason whatsoever to think of Cuba as representative of a choice we might have to make between different kinds of values (as you seem to imply).

76

Chris Bertram 02.19.08 at 6:24 pm

“no more than one contributing factor in the end of apartheid, arguably a minor one.”

Well there will be arguments about the extent of the Cuban impact, no doubt (though Mandela seems grateful enough). What there won’t be arguments about is that Cubans were fighting (and dying) against apartheid South Africa and that the United States was on the same side as the racists.

77

Katherine 02.19.08 at 6:28 pm

Count me as another on the left who feels quite happy to distance herself from Castro, or any other dictator claiming to be communist. Sorry Chris, but your post does sound a bit “yes he does bad things but…”.

78

Donald Johnson 02.19.08 at 6:29 pm

Doug M is right–the argument for Castro is the same as the one he made for Suharto, at least as far as domestic issues are concerned.

As for Angola, random African has it backwards–Cuba intervened after the US and South Africa–

http://www.strategypage.com/militaryforums/50-9.aspx

79

Righteous Bubba 02.19.08 at 6:33 pm

Note that there is a Nixon blog.

http://www.nixonblog.com/

While they don’t wish to minimize Nixon’s blah blah it must be acknowledged that blah blah.

80

Donald Johnson 02.19.08 at 6:34 pm

Forgot to state my position (like anyone cares)–

It’s perfectly okay to try and give a balanced picture of the good and bad things that occurred under a dictator, right or left. One should not, however, excuse the murders because of increased life expectancy overall. Morality isn’t supposed to work that way, or so I’ve always thought.

I’m not saying Chris did this, but the initial post was a little bit too cheerful for my tastes.

81

lemuel pitkin 02.19.08 at 6:40 pm

I made much the same argument recently, on this forum, WRT Suharto’s Indonesia.

Well, there are two important differences. First, the scale of bloodshed in Suharto’s early years was orders of magnitude worse than anything Castro perpetrated. And second, the position of the US government has been diametrically opposite in the two cases, which leads those of us on the American (and developed world generally) Left emphasize different parts of a complex picture.

On the other hand, I think lots of us who are in agreement with Chris B. here also really appreciated your Indonesia comments. I did, anyway.

82

Random African 02.19.08 at 6:48 pm

What there won’t be arguments about is that Cubans were fighting (and dying) against apartheid South Africa and that the United States was on the same side as the racists.

Oh please ! Killing Cabindan independentists and peasants from the interior was fighting apartheid ? Supporting a mestizos dominated party was fighting apartheid ?

As for Angola, random African has it backwards—Cuba intervened after the US and South Africa

Errrr, nope. Let’s make it clear: there were two wars in Angola. An independence war fought against the portugese (which were allied with Rhodesian and South Africans) by 4 different movements and then a civil war between those movements. South Africa justified its interventions by using 2 arguments:
– Angola was providing shelter to SWAPO and ANC.
– Cuba and the USSR was backing an illegitimate regime.

Without the cuban intervention on the side of MPLA during the civil war between former independence movements, the formely China-backed UNITA would not considered alliances with the Apartheid guys.

So yeah, South Africa was active in Angola but it was on and off, Cuba gave them a permanent excuse to be totally active.

83

Dave 02.19.08 at 6:48 pm

Might the question not also be posed of whether Castro’s regime would have been all the things it was if the USA had not shown a determination, from the first hour, to destroy it? Though it would have to be said that, after 1963, such a determination was rather more rhetorical than actual… Since it’s still there, ‘World’s Only Hyperpower’ notwithstanding…

84

engels 02.19.08 at 6:49 pm

I don’t really feel like wading into this, but anyone who thinks, or claims to think, that there is obvious hypocrisy involved in holding a different opinion of dictatorship A to dictatorship B (though both ruled over developing countries, violated subjects’ human rights in varying numbers, improved social or economic conditions to varying degrees, pursued different foreign policies and was subject to different external pressures, etc, etc) is being very simpleminded, but probably not exceptionally so by the standards of these threads.

85

SomeGuy 02.19.08 at 6:52 pm

Certainly Castro wasn’t the worse tyrant who has ever lived.

I would almost certainly prefer being an average Cuban to say being an average Haitian.

Just providing some sort of stability and rule of law Castro has provided Cuba with more than many other nations.

Chris Bertram certainly isn’t any kind of apologist for human rights abuses. In any way shape or form.

And providing education and health care is certainly an achievement.

If Cuba is any kind of economic model for Socialist Democracy then, we should say, No Thanks, to the economics of Socialist Democrats.

Trading away inequality for dismal growth is a losing proposition.

http://unstats.un.org/unsd/snaama/SelectionCountry.asp

Look at the growth rates for Chile and Cuba since 1974. Starting from fairly similar levels.

I would rather be an average Chilean and in the future that will only be more true.

Cuba is a political and economic failure. Not the worst sort but still a failure. And Castro is too blame.

86

gray 02.19.08 at 7:09 pm

“no natural resources”, Untrue Oil, Nickel & Tobacco

“poor farmland” Untrue terrific farmland although water is an issue i the east

A legacy of colonial exploitation and slavery, which endures an economic embargo from the local super-power, has almost no access to investment capital. Just like the rest of the Caribbean but the rest of the caribbean hasn’t had billions in Soviet subsidies. To be fair much of that was invested in the health and education infrastructure that Mr Bertram lauds.

Cuba is a special case given the level of development it has achieved with its relative wealth. The question I have, after living there for three years, is could they achieve that development in an atmosphere of more respect for human rights? Or is development in socialist/communist countries necessarily at the expense of human rights?

87

Donald Johnson 02.19.08 at 7:11 pm

random african–

This webpage contradicts your version.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB67/

South Africa invaded, then Cuba sent troops.

88

abb1 02.19.08 at 7:11 pm

Suharto’s situation was exactly the opposite – he was a client of the superpower. Castro had to fight that superpower – the Bay of Pigs, dozens of assignation attempts, the blockade, etc. He’s got a good excuse to be a dictator.

89

PD 02.19.08 at 7:24 pm

“Following the 1959 revolution, Cuba’s communist government embarked upon a pervasive effort to rid the nation of homosexuality, which was seen as a product of a capitalist society. Through the 1960s and 1970s this campaign included the frequent imprisonment of lesbians and gays (particularly effeminate males) without charge or trial, and confinement to forced labor camps. Parents were legally required to report their gay children. This period was dramatically documented by Reinaldo Arenas in his 1992 autobiography, Before Night Falls, as well as his fiction, most notably The Color of Summer and Farewell to the Sea. While many have argued that Arenas overstated the abuses — and even the most devoted of his readers agree that he used dramatic license to underscore his arguments — it is widely acknowledged that during this period, Cuba was engaged in active persecution of homosexuals on a scale not seen in the Western world during the same period.[17] Homosexuality was formally decriminalised in 1979, and a year later the Castro government tried to purge Cuba of “anti-social” dissidents, criminals and homosexuals by allowing them to emigrate to the US in the 1980 Mariel boatlift.” – WIKI

But look at the improvements in health care, which made this OK.

90

Randy Paul 02.19.08 at 7:27 pm

I’ve always thought that if Cuban emigration was mainly driven by political opression and human rights, you would see a lot more Cuban refugees showing up in Jamaica and in the Dominican Republic, which are about the same distance east of Cuba as Miami is to the west.

If Jamaica and the Dominican Republic had passed something equivalent to the Cuban Adjustment Act, your comment might make a shred of sense. As they didn’t and you haven’t detailed anything about Jamaica and the DR’s immigration policies, it makes no sense. Your comment calling people republicans for having the temerity to disagree is beneath contempt.

There is a large Cuban emigre community in Spain, by the way. Indeed, several of the most prominent dissidents who have beeen freed – including the most recent group and Raul Rivero – have gone to Spain.

So let’s hear it for universal literacy and decent standards of health care.

Merely the flipside of the argument of those on the right who praised Pinochet’s economic record. All the intellectual rigor of saying that Norman Bates was fond of his mother and a skilled taxidermist or Hannibal Lecter was a brilliant chef.

91

Randy Paul 02.19.08 at 7:27 pm

I’m not going to let the Bush administration skate for creating the Northern Hawaiian Islands Reserve. Why should you let Castro skate for literacy and health care? Yes the embargo and travel ban are stupid, stupid, stupid. It doesn’t make the quarantining of AIDS sufferers right or denying your citizens the right to petition their government (The Varela Project) in violation of your own constitution.

Honestly, it’s all about the power. Change occurs through ideas and the establishment of institutions. No one should have to stay in power for fifty years.

You seem to ignore the Cuban Missile Crisis. I grew up left-liberal in Miami. I remember going to school with National Guard troops accompanying us and the sheer terror of nuclear annihilation seemingly imminent. I honestly cannot understand why anyone could praise a man who let his nation become a client state of the USSR.

Cuba is the only nation in the Americas that refuses to allow the Red Cross to visit its prisons. It has refused AI and HRW representatives admission for fact-finding visits since 1989. Yes, the US policy towards Cuba has been stupid. Why this means Castro must be praised is asinine.

92

seth edenbaum 02.19.08 at 7:31 pm

Jonas Savimbi
“Since the start of the Angolan liberation struggle, Savimbi had touted himself as a nationalist fighting for independence from Portuguese colonialism. However, Savimbi showed more hostility toward the other indigenous freedom parties and forged a clandestine alliance with the Portuguese colonial government and its secret police, PIDE, according to University of Southern California professor Gerald Bender and a series of subsequently released documents. As part of this alliance, code-named “Operation Timber,” Savimbi and PIDE engaged in military actions against rival movements, and Savimbi provided the Portuguese with information regarding the activities of the opposition forces. After the Portuguese withdrew from Angola in 1974, Savimbi thwarted an agreement for multiparty, nationwide elections in November 1975, returned to the bush, and plunged the nation into another two decades-plus of war.

…For decades, Savimbi’s forces fought Angola’s MPLA government, which was supported militarily by the Soviet Union and thousands of Cuban troops–and was recognized by every country in the world except South Africa and the United States. In order to instill terror in the population and to undermine confidence in the government, Savimbi ordered that food supplies be targeted, millions of land mines be laid in peasants’ fields, and transport lines be cut. As part of this destabilization effort, UNITA frequently attacked health clinics and schools, specifically terrorizing and killing medical workers and teachers. The UN estimated that Angola lost $30 billion in the war from 1980 to 1988, which was six times the country’s 1988 GDP. According to UNICEF, approximately 330,000 children died as direct and indirect results of the fighting during that period alone. Human Rights Watch reports that because of UNITA’s indiscriminate use of landmines, there were over 15,000 amputees in Angola in 1988, ranking it alongside Afghanistan and Cambodia.”

93

Random African 02.19.08 at 7:32 pm

I read it. And it’s incredibly vague.

Like I said S.A. was involved on and off during the independence war. They did invade the South to fight off SWAPO and create a border area.
However what Castro did, 7 days before the official independence was to openly send troops to back one movement. That led to more direct intervention of SADF and not just raids on the border area. It also made the conflict last a lot longer since now the US and the USSR were pouring guns and ammunitions in what could have ended in a standing-still and negotiations a lot earlier.

And shit, SA wasn’t even close to ever do anything in Cabinda. Why were there cuban officers invading it from Congo and cuban troops protecting Chevron instalations ?

94

Righteous Bubba 02.19.08 at 7:35 pm

[...]Homosexuality was formally decriminalised in 1979, and a year later the Castro government tried to purge Cuba of “anti-social” dissidents, criminals and homosexuals by allowing them to emigrate to the US in the 1980 Mariel boatlift.” – WIKI

But look at the improvements in health care, which made this OK.

Who said the human rights abuses were okay?

95

Righteous Bubba 02.19.08 at 7:35 pm

Fucking tag-impaired site. Italics for that second bit, I wrote the third.

96

abb1 02.19.08 at 7:37 pm

If Jamaica and the Dominican Republic had passed something equivalent to the Cuban Adjustment Act, your comment might make a shred of sense.

And if the US congress had passed something equivalent to the Cuban Adjustment Act for the Jamaicans we would see, without a doubt, a mass emigration from Jamaica to the US. So, what’s your point there?

97

Random African 02.19.08 at 7:40 pm

However, Savimbi showed more hostility toward the other indigenous freedom parties

Please. The 3 factions fought against each other as much as they fought the portugese (and collectively fought separatists).

98

Randy Paul 02.19.08 at 7:42 pm

It was in response to this comment upthread:

I’ve always thought that if Cuban emigration was mainly driven by political opression and human rights, you would see a lot more Cuban refugees showing up in Jamaica and in the Dominican Republic

Without going into Jamaica’s and the DR’s immigration policies and without acknowledging the Cuban Adjustment Act that was designed to facilitate Cuban immigration, ignores the fact that most Cuban emigres left for the US precisely because the US made it easier for them. Why is that so hard to understand?

99

abb1 02.19.08 at 7:48 pm

Randy, the point of the comment you relied to is that Cuban emigration is economic rather than political in nature. The existence of Cuban Adjustment Act seems to provide supporting evidence for that argument; they go to the US because of the economic opportunity the Act provides. Are you disputing this?

100

Beryl 02.19.08 at 7:55 pm

Further to Randy Paul [#91], is it appropriate to mention Castro’s apocalyptic cheerleading at the time of the Cuban missile crisis?

I propose the immediate launching of a nuclear strike on the United States. The Cuban people are prepared to sacrifice themselves for the cause of the destruction of imperialism and the victory of world revolution.

– Via [Khrushchev advisor] Fedor Burlatsky, “Castro Wanted a Nuclear Strike”, New York Times, October 23, 1992.

101

Randy Paul 02.19.08 at 8:03 pm

Abb1,

Why would the existence of Cuban Adjustment Act make it merely economic? If one nation granted you permanent residence one year after your arrival and allowed you to enter without restriction, wouldn’t you go there regardless of your reasons?

Haiti is even closer to Cuba than the DR, but no one is making that argument here.

Beryl,

Good point.

102

abb1 02.19.08 at 8:05 pm

I propose the immediate launching of a nuclear strike…

You can’t really trust dubious quotes like this. Otherwise you’ll end up believing a lot of nonsense.

BTW, Ronald Reagan did actually announce: “we start bombing in 5 minutes.”

103

Righteous Bubba 02.19.08 at 8:06 pm

BTW, Ronald Reagan did actually announce: “we start bombing in 5 minutes.”

I hate Ronald Reagan, but that’s a pretty dishonest way of putting it.

104

abb1 02.19.08 at 8:15 pm

Why would the existence of Cuban Adjustment Act make it merely economic?

Randy, it’s one thing when you emigrate and end up in worse economic circumstances than you had in your country. Then you can indeed claim that you’re fleeing political oppression and all that.

But when it looks like you’ve been bribed, given an economic incentive to emigrate – it’s a different story. Your claiming political motivation is not very convincing in this case, sorry.

105

Sebastian Holsclaw 02.19.08 at 8:16 pm

“The majority of the commentary on this thread just goes to prove Chris’s point about “posts in the blogosphere saying “good riddance” to Fidel Castro (especially from “left” US bloggers like Brad DeLong who never miss the chance to distance themselves).””

It depends on what you mean by “Chris’s point”. The sentence you quote really should have been finished. “… especially from “left” US bloggers like Brad DeLong who never miss the chance to distance themselves”. Chris couldn’t finish that sentence because it would be self-evidently silly.

Distance themselves from what, Chris?

Castro puts people with AIDS in camps. Castro locks up playwrights he doesn’t like for decades. Castro imprisons and tortures people for being gay.

The reason lots of people will say “good riddance” is because that is a perfectly appropriate sentiment to have.

106

Randy Paul 02.19.08 at 8:23 pm

But when it looks like you’ve been bribed, given an economic incentive to emigrate – it’s a different story. Your claiming political motivation is not very convincing in this case, sorry.

Nor is yours claiming bribery. There was already a small Cuban-American community in Florida. Why would they emigrate to Jamaica or the DR instead?

You’ve provided no prooof of bribery. None.

107

abb1 02.19.08 at 8:28 pm

The question is: how many of them would’ve emigrated if the US was putting them into internment camps for a couple of months and then shipping them to Haiti or Jamaica.

108

Randy Paul 02.19.08 at 8:30 pm

Thanks for making my point for me.

109

seth edenbaum 02.19.08 at 8:36 pm

“Castro puts people with AIDS in camps”
He put them in camps under quarantine, where they get better care than in any other 3rd world country at the time. It was a policy based more on fear than logic, but as far as the history of “camps” and “gulags” it was modest.
The question is not whether to criticize or “condemn” Castro as to understand who and why some people choose to condemn him. I’d call myself an opponent of the Castro regime, but I’d rather live in Cuba than Gaza, and no one’s mentioned Israel yet, certainly not the author of this post.

110

Ryan 02.19.08 at 8:37 pm

I don’t quite understand the whole “little country stands up to a superpower” mystique. Cuba was a client state of the USSR, until the USSR fell apart. The United States’ antagonism of Cuba stems from this fact more than anything else. Cuba had Soviet nuclear missiles pointed at the US, with Soviet military officers on the ground. Only since the collapse of the Soviet Union has Cuba been a country “standing up to” the US. But what has that entailed? We haven’t tried to do anything to Castro or Cuba in those years, other than pander to people in Miami every four years. We have an embargo, but that requires the argument that nations are required to trade with each other. Not something that is typically argued for on the left.

111

seth edenbaum 02.19.08 at 8:40 pm

“where they get better care.”
I meant to use the past tense.

112

dsquared 02.19.08 at 8:44 pm

I realise that this isn’t really about Cuba, Randy, it’s about the exteme emotional importance to a lot of American leftists of proving that they’re not apologists for theevilcubansses, but if we take Vietnam, for example, where people did actually flee on makeshift vessels, they ended up in Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Phillippines and Indonesia. If they had all ended up in Hong Kong, people would have wondered whether there was an economic element to the migration decision too. (Guess what? It’s possible to make a balanced assessment of the overall effect of the last thirty years of Communist rule in Vietnam too, without falling for either apologism or knee-jerk condemnation).

At the moment you appear to be arguing that since there was a peace of legislation offering very strong economic incentives to attempt to emigrate to the USA, that means that there must have been no element of economic migration. It doesn’t look very coherent to me.

My post #13 was addressed specifically to Republicans, but since you decided not to bother reading it and just call me “beneath contempt”, you may wear it. From now on, you will always be “Randy the Republican” to me. In fact, since despite Chris having been specific about human rights abuses in his post, you’re trying to imply that he said that quarantining AIDS sufferers was OK, I don’t think it’s even particularly inaccurate or uncivil to point out that yes indeed, Randy, you are in fact carrying the Miami Republicans’ political water for them.

113

novakant 02.19.08 at 8:58 pm

What Randy Paul said – thanks for that.

I’m tired of compartmentalization in these matters (and I’ve been hearing the same cr@p for twenty years from both the left and the right)- CBs post was indicative of that and anybody who can read will see it.

Human rights are by definition universal, inalienable and absolute. Dictatorships are bad, even if they make the trains run on time or whatever. The hypocrisy and hysteria on one side doesn’t make the abuses of the other side any better. Is that so hard to understand? Is that too much to ask?

Call it simple, but it’s better than making endless excuses or ‘providing context’ for human rights abusers – let alone praising them.

114

Righteous Bubba 02.19.08 at 9:01 pm

Human rights are by definition universal, inalienable and absolute.

I wish this was so and that these rights were as I conceive them. Someone else may have different ideas.

115

Anderson 02.19.08 at 9:04 pm

Wow — PowerLine et al. are going to have to work hard to come up with a stupider post than Bertram’s here.

116

Scott Hughes 02.19.08 at 9:05 pm

There’s things to celebrate about any place, I suppose. To bad it is often so controversial to point out some of the good things about one side from the other side.

117

anon/portly 02.19.08 at 9:11 pm

“Still, I’m reminded of A.J.P. Taylor writing somewhere or other (reference please, dear readers?) that what the capitalists and their lackeys really really hated about Soviet Russia was not its tyrannical nature but the fact that there was a whole chunk of the earth’s surface where they were no longer able to operate.”

Doesn’t the corollary to this practically write itself? I.e., wht the leftist academics and their lackeys, er, ilk, really really liked about Cuba was not its literacy rates or healthcare or its anti-Apartheid work but the adverserial stance towards Uncle Sam?

If you took away the US-thwarting part, would the rest of Castro’s legacy get even the tiniest amount of applause?

