The Impending Death of Castro

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In light of
Castro’s impending death, there are quite a few communities, especially
the Cuban-Americans, which are ecstatic of the recent turn of events.
However, the death of Fidel Castro may unfortunately turn him into
another popular icon -such as that of the late Ernesto “Che” Guevara-
to be reproduced in silhouette on T-shirts for college students
to buy. Though this may occur, it is absurd to believe that such
a murderer would be revered for any of his cruel acts against the
Cuban people.

The island
of Cuba has been plagued by this dictator since 1959 and countless
crimes against humanity have ensued since. Castro first obtained
power by recruiting youths near the Sierra Maestra, a mountain range
on Cuba’s southeast coast. By the late 1950s, the Batista regime
was more corrupt then ever and things seemed out-of-hand with the
way Havana was being run politically. Much of Cuba desired a political
change to the mobs running the capital, but few expected that what
Fidel had to offer would turn out to be too much to handle. The
political climate of Cuba has been in turmoil for some time, one
may say ever since its independence from Spain. The Cuban rebellion
against the Spanish was a bloody war that many Cubans hoped would
be the last time the island would see such death and destruction.
This sadly was not the case and the Spanish-Cuban conflict would
not be the last time a civil war would ensue on the island.

The Cuban presidency
was often taken over by one militant after another; the island's
political climate was never truly stable. Though Cuban politics
prior to the Communist insurrection was not optimal, the economy
of Cuba was doing quite well and a multitude of immigrants were
flowing into the country yearly, spurring the nation’s economy.
There were many prominent United States companies that were based
in Cuba, such as Hershey's, and new Cuban companies were springing
up, like Bacardi. It is apparent now more than ever that the cry
for a political change in Cuba brought about more than the people
had bargained for, and that by supporting -or simply not resisting-
the Castro brothers, the Cuban people bit off more than they could
chew.

Fidel first
began his crusade against Batista by taking over cities on the east
side of Cuba and slowly making his way over to the capital city
of Havana. Castro often recruited young college students and farmers
in surrounding areas by promising them that he would bring democracy
back to the island of Cuba. Once the individuals would be recruited,
deserting would not be allowed. On many occasions, deserters were
hunted down by Fidel, Raul (his brother), or Che (chief attack-dog
of Fidel) and shot at pointblank range. It seemed that once you
were part of his army, there was no turning back. As Castro moved
across Cuba, he never hesitated to spread his support of Communism
and the supposed riches it would bring the Cuban people. Ernesto
Guevara saw Cuba as an opportunity to correct his militant strategies
in order to spread Stalinism throughout the western hemisphere.
Ernesto Guevara had previous tried to spark Communist revolutions
in other Latin-American countries but they failed miserably. The
Cuban communist revolution of the 1950s was a successful attempt
by Guevara and the Castro brothers to, amongst other things, create
a satellite of Russia’s Communist empire in the western hemisphere
and a nexus from which to spread the oppressive gospel that was
Stalinism.

In one of the
most infamous moments in Cuban history: when Castro entered the
capital city of Havana in 1959, he was asked by a local reporter
when the elections would take place. Castro replied that he would
not be holding elections because the people had elected him to the
office by their support for the revolution. This was the moment
in which many Cubans realized that the man few had fought against
u2014 and many supported u2014 was in fact going to subdue the country under
a dictatorial regime. The years after Castro’s usurpation of the
presidency of Cuba secured these fears and went down as one of the
worst moments in the history of the island. Tens-of-thousands of
political prisoners were executed as “counter-revolutionaries,”
or individuals plotting against Cuban society.

My father happened
to be one of the individuals taken prisoner after constant harassment
by Cuba’s military police. He was sentenced to hard-labor in a concentration
camp for 18 months and kept under inhumane conditions. Luckily,
my father was not executed, like many of the other individuals who
defied the newly formed government. My mother was also driven from
her land by the forthcoming mob of Communists moving in from the
southeastern side of the island during the early days of the revolution.
Both of my parents lost their land and assets to the Cuban government.
The excuse given for the seizures by the government was nothing
but clich; that their property now belonged to Cuban “society.”

