A former baseball player and lawyer who led the Cuban Revolution that toppled Fulgencio Batista's tourist trap kleptocracy. In his day, he was the most long-winded speechifier of the 20th Century. Fidel's made quite a few mistakes over the years, e.g., being too stubbornly hands-on sometimes (what the fuck does a lawyer know about advanced topix in agriculture policy?), but I think Cubans who have lived under both Batista and Castro would give Fidel at least a muted thumbs-up. Until recently, anyway. To the posh first-wave emigres (et al) in Florida, he's the devil's son. And in politics, money talks. Just ask the CANF. Or Jesse Helms.

Cuba, with its many flaws, has, under Castro, allowed many people (blacks, women, and the poor) to rise up from second-class status, and, prior to the spasms in the Soviet Bloc, it had by far the best health-care and educational systems in Latin America - it may still have the best. Remember that the country has had no longstanding tradition or ethos of democracy - these past four decades have been, arguably, some of the best in Cuban history.

Yes, there were show trials, and often a zero tolerance policy on dissent, but Castro's record is damn near spotless compared to Uncle Sam's buddies in China, Indonesia, Chile, and Argentina over the same period. The US propped up its various CIA-sponsored butchers and despots, while sending agents to kill or do "dirty tricks" ops against Fidel, insisting that he was somehow ten times worse than a Suharto or a Pinochet.

The bottom line is that Fidel stole a "US possession" out from under the noses of its "owners" - us.gov, the multinationals, and the Mafia - and has been made to pay for his audacity ever since. I'm sorry if the bourgeoisie and corporations got screwed, but it must have been fun to see the tables turned for once. Don't believe the yanqui hype. See also: Manufacturing Consent.

Fidel Castro

1 part Captain Morgan's spiced rum
1 part vodka
3 parts margarita mix

Pour all ingredients over ice. Drink. Repeat until unconscious.

Two Fidel jokes told in Miami:


Fidel Castro dies and goes to heaven. When he gets there, Saint Peter tells him that he is not on the list and that no way, no how, does he belong in heaven. Fidel must go to hell.

So Fidel goes to hell where Satan gives him a hearty welcome and tells him to make himself at home. Then Fidel notices that he left his luggage in heaven and tells Satan, who says, "No hay problema, I'll send a couple of little devils to get your stuff."

When the little devils get to heaven they find the gates are locked -- St. Peter is having lunch -- and they start debating what to do. Finally one comes up with the idea that they should go over the wall and get the luggage.

As they are climbing the wall, two cherubim see them, and one cherub says to the other, "Look at that! Fidel has been in hell no more than ten minutes and we're already getting refugees!"


Fidel Castro is giving a speech about (what else?) the glories of Communism, and at the back of the crowd, an old vendor is pushing his cart piled with fresh fruit, singing out, «¡Piña! ¡Coco

Fidel hears the interruption and says, "Silence! Don't say «piña-coco» when I'm making a speech!"

No sooner than Fidel has resumed his speech, the vendor goes back to singing loudly, «¡Piña! ¡Coco

Fidel gets very mad and says, "I told you to SHUT UP!" And he continues his speech.

Sure enough, the old vendor calls out, «¡Piña! ¡Coco.

Fidel says, "THAT'S IT. The next one of you pendejos who interrupts me, I'm going to kick you in the ass so hard you'll land in Miami."

And the crowd yells:

«¡Piña! ¡Coco

In 1995, President Fidel Castro spoke at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, NYC. The almost entirely Black audience was very enthusiastically pro-Cuba and anti- typical American government. For example, when Elombe Brathe, head of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition and chair for the meeting, asked the audience, "Who would you rather come to Harlem, Fidel or Giuliani?", they replied "Fidel, Fidel!"

At some point, President Castro told the audience a story about members of the Congressional Black Caucus who had come to visit Cuba. One representative from Mississippi related how some of the towns in his district didn't have access to doctors. Fidel immediately offered his support to the representative, saying he would lend aid to the U.S., as he does to other third world countries in need. He went on to offer scholarships in his universities to those Americans in need of education and too poor to pay for it.