118

abb1 02.19.08 at 9:14 pm

There’s no government on earth that is not a human rights abuser in one degree or another. Therefore the absolutist position is simply silly; degrees and circumstances do matter. Unless you’re a radical anarchist or something.

119

Randy Paul 02.19.08 at 9:16 pm

Dsquared,

Fine, I misread the republicans comment and apologize for it.

As for my carrying water for the Miami republicans, if I recall correctly, they support the embargo and travel ban which I specifically called “stupid, stupid, stupid.” How that mkes me carry water for the Miami republicans defies logic.

Perhaps you can find it in yourself to acknowledge that you missed my comments against the embargo and travel ban and realize that I am not carrying water for the Miami republicans. You might also acknowledge my comments about the significant number of Cuban immigrants who went to Spain. Why would they go to Spain and Florida instead of Jamaica and the Dominican Republic? Because of the welcome they received due to the existence of Cuban-American communities already there.

Much for the same reason that many Vietnamese immigrants went to Los Angeles, as did Salvadoran immigrants in the 80’s and Iranian immigrants after the fall of the Shah. Your failure to acknowledge that as a simple possibility is, well interesting. Don’t worry, however: I won’t refer to you as Daniel the Disingenuous.

As for Chris’ mention of human rights abuses, so what? It has as much credence as the Pinochet defenders mentioning his miserable human rights record followed by disputable favorable claims of his economic record. Increasing literacy levels and providing for health care have as much relevance as a defense against crimes against humanity as does creating a market economy.

So who should I believe regarding Castro’s rule: You and Chris or AI and HRW? I’ll go with the NGO’s, thank you. After all, there should be but one standard for judging human rights.

120

Randy Paul 02.19.08 at 9:17 pm

There’s no government on earth that is not a human rights abuser in one degree or another. Therefore the absolutist position is simply silly; degrees and circumstances do matter. Unless you’re a radical anarchist or something.

What relativist nonsense. Why would nations ratify the UDHR?

121

Brett Bellmore 02.19.08 at 9:29 pm

Sheesh, my dog gets excellent health care, is well fed, and by dog standards is highly educated, but I wouldn’t want to live a dog’s life. It’s pleasant on some crude level to have one’s predjudices about political opponents verified, but I could have done without it in this instance.

122

geo 02.19.08 at 9:31 pm

#112: Call it simple
Actually, it’s simplistic. Chris condemned human rights violations in Cuba, then pointed out that there were achievements as well, and in any case, US official hostility toward Cuba was not based on devotion to freedom and human rights but rather on Cuba’s unavailability for exploitation by American capital. Why is this “making excuses”?

#115: Doesn’t the corollary to this practically write itself?
No, it doesn’t. It’s perfectly reasonable to condemn Cuba’s or the Soviet Union’s political unfreedom, acknowledge their achievements, if any, and then point out the gross and disgusting hypocrisy of American foreign policy and of its uncritical supporters. Why do you think this is not reasonable?

123

Randy Paul 02.19.08 at 9:34 pm

Geo,

Bear that in mind the next time someone praises Pinochet.

124

seth edenbaum 02.19.08 at 9:40 pm

“If you took away the US-thwarting part, would the rest of Castro’s legacy get even the tiniest amount of applause?”

Considering what was there before?
Yes.

125

Randy Paul 02.19.08 at 9:42 pm

Talk about the soft bigotry of lowered expectations.

126

Brian Schmidt 02.19.08 at 9:43 pm

Among all the other things Chris got wrong in this post was celebrating Cubans who “held off” (I think he means “killed,” but I’m not a mindreader) American soldiers invading Grenada. Anyone who thinks Grenada was better off under chaotic Marxist/Hobbesian rule than what followed the invasion is deluded. Yes, the Americans were certainly there for the same imperialist reasons that the Cubans were there, but that’s no reason to celebrate the Cubans.

Good riddance.

127

Stuart 02.19.08 at 9:58 pm

What relativist nonsense. Why would nations ratify the UDHR?

So propose to us a government, now or in history, that has never committed any forms of human rights abuse ever.

128

Randy Paul 02.19.08 at 10:02 pm

That’s not the question. The question is, if tacit acceptance of some human rights abuses are to be made as ABB1 seems to suggest (the old everyonne else does it argument), why then would governments be ratifying treaties and and declarations like the UDHR, the Convention Against Torture and the Convention Against Genocide?

129

geo 02.19.08 at 10:02 pm

re#121: There you go again, Randy. Chris wasn’t simply praising Castro; he was praising and criticizing him. And more significantly than either, he was reminding us of the hypocrisy of most official American criticism of foreign human rights violations.

If Pinochet deserves credit for anything, then he’s welcome to it. By the way (though I don’t want to get off the thread), my impression was that Pinochet’s extreme monetarism and privatization was by no means an overall economic success. See Naomi Klein’s recent Shock Therapy for details.

130

fifi 02.19.08 at 10:03 pm

Best government in the world, Cuba’s, and the comments here confirm the narcissim of small differences between left and right.

131

Chris Bertram 02.19.08 at 10:07 pm

Brian Schmidt: The Americans mounted an opportunistic invasion after a nasty Stalinist coup d’etat which I did not support. The Cubans, who were construction workers building an airport for the previous regime (the one the coup was against) defended themselves against attack from the US forces, and acquitted themselves rather well, iirc.

132

abb1 02.19.08 at 10:08 pm

Bear that in mind the next time someone praises Pinochet.

Castro, of course, is nothing like Pinochet. Rather, Castro is like Allende who refused to be overthrown and murdered.

133

Randy Paul 02.19.08 at 10:10 pm

Chris wasn’t simply praising Castro; he was praising and criticizing him

Yeah that’s some harsh criticism:

And, of course, Castro ran a dictatorship that has, since 1959, committed its fair share of crimes, repressions, denials of democratic rights etc.

That’s about as namby/pamby as it comes to criticism.

134

seth edenbaum 02.19.08 at 10:11 pm

“Bear that in mind the next time someone praises Pinochet.”
And how was health care for the poor under Pinochet?
“Human rights are by definition universal, inalienable and absolute.”
Atoms and molecules are absolute, unless you’re a believer in string theory. Nothing else is. Some people think taxation with or without representation is tyranny. Some people think corporations are people or that the right to bear arms includes rocket launchers. And frankly if you read the text of the constitution, that last group have a point. I don’t give a flying fuck about economic freedom, any more than I give a rat’s ass about god, but enough people have feelings for one or the other that it’s just something one needs to put up with. And that necessity is one I take seriously. But greed is an absolute only in the sense that it’s inevitable. I don’t value it. And I’d rather be poor in Cuba than in a whole slew of impoverished but nominally democratic countries. That counts for something. Utopia counts for everything, but we ain’t there.

135

geo 02.19.08 at 10:15 pm

#128: Yes, Brian, the Grenadans are certainly better off now than under the NJM lunatics. But do take the long view. The US government did not have UN sanction, and therefore it was committing aggression, a serious violation of international law. If the world’s hyperpower consistently disregards international law (as it does), then eventually international law will lose force. Governments disposed to aggression (eg, the US in 2003 and doubtless many, many future examples) will feel less and less constrained. This is a very, very bad thing, and may in fact lead to a global military holocaust someday. So “good riddance,” yes, but don’t overlook the downside.

136

Randy Paul 02.19.08 at 10:15 pm

Rather, Castro is like Allende who refused to be overthrown and murdered.

More nonsense. Allende was elected democratically in a democracy that had an opposition that could present candidates. Allende did not torture his opposition. Allende did not censor his opposition. Allende did not jail his opposition. Allende did not execute his opposition.

With the exception of the second sentence in the paragraph immediately preceding this one, Castro did all of the above.

137

abb1 02.19.08 at 10:21 pm

But see, I said “like Allende who refused to be overthrown and murdered“? Get it?

BTW, according to AI there are currently exactly 69 political prisoners in Cuba. That’s rather paltry, isn’t it? Where do you get all these “torture his opposition” and “execute his opposition” things?

138

Righteous Bubba 02.19.08 at 10:24 pm

The question is, if tacit acceptance of some human rights abuses are to be made as ABB1 seems to suggest (the old everyonne else does it argument), why then would governments be ratifying treaties and and declarations like the UDHR, the Convention Against Torture and the Convention Against Genocide?

I would hope that they’re ratifying such things to do the right thing and abide by them, but there are around 150 nations party to the Convention Against Torture. Do you buy that all of those nations are sincere?

139

Randy Paul 02.19.08 at 10:29 pm

Abb1, apparently your love of the revolution blinds you to my use of the past tense. Read Armando Valladares book Against All Hope. See the film Nobody Listened by Nestor Almendros, the late cinematographer.

Pinochet’s worst abuses took place in the first five years of his rule.

That’s rather paltry, isn’t it?

Apparently it’s a number you seem comfortable with.

140

mpowell 02.19.08 at 10:30 pm


Seriously? See, I would have said the exact opposite: who cares about economic prosperity if you aren’t healthy, educated, and so on.

This is just so ridiculous, I have to respond. There is some independent value to education (and I was talking about education not healthcare), but economic wealth is far more important. What does it meant to be poor? It can mean that you don’t have enough food to eat, or clothes to wear. It can mean you have to work long, painful hours at manual labor. It can mean that you don’t get to retire when you’re 65. It can also mean you don’t have lots of great stuff like we have here in America. People like to vent about how crappy jobs are in America or how tough it is to be poor in this country, but being wealthy means something. It’s a far cry from 3rd world poverty. And that’s where Cuba is at.

141

Randy Paul 02.19.08 at 10:30 pm

No, but what’s the alternative? No such conventions?

142

Brian Schmidt 02.19.08 at 10:33 pm

#129 Chris: you’re not responding – isn’t Grenada better off because of the invasion? And are you suggesting you supported the preceding Bishop dictatorship? What exactly are you celebrating?

#133 Geo: You’re right, the successful invasions of Grenada and Panama laid the groundwork for the hubris in Iraq. Balance is essential, and it’s what’s almost completely lacking in the original post here.

143

Righteous Bubba 02.19.08 at 10:42 pm

No, but what’s the alternative? No such conventions?

No, I’m for ‘em.

To be honest I’m not sure why you were asking the question, but you seemed to be fishing for one answer when there are more out there.

144

Tracy 02.19.08 at 10:43 pm

Whew! At least it’s only 69! That’s not too many to overlook.

145

Bloix 02.19.08 at 10:53 pm

Does anyone really believe that Castro personally made the decision to retire? I tend to doubt that there’s much of Fidel left.

146

Ed 02.19.08 at 10:54 pm

There is more to the AIDS story than whether the treatment of the AIDS sufferers was okay or not. The end result was that Cuba now has one of the lowest AIDS infection rates (0.07%) in the world. Yes, this came at a cost, namely the violation of the human rights of the sufferers, but it benefited the rest of society which did not receive AIDS as a result. The sad thing is that countries in southern Africa have failed to learn from the Cuban example.

See more Cuba’s AIDS policies here

147

quintin hoare 02.19.08 at 11:17 pm

I’m surprised no one has thought to mention Castro’s enthusiastic support for Soviet military suppression of the Prague Spring, his equally warm support for China’s brutal repression of the Tiananmin Square demonstrators, or more recently his rambling messages expressing solidarity with Slobodan Milosevic (published last year in the official Cuban media). However much one may condemn the US embargo – and I certainly always have – these unequivocally reactionary policies should be given their due weight in any balance sheet.

148

Dan Simon 02.19.08 at 11:18 pm

“a (far) worse choice of fruit and vegetables is as nothing to the corrosive effects on the soul of a political tyranny.”

Chris Bertram

“Give thanks
“Having lived to a greater age than nearly all of his thousands of victims, and having succeeded in evading justice, the butcher Pinochet is dead at last.”

Chris Bertram

“It may very well be that there is some inconsistency between my views on different topics, a risk that is heightened by some of those views being unstable (I sometimes change my mind).”

Chris Bertram

149

Adam Kotsko 02.19.08 at 11:25 pm

The comparison between Pinochet and Castro seems wrong to me — the benefits of Pinochet are questionable at best, and Pinochet’s level of evil seems to be qualitatively higher. “Sure, he implemented a policy of torturing average citizens basically at random, apparently just for its own sake, but at least he privatized the Chilean version of Social Security!” I’m not convinced.

150

Steve Smith 02.19.08 at 11:52 pm

Still, I’m reminded of A.J.P. Taylor writing somewhere or other (reference please, dear readers?) that what the capitalists and their lackeys really really hated about Soviet Russia was not its tyrannical nature but the fact that there was a whole chunk of the earth’s surface where they were no longer able to operate. Ditto Cuba, for a much smaller chunk.

Death camps and gulags aside, “capitalists” and “their lackeys” certainly never had any problem operating behind the Iron Curtain or in Cuba, provided they found the right gauleiter to bribe. Almost everything you say about Castro could also have been said about Mussolini or Pinochet, including the apocryphal tales of trains running on time, universal literacy, and/or fair medical systems.

151

dsquared 02.20.08 at 12:03 am

Randy, if you’re going to pick fights, not bother to read posts properly and adopt this holier-than-thou attitude to all and sundry, I’ve no idea why you would expect the kid gloves treatment in return. So I reiterate; this Manichean, Castro-demon view of yours makes little sense as history and only makes sense politically as providing political ammunition for reactionaries and red-baiters. Cuba has run about the kind of society you’d expect from a Latin American society under constant threat of invasion, and has achieved genuine development gains which can’t be hand-waved away. Singling it out as one of the worst regimes in the world makes about as much sense as singling out Israel for the same treatment.

PS: it was also pretty stupid when you were preaching the same sermon about Hugo Chavez during the last Presidential elections in Venezuela, when I seem to remember you also pretended to be unaware of the sort of people you were siding with.

152

Daniel 02.20.08 at 12:03 am

Well, we have spoken of the American trade embargo and investment boycott, and how they unjustly oppress Cuba. Why doesn’t anyone talk about the Chinese embargo, the Candadian embargo, the Japanese embargo, the Saudi, Venezuelan, French, Indian, Irish, Swedish, Spanish, Finish, Italian, Russian, Brazilian, Argentinian, Mexican embargoes and boycotts. The Czech, Iranian, Danish, Dutch, German, Greek, Norwegian, Algerian, Libyan, Chilean, Colombian embargoes, the…………..Oh, yeah.

