Thoughts On Fidel Castro’s Death & American Foreign Policy
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Saturday, November 26, 2016
Cuban President Raoul Castro – Fidel Castro’s younger brother – announced on Cuban television late last night (Friday, 25 November 2016) that Fidel had recently died, aged 90.
There are powerful lessons in Cuba for America.
• When Corporations rule government, corruption inevitably ensues.
• American Foreign Policy has almost always favored Corporate Business Interests, especially in modern history.
• For well over 60 years, American Foreign Policy has largely been a disastrous failure.
The United States had dominated Cuba ever since the island nation became independent from Spain following the Spanish-American War in 1898, and Castro deeply distrusted America for that reason. Shortly after he assumed power in Cuba, at the invitation the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Fidel Castro made his only trip to the United States, and later met with then-Vice President Richard Nixon April 15, 1959 shortly before returning to Cuba. Eisenhower purposely avoided Castro, and specifically played golf that day to avoid any possible opportunity of meeting with him. Within four months of Castro’s trip to Washington D.C., the Eisenhower administration had drawn up a plan to overthrow him.
“In a manner certain to antagonize the Cuban people, we used the influence of our Government to advance the interests of and increase the profits of the private American companies, which dominated the island’s economy. At the beginning of 1959 U.S. companies owned about 40% of the Cuban sugar lands – almost all the cattle ranches – 90% of the mines and mineral concessions – 80% of the utilities – and practically all the oil industry – and supplied two-thirds of Cuba’s imports.”
Remarks of then-Senator John F. Kennedy at a Democratic Dinner, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 6, 1960, from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
Acknowledging that it was a “glaring failure of American foreign policy… that our own shortsighted policies helped make,” then-Senator John F. Kennedy, remarked at a Democratic Dinner, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 6, 1960 that Cuban regime change under Castro “ended in the overthrow of the brutal, bloody, and despotic dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.”
Ironically, under Batista, the twice-president tyrannical military dictator of Cuba, the idyllic island nation was largely a corrupt colonial enclave that had given its people a “second-class citizenship,” which was typified in an athletic club made for American mill workers which excluded Cubans who wanted to swim or play tennis. Corruption was rampant, and Batista had infamously colluded with Organized Crime syndicates’ notorious crime bosses Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano in the United States to personally profit from prostitution, narcotics sales, horse racetracks, and gambling casinos, the latter two which he had ceded to Lansky in the late 1940’s after having met with him at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.
It should be noted as well, that long-time Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972), had similarly turned a blind eye to Organized Crime syndicates in the United States, for which he was resoundingly criticized by many, including Robert F. “Bobby” Kennedy (1925-1968), who was then-United States Attorney General.
Ironically also, America was no stranger to creating second-class citizens, for the Civil Rights Era had not yet begun, and at numerous levels of government – from Federal, to State and local, most notably in the South – Negroes were still publicly discriminated against, denied Voting Rights, treated as second-class citizens, and subject to lynch mob rule, to which law enforcement turned a largely blind eye. Tragically, the United States enthusiastically supported Batista, though it later withdrew official support, and tenuously welcomed Castro.
In essence, Cuba traded one despotic military dictatorship for another.
To understand Castro’s motivations, one need only look to his childhood and youth, when most of the land nearby his father’s farm belonged to the United Fruit Company, a U.S. corporation which today is Chiquita Brands International.
As Democracy began to germinate in the Central America nation of Guatemala, in the nation’s first democratic election, the people elected Juan José Arévalo in 1944, who implemented social reforms which included a minimum wage law, near-universal suffrage, and increased educational funding. His hope to transform the nation into a liberal capitalist society was met with opposition from the United States, which considered him communist. Following the election of Defense Minister Jacobo Árbenz as President in 1950, social justice and reformation policies continued, which included land reform, which sought to grant land to peasants who had been victims of debt slavery before Arévalo’s democratic election. Among the disaffected corporations was United Fruit Company, which had experienced reduced profits from labor reforms which ended then-common brutally inhumane labor practices. Their banana plantation land holdings in Cuba were especially profitable for the company. It was from turmoil in Central American nations created and sponsored in large part by United States governmental agencies supporting the abusive practices of large corporations doing business in the region that the term “banana republic” emerged.
In 1954, a covert operation conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency deposed the second democratically elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz which ended the Guatemalan Revolution, and installed the military dictatorship of Carlos Castillo Armas, who became the first in a series of Guatemalan dictators backed by the United States government. In the 1953 Operation Ajax, the CIA toppled the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister following Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh‘s attempt to audit the accounts of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) – a British corporation now known as BP – and to limit the company’s control over Iranian petroleum reserves. At the time of the coup attempt, Ernesto Che Guevara, then aged 25, was residing in Guatemala City, sought unsuccessfully to fight on the side of the government, and thereafter requested political asylum in the Argentinian embassy, from where he was granted safe passage to Mexico, where he later joined the Cuban Revolution. From there, overly confident in their ability, the CIA’s disastrously failed Bay of Pigs Invasion occurred in 1961.
Castro defended Cuba’s poor citizens, reduced rent rates on the impoverished, reduced their utility bills, and constructed new schools and hospitals throughout the island nation. As a result of Castro’s efforts – imperfect and flawed as they were – Cuba has a 99.7% literacy rate, is ranked 5th in literacy internationally by the CIA, while the United States is ranked 22nd. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) confirms the CIA’s assessment of Cuban literacy. In 1960 Castro spoke to the United Nations General Assembly September 26 and proclaimed that the people of Cuba would eliminate illiteracy in a year. They succeeded.
Under Castro, despite being an impoverished nation, Cuba developed the world’s only known vaccination against lung cancer.
Because of Castro’s efforts, education at all levels – including University – has been, and continues to be readily available at no cost to the student.
And despite the United States’ economic embargo deliberately intended to strangle the nation to death, Cuba and her people have survived.
This is not to sing praises of Castro, or his more onerous actions, but exclusively to examine history, acknowledge facts, and examine where mistakes were made to prevent them from occurring again.