Sources: October 28, 1995 issue of the People's Weekly World
Democracy Now radio show.

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born August 13, 1926, on his family's sugar cane plantation at Mayari, Oriente province. Growing up, Castro played and worked in the sugar cane fields around him. It was something with which he was intimately familiar, as it was his family's livelihood, and it was expected that one day, it would be his own. The Castro family's social status allowed for Fidel's education at the nation's finest Jesuit schools, and even Belen College all the way over in Havana. He would go on to enter the University of Havana in 1945, where he studied law.

In his University circles, he was very active in politics and government. He was fiercely opposed to the Batista regime, which he saw as just another puppet government the United States used to extend its power further into Latin America. He saw Cuba as another Banana Republic, but in this case the bananas were sugar, gambling, prostitution, and organized crime.

As these feelings of resentment for U.S. policy in the region began to grow stronger, Castro felt something had to be done. He fell in with a mixed group of Cubans and Dominicans at the university who were privy to a revolt being staged against the Trujillo dictatorship in the nearby Dominican Republic. In 1947, the group joined in that revolt, only to be crushed by the stronger Trujillo regime. Fidel managed to escape back to Havana to receive his law degree in 1950. It was during this relatively settled period of study and normalcy that he married Mirta Diaz Balart in 1948. They would have one son together before divorcing in 1955.

Castro's work as a lawyer was mainly defending the poor and politically oppressed. He made a bid for a seat in the Cuban national congress in 1952, only to have the rug yanked out from under him by Batista's cancelling of the elections. To Castro, this was the last straw. He contacted his brother, Raúl, and the two came up with a plan of action.

With their own money, the Castro brothers purchased 150 guns and raised nearly that many men to form an armed militia. On July 26th, 1953, the group raided the Moncada army barracks in Santiago de Cuba. Castro's second revolt against a dictatorship was again crushed. This time, the culprits were imprisoned. It was at his trial in 1953 that Fidel delivered his infamous speech entitled History Will Absolve Me.

The Batista regime released the Castro brothers in 1955, after two years of life in the worst of Cuban prisons. The hermanos Castro were exiled from the country. They first went to New York, but later would up in Mexico City. It was in Mexico where Fidel would first meet the travelling Argentine doctor, whom everyone called 'Che'. Little did he know at the time, but this strange Argentine would become one of Fidel's best friends and most trusted advisors.

It was also in Mexico that the Castro brothers planned day and night to take their country back from Batista. With funds and men gathered from all sorts of interested parties, (There were even some U.S. interests represented, no doubt collected with Raúl's little fundraising forays into the U.S.), the team set out to train. With everything organized, the rebels set out for Cuba on Novermber 25, 1956 from the little Mexican gulf town of Tuxpan, aboard the Granma, a small cabin cruiser purchased from an American expatriate by the name of Robert Erickson. The Granma situation was a near disaster, as the ship was overloaded with 80 men and their supplies. In fact, it was so overloaded that some of the men were left behind in Mexico because there was absolutely no more space for anything on board.

The Granma having missed their contacts on Cuba, ran aground on a sandbar off the coast of Oriente Province on December 2, 1956. Most of the men were either killed or captured, and in a seasick, weakened state, those who escaped into the mountains had to abandon much of their equipment and supplies. However, with the help of local peasants and some luck, the rebel group began to gain a stronghold in the Sierra Madre mountains. Soon, the rebels were conducting routine patrols and raids on government installations. Even some of the captured government army regulars defected to Castro's guerrillas. With momentum gaining, the guerrillas managed to take more and more territory, eventually capturing Havana in Jaurary of 1959. Batista had since fled the country. A controversial series of show trials ensued, being led by officials like Guevara. Hundreds were tried and executed. This did not put a favorable mark on Cuba in the rest of thee world's eyes.