153

~~~~ 02.20.08 at 12:16 am

Apart from the achievements in health care and education, Cuba also has a relatively good human rights record – compared to the other countries in the region. Nothing Castro did can compare the (US supported) contra terror attacks on schools and hospitals in Nicaragua, the (US-supported) Guatemalan genocide, the (US-supported) torture program Operación Cóndor, the (US-supported) death squads in El Salvador, the (US-supported) Papa & Baby Doc dictatorship in Haiti, the (US-supported) murderous paramilitary groups in Colombia, the (US-supported) dirty war in Argentina, etc.

154

dsquared 02.20.08 at 12:16 am

I’m surprised no one has thought to mention Castro’s enthusiastic support for Soviet military suppression of the Prague Spring, his equally warm support for China’s brutal repression of the Tiananmin Square demonstrators, or more recently his rambling messages expressing solidarity with Slobodan Milosevic (published last year in the official Cuban media). However much one may condemn the US embargo – and I certainly always have – these unequivocally reactionary policies should be given their due weight in any balance sheet.

Contrariwise, I would hope that any such “balance sheet” be restricted to actual actions of the Castro government, which surely trade at something of a premium to more or less empty statements of support for political allies. What possible moral calculus might have leapt to the view that what was really important about Cuba was the “line” they took on various tangentially related events happening thousands of miles away?

155

dsquared 02.20.08 at 12:23 am

I’ve just noticed, by the way, that “javier” in comment number two tried to get away with the claim that “a sixth of the population” of Cuba emigrated. As far as I can tell, this number must be the result of adding the annual migration figures (which average about 35k/year) over 40 years and dividing by 12m. On the basis of similar arithmetic, I would strongly suspect I could prove that the population of Ireland was negative.

156

Daniel 02.20.08 at 1:05 am

>>The comparison between Pinochet and Castro seems wrong to me

In any comparison Pinochet comes out better. The body count with Castro is higher. Furthermore, Pinochet was a military dicator who sponsored a plebisccite on whether his rule should continue. He lost the plebiscite and handed over power – peacefully – to a democratic government. Notwithstanding grumbling on part of some of his military associates, he and they have stayed out of politics entirely. Scores of militarists have been held to account by this democratic government, events which Pinochet and they anticipated.

Let’s see of Castro and his gang go out so peacefully.

157

harry b 02.20.08 at 1:12 am

Lesson (for CB): some people believe that saying anything good about someone who has done anything bad makes you an apologist for the bad the person has done. The thing is, you knew this, and we all knew that you knew this, and then there is this staggering thread of people who seem not even to know that they are just proving what you already knew!

I’m somewhere nearer to being an atlanticist than a third camper myself these days (as I suspect most CTers are, despite the predictable determination of some of our readers to attribute hard line stalinism to us). And I’d never have written, or felt, what you wrote; but you abusers have managed to provoke in me the only good feelings about Fidel I’ve ever had.

158

Adam Kotsko 02.20.08 at 1:30 am

Okay, Daniel, let’s say that staging a coup against a duly elected government and then respecting the plebiscite and stepping down even out. There’s still the whole “sadistic policy of random abduction and torture intended to instill fear throughout the entire society.” I don’t really think Castro has anything remotely similar to that on his hands.

159

christian h. 02.20.08 at 1:48 am

Wow, it’s the invasion of the decents. Comparing Castro and Suharto? Claiming South African intervention in Angola was a reaction to, or somehow provoked by, Cuban support of the MPLA? Neglecting the fact that the Central American nations that didn’t stand up to the US usually ended up with genocidal fascist dictators? Blather about the universality of human rights? Are you kidding?

Now I’m a Trotskyist and not a fan of Castro’s state capitalist, repressive regime. But there’s no doubt it transformed Cuba for the better, and was a signal of hope to many throughout the world. For that, Castro deserves credit. Thanks to CB for giving it where it’s due.

160

jerry 02.20.08 at 1:55 am

I have no idea where you’re going with Elian Gonzalez.

I was ecstatic that Gonzalez was returned to his father, but just what did Castro do for him but turn him and his father into pawns?

Elian’s mom lost her life trying to give Elian a chance at life outside of Castro.

That Elian was (correctly) returned to his father was a victory for Janet Reno, and Bill Clinton, and showed that America can think along more than one dimension.

Elian? Elian is a shameful incident for Castro.

161

jeff 02.20.08 at 2:08 am

You know, there is a reason Castro stayed in power for fifty years. And it isn’t all those fond memories Cubans have of being America’s Whorehouse under Batista.

162

Sebastian Holsclaw 02.20.08 at 2:27 am

“If the world’s hyperpower consistently disregards international law (as it does), then eventually international law will lose force. Governments disposed to aggression (eg, the US in 2003 and doubtless many, many future examples) will feel less and less constrained. This is a very, very bad thing, and may in fact lead to a global military holocaust someday.”

Choke.

You’d almost think that there had never been genocide in the Rwanda or the Sudan. [cue d-squared about the lack of genocide in the Sudan].

You’d almost think that Cambodia had never been invaded, Tibet was free, Korea and Vietnam had been free of the destructive influence of the USSR and China, and that Lebanon wasn’t often under the thumb of Syria.

Damn Grenada!!!!!

Chris made about the lamest possible nod toward the evils of the Castro regime and then praised Cuban involvement in Angola for God’s sake.

“And, of course, Castro ran a dictatorship that has, since 1959, committed its fair share of crimes, repressions, denials of democratic rights etc.”

This is Chris’s summary for executing your early opponents, imprisoning the press for a generation (and that isn’t a figure of speech, that means actually putting them in prisons), trying to squash homosexuals out of existence, putting AIDS patients in a camp, and taking a nation that could have easily been one of the most successful in all of non-Canadian non-US America and making “It’s so much better than Haiti” a good comparison.

But hey, at least they have excellent (as measured through the Communist controlled reporting statistics) health care and most importantly Castro thumbed his nose at the US even if it did incidentally help impoverish his people.

163

Daniel 02.20.08 at 2:30 am

Adam,

Allende was no more “the” government of Chile than George Bush is the government of the United States. Allende held the executive function of a tripartite government. By September 1973 Allende had lost the support of both the judiciary and legislature of Chile to the point that the legislature passed a resolution calling on the military to intervene and restore order. The judiciary expressed similar sentiments. And thought you don’t want to acknowledge it there is an implied constitution in almost all Latin societies that demands that the military intervene when chaos is at hand. Nothing unusual about Pinochet. I’m grateful that he left peacefully and left a functioning and fair government in his wake.

If you want to have an understanding of how the bodies piled up in Casto’s Cuba consult Jon Lee Anderson’s excellent and sympathetic biography of Che Guevara. Amongst other duties, Guevara was tasked with overseeing show trials of alleged war criminals. In the first year of the “revolution” hundreds went to the firing squad after the briefest trials that usually began at 9:00 p.m. with final appeals heard at 1:00 a.m. the following morning. Executions took place the same dawn. Revolutionary Justice. Castros reign is soaked with blood.

164

Geoff Robinson 02.20.08 at 2:30 am

Elections will eventually be held in Cuba. The Communists will lose. A few elections later they will all be third-wayers and will be back in govt.
Imagine if Cuba had had a govt that combined a commitment to human development with policies that actually generated economic growth

165

Daniel 02.20.08 at 2:36 am

Jeff,

Batista’s whorehouse! Castro is the biggest pimp in the world. Cuba’s major source of hard currency is the twisted tourism industry that caters very much to male sex tourists. Castro has even bragged about the virtues of Cuban woman as consorts for that very jaded European. All over Cuba women are “moonlighting” as prostitutes. Housewives, sisters, doctors, lawyers, mothers, dauthers, accountants…….women from all social and racial backgrounds are resorting to prostitution to supplment that $15 dollar/month state income. Whorehouse indeed.

166

christian h. 02.20.08 at 2:43 am

I think holsclaw deserves a prize for the highest density of historical falsification in a post ever.

167

Adam Kotsko 02.20.08 at 2:55 am

Daniel, What about the fucking torture?!

168

christian h. 02.20.08 at 2:58 am

adam, you don’t understand daniel’s “logic”. It goes like this:

1. Whine that someone would dare defend Castro while simultaneously condemning Pinochet – claim it’s hypocritical, or inconsistent.

2. Make excuses for Pinochet.

3. Condemn Castro and Che.

And all without blushing! It’s quite a feat, really.

169

seth edenbaum 02.20.08 at 3:15 am

To the Editor:

“Cuba’s Ills Encroach on Health” (news article, July 16) describes Cuba’s sanitarium for those infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS, without mentioning that the residents are there because of a compulsory quarantine policy. Indeed, mandatory H.I.V. screening to identify the H.I.V.-infected, with forced isolation of the infected, have earned Cuba the unenviable honor of having the world’s most repressive AIDS policy.
Hence, it has been Cuba’s commitment to quarantine, and not, as you report, the free distribution of condoms, that is the centerpiece of Cuba’s AIDS prevention program.
When compulsory isolation began, it was to be lifelong, mitigated only by periodic, accompanied home visits. Only now, after years of international criticism and under the pressure of a collapsing economy, has a liberalization been announced. Those judged responsible and trustworthy after six months of compulsory isolation will be able to leave the sanitarium.
However one judges the quality of care provided to Cuba’s H.I.V.-infected medical inmates (by most accounts it is superlative, given Cuba’s resources); however the condition under which most of the inmates live puts to shame the squalor in which the United States confined H.I.V.-infected Haitians at Guantanamo, and however one judges the effectiveness of Cuba’s approach to stemming the spread of H.I.V. infection (by many accounts Cuba has been spared the kind of epidemic witnessed elsewhere in the Caribbean), the price paid in liberty must never be lost sight of.
A question that cannot be answered is what Cuba, with its superior health care system, might have done to prevent the spread of H.I.V. infection if it had chosen not to resort to the medical incarceration of men and women whose only crime was H.I.V. infection. RONALD BAYER Professor of Public Health Columbia University New York, July 20, 1993

Wow. sounds just like El Salvador, Guatamala or Argentina.

170

minneapolitan 02.20.08 at 3:19 am

franck, ajay, holsclaw and the Alpha 66 Men’s Chorus, singing:
“Oh why’d Chris waste his time to laud a dictator’s state,
When he could’ve praised true liberty in the kingdom of Kuwait?”

171

SG 02.20.08 at 3:30 am

Daniel, you are a right pearler. I particularly love this:

Allende was no more “the” government of Chile than George Bush is the government of the United States. Allende held the executive function of a tripartite government. By September 1973 Allende had lost the support of both the judiciary and legislature of Chile to the point that the legislature passed a resolution calling on the military to intervene and restore order.

It stands alone as a brilliant testimony to your compassion. And what a great follow-up to complain about Castro running a massive brothel. One moment Castro’s a bastard for suppressing free markets, the next he’s a bastard for allowing a tourist market which (surprise! oh the woes of communism! it would never happen here!) is accompanied by prostitution. Tourism goes hand in hand with prostitution? Who knew!

Sebastian, you said

You’d almost think that Cambodia had never been invaded, Tibet was free, Korea and Vietnam had been free of the destructive influence of the USSR and China, and that Lebanon wasn’t often under the thumb of Syria.

but I think you mean

You’d almost wish that Cambodia had never been bombed by the US, Tibet was not under the thumb of America’s biggest creditor, Korea and Vietnam had been free of the destructive influence of the US, and that Lebanon hadn’t been invaded by Israel, the US’s closest ally in the Middle East

But you don’t really wish that at all, do you? The biggest wish you have is that you could just ignore it all and pretend that Castro really had nothing to fear from his big neighbour…

172

geo 02.20.08 at 3:37 am

#164: Come on, Sebastian, you’re not really trying to understand your antagonists here. Of course I wasn’t suggesting that international law has always been universally observed, except by the United States. Like everyone else on the list, I know about the events you refer to, as an instant’s reflection would have told you. What I meant, since you apparently require that I spell it out, was:

1) The degree to which the richest and by far the most powerful country in the world observes international law will significantly affect its observance by other states. Of course it won’t guarantee unfailing compliance, but it will constrain some states in some cases, and the US will be in a position to lend its strong support to those urging law-abidingness.

2)But the US has consistently disregarded international law, in particular Article 51 of the UN Charter outlawing the use of military force across borders without the authorization of the Security Council, thereby encouraging other lawless states.

3) Weapons are getting continually more destructive, and potentially casus belli (resources, environmental pollution, ethnicity, religion) are multiplying.

4) Ergo, it’s a very, very bad thing … etc.

No one is suggesting that the United States is responsible for all the evil in the world, so loosen your collar, lower your voice, and try to engage with your opponents’ arguments.

173

Joshua Holmes 02.20.08 at 4:01 am

Comment 149 ends the thread. “He’s our asshole” indeed.

174

Randy Paul 02.20.08 at 4:10 am

I reiterate; this Manichean, Castro-demon view of yours makes little sense as history and only makes sense politically as providing political ammunition for reactionaries and red-baiters.

Oh, piffle. I don’t accept your efforts to define deviancy down. Jorge Valls is hardly a reactionary and red baiter. Do you even know who he is?

He spent 20 years in Castro’s prisons and was a prisoner of conscience. Does this sound like a red-baiter or reactionary?

We need to construct the peace. This is not possible without reaffirming the essential values of the Cuban Revolution, from the dawn of the independentistas down to the present time. But these cannot be made except in a ‘social state of rights.’ For that reason we insist on this work of persuasion towards those who feel that the nation is both their ‘agony and duty.’

The ultimate truth on how the national destiny must be satisfied not is neither held by the government or those not in government. It is, of necessity, the responsibility of all of us who want a country for the good of all. We call for the creation of society where our children and grandsons will be proud of their parents and grandparents because they knew to put the good of all, that is the nation, over their own particular motives.

We, the Social-Revolutionaries, offer our project for consideration by all Cubans. We make ourselves available for productive and creative dialogue. We present our reasons and ideas, and we will take into account the reasons and ideas presented to us, as much from the government as from those not in power. When someone rejects us be it through obfuscation or fear we insist, we reflect, in order to advance in our capacity of conviction.

The government, to initiate the process, must decree an ample political amnesty, and be committed to summon a sovereign National Constituent Assembly. The amnesty, because neither consensus nor common action are possible while there are prisoners as a consequence of the confrontation we have suffered, and the National Constituent Assembly, because it is the only suitable instrument to subscribe to the new national pact and thus to recover the state of legitimacy that was left in pieces on 10 March 1952.

Keep trying to pigeonhole me Daniel, if it gives you the warm tinglies. I know how full of it you are and it really doesn’t bother me.

Don’t blame me for the fact that you are unable to hold the thoughts in your head that US policy towards Cuba has been horribly wrong since day one and that the repressive leadership of Fidel Castro has also been horribly wrong.

175

Randy Paul 02.20.08 at 4:13 am

Well, my comments are awaiting moderation, but I’ve answered you Daniel Squared. that’s my last word on this.

176

seth edenbaum 02.20.08 at 4:27 am

Well I’m not the only one. Here’s Helena Cobban

We could note the many similarities between the US’s decades-long campaign to starve the Cubans into submission and Israel’s younger campaign against the people of Gaza. One big difference being that Cuba has at least been able to maintain normal economic relations with all the other states of the world, while Israel has until now steadfastly sought to maintain its own occupation-derived chokehold on all of Gaza’s external links.

177

minneapolitan 02.20.08 at 4:35 am

Oh, by the way, where are all the strident denunciations of Alpha 66, Jorge Mas Canosa, Luis Posada Carriles and other US-funded anti-Castro terrorists? Our rightist interlocutors sure don’t seem to have many qualms about supporting terrorism, as long as it’s directed against the people of Cuba.

178

swampcracker 02.20.08 at 4:35 am

When I consider how the Cuban expat community in Florida tried to shut down every cultural exhange concert, how they used threats and intimidation over the years to assert their interests, the expat Cuban community will be the belligerent, oppressive faction in this unfolding drama. I foresee blood feuds and carpetbagging and another triumph of greed in the name of capitalism. I do not see a smooth normalization for Cuba after Castro, and the bad guys are on this side of the straits.

179

Randy Paul 02.20.08 at 4:45 am

Oh, by the way, where are all the strident denunciations of Alpha 66, Jorge Mas Canosa, Luis Posada Carriles and other US-funded anti-Castro terrorists?

It’s called Google.

I’m sure you don’t mean me as I’m not a rightist, but in the event that I’m wrong, please click the above link.

180

Randy Paul 02.20.08 at 4:46 am

Swampcracker, agreed, but I hope we’re wrong.

181

engels 02.20.08 at 4:48 am

I do think it’s funny how many people seem to think there is some kind of logical contradiction in anyone’s holding a different opinion of Castro than they do of Pinochet or Suharto.

That–patently ridiculous argument–appears to be the basis of about 90% of the comments on this thread…

182

notway 02.20.08 at 5:12 am

Let’s hear it for the middle-aged Cuban construction workers who held off the US forces for a while on Grenada.

Um, let’s not. I was involved in that operation, on the US side. 19 US servicemembers died in it.

I’m surprised there wasn’t more comment on it, but I realize it was a long time ago.

First, to correct a commenter above, the US invasion did not end the Maurice Bishop/New Jewel Movement government.

That was ended by a Stalinist coup by Bernard Coard and Hudson Austin. They killed Bishop, along with a few score Grenadines, in the month before we arrived.

Second, the people seemed genuinely happy to see us (Americans) after the unrest. I have no doubt they liked Bishop, but were terrorized and disgusted by what Coard and Austin did to him and to the rest of Grenada to uphold Leninist ideological purity.

183

albertchampion 02.20.08 at 5:14 am

odd comments. and as i read them, it seems as if there is no historical memory.

so let’s consider the history……

by and large, for most of the 20th century, cuba was an amerikan colony. and was ruled by amerikan commercial interests.

and it was ruled by a hefty bit of racism. few want to note that colonial cuba had a majority of the population that was quite noticeably of african-american descent[these were cuba's slaves]. and it had a minority that were of whiter coloration, mulatto, criolo. status, opportunity in cuba was linked to skin color: the whiter the better[just as an aside, it was this whiter segment of cuba that fled to the usa when racial status ceased to become the arbiter of who belonged to the cuban aristocracy].

but what happened in cuba after ww2 that really changed the equation. it was the oss/cia and its alliance with the mob. after the mob assisted amerikan intell in destroying the french and italian trade union movements after the great war, after it was allowed to refine indochinese opium in marseilles with impunity as the quid part of the quo, habana became the entrepot for the refined opium[heroin] into the northern territories of the western hemisphere.

and fulgencio batista and his goons became the private army of the jewish-sicilian-neapolitan gangster syndicate. cuba became the country/island virtually controlled by the luciano, lansky, trafficante, marcello mob.

narcotics trafficking, white slaving, crooked gambling was the hallmark of post ww2, pre-castro cuba. oh, and lots of murdering of those that opposed the mob and its goonsters[led by fulgencio batista].

everything was very sweet until batista decided to exact a larger tithe from the mob in 1957. that is when the mob and the outfit decided that batista the extortioner had to be defenestrated. that is why it was that the mob and the outfit armed and supported fidel and his little band, and went even further in advancing fidel’s military successes.

some day the files will be opened. and you will learn in excruciating detail how fervently the outfit worked to enable fidel to oust the gouger, fulgencia batista.

if you will recall, after fidel’s victory, it was going to be business as usual. the mob was going to still be empowered. to use habana as the transhipment point for marseilles-refined heroin into the usa. to continue to run the crooked casinos. to continue to run the brothels, the white-slaving.

for 6-12 months, fidel functioned as the new general manager for the mob in cuba. and then, i think, it dawned on him that as long as he allowed the mob[also the outfit] to operate in cuba, cuba would continue to be enslaved. as a colony of the mob and its associates[the outfit].

fidel’s epiphany was that unless cuba was managed as a garrison state, then the jewish-sicilian gangsters and its allies[the skull&boners] would continue to enslave cuba.

fidel was the only manager of any country that defenestrated the mob[and all its testicles, or is that tentacles?]. and realized that he had to cordon off cuba from the mob and its acolytes[the bush family, for instance].

that the usa has worked so hard to topple fidel should inform you how deeply the jewish-sicilan mob controlled/controls the amerikan political system. and how much the heroin traffic meant to so many[especially members of the russell trust and the black budget of the outfit].

as some of you may know, once cuba was lost as the western hemisphere’s entrepot for heroin trafficking, the traffic moved to panama.

and that, of course, was the reason for the george herbert walker bush invasion of panama. there were family and skull&bones financial records that had to be retrieved.

the principal player in this panama traffic was a cambio known as deak perrera. an outfit/mob joint venture dedicated to narcotics revenue money laundering. similar to the australian nugan hand bank. all the records of that perfidy were in panama. that was what the bushit’s invasion of panama was all about.

viva fidel.

184

Donald Johnson 02.20.08 at 5:20 am

Expand on that, engels.

I’ve not felt completely comfortable siding with any position I’ve seen in this thread. I don’t see a problem with pointing out the good accomplishments of any dictator along with his crimes. I don’t think the accomplishments outweigh the crimes–morality doesn’t work that way, but the crimes also don’t necessarily outweigh the accomplishments either. I don’t know enough about Castro’s actual record, but hypothetically speaking, if Cuban doctors working in Cuba and elsewhere have saved a great many lives that would otherwise been lost, then that should be part of how we evaluate him. It still doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have been imprisoned for his human rights crimes.

