An aging tyrant steps down

Word that ailing Cuban dictator, "president" Fidel Castro, has decided to step aside and turn over the reins of power to his younger brother (how democratic!) appears to be evoking some predictable nostalgia from America’s political left, which holds that Cuba is an economic basket case because the United States viciously allows the island nation to trade only with 191 of the 192 member-states of the United Nations, on the pathetic pretext that Castro seized all the properties of foreign investors (not to mention all Cuban investors) in 1960 and still refuses to pay for them.

Yes, Castro and his acolyte, Che Guevara, are still revered as romantic camouflage-clad Robin Hoods in the leftist enclaves that spread from Washington to Boston and further colonize many a tenured American college faculty.

Before we are inundated by the lengthy hagiographies now being ginned up for the presses in New York and Washington, prostrating themselves on the altar of the marvelous "free" Cuban medical system — the one that had to send for Yankee medical help in 1993 to find out why 25,000 Cubans had gone blind (the "mysterious epidemic" turned out to be vitamin B deficiency) — let us therefore impolitely note that while Amnesty International on Monday welcomed the symbolic release of four human rights activists imprisoned in Cuba, it also reminded Raul Castro that he still needs to "release 58 remaining incarcerated prisoners of conscience and to guarantee the right to freedom of expression on the island."

The annual reports of Amnesty International continue to remind us that in the enlightened workers’ paradise imposed by the Castro team, Cubans are routinely sentenced to years in prison — during which they are beaten, deprived of adequate medical attention, have their private diaries taken away from them, etc. — for such crimes as visiting the families of other prisoners of conscience, crimes described by Cuban authorities as "public disorder," "disrespect" and "resistance."

This isn’t ancient history. Amnesty International reports: "In March 2003, the Cuban government carried out the most severe crackdown on the dissident movement since the years following the 1959 revolution. Scores of dissidents were detained, 75 of whom were subjected to summary trials and quickly sentenced to prison terms ranging from 26 months to 28 years. This crackdown came as a surprise to many observers who believed that Cuba might be moving toward a more open and tolerant approach towards opponents of the regime: the number of prisoners of conscience had declined and had been superseded by short term detentions, interrogations, summonses, threats, intimidation, eviction, loss of employment, restrictions on travel, house searches or physical or verbal acts of aggression."

Note that these tactics are being described as an improvement over the Castro brothers’ standard operating procedures.

"In addition, in April 2000 the Cuban government began implementing a de facto moratorium on executions, which was broken in April 2003 with the execution of three men convicted of hijacking a tugboat to leave the island, in which no one was harmed."

Executed for trying to leave. Heavens, why didn’t they just buy tickets to depart in the usual fashion? Oh, wait …

Among the crimes punished by imprisonment in Cuba?

"1. publishing articles or giving interviews, in U.S.-funded or other media, said to be critical of economic, social or human rights matters in Cuba;

"2. communicating with international human rights organizations;

"3. having contact with entities or individuals viewed as hostile to Cuba’s interests, including U.S. officials in Cuba, or members of the Cuban exile community in the United States or Europe;

"4. distributing or possessing material such as radios, battery chargers, video equipment or publications, from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana;

"5. being involved in groups which are not officially recognized by the Cuban authorities or which are accused of conducting counterrevolutionary activity, including among others: unofficial trade unions; professional associations such as doctors’ and teachers’ associations; academic institutions; press associations or independent libraries. …"

Cuba is run by despicable communists who should face trial for depriving an entire people of their human rights for nearly 50 years. How will that be summarized in wide swathes of the modern American and European press? Fidel Castro will be praised as a "spunky maverick" who "refused to cave in to American pressure" but rather "stuck to his principles," bringing "hope to the world’s oppressed masses."

As opposed to the world’s greedy capitalists, who bring the oppressed masses, you know … radios, battery-chargers, bread, milk, freedom, vitamins, and uncensored newspapers.

Just to make a buck.

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