One of Castro's first orders of business was to fly to Washington in April 1959 to meet with President Eisenhower. However, Eisenhower was on vacation not to be bothered, so Castro was referred to Vice President Richard Nixon. Castro was so insulted at this dismissal that the meeting did not go well at all, with Nixon commenting later that Castro was to be watched, as he was trouble. As one of Castro's main goals was a Cuba independent as possible on all fronts, and since he was given the cold shoulder from the U.S., Fidel began to rid the island of foreign involvement, nationalizing sugar plantations, oil refineries, hotels, and casinos which were all owned by wealthy Americans. Needless to say this did not fare well with the U.S. government, and relations deteriorated. With Cuba sitting on the fence in the middle of the Cold War, it only took some advice from the two prominent communists in Castro's government, Che Guevara and Raúl Castro, to coerce Fidel into establishing warmer relations with the Soviets. If anything, Castro saw this as a good idea to protect himself from any retaliations from the United States.

On January 3, 1961, the United States severed all relations with Cuba. In April of that year, CIA-trained Cuban exiles attempted to invade Cuba, much like Castro did, landing at the Bay of Pigs. Castro's forces easily repelled the invasion. The entire operation is to this day one of the major embarassments in U.S. history.

With Soviet relations stronger every day, Nikita Khrushchev decided it would be a good idea to use Cuba as a missile base for Soviet ICBM's. The resulting controvery nearly brought nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Castro played no visible role in all of this, and he resented both Khrushchev and Kennedy for negotiating without him. This act only furthered Castro's anti-imperialist views, as he saw Cuba as just a pawn in the game between the two superpowers. His response was to not allow weapons inspectors into Cuba whatsoever.

Relations with the Soviets and Americans were at an all time low. Castro had to make some deals. In December of 1962, he traded 1,113 Bay of Pigs prisoners to the Americans in exchange for food and medicine. As this was a goodwill gesture towards the United States, and it got Cuba much needed supplies, Castro worked out subsequent deals in the 1970's and 1980's for refugee release. At the same time, however, Castro toughened up his image by supporting UNITA rebels in Angola, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and several guerrilla uprisings in El Salvador, vowing to export his revolution to the rest of Latin America.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's, Castro's Cuba was no longer receiving aid that allowed it to maintain Latin America's finest medical system, as well as some of the region's best education systems. The economy collapsed and Castro was forced once again to revise his policy for the good of the nation. He legalized the U.S. dollar, opened Cuba's beautiful shores to tourism and began campaigns to build a better Cuba, but while still maintaining distance from his old foe, the United States. He even gave up cigars so as to present himself as a better role model for Cuba's youth. Today, he still rules the island, which is slowly but surely repairing itself after a decade of economic downfall. He is an old man now, having overseen what he thought was best for his homeland, after seeing the horrors committed by the previous regime. He may have not been the best leader, but there is no doubt that in his mind, he only wanted the best for his country.

For the most part, as a citizen of the United States, I’m pretty proud of my country. When I was young, I even served it for four years. Even though at that particular time in my life I wasn’t too sure of what I doing and hated almost every moment of it, I’ve come to recognize the benefits it would have later on in life.

But this node isn’t about me. It isn’t about honor or duty or patriotism It’s about some harebrained ideas that our government concocted over the years to get rid of the Communist threat that was living a mere ninety miles or so off the coast of Florida.

True, the Cold War is over now and there’s dust settling in the bomb shelters but back in the 60’s our government came up some ingenious plots that were worthy of Ian Fleming and his James Bond novels to either discredit Castro or wipe him off the face of the earth. Let’s take a look at some of them…

”I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord”

Before Fidel even launched his coup there was some discomfort here in the States about the possibility of him gaining control. He would broadcast fiery speeches over the radio and incite the masses to take to the streets and rise up against their oppressors. Here in America, the powers that be took notice and decided that the best course of action wouldn’t be to kill him. That would make him a martyr for the cause and rally more people to his side.

It was decided that the best course of action would be to discredit him. Or, better yet, have him discredit himself. So in the bowels of some Washington think tank, a scheme was hatched. It involved flying over Havana and unleashing a chemical agent over a radio station where Castro would conduct his broadcasts. This chemical agent would re-produce the effects of LSD and turn Castro into a raving, albeit, peaceful lunatic in the eyes of his people.

I can just hear him now…”Hombre’s , have you ever really looked at your hands?

Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that smoking is hazardous to your health.