I’m also willing to compare Castro to his neighbors and take into account the horrific US record in the region. I don’t think it gets him off the hook.

As for Pinochet and Suharto, I can think of reasons why someone might think they were worse than Castro and I’d probably be inclined to agree with someone making that case, but it still doesn’t get Castro off the hook.

I’m speaking of his domestic human rights record. Americans are in no position at all to criticize his foreign policy interventions.

185

Ragout 02.20.08 at 5:29 am

Cuba has run about the kind of society you’d expect from a Latin American society under constant threat of invasion

It seems a bit odd to defend Castro on the grounds that Cuba has faced a threat of an invasion or a coup sponsored by the US. Which Latin American countries haven’t been threatened with invasion over the last 50 years?

After all, as the same people who are defending Cuba have pointed out, the US has launched coups and sponsored proxy wars in lots of Latin American countries. Cuba seems considerably worse to me than, say, Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. Are we to believe that if Allende had stayed in power, he’d have been as bad as Castro? Venezuela and Bolivia also don’t seem nearly as bad as Cuba: should be expect them to slide into dictatorship soon?

186

john c. halasz 02.20.08 at 5:31 am

All told, a wonderful and salutary exercize in reverse historicism. Cheers to all!

187

Randy Paul 02.20.08 at 5:48 am

It seems a bit odd to defend Castro on the grounds that Cuba has faced a threat of an invasion or a coup sponsored by the US.

Actually as part of the agreement toremove the missiles, Kennedy agreed to the following:

The U.S. will make a statement in the framework of the Security Council in reference to Cuba as follows: It will declare that the United States of America will respect the inviolability of Cuban borders, its sovereignty, that it take the pledge not to interfere in internal affairs, not to intrude themselves and not to permit our territory to be used as a bridgehead for the invasion of Cuba, and will restrain those who would plan to carry an aggression against Cuba, either from U.S. territory or from the territory of other countries neighboring to Cuba.”

While a convincing argument could be made that the pledge not to interfere in internal affairs and not to intrude ourselves has not been upheld, the part about carrying on aggression against Cuba (please don’t try to parse my meaning; aggression means military action) has been upheld.

188

albertchampion 02.20.08 at 5:57 am

and, it must be noted, there is another aspect of fidel’s cuba that might make some want to question the depths of his antipathy to the usa.

that aspect is how it was, how it has been, that fidel allowed the usa to maintain the mahanist control of the windward passage. why did fidel allow the usa to maintain gitmo after his insurrection?

that he allowed this might make you wonder about who really owned fidel.

for instance, if you were to take a chart, and look at it closely, you might notice that fidel controlled the principal choke points in the western caribbean[the yucatan straits, the straits of florida, the windward passage].

and yet, i think that the record, when revealed, will confirm that fidel preserved these mahanist choke points for the usa. never relinquished their control.

of even greater interest, fidel never publicised, objected to, zapata’s embedding icbm’s in cuban[or adjacent]waters. and surely fidel knew what zapata was doing in his territorial waters.

and you might ask yourself, was that why fidel never allowed anyone, even purportedly friendly american allies[especially total, elf], to drill for hydrocarbons in cuban waters?

i think it is clear that fidel’s cuba is beyond an enigma.

i have long thought that fidel was an amerikan asset. in the same rank as gaddafi, arafat. and a host of others[duvalier, bird, mobutu, amin, nasrullah, musharrif - to name but a few].

the great game for world domination persists.

189

voyou 02.20.08 at 6:08 am

Are we to believe that if Allende had stayed in power, he’d have been as bad as Castro?

Isn’t the question, rather, if Allende had been as bad as Castro, would he have stayed in power?

190

albertchampion 02.20.08 at 6:47 am

do you know anything about what nixon/kissinger did to chile?

part of the process was identical to what kermit roosevelt[cia] did to iran – spend ungodly amounts of us taxpayers’ money to depose a democratic republic and replace it with a dictatorship. a junta[a military dictatorship].

i would like to think that there may be some on this board who are knowledgeable as to how amerikan corporations cooperated with the nixon/kissinger/rockefeller secret state to replace a the parliamentary republic that was chile with a military dictatorship, but i am not so sure that anyone on this board recognizes the dimensions of the destabilisation.

some know of itt’s role in the events leading up to the coup. but few know of the other amerikan corporations that really created the torpedoeing of the chilean economy.

one of the major players was the champion spark plug company. most of you don’t know it, but the ceo of champion[a long time outfit shelter], bobby stranahan, along with joe coors, was the creator of the heritage foundation.

you know, spark plugs run the world. shut off their supply, and you can shut down a country. and that is one of the things that happened in allende’s chile…it was one of the circumstances that stimulated the truckers to oppose him. they couldn’t keep their trucks running because champion stopped supplying spark plugs to chile. the secret embargo.

of course, general motors[ac] and ford[autolite] joined in this shut down of the chilean infrastructure. you couldn’t get a spark plug in chile in 1972-1973 for any amount of money.

of course, this also brings up the conductor of the coup. the coup was run out of the ford foundation offices in santiago. these offices were southeast of the moneda palace. across from the carrera hotel.

surprisingly, you may not recognize it, but the ford foundation was then, probably still is, an agency of the evil empire.

amerikan imperialism was not to be circumscribed by some latin doctor.

victor jara sings to you now, from his grave, telling you of how the gangster general and his acolytes broke all his fingers, then crushed his larnyx, so that he could never play for you, sing to you, about how the usa killed his country, killed him.

and so many others.

this is an ignorant board. that knows nothing of what happened in chile.

oh, if i could capture you and take you to my villa grimaldi. oh what a contrition you would exclaim.

191

Zappa 02.20.08 at 7:12 am

“Let’s hear it for Elian Gonzalez”??? His mother died leaving Cuba and risked her young son’s life as well. And though he should have been returned to his father, the handling of the case and the subsequent narrow election in Florida in 2000, it can be argued that the Elian issue propelled Bush into the White House.

192

sidereal 02.20.08 at 7:23 am

However, the correct expression I believe is “Chris Bertram and his ilk“…

Sorry, I think you meant “Christ Bertram and his fellow travelers

As you were.

193

bad Jim 02.20.08 at 7:37 am

Is it too late to complain that his hat made him look silly? Nobody else wears anything like that any more.

194

MFB 02.20.08 at 9:28 am

A sidebar.

In 1987, the South African Defence Force decided to intervene in Angola in a big way. They were already occupying the southern part of the country, but after the defeat of Unita’s forces at Mavinga, which seemed to pave the way for a FAPLA (Angolan army) push all the way to Unita’s capital, the SADF put an armoured brigade in the field and defeated the MPLA at Lomba River. (I may have Mavinga and Lomba mixed up; it’s been a long time.)

They then decided to push northward and take Cuito Cuanavale, with the aim of assisting Unita’s supply lines to the centre of the country. The Cuban intervention not only blocked this; Cuban forces pushed south and, with air support that the South Africans could not match, eventually shoved the SADF out of Southern Angola. This meant that SWAPO’s PLAN were able to renew their guerrilla operations in Owamboland, SWAPO’s main support base.

How important was this? President Botha had staked his career on the military. He had declared a state of emergency in South Africa which essentially handed control of all political activity over to the Joint Management Centres of the State Security Council, which were run by the military. The military promised to run South Africa properly — by which is meant that they were preparing a death-squad which came to be known as the Civil Cooperation Bureau, although only a fraction of its activities have ever been revealed. However, key to all this was that the military should have the prestige to handle it.

Defeat in Angola shattered the prestige of the military and wrecked Botha’s career. This was precisely what they had been planning for over the previous thirteen years, since they had their behinds kicked outside Luanda in Operation Savannah, and they failed totally. As a result, they were pinned down in a renewed losing guerrilla war in Namibia.

As a direct result of that, Namibia attained its independence, which meant that Botha had to rein in the military. This probably also contributed to Botha’s stroke, which forced him into retirement and enabled F W De Klerk to come in. De Klerk, wrongly, thought that the apartheid government could control the ANC, and therefore unbanned it. He rightly realised, thanks to Cuito Cuanavale, that the apartheid government could no longer win with its military, because its military was not as effective as its propaganda had made it seem.

Now, none of this means that Castro sitting in Havana knew that this was going to happen. But it’s an indication that sometimes, doing the right thing actually has good consequences. In this context, Chris Bertram is absolutely right.

195

David 02.20.08 at 9:35 am

I have to say that I admire Castro personally—since he seems to me funny, bright and brave—as well as the usual (real) achievements that are wheeled out at times like these. But it isn’t really the socialism of freedom and plenty that we dreamed on, is it?

196

John M 02.20.08 at 9:57 am

“BTW, according to AI there are currently exactly 69 political prisoners in Cuba. That’s rather paltry, isn’t it? “

I had no idea that 69 was the acceptable number of politcal prisoners. I assume you calculate this as a proportion of the population of Cuba, which means, I guess, that the acceptable number of political prisoners for a country as large as the USA would be about 2,000? Phew! We can all stop fretting about the ‘paltry’ human rights abuses of Guantanamo Bay!

197

abb1 02.20.08 at 10:19 am

I had no idea that 69 was the acceptable number of politcal prisoners.

John M, yes, one political prisoner is one too many.

However, a claim was made here that the Castro government is executing and torturing its political opponents, eating live puppies and so on.

There are, in fact, according to the AI, exactly 69 political prisoners in Cuba. There is censorship. Dissidents are being harassed, sometimes detained overnight. That’s about it.

That’s the factual material available to you to convince me and others here that Cuba – politically – is Intolerable Tyranny and Hell on Earth. I’m not convinced so far. Your population-size arithmetics didn’t do it for me, sorry. We can compare and discuss the US human rights record (or Israel’s, as Seth suggested) against that of Cuba. Do you really want to go there?

198

John M 02.20.08 at 10:32 am

“However, a claim was made here that the Castro government is executing and torturing its political opponents, eating live puppies and so on.”

I missed the bit about killing puppies but Castro certainly did execute his politcal opponents at the start of his reign and has, by your own admission, continued to imprison and persecute them. One of the peristent rumours that you hear in Cuba is that he also engineered the deaths of Che and (especially) Camilo (I don’t believe it, but it illustrates the degree to which ordinary Cubans take it for granted that Fidel’s opponents wind up dead). I am only surprised that there should be an acceptable level of political oppression for Castro but not for Bush. I wonder whether you would continue to consider this all so ‘paltry’ if you were one of the imprisoned politicals.

199

chris armstrong 02.20.08 at 10:49 am

What an enlightening discussion. The thing it has taught me is that, apparently, anyone who has done some Really Bad Things (which means pretty much all states, right?), cannot be praised for having done Some Good Things too. And this doesn’t mean ‘praised overall’, which is not what Chris was doing, very clearly (we can all agree that overall, Cuba was a bad state, worse than many others). It means they cannot be praised for the few Good Things they did do, considered separately. This interests me, because I had not previously realised, for instance, that the Swedish policy of eugenics meant that the bolstering of the welfare state was also not a Good Thing. But now I know, which is good.

200

freshlysqueezedcynic 02.20.08 at 11:00 am

And thought you don’t want to acknowledge it there is an implied constitution in almost all Latin societies that demands that the military intervene when chaos is at hand.

I believe someone above was talking about the soft bigotry of low expectations?

I’m surprised at Chris Bertram. Not because Castro is a dictator and that is a Bad Thing (a fairly mundane observation), but my bet was on Daniel Davies being the one here to do the inevitable Conservative-And-US-Liberal-Baiting quasi-trolling post on Castro. At least his would have been a bit more entertaining and had extensive footnotes.

So cool the jets, this post was obviously made to get this kind of response. But as has been previously noted, gang, it’s not as if criticism of Castro – wild, over the top, hysterical criticism which ignored the historical and social conditions at that, criticism which goes no further in its’ analysis than Castro = Bad Man, even if some of the posters here are far more enlightened and intelligent – is an underground, little known phenomenon. It’s practically a cottage industry. I’m not exactly incensed that there’s a mildly qualified paragraph coming the other way.

201

abb1 02.20.08 at 11:02 am

John, yes, it seems paltry when you match it against the picture painted by anti-Castro propaganda. See, when you hear about all those (unspecified) unspeakable horrors every day of your life, you expect something a bit more impressive than 69 prisoners and some dissidents sometimes detained overnight. Do you see what I mean?

At the start of his (Castro’s) reign there was a revolution there, you know. That’s a pretty radical thing, you know. People get killed in that kind of situation every time, as a rule. What do you suggest – no revolutions? Every revolutionary is a terrible person? I’m not sure what you’re saying there.

202

bernarda 02.20.08 at 11:46 am

Of course the knee-jerk wingnuts and neocons come out of the woodwork. But one needs to relativize things. As Lider Maximo, Fidel was not nearly as bad as all the dictators in Latin America that the U.S. supported, from Trujillo to Somoza to Pinochet to many others.

Compare the population of Cuba to neighbors like Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and who do you think lives better? If the U.S. hadn’t maintained its criminal economic blockade of Cuba, Cubans would probably be doing even much better.

All the U.S. investment in neighboring countries has not improved the lives of the masses one iota.

Then there is the training that the U.S. gave to various dictators, war criminals, and death squads at the School of the Americas. All to keep the masses in their place.

How many hundreds of thousands did the U.S. cause to be massacred in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras? Whatever ever repression Castro carried out is nothing compared to what the U.S. has done in its client states.

203

Katherine 02.20.08 at 11:51 am

Well goodness me – who’d have thought that according to AI, Cuba is a minor abuser after all – 69 political prisoners in Cuba. There is censorship. Dissidents are being harassed, sometimes detained overnight. That’s about it. – good god, is that it? What are they complaining about? Wimps.

What AI actually says is that Cuba has a bad record in the following areas: freedom of expression and association, prisoners of conscience, arbitrary arrests, detention without charge or trial, unfair sentences, harrassment and intimidation of dissidents and critics and the death penalty. They also call for an end to the US embargo.

Now, remind me again how providing social welfare and staving off invasion by a neighbouring superpower necessarily requires any of the above?

204

Sam C 02.20.08 at 11:53 am

aaron_m, I suspect that I’ve missed the boat here, but in response to your 75: I was specifically asking novakant why (s)he thinks that Chris’s stance – deplore loss of one kind of right, praise satisfaction of another – ‘make[s] it impossible for the left to establish an uncompromising, credible and consistent position on human rights’ (43). I wondered if novakant thinks (mistakenly) that human rights are necessarily political rights, or (implausibly) that different rights never clash. I wasn’t stating any particular view on the historical relation between the satisfaction of political and of social rights (although I think your assertion about actually existing liberal democracies is a bit quick).

205

melk 02.20.08 at 12:19 pm

I’ll start having a better opinion of Castro’s Cuba when those little boats start travelling in the opposite direction. Any country that does not allow its citizens to freely leave is a prison. No sophisticated political rationalization is required.

206

Martin Wisse 02.20.08 at 12:21 pm

[Grenada]


Um, let’s not. I was involved in that operation, on the US side. 19 US servicemembers died in it.

I’m surprised there wasn’t more comment on it, but I realize it was a long time ago.

Imagined that, that when you invade another country those people actually fight back and might kill you. In the US you might want to pretend the deaths in combat of your soldiers is a crime against all humanity, but the rest of the world does not need to suffer this delusion.

207

minneapolitan 02.20.08 at 12:25 pm

Now, remind me again how providing social welfare and staving off invasion by a neighbouring superpower necessarily requires any of the above?

Look, I’m no friend of Castro. As an anarchist, I’m just as opposed to him as I am to anyone else who presumes to “lead”. But the above statement is breathtakingly foolish in its political naivete and the double-standard which it implies. There is a large, well-funded reaction which has as its stated goal the overthrow of the current government of Cuba. There are spies in Cuba itself, paramilitaries training in the Florida swamps, huge propaganda efforts, etc. etc. The Cuban government has every reason to suspect that dissidents, even left dissidents, are receiving aid from these various US-backed conspirators. Of course, it would speak much better of Castro and his government if their response was to open up Cuban society to a diversity of ideas, but if they did that, there’s a pretty good chance that the US would simply come in and buy back the populations’ affections just long enough to re-install a kleptocratic puppet regime like the one Cuba had before the revolution. And then, then you would see some human rights abuses. Castro’s Cuba may not be a paradise for free inquiry on some objective level, but relative to what many US client states are like in their treatment of dissent, it practically is.

All of this Cuba-bashing is pretty rich, given that many of the people commenting are apparently from the US, where the security forces regularly detain hundreds of people without charges (or on fake charges that are never pursued in court) for the crime of vocally opposing the regime and its wars. Not to mention using electro-shock torture as a routine method of controlling internal subject populations and sending agents provocateurs to spy on dissident groups. The US record on domestic human rights is no better than Cuba’s, it just happens that there’s a larger contingent of bought-off people like yourselves who know it’s in their interest to pretend that everything is okay. 2 million behind bars, folx.

208

Martin Wisse 02.20.08 at 12:36 pm

Katherine:

it takes no courage to condemn Castro and Cuba, as they’re official enemies of the US already. Your joining in is only more grist for the propaganda mill, will not help alliviate those abuses, but might well be used as justification for further action against the country.

Neither the exiles nor the US has the best interests of the Cuban population at heart, so I’m wary of any leftist who spents too much time attacking Castro when there are so many more deserving targets around, which are actually supported by our governments. (Mubarrak frex)

209

Martin Wisse 02.20.08 at 12:45 pm

Last thing and then I’ll shut up: minneapolitan makes a good point when they point out that the US’ human rights track record is certainly not much better than that of Cuba.

What I’ve seen over and over again in these sort of discussions is that because Cuba is presented as a dictatorship, any and all human right abuses are classified as inherent to the system, while our own, because our countries are official democraties are explained as incidents.

For example, the Netherlands does not have any official political prisoners, but our government does lock up minors in prison for no other crime than being “failed asylum seekers”. And this has been going on for five years or longer. Yet any suggestions that the Netherlands is a serial human rights abuser because of this are met with disdain.

210

Randy Paul 02.20.08 at 12:53 pm

Dsquared

As for Chavez, yeah I overestimated him. Obviously he’s little more than a blowhard whose mismanagement of his country’s resources is now leading to food shortages.

How my criticisms of Chavez put me on the side of those who advocated the Caracazo is merely more of yout strained “either with us or against us” orthodoxy.

As for "siding with people", Chavez has embraced Ahmadinejad, Qaddafi, Lukashenko and Mugabe as compatriots. Who looks stupid now?

Other Daniel,

[On Pinochet]He lost the plebiscite and handed over power – peacefully – to a democratic government.

Utter myth. He left office kicking and screaming comparing himself to Jesus Christ and on the night of the plebiscite, when it was clear that he was losing, he wanted to send the troops out on the street, but was overruled by the other junta members.I am so very tired of this tiresome argument: that Castro’s abuses notwithstanding, he did improve literacy and health care in Cuba. I am equally tired of the pro-Pinochet argument that sure, he disappeared some people, but he helped develop Chile into the economic powerhouse it is today ( debatable argument, by the way).

In any event, why defend Pinochet? This is a man whose secret police committed an act of terrorism in Washington, DC that resulted in the death of a US citizen?

If you want to defend an historical Latin American leader, consider Pepe Figueres of Costa Rica: he led a coup to put in place a leader who actually won an election, resigned from power after disbanding the military. The result has been a nation with low levels of poverty, excellent education and national health care. best of all, they didn’t have to jail or execute opponents and torture people to accomplish this.

211

Randy Paul 02.20.08 at 12:59 pm

Neither the exiles nor the US has the best interests of the Cuban population at heart, so I’m wary of any leftist who spents too much time attacking Castro when there are so many more deserving targets around, which are actually supported by our governments. (Mubarrak frex)

Ah the zero-sum argument on discussion of human rights abuses. Usually that gets advanced by those on the right who believe that criticism of Buh’s abuses means you’re not criticizing the likes of Mugabe. Poppycock.

Somehow I’ve never had the problem of criticizing human rights abusers regardless of their political leanings. It’s called consistency.

212

John M 02.20.08 at 1:05 pm

“There is a large, well-funded reaction which has as its stated goal the overthrow of the current government of Cuba.”

The same could be said of Israel, but they have managed to create stable democratic institutions, a free press and freedom of association and movement as well as universal health care and education for its citizens and a thriving economy. Of course, Israel has perpetrated its ‘fair share’ of human rights abuses in the occupied territories in the meantime, but CT-ers don’t seem to find the depth of sophisticated understanding for the Zionist state’s indiscretions as they do for the Fidelist one. In fact, they seem almost to prefer Fidelist dictaorship in Cuba to a democratric Israel, but that can’t be right, it must be my misreading.