Individuals
during Castro’s harsh regime were also placed in “Military Units
to Help Production (M.U.H.P.)” facilities which were concentration
camps that would work prisoners to the bone and treated individuals
as though they were now the slaves of the communist government.
Homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and political prisoners were placed
in these labor camps without trial and many were driven to suicide.
Their lifestyles and opinions were deemed “counter-revolutionary”
and a negative influence on Cuban society. Any movement that opposed
Castro’s government within Cuba was often automatically linked with
the Cuban exiles in Miami and the United States Central Intelligence
Agency.

After the communists
captured Havana, Guevara began a wide-scale crackdown on Cuban dissent
through the creation of one of modern history’s most infamous prisons,
La Cabaa. Guevara was the chief administrator and executioner of
the prison. The prison held several thousand political prisoners
and Cubans who found fault in the newly established government.
One by one the prisoners were taken from their holding blocks, paraded
around the prison, abused in front of their family members and then
finally executed at point blank range. The victims of La Cabaa
often shouted “Viva Cuba Libre!” just before their execution, denouncing
Guevara and the communist government. Once it was evident that the
inmates were verbally defying his authority even in the face of
death, Guevara ordered all prisoners to be gagged before execution.
This was a way of keeping the victims in check and his power over
the populous secure. Also on Guevara’s long list of atrocities at
La Cabaa, it was reported that Guevara periodically found it amusing
to slit open the throats of several political prisoners while they
were sleeping. According to scholars such as Armando Lago, Castro's
regime has brought about the deaths of nearly 105,000 Cubans, mostly
in prisons such as La Cabaa. These deaths are attributed to both
executions and death while in prison.

With Castro’s
iron fist and Che Guevara’s obedient actions, Cuba was well into
its darkest times yet. Many of Castro’s leading officials were defecting
and many were convicted of crimes with no public trial and sentenced
with the use of “secret evidence” that the state had acquired. One
such case was that of General Arnaldo Ochoa who was arrested on
charges of drug trafficking even though none of the evidence was
brought to light. The average sentence for drug trafficking in Cuba
was 20 years but Ochoa was sentenced to death. The unorthodox trial
of Ochoa was said to be a ploy by Castro to foil a possible attempt
by Ochoa to defect.

The Mariel
boat-lift was another instance in which Castro tried to purify the
island of what he believed to be de facto “counter-revolutionaries.”
Castro stated in April of 1980 that any individuals that wanted
to leave the island would be permitted to and that their families
in Miami could sail over to Cuba in order to retrieve them. This
created an impromptu exodus in which tens-of-thousands of individuals
began to leave the island. To the surprise of many families, once
they had arrived in Cuba to pick up their relatives, Cuban military
officials began forcefully loading individuals they deemed “anti-social”
such as political prisoners, convicted criminals, homosexuals, Jehovah’s
Witnesses, and the mentally-ill. Many of Cuba’s jails were evacuated
and prisoners were subsequently sent to the United States on various
barges. Over 125,000 individuals left the island of Cuba, many forcefully.

Though Castro
slowly limited his human rights abuses over the years, one recent
event sparked the rage of Cuban exiles in Miami and individuals
around the world. This was the “13 de Marzo” incident in which a
group of Cubans left the island in a World War II era tugboat and
were then sunk by Cuban government authorities. In one of Castro’s
most vile acts against humanity, the Cuban government allowed 41
adults and 23 children aboard the vessel to drown in the waters
off the coast of Cuba. The United States Coast Guard managed to
recover 31 survivors from the incident but was too late for most
of the individuals originally aboard the vessel. One of my friends
during elementary school was a survivor of the “13 de Marzo” and
the stories he told were heartbreaking. Tragedies similar to the
“13 de Marzo” occurred many times with different vessels but never
in this magnitude.

Castro’s dictatorship
also brought with it a tide of racism that few Americans know about
but is nonetheless quite visible. Fidel Castro was the first all-white
Cuban head of state; something most non-Cuban individuals don't
know. Many believe that Castro has a nasty strain of racism in his
oppressive rule and accounts are rampant of white Cubans getting
away with crimes that mulattos would be executed for. In April of
2003, three young black Cubans were executed by firing squad because
they attempted flee the island. This was the first time that any
Cuban was executed for this victimless crime and likewise was one
of the only moments that all those who attempted to flee were of
African decent. Laws have also been passed in Cuba to deter individuals
from moving to the Habana in order to find high-paying tourist jobs.
Many claim that these laws were aimed predominantly at the poor
black community in Cuba. A University of Miami study also concluded
that black Cubans make up an overwhelming percentage of the poor
in Cuba and have some of the worst jobs on the island, even though
Cubans of African descent make up 62 percent of the island’s population.
85 percent of Cuba’s prison population is of African descent and
none of the top 10 generals in Cuba are black, nor any of the 15
provincial heads of the Communist Party. Many think that Castro’s
white lineage and upper-class background has greatly affected how
his dictatorship is run and how an overwhelming amount of blacks
are treated on the island.