Not to stereotype Latino’s or anything but they do cut a swarthy image. All sorts of macho and masculine kinda shit. When it cam e to Castro, part of that image was his ever present cigar and his manly beard. The fine folks at the CIA determined that if they could just get his beard to fall out, he’d lose the respect of his people and soon be overthrown by another dictator who’s interests were probably more line with our own. There was only one problem, asking Castro to shave it himself wouldn’t have worked.

But hey, what if we sent him a box of poisoned cigars? Yeah, that’s the ticket! We could treat them with some kind of chemical that would impair his judgment and make all his hair fall out. Once the people saw what a “girly man” he and his no good Commie friends actually were, they’d be dancing in the streets for democracy.

Take it with a grain of salt

What up with the beard fascination? Apparently in Cuba, facial hair on men = good. Facial hair on women = another story…

Before the advent of Nair, women used to use something called thallium salt to rid themselves of those unsightly hairs growing in places where hair had no business growing. What if somehow, we could lace Castro’s shoes with the stuff? Not only would his beard fall out but he’d be as hairless as a baby pig. The Cuban people wouldn’t stand for it!

The Godfather – Part One…

This is the kinda stuff that would make Mario Puzo proud. See, back before Castro seized power, Havana was pretty much owned by the mob. It was just like Vegas only with an ocean view. They owned the restaurants, the bars, the hotels and the casinos. When Castro nationalized all that shit the goombahs’ naturally took offense and wanted it back. In a strange alliance they teamed up with the CIA and tried to have some poison pill slipped into one of Castro’s meals as he dined at one of his favorite establishments. They never quite made it…

The Godfather – Part Two…

Or, if at first you don’t succeed. The year is 1962 and the Mafia is still fuming about losing their meal ticket in Havana. Enter one Cuban exile by the name of “Tony Varona”. He volunteered to hand deliver some more pill to an accomplice who would in turn feed them to Fidel. Beside the pills, he also wanted to take down a cache of arms and ammunitions to help fuel the fires once Castor keeled over. Nobody knows whatever became of the plan but Castro managed to hang on until very recently.

.

Nice suit!

Castro had the nerve to take some of our boys prisoners after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. An attoreny from New York by the name of Billy Donovan was involved in negotiations to secure their release. As a gesture of good faith, Donovan was to present Castro with a “custom made” skin diving suit courtesy of his capitalist comrades here in the States.

There was sonly one problem…

The suit was to be custom made with a super secret fungus that would cause a chronic skin disease. Just in case that didn’t work, the breathing apparatus would be coated with a bacteria that would cause Castro to contract tuberculosis. The Feds were all ready to shell out the big bucks to make this happen but as often the case, the best laid plans often fail.

It seems Mr. Donovan had already given Castro a diving suit on his own accord. Getting two of them might seem a bit suspicious and the plan was scrapped.

Sally sells seashells at the seashore

I’m sure the warm coastal waters of Cuba are just right for skin diving. While conducting routine surveillance the CIA determined that El Presidente had also noticed this and he was often seen frequenting his favorite diving spots. The masterminds decided to try and entice him into blowing himself up by placing a booby trap into a particularly alluring sea shell which they themselves would have placed by means of a mini submarine. Once Castro plucked it from the bottom of the ocean….BOOM!. Communism over, Democracy restored!

Too bad the mini sub didn’t have the range to actually place the shell within Castro’s grubby Communist paws.

The Power of the Pen

This is what’s known in crime fighting circles as an inside job. A disgruntled friend of Castro’s was recruited by the CIA to do their dirty work for them. The plan was to arm him with an innocent looking pen that was actually a syringe loaded with a deadly cargo. The assassination would take place just as Castro was delivering his annual speech and would be accompanied by an invasion of Cuban guerillas who had been in training in the jungles of South America for just this occasion. Should the plot fail, the would be assassin would inject himself with the poison pen and sever any ties he had with the CIA.

Somehow, it was discovered that Fidel had a few sources of his own and the plan was compromised, It was abandoned in 1965.

Folks, those are just the ones we know about. God knows what else was lurking out there over the years.

Makes me want to take up reading spy novels and conspiracy theories all over again..

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/americas/02/19/castro.top10/index.html

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