213

maureen 02.20.08 at 1:08 pm

to john m

Two words – Mordechai Vanunu

214

minneapolitan 02.20.08 at 1:14 pm

john m and randy paul continue the song
“Chris Bertram isn’t worthy, to write on this blog,
Doesn’t hate Castro, he’s a communistic cog!”

215

section9 02.20.08 at 1:26 pm

You know, someday we’ll find out how many people Fidel and Raul actually had executed throughout the years. Then I’ll come back here and read some rationalization about making omelettes while resolutely standing up to Yanqui.

What, no good word for Pinochet around here? He had a much better tailoring, and his social security plan actually worked.

Two words: “Jesus wept.”

216

Z 02.20.08 at 1:31 pm

What I’ve seen over and over again in these sort of discussions is that because Cuba is presented as a dictatorship, any and all human right abuses are classified as inherent to the system, while our own, because our countries are official democraties are explained as incidents.

I have always thought this to be a good point.

217

freshlysqueezedcynic 02.20.08 at 1:33 pm

Come see the violence inherent in the incidents.

218

ajay 02.20.08 at 1:35 pm

the US would simply come in and buy back the population’s affections just long enough to re-install a kleptocratic puppet regime like the one Cuba had before the revolution.

You don’t seem to have much faith in the Cuban people, minneapolitan. Surely they would rise in revolt to restore Castro and the revolution, which they all support because the health care’s so good?

(Incidentally, we are sure they support it, right? I only ask because they haven’t had a free election since 1959, and that might suggest that… OK, sorry I brought it up.)

155:Apart from the achievements in health care and education, Cuba also has a relatively good human rights record – compared to the other countries in the region. Nothing Castro did can compare the (US supported) contra terror attacks on schools and hospitals in Nicaragua, etc, etc

Except, of course, the Angolan war. (If we really must get into the “supporting bloodshed abroad” game).

219

Don Quijote 02.20.08 at 1:50 pm

Um, let’s not. I was involved in that operation, on the US side. 19 US servicemembers died in it.

Though shit!!!

Don’t forget the 49 Grenadians who died defending their country against foreign invaders or the 29 Cuban Workers whom you killed not to mention the hundreds of wounded.

220

abb1 02.20.08 at 2:05 pm

Now, remind me again how providing social welfare and staving off invasion by a neighbouring superpower necessarily requires any of the above?

Staving off invasion (or, rather, intervention, including covert actions) by a neighboring superpower certainly does require most if not all of it.

Now, maybe “staving off invasion” is mostly an excuse for Castro and the Cuban establishment to stay in power – may be, I don’t know – but we will never know for sure; and it’s certainly a great excuse. Not only does it keep them in power, it makes them look positively heroic (in the David/Goliath sort of way) all over the world.

221

dsquared 02.20.08 at 2:30 pm

How my criticisms of Chavez put me on the side of those who advocated the Caracazo is merely more of yout strained “either with us or against us” orthodoxy.

You were advocating a vote against him in the referendum on midterm elections, and specifically a vote for a coalition that was supported by Carlos Andres Perez.

222

Daniel 02.20.08 at 2:36 pm

In fact, they seem almost to prefer Fidelist dictaorship in Cuba to a democratric Israel, but that can’t be right, it must be my misreading

it is your misreading, it’s obviously an intentional misreading and I would be very grateful if you would turn it in, please.

223

John M 02.20.08 at 2:42 pm

“Staving off invasion (or, rather, intervention, including covert actions) by a neighboring superpower certainly does require most if not all of it.2

But it doesn’t. As pointed out above, other states have managed to build stable prosperous democracies while facing security threats as great or greater than Cuba. I agree with the rest of what you say, though, about the heavy-handed US position being a gift for a dictator like Fidel.

224

Daniel 02.20.08 at 2:51 pm

Oh wonderful

The same could be said of Israel, but they have managed to create stable democratic institutions, a free press and freedom of association and movement as well as universal health care and education for its citizens and a thriving economy.

Emphasis added, because if you get to cherry-pick four million people whose property you expropriated, pile them up in refugee camps, and declare them not to be citizens, then you can have a great democratic society for your “citizens”.

225

Randy Paul 02.20.08 at 2:58 pm

“Chris Bertram isn’t worthy, to write on this blog,
Doesn’t hate Castro, he’s a communistic cog!”

Gee, I don’t recall saying that. On the other hand, you’re still dodging the substance of my posts. I’m not an anti-communist; I’m an anti-human rights abuser.

Dsquared,

It was also supported by this man who had absolutely nothing to do with the Caracazo and whose influence in Venezuelan political life is far greater than CAP’s is. No points for trying to smear me.

226

abb1 02.20.08 at 3:05 pm

As pointed out above, other states have managed to build stable prosperous democracies while facing security threats as great or greater than Cuba.

Is this about Israel? You’ve gotta be kidding. They have tens of thousands of political prisoners, practice torture, assassinations, and, basically, randomly murder people on a regular basis.

Cuba, by the way, does have democratic institutions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_Cuba

Cuba is, of course, stable and relatively prosperous too, considering.

227

John M 02.20.08 at 3:08 pm

“Is this about Israel? You’ve gotta be kidding. They have tens of thousands of political prisoners, practice torture, assassinations, and, basically, randomly murder people on a regular basis.”

Weird, though, isn’t it, that no Israelis act as if this is the case. My friends are openly oppositional of the government and organise against them and yet they are are still free to publish, travel, leave and enter. Amazing really. Of course, thIsrael commits its ‘fair share’ of abuses on the territories, but surely everyone is entitled to a fair share?

228

Cian 02.20.08 at 3:09 pm

John M: Israel hasn’t faced a serious threat to its existence since its founding (and its debatable how serious that threat was), 1967 included. Its the local super power – and its never faced anything to remotely compare to what Cuba’s faced. That is not a serious argument.

229

John M 02.20.08 at 3:09 pm

“Cuba, by the way, does have democratic institutions”

No, an institution isn’t democratic just because it is called democratic by the state. Remember the GDR?

230

john b 02.20.08 at 3:10 pm

Cuba is, of course, stable and relatively prosperous too, considering.

Indeed – Americans, even liberals, seem to have this bizarre view that Cuba is Uniquely Awful And Bad, rather than the correct answer that it’s about as corrupt, abitrary brutal and poor as most developing countries and rather less so than most dictatorships (and with less death through preventable starvation and disease than most of either).

In some ways, that’s the biggest effect of the embargo – it means that most Americans only experience Cuba via the Miami migrants and politicans who’re appeasing them.

231

Randy Paul 02.20.08 at 3:10 pm

Abb1,

Try Costa Rica.

232

John M 02.20.08 at 3:12 pm

“Its the local super power – and its never faced anything to remotely compare to what Cuba’s faced. That is not a serious argument.”

Don’t be silly. Israel has had to counter all the local military powers militarily. Cuba has only had to resist a single raggle-taggle invasion of enthusiatic amateurs and a lot of pamphlets. When was th last US suicide bombing in havana? When the last rocket attack?

233

Jacob Traff 02.20.08 at 3:23 pm

A.J.P. Taylor also said: ‘Without democracy Socialism would be worth nothing, but democracy is worth a great deal even when it is not socialist’.

234

SG 02.20.08 at 3:27 pm

john m, why don’t you address 226 first, eh?

235

Cian 02.20.08 at 3:29 pm

Human rights abuses in democratic Jamaica are far worse than in Cuba (and its a far, far, worse place to be gay). Human rights abuses in democratic Columbia are far worse than in Cuba. At various points they’ve been far worse in Brazil and Haiti (they currently still are, if Haiti is considered democratic still), the Dominican Republic, etc. Plenty of African countries have combined democracy with serious human rights abuses. There are human rights abuses in the Philippines.

The idea that representational, or liberal, democracy is somehow a bulwark against human rights abuses has always seemed a strange argument, as there’s little evidence for it. There are good arguments for democracy (in all its forms, not just those known by good Bourgeoise westerners), but I’m not sure that’s one.
And yes, sure, dictatorships often commit human rights abuses to stay in power, but then so do democracies.

Not that this is a defence of Castro particularly. From my own libertarian-marxist perspective, Cuba is not something to aim for – on the other hand I have a sense of perspective. There are far worse places, and Cuban development has to some degree been constrained by historical and geographical realities. I suspect Castro is the kind of control freak with dictatorial tendencies, but then he came of age politically in a S. Africa which had seen a mildly reformist, and democratic, government overthrown in Guatemala. It was hard to see then (and until recently) how a progressive government could withstand the US from within a democracy.
As for the human rights abuses. Well no, its not good. The executions post-revolution I’m pretty relaxed about – the regime they overthrow was pretty revolting, and those guys were dangerous. But I don’t think subsequent arrests, and censorship was particularly justified in Cuba, any more than in much of the rest of the world where these things happen.

On the other hand, my cynical side suspects that intellectuals get worked up about places like Cuba because its people like them who are locked up, beaten. Whereas in much of the rest of the world (including to some extent the US) its the poor, the invisibles.

As for democracy. I think the best argument against Castro as dictator, which oddly one rarely sees made, is that it was very inefficient. It was also a weakness structurally, as things had to go through Castro. This didn’t matter until the Soviet subsidies ended – and its interesting that Cuba became much more pluralistic and democratic when the country had to scrabble to survive – and this seems to have made a big difference. For those interested, there are some interesting lessons about democracy from the ground up there, which could be copied in less authoritarian societies. I think the achievements of Cuba during the Soviet years are largely unimpressive, but post-Soviet achievements in things like agriculture (largely without fertilisers, or much in the way of energy inputs), pharmaceuticals – as well as keeping their education and healthcare systems are impressive. Whether its sustainable is an interesting question – and I hope that they will be able to move away from the sex/tourism model that countries in their position are normally forced into due to the need for foreign currency. Pharmaceuticals might be one answer.

236

Cian 02.20.08 at 3:33 pm

No, an institution isn’t democratic just because it is called democratic by the state. Remember the GDR?

Impressive knee-jerk. Bit more impressive if you actually had bothered to read the article, rather than spout dogma.

237

Cian 02.20.08 at 3:37 pm

Don’t be silly. Israel has had to counter all the local military powers militarily.

It hasn’t faced attack since 1948 (or do we still believe the propoganda about 1967, just as some believe that Iraq was a war of defence), and the armies that face it are pretty pathetic. Israel on the other hand has the best military equipment in the world and a professional, well disciplined, army – and the US has its back if all else fails.

238

abb1 02.20.08 at 3:48 pm

Cian, sounds like we watched the same documentary about agriculture in post-Soviet Cuba – organic, low energy consumption, coop-based. I forgot, was it a BBC documentary?

239

John M 02.20.08 at 3:52 pm

“It hasn’t faced attack since 1948 (or do we still believe the propoganda about 1967″

pPrsonally I think there was a real threat in 1967, and, as far as I can tell, so do most others. There will always be deniers, of course.

240

John M 02.20.08 at 3:55 pm

“As for democracy. I think the best argument against Castro as dictator, which oddly one rarely sees made, is that it was very inefficient. “

This rather lets the cat out of the bag.

241

John M 02.20.08 at 4:07 pm

In case you are wondering why your ears are burning Cian, Abb1 and Chris, it may be because Norm is talking about you:

http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2008/02/the-better-left.html

242

abb1 02.20.08 at 4:09 pm

Ah, I found it, it’s a CBC documentary. Cuba: The Accidental Revolution.

243

Cian 02.20.08 at 4:12 pm

Sigh. I forgot one has to deal with the language police. Yes I should have been clearer, but I doubt I could ever be clear enough to satisfy such policeman of the left as John M.

To be (tediously) clear I am bracketing moral concerns, not because I don’t think they matter, but simply because they are not relevant to the point I am making.

I mean the strongest argument against dictatorship of the type experienced/endured/enjoyed/suffered by Cuba being used as a method towards economic/social development, is that it would have been much more effective and successful in Cuba, if Castro had not been the sole leader from on high. The major weakness in Cuba’s development until comparatively recently, when this has changed for pragmatic reasons, is that it was managerially inefficient.

As for questions of political and social freedom. Well I guess all Cuba shows is that most people (and certainly the poor) can have more of both of these in a dictatorship, than in many a third world liberal democracy. I would consider this more a critique of liberal democracy as a form of political structure, than praise of Cuba. I don’t think Cuba is admirable on either of these criteria, though I don’t think it deserves special censure. Most of the world is probably worse, sadly.

As for Cuba’s development. I have a suspicion, given its geography, history and natural resources – that what has happened is the best that could be expected. I could be wrong, though I’ve yet to see a serious argument to convince me otherwise.

244

Cian 02.20.08 at 4:15 pm

The only person whose ears are burning is the strawman outside Norm’s window.

245

Cian 02.20.08 at 4:17 pm

Or to be more specific. The serious comparison is not with western democracies, but liberal democracies in countries mired in undevelopment, with powerful elites, huge inequalities, etc. A comparison that Norm dodges, probably because it would never occur to him.

246

Katherine 02.20.08 at 4:45 pm

Katherine:

it takes no courage to condemn Castro and Cuba, as they’re official enemies of the US already.

I’m not from the US, so they are not my official enemy.

I condemn Castro just like I’ll condemn any dictator of whatever political stripe. Right, left whatever. A dictator is as a dictator does. None of them deserve a pass.

247

Katherine 02.20.08 at 4:47 pm

Sorry, that first paragraph after my name should be in itallics too. It’s from comment #210 above.

248

lemuel pitkin 02.20.08 at 4:49 pm

Abb1 and Cian have said pretty much all there is to say about this. Bottom line: of the possibilities realistically open to Cuba in the late ’50s, the one realized under Castro was among the best possible for the vast majority fo the Cuban population.

249

John M 02.20.08 at 4:52 pm

“of the possibilities realistically open to Cuba in the late ‘50s, the one realized under Castro was among the best possible for the vast majority fo the Cuban population”

But presumably the vast majority of the Cuban population would disagree. That must be castro’s view or why prevent them from forming political parties and contesting elections?

250

Jim S. 02.20.08 at 4:56 pm

There are so many comments that one really does not want to add to this, but nevertheless:

U.S. converage of Castro unbalanced? What about all the pro-Castro screeds in the U.S.A.? And, for that matter, all those people who troop on down to help with the sugar cane crop? That certainly offsets the “blockade,” does’nt it?

251

abb1 02.20.08 at 5:30 pm

#229: My friends are openly oppositional of the government and organise against them and yet they are are still free to publish, travel, leave and enter.

Now, see, I find this amazing. You clearly prefer a state with thousands of political prisoners that is tolerant of token dissent/opposition to a state with 69 political prisoners that is not tolerant of token dissent/opposition. This doesn’t make sense to me at all. As someone (possibly you) said above: what if you are one of these prisoners? When they attach electrodes to your testicles, does it make you happy knowing that internal critics of the regime are allowed to publish, travel, leave and enter?

252

engels 02.20.08 at 5:32 pm

U.S. converage of Castro unbalanced?

Tricky one, that. Like “Is the Pope Catholic?”

253

lemuel pitkin 02.20.08 at 5:33 pm

why prevent them from forming political parties and contesting elections?

Again, other have answered this question, but:

- Because given the resources the US was willing to put into restoring the old regime in Cuba, free and fair elections were impossible?

- Because defense against the US meant alliance with the USSR, for which a major quid pro quo was a monopoly of power by the Communist party?

- – Because the personalities and institutions encessary to overthrow the quasi-colonial regime just weren’t comaptible with it?

“So it’s all Washington’s fault?” you skeptically ask. Yes. Yes it is.

254

lemuel pitkin 02.20.08 at 5:34 pm

(Also Washington’s fault: preview’s fiendishly misleading display of lists.)

255

Katherine 02.20.08 at 5:35 pm

of the possibilities realistically open to Cuba in the late ‘50s, the one realized under Castro was among the best possible for the vast majority fo the Cuban population.

Like John M says, presumably it would have been foolish for the Cuban people themselves to have had a say in what was the best possible outcome for the vast majority of them. Y’know, with freedom of expression, and political parties and elections, that kind of thing.

256

john b 02.20.08 at 5:46 pm

Shorter #252: “I saw a student selling the Socialist Worker yesterday. Therefore, the mainstream media leans pro-communist.”

(and #257 mysteriously appears to be answered by #255 – timewarp-tacular)

257

lemuel pitkin 02.20.08 at 5:46 pm

presumably it would have been foolish for the Cuban people themselves to have had a say in what was the best possible outcome for the vast majority of them. Y’know, with freedom of expression, and political parties and elections, that kind of thing.

Yes, that’s right. Given the commitment of the US to restoring the old regime in Cuba, and the vast resources it was willing to devote to this, it would have been foolish to hold elections in Cuba.

(The identification of “political parties and leections” with “the people having a say” is foolish in its own way.)

258

engels 02.20.08 at 6:07 pm

Remarkable how many Americans here seem able, without batting an eyelid, to call Castro an evil man on account of the widespread poverty in Cuba.

“Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!”

259

freshlysqueezedcynic 02.20.08 at 6:16 pm

What about all the pro-Castro screeds in the U.S.A.?

God, yes. I for one am outraged by the daily “Greetings from the Glorious Revolution” program on CNN, not to mention the dedicated Castro column in the New York Times.

260

Random African 02.20.08 at 6:34 pm

Now, none of this means that Castro sitting in Havana knew that this was going to happen. But it’s an indication that sometimes, doing the right thing actually has good consequences. In this context, Chris Bertram is absolutely right.

the right thing ?

I would like you to go tell that to angolan peasants who saw their villages napalmed by Cubans and all the other victims of that war.

261

capelza 02.20.08 at 6:46 pm

To #262, random african.

I do need to remind you that if we are talking about villages naplamed (not to mention carpet bombing, deadly hebicides, etc, etc) then the US certainly has no leg to stand on.

I have always found it rather insane that we embargo Cuba.

And as for Elian’s mother…her boyfirend was the coyote who smuggled people into Miami for money. It was a tragedy, but do not make her out to be some sainted individual looking for freedom for it’s own sake.

Finally, will the folks who have created a comfortable existence in Florida really want to go back if the property they once had is not returned to them? And how would the people who have stayed feel about that? What’s the Spanish word for carpetbagger?

262

Donald Johnson 02.20.08 at 7:48 pm

So nobody would have died violently in Angola if Castro had had the decency to let South Africa and the US and Savimbi have their way?

263

Donald Johnson 02.20.08 at 7:50 pm

I mean, look at Mozambique. No Cuban troops there, I don’t think. The place was a paradise–no South Africa backing Renamo, nothing bad happening at all, cuz those nasty Castroites minded their own business.

264

section9 02.20.08 at 8:26 pm

Michael Totten put paid to this nonsense over at Winds of Change. His post, in Armed Liberal’s comments, in full here, say it better than I could:

“John Derbyshire is a nutjob, but he could not have been more right when he wrote this: ‘Wherever there is a jackboot stepping on a human face, there will be a well-heeled Western liberal there to assure us that the face enjoys free health care and a high degree of literacy.’ “

265

seth edenbaum 02.20.08 at 8:36 pm

I’ll try one more time:
The US is responsible for more deaths in the past 5 years in Iraq than Castro’s government is in 50. But the US is a democracy with freedom of speech for its citizens. The world is a complex place.

This “debate” is rooted in taboos concerning the state, as the horror over suicide bombing is rooted in taboos about the state and the body. The corollary of all this is that some leaders deserve to be worshipped as heros. But Lincoln wasn’t a hero to the people who’d been fighting for abolition for 50 years, his reactions were as slow as molasses. Finally the good deed got done, because Lincoln was a mediator, and mediators don’t have clean hands. Can a mediator be a hero?
Man, life’s so complex!!

It’s all just silliness.

266

seth edenbaum 02.20.08 at 8:39 pm

“Wherever there is a jackboot stepping on a human face, and a Republican can say it’s in America’s interest…”

We’ll “foot” the bill.

idiot

267

geo 02.20.08 at 9:41 pm

There’s been a lot of fancy swordplay on this thread, which I enjoy as much as or more than the next lazy and narcissistic intellectual. I do *not* mean to disparage it by asking: what is the practical upshot of our disagreements? I can’t imagine anyone who’s posted here signing a public letter in support of American military intervention in Cuba or failing to sign a public letter demanding that the embargo be ended. And I’m not sure what, besides signing a public letter, any of us will ever have an opportunity to *do* (not that signing a public letter amounts to doing much of anything). Can anyone suggest some policy measure, something non-verbal, that Chris Bertram and Randy Paul, Cian and John M, Katherine and abb1, et al would actually take different sides about?

268

Random African 02.20.08 at 9:46 pm

There’s a difference between SA backing Renamo and SA getting fully involved.
It’s quite the same on the other side, Frelimo was a lot more willing to negotiate than MPLA for a reason.

And as far as Savimbi, SA, the US having their way, you’d have to prove that SA was backing UNITA from day one.

Furthermore, the idea that Cuba was fighting apartheid is a stupid one. They were supporting a leninist colleague and fighting “imperialism”. And they did the same in other countries. In Congo-Brazzaville, that included “experts” advising on the best torture techniques to use against any kind of opposition (even, other lefties).

269

Robin 02.20.08 at 9:53 pm

“And as far as Savimbi, SA, the US having their way, you’d have to prove that SA was backing UNITA from day one.”

Why, unless you want to take “no one” very literally?

270

Katherine 02.20.08 at 9:54 pm

it would have been foolish to hold elections in Cuba.

So what was the excuse for the remaining decades? Why, one would almost think Castro didn’t want to hold elections at all.

271

Katherine 02.20.08 at 9:58 pm

The US is responsible for more deaths in the past 5 years in Iraq than Castro’s government is in 50.