Recently, there
have been quite a number of epidemics on the island including a
rampant spread of dengue fever. Cuban hospitals have been flooded
with cases of individuals with dengue fever and as a result much
of the equipment found in Cuban hospitals have either broken down
due to lack of maintenance or have been stolen by individuals claiming
that they are stricken with the illness. Much of the infrastructure
in Cuba, including water systems, have undergone very little maintenance
which has led to running water being shut down in certain parts
of the island. There have recently surfaced digital images of Cuban
children drinking from filthy puddles, families rummaging through
near-empty garbage cans for food and clothing, individuals walking
amongst fallen power lines months after a storm has passed, and
Cubans riding in automobiles pulled by horses. What Cuban officials
say is the condition of the island is obvious more than ever to
be far from the truth. Cubans may not be periodically shoved into
concentration camps anymore but the conditions that communism has
brought the island is torturously equivalent to those of a third-world
country.

The terror
that was Castro’s reign will never be forgotten and his dictatorship
is a testament to the danger present when the citizenry transfers
its power to a single individual. The power structure in Cuba will
soon be shaken — if it has not already — and high government officials
will compete for some of the most influential positions on the island.
The effect of Castro's death on the governmental structure of Cuba
will be for some time unknown, but whatever the outcome, the Castros
have come out winning at the people's expense. By sapping the wealth
that has been accumulated in Cuba over the decades, Fidel, Raul,
and the rest of the high officials have been able to live the life
of kings. They have been able to feast everyday on tens-of-thousands
of dollars in food and drink while the people are left to starve.
These dictators and their followers are the parasites of nations,
draining the citizenry of its precious resources and humanity. Fear,
hatred, and envy are the weapons of the wretched and Fidel is no
stranger to these tactics. Even after the death, destruction, ignorance,
and tragedy that has been Cuba, there is still some hope that the
future will bring drastic improvements for the island.

It is interesting
to point out that the Cuban constitution is modeled in such a way
that it mirrors the direction in which current United States government
is currently moving. The Cuban constitution outlines the “fundamental
rights, duties and guarantees” that any socialist country claims
should be provided such as the right to work, social security, protection,
safety and hygiene, free medical and hospital care, and free education,
amongst others. Though these “positive rights” are “guaranteed,”
the quality of these services is anything but satisfactory. Could
it be that when government is expected to provide these “rights”
it shames in comparison to the market? It should be noted that in
a country with a semblance of free and open markets — such as the
United States — capitalism provides these services at low cost and
at unsurpassed quality. The United States government is constantly
extending its reach into these fields, blocking the very market
mechanisms that have made its economy great. The next President
of the United States may well be an individual who openly agrees
with many if not all of the “positive rights” found in the Cuban
constitution, but who will never admit to the destruction that necessarily
follows with the adoption of such “rights." If we, the citizenry,
allow politicians with such communist beliefs to attain public office,
we will be sunk into the tragedy and despair that is the Cuban nation
in no-time. For example, once we give government the ability to
control the healthcare market, individuals will no longer have the
freewill to consume trans-fatty acids, smoke cigarettes, or drink
alcohol because these habits bring about direct costs for socialized
medicine. Therefore, politicians will state that these consumption
habits are de facto illegal and not up for debate because
they impinge negatively on socialized healthcare. All of a sudden
someone else's nasty habits directly affect the wallets of all taxpayers
when prior to socialized medicine only the health bill of the trans-fat,
cigarette, or alcohol consumer was affected. As an intelligent individual
once said, fascism will come to the United States in a white coat,
wearing a stethoscope.

