Mark Falcoff: The turn against Castro

Mark Falcoff is resident scholar emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Cuba: The Morning After — Confronting Castro’s Legacy. He has previously written for us on “the romance with Castro.” While the romance continues in the Obama administration, the ardor has cooled in some other quarters. Mark writes:

While the Obama administration searches around frantically for ways to kiss and make-up with the Castro dictatorship in Cuba (it was all our fault anyway, right?), some of Latin America’s leading intellectuals have been reminding the region just what kind of regime the White House is anxious to embrace. In particular two articles which have appeared in the Spanish language press lately are worth noting.
The first is by Ricardo Pascoe Pierce, former Mexican ambassador to Cuba, and a veteran leftist intellectual and foreign policy expert. After years of left-wing activism on behalf of Mexican-Cuban relations he has broken with the Castro regime, as explained in the March 23 issue of the Mexico City daily Excelsior. Here are the money graphs:

Today Cuba is governed by a declining bureaucratic caste that has long the meaningful assets of social legitimacy to the degree its economic and political model has flopped. Along with Raúl [Castro] and the old-line revolutionaries, the country today is governed by a vast number of ‘juniors’–that is to say, sons of generals, people who travel freely across the globe cutting deals on behalf of their fathers and the regime, and who possess sizeable bank accounts deposited outside of Cuba anticipating the collapse of the [communist] model…
When a government recurs to repression, it is because the interests at stake are huge and involve important figures in politics and the economy. The rulers of Cuba have lost all notion of reality with respect to the world in which they live…
The repressive response of the governing caste of Cuba [to opposition and dissidence] is due to the fact that it doesn’t know what to do with its fears: fears of international justice, fears of the failure of its political project, fear of the anger of its own people.

In the same article he takes President Lula of Brazil to the woodshed for minimizing the moral significance–that is a kind way of putting it–of the hunger striker who recently starved himself to death in protest against his imprisonment.
The second is a piece which appeared on April 23 in the Lima daily El Comercio by the Chilean novelist Jorge Edwards and former diplomatic representative of the late President Salvador Allende in Havana. Unfortunately his prose, which shows a bit too much influence of Góngora (those readers who studied Spanish in college will know what I am talking about), so it does not readily lend itself to a fuller translation. Basically Edwards is reviewing a collection of blogs (published now in book form) by young Cuban woman Yoani Sánchez, whose pieces have been appearing (of all places–and to its credit) in the Huffington Post.
Sánchez’s book, Edwards concludes,

brings me to an interesting conclusion: the slow, heavy, now militarized pace of the Castro revolution is falling more and more behind in the world of technology. One of the most successful vignettes bears a title that might seem a bit enigmatic for people of my generation. It is entitled “Satellite Dishes” [Parabólicas]. It seems that in today’s Havana every family has a passionate interest in acquiring a secret antenna so that they might pull in television signals from Mexico or Miami. Instead of the official TV shows–monotonous and boring, full of political speeches–Cubans prefer movies from the US and everywhere else, dance shows and music shows, above all sitcoms and soap operas.
These lines convince me that maybe there is some cultural merit after all in the trash we see on television in Chile and elsewhere in the West. Hell, let’s have more of it, and I smile to myself. Consider: these families sacrifice a full monthly salary to technicians of the underground economy who come to install these mysterious antennae in hidden locations–on the roof, in the subterranean plumbing, all under threat of heavy fines and confiscations. This is the daily infra-history of Cuba that once more makes mincemeat out of ponderous political theories.

Edwards’ own book relating his disillusionment with the Cuban revolution, Persona Non Grata: A Memoir of Disenchantment with the Cuban Revolution, is available in an English translation (Nation Books). First published in the late 1970s, it has gone through many editions in its original Spanish (Seix Barral Editores). He is former Chilean ambassador to UNESCO and the recipient of the Cervantes prize, the highest distinction awarded by the Spanish ministry of culture for achievement in the field of literature.

Although straying outside the scope of Mark’s post, I want to note that Encounter Books has performed the singular service of keeping in print Armando Valladares’s classic Against All Hope: A Memoir of Life in Castro’s Gulag.


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