And you won’t get any argument from me there. But the X hundred thousand dead in Iraq doesn’t make the hundreds in Cuba any less dead. Nor does it make of those individuals any less important. Bad versus worse doesn’t make bad any less bad.

272

Random African 02.20.08 at 10:00 pm

Why, unless you want to take “no one” very literally?

huh ? I’m not sure what you’re trying to say.

273

Phersv 02.20.08 at 10:17 pm

Does anyone know a reliable figure for literacy in Cuba before Castro?

A quick googling gives me anything between 27% (the pro-Castro), 50% (but only in urban areas) to 84% (the anti-Castro). I find no way to see whether the progress of literacy during the Castro regime is a myth or if the progress of other Latin American countries was indeed relatively impressive.

274

j barton 02.20.08 at 10:26 pm

Blockade?

Is that careless language, or since I see no one else pointing out this inaccuracy should I assume everyone on this page is under the delusion that there’s been a blockade?

Try embargo. There’s a very big difference.

275

mofo 02.20.08 at 10:31 pm

Having been trapped in the not-so-cryptofascist hell of South Florida & La Exila for the past quarter-century, all I can say is thanks for the post! To borrow the wording from an earlier post, no “pass” for Castro’s crimes – – – But no pasaran for the Posadas & Boschs who we (in the USofA)harbor & immunize, the GWOT to the contrary notwitstanding. Beware the Exploding Cigars.

276

seth edenbaum 02.20.08 at 10:32 pm

“Can anyone suggest some policy measure, something non-verbal, that Chris Bertram and Randy Paul, Cian and John M, Katherine and abb1, et al would actually take different sides about?”

Israel

277

lemuel pitkin 02.20.08 at 10:33 pm

So what was the excuse for the remaining decades?

Sorry, the remaining decades since when?

The case of e.g. Palestine would certainly make me think twice about holding elections, if I were in the leadership of a national liberation movement in a country the US took an interest in.

It would be wonderful to live in a world where the US government allowed small, vulnerable countires to hold free elections even if the results might run contrary to its domestic or imperial goals. It’s hardly Castro’s fault that we don’t.

278

digamma 02.20.08 at 10:39 pm

I don’t feel the need to go around condemning everything right-wingers don’t like…. but you won’t see me saying “let’s hear it” for the Castros of the world either.

279

geo 02.20.08 at 10:44 pm

#274: No, no, I meant with respect to Cuba.

280

Kevin P. 02.20.08 at 11:13 pm

Posted by dsquared:
By the way, our new Republican friends, given what you’ve tolerated over the last five years in terms of restrictions on civil liberties, I wonder what your man George Bush would have done if the USA had a neighbour ten times its size which had financed two or three attempts at coup d’etat.

I am a brown-skinned immigrant to America and I feel my civil liberties are quite intact here, even after the events of 9/11.

On the other hand, after Pearl Harbour, liberal Democrat icon Franklin Delano Roosevelt locked up tens of thousands of persons of Japanese descent, including US citizens.

But hey, dsquared gets to engage in his characteristic sneer. What is it with the Brits that they love to sneer?

281

william 02.20.08 at 11:22 pm

In the above discussion of African freedom fighters that Fidel helped why is there no mention of Mengitsu (sp approx) in Ethiopia. By any standard, even African or Communist standards, he was a particularly brutal dictator, and Fidel helped him take power. Also,during the Cuban missle crisis we have the word of a Soviet military attache that Castro recommended a preemptive nuclear strike on the USA. Why doesn’t anyone hold that against him? No one would judge Bush a success because he expanded Medicare prescription coverage. Why do you judge Castro a success because of Cuba’s health facilities? Why are there more black faces in a Republican cabinet than in the Cuban politburo? Why do you consider equality a better metric of happiness than freedom?

282

Gringo 02.20.08 at 11:32 pm

So let’s hear it for universal literacy and decent standards of health care.
In 1957, Cuba had ~ 128 physicians and dentists per 100,000, comparable to the US and Western European countries, better than many countries in Europe and surpassed only by Argentina and Uruguay in Latin America. While Caudillo Fidel may have contended that he inherited a banana republic, those bananas were pretty good.

In 1959,Cuba’s literacy was 76% , fourth in Latin America. Not perfect, but not bad, either.

Perhaps one way of looking at Cuba under Caudillo Fidel is to look at how Cuba kept up with technological progress. Back in the 1950s, TV was the next big thing. In 1957, Cuba’s number of TVs per 1,000 inhabitants was first in Latin America and fifth in the world . We fast-forward a half century, where Internet access is now the next big thing. For 2004, Cuba was last in Latin America and 171st out of 211 countries in Internet access per 1,000. (World Bank Development Indicators, which because my access to it comes via a library license, cannot be linked to)

It is amusing hearing posters trying to compare emigration from Ireland in the 1950s to current emigration from Cuba. What makes it amusing is that before 1959, Europeans immigrated to Cuba. Fidel’s Gallego father was by no means the only immigrant from Spain. What does that tell you?

Literacy, MD and Dentists, TV info:
http://www1.lanic.utexas.edu/la/cb/cuba/asce/cuba8/30smith.pdf

283

Mike G 02.20.08 at 11:51 pm

let’s hear it for universal literacy and decent standards of health care

Let’s hear it for the high probability that, after the Castro regime’s fall, neither turns out to have been true about Cuba.

284

"Mindles H. Dreck" 02.20.08 at 11:56 pm

who cares about economic prosperity if you aren’t healthy, educated, and so on. That’s because I think that education and health are intrinsically valuable, whereas ‘participating in the economy’ is mostly just instrumentally valuable. But if free-market economic activity is the point, then I suppose Cuba seems pretty evil.

Two swings, two misses. What is the point of either if you aren’t free and can’t own yourself and the product of your labor? Patrick Henry’s sentiments are apt here.

Feed animals are mostly healthy and well-fed (education we haven’t tried, but you’d be shocked at what NIH prescribes for lab rats).

285

Gringo 02.21.08 at 12:06 am

So let’s hear it for universal literacy and decent standards of health care.
I don’t hear you cheering for Pinochet, who had a better record in reducing Infant Mortality than Castro. Sources: UCLA’s Statistical Abstract of Latin America, and various ECLA yearbooks. Who got Infant Mortality below 20 faster, and with fewer MDs per population to boot? Check it out.

In 1957, Cuba had ~ 1000 inhabitants per MD, comparable to the US and Western European countries, better than many countries in Europe and all the “Third World” countries with the exception of Argentina, Uruguay, and Hong Kong.(UN, World Health Organization yearbook) While Caudillo Fidel may have contended that he inherited a banana republic, those bananas were pretty good.

In 1959,Cuba’s literacy was 76% , fourth in Latin America. Not perfect, but not bad, either.

Perhaps one way of looking at Cuba under Caudillo Fidel is to look at how Cuba kept up with technological progress. Back in the 1950s, TV was the next big thing. In 1957, Cuba’s number of TVs per 1,000 inhabitants was first in Latin America and fifth in the world . We fast-forward a half century, where Internet access is now the next big thing. For 2004, Cuba was last in Latin America and 171st out of 211 countries in Internet access per 1,000. (World Bank Development Indicators)

It is amusing hearing posters trying to compare emigration from Ireland in the 1950s to current emigration from Cuba. What makes it amusing is that before 1959, Europeans immigrated to Cuba. What does that tell you?

Renaissance and Decay has information on TV, medical, and literacy data for Cuba, pre and post 1959.

286

Donald Johnson 02.21.08 at 12:34 am

#282–

Well, it is all about you, after all. If you’re feeling okay, no need to worry about anyone else.

As for the FDR reference, it may come as a shock to you, but some of us lefty types aren’t afraid to bash liberal icons when they violate human rights on a massive scale. Roosevelt was wrong and the only Americans who defend what he did these days tend to be rightwingers like Michelle Malkin.

287

grackle 02.21.08 at 12:51 am

Perusing this cornucopia of opinion over the last couple of days, I am astounded at the fecundity of our race’s indomitable self regard. Not at all offended, but astounded by the certainty of it all. Still though, I continue to harbor a bit of affection for Castro – who came to power when I was just out of grade school – because of his staying power, because of the wonder of his at-one-time-often-twelve-hour-long speeches, because of the probability that he was always concerned with the poor more than his own enrichment, that no one suggested – nor has even on this thread – that he in it for material gains rather than the Cuban people. Yes, he may embody a form of vainglory but I still have admired the wonderful hubris he has embodied that has said that Cuba exists, with or without the approval of the United States, in its own terms, with its own culture. I have always understood that it was about Cuba and the Cuban people and in a world of delusions, at least it has been a vision with something on the line. Hasta la victoria siempre!

288

Armed Liberal 02.21.08 at 1:16 am

If this thread didn’t exist, someone would dream it up; it’s Danny Postel’s “Legitimation Crisis/Tehran” writ small.

I especially loved this comment “it takes no courage to condemn Castro and Cuba, as they’re official enemies of the US already. Your joining in is only more grist for the propaganda mill, will not help alliviate those abuses, but might well be used as justification for further action against the country.”

I’d say in these environs it would take more courage to attack Castro and defend the US; it’s like the movie stars in the press who talk about how brave they are to stand in front of their peers and criticize Bush. Somehow I’m missing something in that claim.

Over on my blog, a commenter noted:

“What I find incredible about Bertram’s post is that it looks like Bertram read Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language” and decided he was going to write something that Orwell would have included as an example of the awful political language that essay was criticizing.”

Not much else to add; thanks for the entertainment.

Another ‘Decent’

A.L.

289

Donald Johnson 02.21.08 at 1:22 am

Yeah, A.L., it takes real “courage” to criticize Castro in the comments section of a blog, if you define “courage” as a willingness to get into some mildly unpleasant argument with someone online.

This is sorta like the use of the word “brave” that one often sees in book reviews at the NYT. I do not think the word means what some people think it means.

Let me show my guts. I think that in an ideal world Castro would be imprisoned for his violations of human rights. God, I can hardly believe the suicidal risk I just took.

290

MarkJ 02.21.08 at 1:29 am

Jesus, Joseph, Mary, and All the Blessed Santeria Saints,

Just finished reading through all the comments. Thousands of words, butt-loads of Money Market Marxist chichi sloganeering, and yet not one gratuitous reference to the Rosenbergs, the Scottboro Boys, or the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.

Damn, comrades, you’re really slipping. I cordially recommend a self-criticism timeout to develop a truly correct attitude.

291

lol! 02.21.08 at 1:56 am

Hyperbolic nonsense from dsquared as usual. Restriction of civil liberties he says! Which is hilarious, since the UK and most of Europe actually have tighter surveillance laws than anything in the United States. The facts simply do not bear him out, and he will not be able to support his hyperbole on a factual basos.

And as Kevin P observes, the characteristic sneering! Which is amusing, because it is clearly a defence mechanism , a preemptive dismissive, just in case he gets rumbled, as he usually does. :)

292

Armed Liberal 02.21.08 at 1:57 am

donald, you’ve got to work on those reading skillz. I quoted someone from this thread taking about courage, and derided the notion that – in comments on this blog (or in real speech, given my cite about the Hollywood stars) in this company – supporting Castro was a courageous act.

I certainly don’t see blogging by those of us in the First or Second World as a courageous act; in China, possibly. I’d say blogging in Cuba would be an absolute act of heroism, if one was not going to spout the Party line.

But I’m just not educated enough to understand the depth of your comment…

A.L.

293

engels 02.21.08 at 1:58 am

Donald #186 I may not have explained it very well and it wasn’t primarily directed at you, but I don’t see why it is much of argument against A saying of dictator X ‘he did some very bad things but also did some very good things’ that when B said the same thing in a similar context about dictator Y, A would have found this objectionable. The two cases might in fact be very different, so while a mixed judgment like this might be appropriate in the one case, it might not be in the other. It seems clear to me that when we speak of Hitler, say, we feel that the bad he did so much outweighs any possible good as to make the latter seem–in most contexts–unworthy of mention. But it seems equally clear that this is not always the case. It depends on the details…

294

World B Free 02.21.08 at 2:52 am

This f’n thread is the epitome of why us liberals lose elections, don’t control any judicial institutions and cannot shape any meaningful policy.

A similar thread praising Pinochet at any reputable intellectual right-wing blog [think Volokh for instance] would have a ton of comments praising Pinochet’s repression of communists real and imagined, while briefly glossing over the “alleged” human right abuses.

In fact, a real intellectual conservative would claim to “lack standing” (to use a favorite legal term) to pass judgment on Pinochet’s human rights abuses, but certainly would have ample evidence, repeated reducto ad absurdum, that threat of communism presented a justifiable excuse for abuse of power – whether it is curtailing free speech (think CPUSA) or killing people (Nicaragua). That technique works extremely well in helping to preserve the ultimate conservative beliefs – free market and national security, since their negatives are consistently glossed over or simply ignored in the broader message.

Now take us liberals – let’s say that free national healthcare, and education, and some sort of welfare system – are our core beliefs, No? Yet instead of praising one country’s achievements in them – we routinely focus on both sides of the story, finding flaws with the country implementing our objectives – and thereby diluting our own message. When we claim to take the moral high ground – to look at both sides to analyze the issue from the other perspective – we lose the power of the message, and we lose the ability to bring our message into reality.

So to that I say – the parts of liberal philosophy – healthcare, education, etc. that Castro adopted – worked out great, and everything else – brush it aside for the greater good.

295

Ragout 02.21.08 at 2:59 am

According to Abb1, Israel has “tens of thousands of political prisoners” and Cuba has 69.

Abb1 cites Amnesty International, which does indeed report 69 “prisoners of conscience” in Cuba. So, how many “prisoners of conscience” are there in Israel? “Several,” according to AI, all Israelis who refused to serve in the military. AI calls no Palestinians “prisoners of conscience,” which makes sense, since almost all jailed Palestinians that AI mentions are accused of violent crimes, not nonviolent political crimes.

Now it’s true that AI also says “hundreds of Palestinians were held in administrative detention without charge or trial.” But of course if we applied the same standard to Cuba, and called every prisoner denied a fair trial a “political prisoner,” we’d have to count pretty much every imprisoned Cuban as a political prisoner, which would be tens of thousands.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Israel, which really does face constant threats and real attacks, is a lot less repressive than Cuba, which faced a bunch of ineffectual attacks from the US in the 1960s. And it would be easy to name dozens of countries that faced a more serious threat of external attack than Cuba, and still less repressive.

296

seth edenbaum 02.21.08 at 4:19 am

Ragu this is where reality and Chris Bertram part company. Israel is the cause of far more death and destruction than their opponents, and Gaza is a gulag. Run the numbers, please.

As to Armed Penis and his self-important blather, the difference he would like to claim between between left and right in the mainstream US is that the right sides with the devil with a heavy heart. The death of innocents is an unpleasant necessity and no cause for celebration. But liberals are romantics, they still celebrate hope, and that just proves their shallowness. He has a point, to a point. But so do I.

Castro was an asshole but between the man with the beard and cigar and the American Fruit Company, I’d take the one over the other, and I think so would many Cubans, even those who are sick of the man. You might not agree, but you might not agree with me on Mossadegh either, or Operation Condor, or Pinochet, or Rioss Montt or… it’s a long list and it spans the globe.
You know why we didn’t invade Cuba in the 60s’s? Because the natives would have risen up against us and that would have been bad PR for ‘Merkin Freedom.
And how many dead this time in Iraq? For your romance.
I’m not an idealist. I hate idealists.

297

christian h. 02.21.08 at 4:24 am

The reactionaries are still going. Amazing. All in a tizzy because someone doesn’t agree with you guys? Too bad.

Ragout, you seem to claim that hundreds or even thousands of Cubans are held in administrative detention. Care to supply any evidence? Or is it just another one of those stupid circular arguments where anyone jailed in Cuba is jailed unjustly because Cuba is bad which in turn proves that Cuba is bad – while Israel is good so if it imprisons thousands (it’s usually around 8000), mostly after convicting them based on evidence supplied by the IDF that must be all right, showing that Israel is good?

A.L.: you complain about reading skills? How about looking in a mirror? You quote someone saying that it takes no courage to condemn Castro in the US. But then you proceed on the assumption that this same person had claimed that it does take courage to defend Castro on a blog. How is that supposed to make sense? I didn’t get the feeling that any of us here feel particularly heroic.

298

Roy Belmont 02.21.08 at 4:50 am

“Cuba, which faced a bunch of ineffectual attacks from the US in the 1960s”
And yet, still somehow, there’s that, that, thing down there, that Guantanamo.
An American whatchacallit – naval base? On the island there, on Cuba. About as ineffectual as the fifth circle of Hell.
Which naval base as we all know has been there for lots of decades, was there even before it got famous for being an awful and perverted example of corrupt power and desperation. Right there on the island of Cuba, all during those nasty embargoes and everything. 90 miles away from an actively hostile country with the biggest and best armed military in the world directed by a succession of at best compromised opportunists and quite often outright vicious lunatics. Who loudly and frequently made plain their hunger for its downfall.
Pish-tosh.
It would go a long way toward a furthering dialog if people with opinions abut Castro knew what he replaced. What Cuba was before the revolution, who ran it, who really ran it, and what was really there. Cuba before Fidel was pustulent with organized vice, and the organization wasn’t Cuban, it was American.

299

Tom 02.21.08 at 5:04 am

This is just about the dumbest thread I have ever read on this site.

300

Ragout 02.21.08 at 5:25 am

is it just another one of those stupid circular arguments where anyone jailed in Cuba is jailed unjustly because Cuba is bad which in turn proves that Cuba is bad

I didn’t bother to cite any evidence for the injustice of Cuba’s judicial system, because who could dispute it? Since someone has, I’ll explain that the reason people are jailed unjustly in Cuba is because, as Human Rights Watch puts it, “the courts are not independent; they undermine the right to fair trial by restricting the right to a defense, and frequently fail to observe the few due process rights available to defendants under domestic law.”

301

Dennis 02.21.08 at 6:49 am

I’ve spent more than an hour reading this thread and at my age, that is an hour I could have used more productively.

I’m feeble minded, so bear with me. So..Castro is bad, but not all bad because of health care adn standing up to nasty Yankees in Grenada. Or..Casrto is bad because of repression, intimidation, refusal to provide democratic elections. I know I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but looks pretty heavily weighted toward Castro being an autocratic dictator with little to no regard about the real human rights of his people. As for saying good things about him, it happens with every leader. After all Hitler developed the autobahn and gave the world the Volkswagen, not to mention the Wagnerian opera.

302

abb1 02.21.08 at 8:36 am

C’mon, Ragout, you can’t be serious, you just can’t. Read the AI article again.

Israel and the territories under Israeli control have less population than Cuba. Imagine that something similar to what’s been going on in Palestine for the last 40 years was going on in Cuba for – oh – say one month. Towns wrapped in barbed wire with the gate opened for 40 minutes a day. Bombardments. Separation walls. Racist laws. Assassinations. Human shields. Cluster bombs. Torture. Arbitrary detentions of thousands of ‘suspects’, many of them children.

Now, that would certainly justify the blockade and all the outrage.

303

cjcjc 02.21.08 at 8:43 am

Dsquared accusing someone else of being “holier than thou” gave me the best laugh of the year.

And with Prof Bertram’s dislike for “capitalists and their lackeys” I’m surprised he allows Dsquared – who works for

[... where do I work for? A mystery! Only those capable of basic search engine skills can find out! Here's two clues: a) it's a bank, b) whether I worked there or not, it would be libellous to claim that Fidel Castro had "billions stashed away" there.

If anyone else wants to discuss my workplace, that's fine. But you will have to supply a work email address for that one, so I can know where the discusants work. Fair's fair - dd]

304

abb1 02.21.08 at 9:00 am

I probably shouldn’t be posting this, but also, Ragout, think about their professed goals, their justifications for what they do. In Cuba it’s to preserve their independence and the principles of their popular anti-imperialist revolution. In Israel it’s – what? – to maintain the “Jewish character” of the state? Right? At least a half dozen wars, millions of refugees, tens of thousands killed – to maintain the Jewish character? How can you be sympathetic to something like that and advocate for this nonsense? Snap out of it, man, that’s just embarrassing.

305

Katherine 02.21.08 at 9:07 am

““Can anyone suggest some policy measure, something non-verbal, that Chris Bertram and Randy Paul, Cian and John M, Katherine and abb1, et al would actually take different sides about?”

Israel”

Erm, what now? I know I’m only a minor player in that list, but I’m pretty sure that you don’t have a damn clue of my opinions on Israel, Seth.

Also, I believe the question, which is a pertinent one, was in relation to policy measures re Cuba and Castro. And I think it is probably true that when it gets right down to it, we’re splitting hairs somewhat. Castro is dictator. This is generally considered bad. He is not the most evilest dictator on the planet or in the whole of time. Hysterical US coverage of Castro stupid. Does that about cover it?

306

chris armstrong 02.21.08 at 10:26 am

305 states that “Hitler developed the autobahn and gave the world the Volkswagen, not to mention the Wagnerian opera”

Hum. If Hitler had any hand in the creation of these operas, we need to know – the last one, Parsifal, was written seven years before his birth, so it would be an interesting finding…

Oh, and the design and (beginning of) construction of the Autobahns also predated Hitler…

Oh, and the Volkswagen also predates the Third Reich, although I assume you mean to refer to Hitler’s role in producing the VW Beetle which is, to say the least, contested…

Now, who can tell me what the Romans have ever done for us?

307

freshlysqueezedcynic 02.21.08 at 11:17 am

And I think it is probably true that when it gets right down to it, we’re splitting hairs somewhat. Castro is dictator. This is generally considered bad. He is not the most evilest dictator on the planet or in the whole of time. Hysterical US coverage of Castro stupid. Does that about cover it?

