By Alan Caruba
In 1959, six months before I graduated from the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Fidel Castro came to power in a coup that overthrew Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. It was big news on campus though I must confess that I knew next-to-nothing about Castro.
The New York Times reporting had failed to mention Castro was a Communist and, in fact, I doubt that anyone, including those high up in our government, knew that essential piece of information. The Times had also famously neglected to mention the horrors of Stalin’s rule in the Soviet Union. In essence, you could have read Pravda or the Times and gotten the same party line. You still can.
Castro set about executing the Batista cabal and, as we know from “The Godfather”, the mafia lost their investment in Havana’s hotels and casinos. It could be argued that the Cuban people lost their freedom, but an estimated 20,000 Cubans had died under Batista’s rule. Now, some fifty years later, they still haven’t enjoyed any real freedom.
I can still recall the images of Castro and his ragged little band of revolutionaries coming into Havana on New Year’s Day in 1959. I can also remember that, shortly thereafter, any Cuban who could, fled the island. They flooded into Miami where many remain.
This is the same Cuba that threatened the United States with Soviet long-range missiles, precipitating the 1962 missile crisis that forced the Soviets to back off. In 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald, who had spent time in the Soviet Union and had supported the “Fair Play for Cuba” committee, assassinated President John F. Kennedy.
Fidel and his brother, Raul, have ruled Cuba with an iron fist. Disagree with him? Go to jail. Face the firing squad. There is something obscene that this is happening 90 miles from the coast of Florida. There is something odd that this nation went halfway around the world to liberate the Iraqis, but have done little other than the abortive 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion to free the Cubans.
These days, the Chinese are drilling for oil off the coast of Cuba, but the Congress of the United States still prohibits drilling in 85% of the nation’s continental shelf.
Here’s where history coincides with the future. In April 2000, while running for Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton opposed granting Elian Gonzalez residency, asylum, in the United Nations with members of his family. His mother had drowned trying to give him a new life in America. The Clinton Administration seized him at gunpoint and forcibly returned him to Cuba.
Fidel lives, retains power, though now officially retired, and Hillary Clinton wants to be the next President of the United States.