Thank you! That’s what I’ve been trying to say throughout with regard to this whole bloody thread, and I don’t think anyone has said anything that deviates from that into outright “Castro is a great man, we shall praise him for all time”, even Bertram.

Now can we all just bloody move on from this ridiculous hair-splitting before we’re no longer worth it? I’m sure we all have much better things to do than measure the millimetres between respective moral high grounds.

308

Donald Johnson 02.21.08 at 12:05 pm

A.L., I saw what you were responding to, and you adopted the “courage” meme and took it further. To the extent that it requires a small amount of anything resembling courage to take a position on this issue, it belongs to the people who want to be accepted in mainstream society and still speak objectively about Castro, both the good and the bad. But I wouldn’t call it courage, unless there are likely to be serious consequences for the person taking the position.

309

Donald Johnson 02.21.08 at 12:16 pm

#311 seems roughly right to me except, well, I get the impression some people totally discount decreases in life expectancy if they are caused by a Bad Man. It’s as if only certain categories of rights matter–the right to live longer isn’t regarded as a right, so if someone contributes to that one it doesn’t really matter.

Though I hasten to add I’m in the camp that thinks that in a better world all the abusers of human rights, from Bush to Putin to Olmert to (trying to remember a Hamas guy’s name, but one could substitute a Fatah guy also) to Suharto to Castro would all be in jail, though we could still talk about their positive accomplishments and argue about who is worse.

310

Randy Paul 02.21.08 at 12:22 pm

Erm, what now? I know I’m only a minor player in that list, but I’m pretty sure that you don’t have a damn clue of my opinions on Israel, Seth.

Nor mine. Here are my core beliefs: you don’t imprison people for the non-violent expression of their beliefs; you don’t execute people at all; you don’t torture people; you don’t jail people without charge nor prompt trial.

You also don’t get a pass on any of the above because another nation hypocritically calls you on this, because you are claiming to be under attack or because you committed the occasional beneficial act or because I share some of your political goals.

Yes, I’m an absolutist on the above for the simple reason that it enables me to criticize left and right dictators without being a hypocrite or relativist.

311

novakant 02.21.08 at 12:38 pm

This f’n thread is the epitome of why us liberals lose elections, don’t control any judicial institutions and cannot shape any meaningful policy.

So to that I say – the parts of liberal philosophy – healthcare, education, etc. that Castro adopted – worked out great, and everything else – brush it aside for the greater good.

So be it! If winning elections means disregarding or playing down the importance of human rights, let alone supporting or even praising human rights abusers, then I’m simply not interested and I will oppose those elected by making a pact with the devil no matter what they claim their ‘larger goals’ are. And before you call me a ‘decent’, a reactionary or whatnot, please bear in mind that this is exactly the position of such venerable NGOs as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

And I agree with tom that this is the dumbest CT thread ever, starting with the original post, but it has been educational in correcting my naive belief that the left/liberal spectrum has been converging towards a consensus regarding the fundamental importance of human rights and has gradually been discarding the hoary old chestnuts of leftwing dogma. This does not seem to be the case (what’s next? a eulogy praising Ulbricht, Honecker and Mielke?), so my only hope is that it is largely a generational thing.

312

Donald Johnson 02.21.08 at 12:56 pm

Tony Karon has an interesting post up about Castro–

http://tonykaron.com/2008/02/20/the-guilty-pleasure-of-fidel-castro/

It’s actually been an interesting thread to me–one can agree with the human rights absolutist position and still not agree with people who dismiss public health accomplishments as an occasional benefit. I don’t think a decrease in infant mortality is quite the same as getting the trains to run on time. Maybe we should be human rights absolutists on achieving a life expectancy at least as great as that in Cuba. Is there the equivalent of an Amnesty International that argues strenuously for that position, as a human rights absolute if it is physically possible to achieve, and do we harshly condemn every government that doesn’t achieve it? Maybe we should.

And yes, Costa Rica shows one could get the life expectancy increase without the human rights abuses.

313

Ragout 02.21.08 at 1:17 pm

Look Abb1, you proposed the metric (69 “prisoners of conscience” in Cuba). I merely pointed out that if you judge Israel by the same standards, they have at most “several” political prisoners. Now you respond by changing the standards and pointing out that Israel has killed a lot more people than Cuba. True, but perhaps there’s a reason?

You’re awfully good at making excuses for a dictator like Castro, such as

Castro had to fight that superpower – the Bay of Pigs, dozens of assignation attempts, the blockade, etc. He’s got a good excuse to be a
dictator.
In Cuba it’s to preserve their independence and the principles of their popular anti-imperialist revolution. In Israel it’s – what?

Well, Israel was also invaded several times by the clients of a superpower and actually fought Soviet troops controlling ground-to-air missiles. Israel suffered a blockade for decades, not weeks like Cuba, and still suffers from the Arab boycott. And of course Israel is also fighting to preserve their popular anti-imperialist revolution.

But even if Abb1 thinks that this kind of decades-old history is enough to excuse a dictatorship, I don’t. Most importantly, Israel “excuse” is that it, unlike Cuba, is fighting back against people who are trying to kill its citizens every day.

314

abb1 02.21.08 at 1:18 pm

Costa Rica doesn’t seem like exactly an independent state. It’s sorta like Puerto Rico. So what, what does it prove.

315

abb1 02.21.08 at 1:20 pm

All right, Ragout. You made your point, fine.

316

chris y 02.21.08 at 1:52 pm

So be it! If winning elections the Second World War means disregarding or playing down the importance of human rights, let alone supporting or even praising human rights abusers, then I’m simply not interested

Fine, it’s a free country (wonder why that is).

317

Joan of Argghh! 02.21.08 at 2:28 pm

Not that it will matter, 322 comments into it, but I have experienced the “universal health care” system up close. Not the one they show invitees and self-important Hollywood types. I’ve visited the small village clinics, seen the empty shelves of the pharmacies in La Havana, the asylums for Cerebral Palsy patients (who are still seen as retarded), and the inadequate facilities that they proudly praise.

I’ve drunk agua ardiente with the local doctors, carefully discussing what the need is without actually admitting a need. And while the Cuban people are the most beautiful and wonderful to be found anywhere on this planet, they have NOTHING. Nothing you want for yourself, your family, or your country… unless you LIKE despair. Despair is funny, because it brings about really funny and cynical jokes about Castro. The Cubans tell the best ones as they down another shot of rum, or divorce their spouse just to have something different happen in their life.

They have NOTHING. Castro took it all from them, and gave them paved streets in their slums and electricity most of the time. They’ve done without for so long, that some insignificant infrastructure comes across as miraculous. Like “enriched bread” he takes all the wholeness and gives back a bit of manufactured goodness and everyone is somehow better off because they are 100% literate about NOTHING.

Yeah, yeah. I’m a voice in the wilderness here…

318

Random African 02.21.08 at 2:56 pm

Costa Rica doesn’t seem like exactly an independent state.

Oh gosh !

319

Martin O'Neill 02.21.08 at 3:49 pm

What an inordinate number of comments!

At any rate, it seems to me that Chris Bertram gets things precisely right — something like “two-and-a-half cheers for Castro!” is spot-on. He’s not perfect, and not above criticisms, but has achieved incredible things in Cuba under the most difficult circumstances.

Hasta la victoria siempre!

320

abb1 02.21.08 at 4:14 pm

What?

321

novakant 02.21.08 at 4:46 pm

Fine, it’s a free country (wonder why that is).

Get back to me the next time we face a maniac hellbent on world domination who’s in the process and capable of conquering three continents while eliminating millions of people using industrial methods of genocide. And even then the issue of human rights will not cease to play a role as indeed it did not in the example you provided.

And what are you actually arguing for: because we did a dirty deal with Stalin 60 years ago any criticism of human rights abusers and their supporters is hypocritical per se and we should go on making dirty deals with human rights abusers whenever we see fit?

322

mq 02.21.08 at 5:40 pm

Comment 322 is great. My guess would be that 99% of the people here (including me) really don’t know the quality of life in Cuba. The life expectancy figures come from…the Cuban government. If Castro is willing to oppress his society sufficiently to stay in power for 50 years, you really think he’s beyond cooking a few statistics?

Look, the real stuff people want to say is that it’s possible for Castro to be bad but still better than Guatamala, and that there are other social metrics beyond a potentially hollow committment to “democracy” on which to judge a country. Fine. But overall? The guy is lousy. But still better than some. This is a situation one runs across often in everyday life.

Maybe one cheer for Castro, if that, and at least two boos.

323

Joan of Argghh! 02.21.08 at 5:51 pm

He is evil, through and through. There is such a thing as Evil, and he comes closer than most in achieving it.

What Cuba has is a deal with the Devil, and if the Devil treats his own a little better in Cuba than in Haiti, why, he’s a swell guy!

There is absolutely no need to work this hard to find something good to say about the man, unless it’s just a pet political ploy. He really doesn’t deserve the effort, and could care less what you or anyone else thinks; least of all, what his starving people think.

324

chris y 02.21.08 at 5:53 pm

And what are you actually arguing for: because we did a dirty deal with Stalin 60 years ago any criticism of human rights abusers and their supporters is hypocritical per se and we should go on making dirty deals with human rights abusers whenever we see fit?

No. I’m arguing that the acceptability of dirty deals and the acceptable dirtiness of each deal has to be decided empirically on a case by case basis. I’ll add that minimising the number of dirty deals and the dirtiness thereof is a creditable objective. But making sweeping generalisations about being simply not interested is simply unhelpful.

325

geo 02.21.08 at 6:12 pm

Look, the real stuff people want to say is that it’s possible for Castro to be bad but still better than Guatamala, and that there are other social metrics beyond a potentially hollow committment to “democracy” on which to judge a country. Fine. But overall? The guy is lousy. But still better than some. This is a situation one runs across often in everyday life.

Sounds perfectly reasonable to this doctrinaire leftist. Would AL, Ragout, Randy Paul, Novakant, John M, and other Decents disagree?

326

Donald Johnson 02.21.08 at 6:13 pm

If comment 322 and 328 are factually correct, then yeah, we’re having an interesting discussion about an imaginary dictator who has done some good things in health care, while the real Castro hasn’t. I’ve seen conflicting reports on this, however, and don’t know what’s true.

327

"Mindles H. Dreck" 02.21.08 at 6:26 pm

Is there a corollary to Godwin’s law regarding altered blog names? I refer specifically to comment 300, where Seth Edenbaum lays out his most erudite criticism of Armed Liberal. N-Naughty b-b-boy!

Well, at least the opposite ends of the spectrum are speaking. Isn’t all ‘dialogue’ constructive?

328

Donald Johnson 02.21.08 at 6:43 pm

Paul Farmer seems to admire Cuban medicine. I don’t think you’d confuse him with a Hollywood type.

http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Haiti/Mountain_Over_Mountain.html

Of course he’s comparing Cuba to Haiti.

329

Donald Johnson 02.21.08 at 6:47 pm

This is a better link for Farmer’s views on Cuban medicine–

http://www.pih.org/inforesources/essays/state-of-the-poor.html

330

Elliot Reed 02.21.08 at 6:48 pm

I don’t get the point of this post. Sure, the free world’s policy re dictatorships has been hypocritical, but I don’t see how that makes Cuba any better. Totalitarian dictatorships are typically highly stratified economically, and their official statistics regarding things like healthcare quality are less unreliable than reliably inaccurate. I have yet to see any reason to believe Cuba is any different from other totalitarian states on this score.

331

Joan of Argghh! 02.21.08 at 6:48 pm

Mr. Johnson, I have no reason to lie. It affords not one iota of food for a poor Cuban family if I’m lying.

Persistent propaganda purporting anything good or useful about Castro is to be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism. One should ask, “what harm is there in saying good things about Castro?” Just as one should ask, “what good is there to be gained in telling the truth, ugly as it is?”

I know, it doesn’t fit the narrative.

To say more is to endanger those I visited, if I haven’t already. I’ve already deleted two more paragraphs. I wish it were a Clancy novel, to sound so dramatic. I really wish it was what so many imagine while safely ensconced in their cozy comfort of idle liberty.

332

Randy Paul 02.21.08 at 6:54 pm

Costa Rica doesn’t seem like exactly an independent state.

Costa Rica’s current president was the same president who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for leading the Contadora Group in developing a peaceful solution to the wars in Central America in the 1980’s. Ronald Reagan despised him for not knuckling under and reëstablishing an army, the army that they had done away with in 1949.

He gave one of my favorite Nobel Prize acceptance speeches, perhaps second only to William Faulkner’s. Here’s a brief excerpt:

I know well you share what we say to all members of the international community, and particularly to those in the East and the West, with far greater power and resources than my small nation could never hope to possess, I say to them, with the utmost urgency: let Central Americans decide the future of Central America. Leave the interpretation and implementation of our peace plan to us. Support the efforts for peace instead of the forces of war in our region. Send our people ploughshares instead of swords, pruning hooks instead of spears. If they, for their own purposes, cannot refrain from amassing the weapons of war, then, in the name of God, at least they should leave us in peace.

What did he do with the prize money?

In 1988, Dr. Arias used the monetary award from the Nobel Peace prize to establish the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress. Under the auspices of the Foundation, three programs were established: The Center for Human Progress to promote equal opportunities for women in all sectors of Central American society; the Center for Organized Participation to foster change-oriented philanthropy in Latin America; and the Center for Peace and Reconciliation to work for demilitarization and conflict resolution in the developing world.

Honestly, of all the silly-assed, misinformed comments I have read on this thread, that may be the worst.

333

Seth Edenbaum 02.21.08 at 6:54 pm

“Look, the real stuff people want to say is that it’s possible for Castro to be bad but still better than Guatamala, and that there are other social metrics beyond a potentially hollow committment to “democracy” on which to judge a country.

The real issue is how the “we” the US et al. should have responded to Castro and other nationalist movements that put their interests above our own. I don’t like Castro, but what alternatives would the US have imposed, if it had the chance? We can only guess, but history leads us to believe it would probably have been worse. That was CB’s point and it’s a valid one. But it was tinged slightly, and only slightly, by what could be called “fandom” and that’s what caused all the trouble.
But even fandom has its uses. What has been the effect around the world on other nationalist movements, of seeing Castro face down the US? That in itself has a value, even a “universal” one. The problem on this thread has been pedantry.

334

abb1 02.21.08 at 7:14 pm

Didn’t they basically sell their country in the 80s to be used as a CIA base for various operations in central America? No economic independence, no independent foreign policy. Not that anything’s wrong with that necessarily, but certainly this has to viewed as just one element of the whole Central American great-game of the 1980s.

335

Randy Paul 02.21.08 at 7:24 pm

Didn’t they basically sell their country in the 80s to be used as a CIA base for various operations in central America?

Luis Monge, the president who preceded Arias caved in to Reagan. When Arias was elected overwhelmingly alrgely in reaction to Monge’s policies, he did a 180 degree turn and put an end to that.

So if you want to say Luis Monge sold his country, you’d be accurate. Ignoring Arias’s role cetainly gives an incomplete picture.

336

Random African 02.21.08 at 7:37 pm

Didn’t they basically sell their country in the 80s to be used as a CIA base for various operations in central America? No economic independence, no independent foreign policy.

Gosh this is dense.
They had some of the most vehement critics of Washington’s pro-dictator-as-long-as-they-were-not-of-the-left policy. They played a crucial role in negotiating peace agrements. And most importantly managed to improve their standards of living while mantaining strong democratic institutions and they have “no indepenent foreign policy” ?

337

Donald Johnson 02.21.08 at 7:58 pm

The problem is, joan, I can find other people who say they’ve been all over Cuba and compared to other countries in Latin America, the poorest people in Cuba are much healthier than those in other countries.

Do I know this to be true? No. Do I know what you say to be true? No.

338

abb1 02.21.08 at 8:16 pm

…and they have “no indepenent foreign policy” ?

Well, iirc, Costa Rica moved their embassy in Israel to Jerusalem not once but twice. Had to move it back to Tel Aviv under pressure from the UN, but then moved it to Jerusalem again. To be fair, it is, of course, possible that Costa Rican democratic majority just happen to be overly enthusiastic supporting a “Jewish State” in Palestine and desperately wishing that Jerusalem is its capital, who knows. I think they supported the Iraq invasion too.

339

Randy Paul 02.21.08 at 8:43 pm

Monge was the same one who moved the embassy, btw.

As for Iraq, the former president, Abel Pacheco on his own decided to let Bush add his name to the “Coalition of the Willing,” notwithstanding the fact that he had no soldiers to contribute as they have no military and he did little more than add his country’s name to the list.

Of course the public was angered and the Supreme Court ruled against Pacheco, ordering him to have the nation’s name removed from the list.

So, if you want to say that Costa Rica has some occasional bad leaders, that’s fine. I don’t believe anyone who has lived under Bush, Mulroney, Thatcher, Fortuyn, López, Kohl, Sarkozy, Salazar, Howard or Berlusconi wants to throw stones in that glass house.

340

abb1 02.21.08 at 9:04 pm

Sounds like you have a point with Costa Rica.

Still, I think there is a fair angle from which Costa Rica can be viewed as merely a lucky beneficiary of some geopolitical machinations. Not enough there to declare it a model. I could be wrong, of course.

341

Randy Paul 02.21.08 at 9:13 pm

In a region where the military has all too often served as Praetorian guards rather than defenders of the constitution, the fact that they got rid of their military puts them ahead of the game IMHO.

342

Random African 02.21.08 at 9:21 pm

the fact that they got rid of their military puts them ahead of the game IMHO

And allowed them to invest more money in health and education instead of migs and tanks.

343

Randy Paul 02.21.08 at 9:33 pm

Precisely!

344

Joan of Argghh! 02.21.08 at 9:40 pm

Mr. Johnson, all I can say is, if that bar of “relative health” is high enough for your family, then embrace it and confer all sorts of accolades upon the one who has so graciously supplied it.

It’s coming soon to a Republic near you…

345

Cian 02.22.08 at 12:06 am

I don’t know anything about the model hospitals in Cuba, or what’s shown to foreigners. My information comes from people who’ve seen medical care all over S. America, and they say that if you’re poor, Cuba’s healthcare is pretty damn good. Which is really the only comparison that oounts quite honestly.

As for Cost Rica disbanding its military. That’s not an option for most S. American countries. The military is a major power base after all…

346

Randy Paul 02.22.08 at 1:42 am

If it worked for Costa Rica, there’s no reason why it couldn’t work elsewhere. Far too often the military in Latin America is a drain on the economy and a force unto itself.

Nestor Kirchner, when he was president of Argentina, diminished significantly the power and influence of the military. This in a nation that arguably had the most brutal military dictatorship during the 1970’s. Argentina is better off for his having done so.

347

Gus 02.22.08 at 3:50 am

Castro replaced the United Fruit-Batista kleptocracy with his own. He threw the poor a bone after he stripped it of meat.

348

Random African 02.22.08 at 4:18 am

As for Cost Rica disbanding its military. That’s not an option for most S. American countries. The military is a major power base after all…

Castro got in power through a revolution ! I doubt the Batista military was a major part of his power base.
So he created an army and spent heavily on it.

349

Cian 02.22.08 at 2:08 pm

“If it worked for Costa Rica, there’s no reason why it couldn’t work elsewhere.”

Hmm, and how would you prevent a coup? The main problem with the military in most countries in S. America (and Africa) has not been that that they are a drain on resources (although they are), but they have the power to end a government at any moment they choose. This places a limit not only on what governments can achieve, but also gives the elites a huge veto over policy.

as a policy suggestion, this is rather like suggesting a civilian government in Pakistan disband the military – incredibly naive.

350

Cian 02.22.08 at 2:10 pm

Castro got in power through a revolution ! I doubt the Batista military was a major part of his power base.
So he created an army and spent heavily on it.

I wasn’t talking about Cuba. Cuba has faced a real threat for the whole of its existence under Castro. This is rather different from the situation in most S. American countries.

351

Randy Paul 02.22.08 at 3:55 pm

Hmm, and how would you prevent a coup? The main problem with the military in most countries in S. America (and Africa) has not been that that they are a drain on resources (although they are), but they have the power to end a government at any moment they choose.

Given that coups are usually instigated by the military, abolishing the military would probably eliminate that problem.

Costa Rica, by the way, is not defenseless. They do have a national police force.

352

Random African 02.22.08 at 4:49 pm

I wasn’t talking about Cuba. Cuba has faced a real threat for the whole of its existence under Castro. This is rather different from the situation in most S. American countries.

This is a bit circular. Why don’t we talk about why Cuba faced a threat and Costa Rica didn’t ?

And yeah, having a military to prevent coups is like smoking to prevent cancer.

353

Cian 02.22.08 at 4:59 pm

Given that coups are usually instigated by the military, abolishing the military would probably eliminate that problem.

And yeah, having a military to prevent coups is like smoking to prevent cancer.

I didn’t spell it out quite so explicitly because I didn’t want to be patronising. Are you both really this naive?

The army might instigate a coup, before you have a chance to abolish them. Given that armies routinely instigate coups in the face of much less threats, this is hardly an idle fear.

I’ve heard it said, and I don’t know enough about Costa Rica to comment, that Costa Rica abolished its army by renaming it something else. A couple of people who do know something about Costa Rica have said that the abolition of the army was more about politics, than idealism/pacifism. Eliminating a rival power base – which was replaced by a more reliable one.

354

Random African 02.22.08 at 5:25 pm

The army might instigate a coup, before you have a chance to abolish them.

Of course. But that’s why you disband after a coup (like in Haiti) or a revolution/civil war (like in Costa Rica). I’m not saying that Michelle Bachelet or Lula could abolish the army right now. But Castro, who came in power after a revolution and did disband the former army to create a new one and Chavez after the abortive coup certainly had opportunities. They didn’t do it because they weren’t really different from Pinochet.

Yes the abolition of the army in Costa Rica was about politics, not because it eliminated a rival power base, but because a military (left, right whatever) was viewed as permanent threat to democratic institutions. And idealism was part of the move:

Abolishing the army as a precaution against the militarism that has perennially thwarted or undercut democracy in Central America. Figueres said he was inspired to disarm Costa Rica by H.G. Wells “Outline of History,” which he read in 1920 while at MIT.

355

Randy Paul 02.22.08 at 6:18 pm

Cian,

Obviously you are unaware of the Inter-American Democratic Charter:

Article 20

In the event of an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state, any member state or the Secretary General may request the immediate convocation of the Permanent Council to undertake a collective assessment of the situation and to take such decisions as it deems appropriate.

The Permanent Council, depending on the situation, may undertake the necessary diplomatic initiatives, including good offices, to foster the restoration of democracy.

If such diplomatic initiatives prove unsuccessful, or if the urgency of the situation so warrants, the Permanent Council shall immediately convene a special session of the General Assembly. The General Assembly will adopt the decisions it deems appropriate, including the undertaking of diplomatic initiatives, in accordance with the Charter of the Organization, international law, and the provisions of this Democratic Charter.

The necessary diplomatic initiatives, including good offices, to foster the restoration of democracy, will continue during the process.

Article 21

When the special session of the General Assembly determines that there has been an unconstitutional interruption of the democratic order of a member state, and that diplomatic initiatives have failed, the special session shall take the decision to suspend said member state from the exercise of its right to participate in the OAS by an affirmative vote of two thirds of the member states in accordance with the Charter of the OAS. The suspension shall take effect immediately.

The suspended member state shall continue to fulfill its obligations to the Organization, in particular its human rights obligations.

Notwithstanding the suspension of the member state, the Organization will maintain diplomatic initiatives to restore democracy in that state.

It’s not perfect, but it clearly calls for the isolation of any nation that experiences a coup.

Moreover, there are ways to gradually reduce the influence and power of the military, as President Nestor Kirchner did in Argentina. President Bachelet could move to have CODELCO, the state copper company in Chile from which the military receives ten percent of its earnings could be privatized or this ten percent take could be eliminated.

356

Donald Johnson 02.22.08 at 6:26 pm

“Mr. Johnson, all I can say is, if that bar of “relative health” is high enough for your family, then embrace it and confer all sorts of accolades upon the one who has so graciously supplied it.

It’s coming soon to a Republic near you”

Oh, I have no desire whatsoever to live under Castro, whoever happens to be right about the state of the Cuban health system. I think he should have democratized, even at the risk of a US-sponsored party taking over (a very real risk and judging from what the rest of the region looks like, not a very palatable outcome either, especially not in the 60’s-80’s.)

I’ve just been on the side of judging Castro as a whole, good and bad together, the way I would any other leader. Most of them belong in prison, IMO.

The Tony Karon piece I linked to way above pretty much summarizes my opinion (if I’d been bright enough or well-informed enough to have written it, that is.)

357

Donald Johnson 02.22.08 at 6:29 pm

I forgot to add, though, Joan, that you show an almost totalitarian mindset there–if I don’t accept your opinion in its totality then I’m a Castroite. You and Fidel seem to think along similar lines in that respect.

358

Gringo 02.22.08 at 7:21 pm

From 1960 to present, life expectancy in Cuba and the rest of Latin America has caught up, or nearly caught up, with the US. From 1960 to 2005, here are some life expectancy figures: US: 70 to 78, Latin America: 56 to 73, Chile: 57 to 78, Costa Rica: 62 to 79, Cuba: 64 to 78, Peru: 48 to 71. For all the brouhaha about Caudillo Fidel’s great health care, Cuba’s progress in life expectancy parallels the rest of Latin America. (World Bank Development Indicators online )

So we should like Castro because of his great health care system. In 2005, life expectancy for Cuba and Latin America respectively were 78 and 73 years. Doing the math, in 2005, Cuba’s life expectancy was 5 years above the average for Latin America. So we should like Castro because life expectancy in Cuba is 5 years above the average for Latin America.

World Bank Development Indicators online has no data for before 1960, so I will use 1960 data for a stand-in for pre 1959. In 1960 life expectancy in Cuba was 8 years greater than that in Latin America( 64 versus 56 years). It is a safe assumption that in 1958 the difference in life expectancy between Cuba and Latin America would be about the same as in 1960. After all, Cuba in 1957 had about 1000 inhabitants per MD, better than only Uruguay and Argentina in Latin America, and better than a number of countries in Europe.

Most who have posted on this blog are of the opinion that we should not like the Cuban government before Caudillo Fidel, especially when compared to Caudillo Fidel. Yet, before Caudillo Fidel, the difference Cuba’s life expectancy and Latin America was about 8 years.

Caudillo Fidel 2005: Life expectancy 5 years greater than Latin America. GOOD

Pre Caudillo Fidel: Life expectancy about 8 years greater than Latin America. BAD

Very good logic.

359

i.g.i 02.22.08 at 10:46 pm

#89 pd

““Following the 1959 revolution, Cuba’s communist government embarked upon a pervasive effort to rid the nation of homosexuality, which was seen as a product of a capitalist society. Through the 1960s and 1970s this campaign included the frequent imprisonment of lesbians and gays (particularly effeminate males) without charge or trial, and confinement to forced labor camps. Parents were legally required to report their gay children. This period was dramatically documented by Reinaldo Arenas in his 1992 autobiography, Before Night Falls, as well as his fiction, most notably The Color of Summer and Farewell to the Sea. While many have argued that Arenas overstated the abuses — and even the most devoted of his readers agree that he used dramatic license to underscore his arguments — it is widely acknowledged that during this period, Cuba was engaged in active persecution of homosexuals on a scale not seen in the Western world during the same period.[17] Homosexuality was formally decriminalised in 1979, and a year later the Castro government tried to purge Cuba of “anti-social” dissidents, criminals and homosexuals by allowing them to emigrate to the US in the 1980 Mariel boatlift.” – WIKI

But look at the improvements in health care, which made this OK.”

It’s a real pity when such oversimplifications are cited and the fates of gay people are exploited for propaganda reasons.

Public attitudes towards homosexuality and the state measures that reflect them are often backward and shameful even in countries labelled as advanced “liberal democracies”. Simply depends how a society evolve and contrary to what some may suggest there is no standard in this. For instance, how about UK’s Gross Indecency Act used to destroy innumerable people lives? Although gay sex was partly decriminalised in 1967, many sections of the act remained unchanged and were used up until mid 1990s to criminalise and convict people. It was the court in Strasbourg in year 2000 that had to upheld British citizens right to privacy and consensual whatever, not their own elected Government. In the light of the often articulated dichotomy representative_democracy_as_morally_superior_compared_to_dictatorship this is much worse than Cuba.

I lived in Cuba for 2 years at the end of 1970s beginning of the 1980s, exactly the time when Reynaldo Arenas left Cuba. Well, all I can say is that Cuban people, otherwise wonderful, were deeply hostile towards open display of homosexuality. By “open display of homosexuality” I mean in their own special understanding… sleeveless shirt or shorts worn in public even by an adolescent male were absolutely unthinkable. Apparently such an attire was too provocative in the public eye. And that was in La Habana, almost 2 millions at the time, not in some obscure provincial corner. Women on contrary, would had been greeted if showed half naked even by the police. Not exactly surprising considering the macho attitudes of South and Central Americans. And not exactly surprising if some of this public hostility found it’s way into administrative measures exercised by Cuban authorities.

360

Brian 02.22.08 at 11:55 pm

This post is parody, right?

361

Gerd 02.23.08 at 3:02 am

Anyone who believes the bullshit about
Cuba’s wonderful health system is an idiot.

You wouldn’t trust it to treat an ingrowing
toenail.

What was that old maxim about “useful idiots”?

You qualify.

http://www.therealcuba.com/Page10.htm

362

Michael 02.23.08 at 11:15 pm

Thanks to Steve LaBonne for the Tocqueville quote, which I repeat, after reading this depressing thread:

“Je ne connais pas de pays où il règne, en général, moins d’indépendance d’esprit et de véritable liberté de discussion qu’en Amérique.”

As someone else said, “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.” Apparently 40 years of relentless propaganda – and the collapse of public dialogue and a belief in the public good – really do have an effect. Even here at Crooked Timber.

363

Gringo 02.24.08 at 2:20 am

Apparently 40 years of relentless propaganda – and the collapse of public dialogue and a belief in the public good – really do have an effect.

How much “public dialogue” has there been in Cuba in the last half-century? Just wondering.

Apparently “public dialogue” in the US consists only of leftist academics agreeing with each other, and those who are not leftist academics agreeing with the leftist academics.To the degree that someone disagrees with a leftist academic, “public dialogue” has collapsed.

364

Paul 02.24.08 at 2:38 am

Hey Gerd,

Is Cuba’s ‘bad’ health system any better than, say, Haiti’s?

365

Gringo 02.24.08 at 12:35 pm

Paul asks Gerd: Is Cuba’s ‘bad’ health system any better than, say, Haiti’s?

Anyone who asks that question is only showing one’s abysmal ignorance of historical context. Anyone who had asked that question a half century ago ago, would have been mocked out of the auditorium.

In 1960, life expectancy in Cuba was 64; in Haiti, 42. From 1960 to present, life expectancy in Cuba and the rest of Latin America has caught up, or nearly caught up , with the US. For 1960 and 2005, here are some life expectancy figures: US: 70 to 78, Latin America: 56 to 73, Chile: 57 to 78, Costa Rica: 62 to 79, Cuba: 64 to 78, Haiti 42 to 53; Peru: 48 to 71.

From 1960 to 2005 Cuba increased life expectancy by 14 years. The increases in life expectancy from 1960 to 2005 for Latin America and Haiti are 17 years and 11 years respectively. (World Bank Development Indicators Online, access through state library license.WBDI has no data before 1960.) While it is true that Cuba’s health care system has improved more than Haiti’s, as shown by the above figures, Cuba’s increase in life expectancy has paralleled that of Latin America. For all the brouhaha about Caudillo Fidel’s great health care, Cuba’s progress in life expectancy parallels the rest of Latin America. Haiti is an outlier.

While the PSFs contend that Caudillo Fidel took over a country with abysmal health care, the figures say otherwise (See my posts #364 and #288). In 1957, Cuba had around 1000 inhabitants per MD, comparable to the US and Western European countries, better than many countries in Europe and all the “Third World” countries with the exception of Argentina, Uruguay, and Hong Kong.(UN, World Health Organization yearbook) While Caudillo Fidel may have contended that he inherited a banana republic, those bananas were pretty good.

Perhaps one way of looking at Cuba under Caudillo Fidel is to look at how Cuba kept up with technological progress. Back in the 1950s, TV was the next big thing. In 1957, Cuba’s number of TVs per 1,000 inhabitants was first in Latin America and fifth in the world . We fast-forward a half century, where Internet access is now the next big thing. For 2004, Cuba was last in Latin America and 171st out of 211 countries in Internet access per 1,000. (World Bank Development Indicators Online, access through a state library system.)

Cubans in the 1950s would have been appalled to be compared with Haiti. That someone today would compare Cuba to Haiti shows how Cuba has deteriorated under Caudillo Fidel’s stewardship, in addition to abysmal ignorance on the part of the questioner.
See my post #288 for link to RENAISSSANCE AND DECAY for sources. While I have repeated some of what I said in my previous posts, I get the impression that they have not been read.

366

abb1 02.24.08 at 1:11 pm

Perhaps one way of looking at Cuba under Caudillo Fidel is to look at how Cuba kept up with technological progress.

Why “perhaps”? It’s definitely “one way”. But there are, of course, multiple other ways. Which is, of course, the point of this post. For example, all those pre-1960 statistics that don’t exist – if they did exist, how would they look for the poorest 80% of the population there? You know, between me and Bill Gates our wealth on average is about $50 billion.

367

Paul 02.24.08 at 1:25 pm

Hey,Gringo-

I addressed gerd, and not you. He didn’t come across as anywhere near insightful as yourself with his stupid cheap shot.

As far as your post #288 is concerned, Pinochet did not have to deal with the embargo and travel restrictions that Cuba did. In fact, all the statistics you’ve vomited don’t take any of that into consideration and therefore are a waste of our time.

Bottom line: if Batista were all that and a bag of chips, the revolution wouldn’t have taken place. People who are generally happy with their lot in life aren’t prone to risking it all. Even Randy Paul, obviously no fan of the man, admits in in this post that maintaining the status quo was unacceptable.

And maybe you should investigate other things besides TVs as far as ‘accomplishments’ are concerned.

368

Randy Paul 02.24.08 at 8:37 pm

Even Randy Paul, obviously no fan of the man, admits in in this post that maintaining the status quo was unacceptable.

This was primarily to restore the 1940 Constitution, which Batista had suspended. Castro promised to do this. It was a masterpiece of progressive legislation that included paid materity leave, made latifundia illegal, mandated land reform, education, outlawed child labor for children under 14, called for an 8 hour work day for those over 18 and 6 hours for those between 14 and 18, mandated one month vacation every year, established minimum wages, etc.

It’s obvious why Batista opposed it. It’s also obvious why Castro opposed it: It called for one four year presidential term and barred prior presidents from seeking office again until at least eight years out of office.

369

i.g.i 02.24.08 at 8:57 pm

#371

“Perhaps one way of looking at Cuba under Caudillo Fidel is to look at how Cuba kept up with technological progress. Back in the 1950s, TV was the next big thing. In 1957, Cuba’s number of TVs per 1,000 inhabitants was first in Latin America and fifth in the world . We fast-forward a half century, where Internet access is now the next big thing. For 2004, Cuba was last in Latin America and 171st out of 211 countries in Internet access per 1,000. (World Bank Development Indicators Online, access through a state library system.)”

A country level of “technological progress” and consumers buying power to get their hands on hi tech goods/services are not the same thing. Using the two as synonymous is incorrect to say the least.

Cuban society had been organised with different set of priorities from the onset and consummate consumption is not one of them.

370

Gringo 02.24.08 at 8:59 pm

For example, all those pre-1960 statistics that don’t exist – if they did exist, how would they look for the poorest 80% of the population there? You know, between me and Bill Gates our wealth on average is about $50 billion.

There are pre-1960 statistics on Cuba. It is that they are most accessible in hard copy, and I am at a home computer, not at a library. (ECLA , UN, and Statistical Abstract of Latin America: various statistical yearbooks) Here is a source that indicates that inequality was moving in the right direction in Cuba before 1959.

From The New Comparative Economic History: Essays in Honor of Jeffrey G. Williamson ( by Williamson et al, 2007, MIT Press) we find a graph on page 294.
From Figure 12.1 b p 294: Inequality Indices in Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico ( 1913= 1), we can get the following trends. From 1940 to 1958, while inequality indices in Brazil and Mexico are increasing, they are decreasing in Cuba. ( Mexico: 1 to 2, Brazil: 1.6 to 1.9, Cuba: 0.90 to 0.65) These figures are not exact, as they are read off a graph, not taken from a table. From this inequality index, Cuba was moving in the right direction, before Caudillo Fidel took over. This improvement did stagnate during Batista’s time in power, however.

From Renaissance and Decay (#288), I quote the following. Did you bother to read Renaissance and Decay?

The UN’s Statistical Yearbook, 1960 (pp. 312-316) ranked pre-revolutionary Cuba third out of 11 Latin American countries in per capita daily caloric consumption. This was in spite of the fact that the latest available food consumption data for Cuba at the time were from 1948-49, almost a decade before the other Latin American countries’ data being used in the comparison.

Unless you think that the top 20% were eating 8000 kcal per day, compared to the average of 2730 kcal/day, this is a valid measure of inequality/inequality. The higher the average caloric consumption, the lower the inequality, and Cuba pre 1959 comes out third in Latin America.

What has happened in Cuba has been the increased sharing of poverty: except for the Nomenklatura. Renaissance and Decay cites UN statistics on milk production. While Cuba increased milk production only 11% from 1958 to 1996, the next smallest production increase for Latin America during that time is Mexico, at 92%. Others are Brazil: 331%, Costa Rica 605%. While some of this can be explained by a) Cuba’s population increase from 1958 to 1996 ( ~ 65% estimate off the top of my head) was not as great as other countries (what I am citing is production, not production per capita), and there may have been a reduction production in Cuba during the Special Period, that still does not reflect well on Caudillo Fidel and Ubre Blanca, his wonder cow. You DO know about Ubre Blanca, don’t you?

As far as your post #288 is concerned, Pinochet did not have to deal with the embargo and travel restrictions that Cuba did. In fact, all the statistics you’ve vomited don’t take any of that into consideration and therefore are a waste of our time.

Vomited?

Caudillo Fidel and his band of useful idiots are in a no-lose situation. IF Caudillo Fidel has a better record than X regarding Y, then you claim that it shows the superiority of Caudillo Fidel’s stewardship. IF on the other hand, Caudillo Fidel has a WORSE record than X regarding Y, then you cry embargo and travel restrictions.

It is ironic that while in 1959 Caudillo Fidel claimed that economic ties to the US were retarding Cuba’s development, a half century later Caudillo Fidel and his cohort of useful idiots claim that the lack of economic ties to the US retard Cuba’s development. Caudillo Fidel enjoyed massive subsides from the USSR, which has been called the equivalent of several Marshall Plans, and after the Special Period, that continues under the good graces of Hugo.
Even under the “embargo,” Cuba imports substantial amounts of foodstuffs from the US: cash on the barrelhead. Cuba already trades with the rest of the developed world. Canadian and European tourists partake widely of Caudillo Fidel’s tourism apartheid, going where ordinary Cubans are not permitted to go. What difference would the US make?

Bottom line: if Batista were all that and a bag of chips, the revolution wouldn’t have taken place.
Certainly Cuba and the world were glad to be rid of Batista’s dictatorship. Unfortunately, what followed was not democracy, but totalitarianism, worse than Batista’s dictatorship, coupled with gross mismanagement. Consider the change in immigration/emigration. Before 1959, Europeans immigrated to Cuba. For the last half-century: sal si puedes. Contrary to the picture that Caudillo Fidel and his band of useful idiots paint, Cuba before Caudillo Fidel was one of the best-off countries in Latin America: granted, no thanks to Batista. By many measures Caudillo Fidel has run Cuba into the ground. Did you read Renaissance and Decay, which I cited in #288?

And maybe you should investigate other things besides TVs as far as ‘accomplishments’ are concerned.
Years ago I read Listen Yankee by C. Wright Mills, which supports Caudillo Fidel. I borrowed the book from a family friend, a Ph.D. sociologist who knew Mills from their time together at the University of Wisconsin. That was just the beginning of my research on Cuba. IOW, I have already read widely on Cuba: scores of books. I cited TV and Internet statistics to make a point. I read the articles you suggested. Did you read Renaissance and Decay?

I will say this for Caudillo Fidel. He is a very astute politician to have lasted 49 years, with all his mismanagement. Recall Caudillo Fidel’s slogan: Los deiz millones van, and all that. You DO realize what that refers to, don’t you?

For all the PSF and useful idiots who defend Fidel, my reply would be: put your money where your mouth is, move to Cuba, and live the life that the average Cuban- not one of the Nomenklatura- lives.

I am not going to convince the useful idiots and the PSFs. Fidelphilia is a religion for y’all. Ciao.

371

Gringo 02.24.08 at 9:04 pm

Cuban society had been organised with different set of priorities from the onset and consummate consumption is not one of them.
A country based on Marxism- dialectical materialism and all that- consumption is not a priority? So they spend all that time in prayer?

OTOH, I see that you are right. The main priority in the last half century has been to insure that Caudillo Fidel controls all he can.

372

abb1 02.24.08 at 9:37 pm

Certainly ‘mismanagement’ – in the sense that Soviet model economy (some call it “state capitalism”) is highly inefficient – is a valid point. I don’t think anyone will dispute it. What you need to concentrate on attacking is not their economy but their social services. Schools, hospitals, other social services. That’s what this is all about.

Btw, those Nomenklatura guys – is their standard of living anything like the life of a typical pre-Castro casino owner or manager?

373

Order of Magnitude 02.25.08 at 5:20 am

Bertram, as somebody who has experienced communism, as opposed to dreaming about it in an English library I say: shame on you.

Sir, it doesn’t matter how eloquent you are, and what clever (‘jesuistic’ as smby put it earlier) arguments you bring to explain yourself, the fact remains that you are merely another petty addition to the ignoble list of “learned” people who, while taking no personal risk for your beliefs and safely surrounded by the freedoms and materials comforts created by democratic capitalism, chose to support tyrants who provide ample personal risk but neither liberty nor elementary material needs to their subjects.

You could have chosen to stand for the silent and the silenced in Cuban jails or those who nominally not in jails are inmates in the big jail that Cuba is. Yet you have chosen to applaud the tormentors.

BTW you are also wrong about the supposed great health care and education in Cuba, but your failure is not one of data processing, but rather one of very basic human decency.

374

virgil xenophon 02.25.08 at 6:09 am

After reading all the posts made by those who extol the greater glories of Castro’s totalitarian Eden, I am reminded of a statement once made by Orwell when, as an MP during Parlimentary debate in which some far left Labour MP’s were citing the virtues of theories of even more deranged French academics, he replied thusly about the spectacle: “Only an inte- llectual could POSSIBLY believe in such things, no ORDINARY person could ever BE such a fool.”

Comments on this entry are closed.