Cuba is evidence
of the fact that when government promises these services, they are
often not met and if they are met, it is normally at incredibly
reduced quality. The United States is heading down a course that
will allow the government to take over markets vital to the well
being of the citizenry and it should be obvious that when the government
claims to do a service better than the market, it is simply using
unproven rhetoric. “Free this” and “free that” is simply nonexistent.
What economics has taught us — and can teach government rhetoricians
— is that everything has a cost yet only the market seeks to reduce
its costs in order to increase output. Free healthcare, social security,
education, etc. must be paid for with the hard-earned income of
the people and because government inherently does not respond
to market signals in the same way as businesses and entrepreneurs,
it can not be efficient. Though the Cuban government has traditionally
claimed to provide these services, it hasn't performed nearly as
well as the market could on the island. In addition, aside from
market efficiency, when the government controls markets such as
education, it will teach students what it wants. In the case of
Cuba –and one can say the United States as well — when government
controls education, the brainwash that is infused into teaching
curriculums is overwhelming and oftentimes children are taught information
that is simply incorrect or virtually useless. Cuba has provided
some of the cruelest conditions human beings have had to live under
and this reality can only be tied with the government seizure of
those markets that are most vital to human existence (healthcare,
education, prescription drugs, et al.).

There may
be socialists out there who claim that Cuba isn't “really” communism
and that if they were in power it would all be different. As Ludwig
von Mises taught us in his epic Socialism, the failure of
communism is inherent in its inability to respond to market signals
and its lack of a viable medium of exchange. Socialism does not
fail because of Castro or Pol Pot or Stalin or any other cruel dictator
but fails because it is socialism. In other words, socialism
does not work because it can not accurately structure the productive
mechanisms of an economy in such a way that it can satisfy the desires
of individuals.

Castro has
also recently stated that capitalism is depleting the world's nonrenewable
resources and has been the cause of rampant pollution. Fidel urged
the Cuban people to continue their fight against the deadly imperialist
machine that is capitalism. What is so strange about this is that
it has been capitalism that has extended the life of nonrenewable
resources and has used resources efficiently, bringing the most
value out of the smallest quantity of resources possible. It is
capitalism that calculates in terms of money in order to minimize
costs so as to not overuse precious resources. When resources are
used efficiently and are not wasted via capitalism, the result
is an increasing standard of living for all individuals. When socialism
— that has been proven inherently not be able to economically calculate
— attempts to use resources efficiently, it fails and produces nothing
but waste. This is evident in the massive pollution existent during
the Soviet Union throughout the 20th century and is visible
today in Castro's Cuba. What is interesting is that this battle
between the supposed “polluting capitalism” and “germless socialism”
is being fought most vigorously in the political circles of the
United States. It is the agenda of the progressive liberals to destroy
the resource efficiency of capitalism and bring about the misery
that is socialism. It is through the advocacy of progressives for
a “greener” market that the very system that has made our standard
of living so much higher than those in any other country, especially
in comparison to Cuba, will be decimated. Few comprehend that the
greatest polluters of all are governments and that businesses have
monetary incentives not to pollute. While businesses get
hit hard with hefty fines and lawsuits when they so much as touch
someone else's property, the government has “sovereign immunity”
and is able to place whatever it wants, wherever it wants. Castro
is at an advantage when stating such ridiculous falsehoods for he
does not need a soft bed, nor nutritious meals, nor working automobiles,
he has already sapped all his wealth from the Cuban people. It is
easy for the tyrant to denounce capitalism while it was socialism
that gave him all his luxury and power.

Time has yet
to give us even a hint as to what is to come after Fidel Castro’s
death. Many believe that Raul Castro will be much more lenient then
his brother, some believe more ruthless, and others believe that
a revolution will once again erupt on the island. Any of these scenarios
might occur but regardless, the position of the United States towards
Cuba should be nothing more than a drive to once again resume trade
with the island and end the misery that the Cuban embargo has brought.
The United States government should end all trade restrictions with
the island, withdraw any import tariffs with Cuba (and all nations
for that matter), and openly support a humanitarian, capitalist,
classical liberal Republic in Cuba. The United States should in
no way send any military troops to Cuba; Iraq is empirical evidence
that such ventures only end up in social and economic disaster for
both nations. As long as our ties with Cuba are friendly and our
trade open, the Cuban people will be able to prosper under the semblance
of a freer market. Cuba could once again become the jewel of the
Caribbean and open its arms to all. The horrible legacy that was
Castro will be remembered for what it truly was, murderous and oppressive.
I will always be a Cuban-American at heart and I will never forget
what my family, parents, and friends had to go through in order
to escape the terror that was Castro. Jose Marti, one of Cuba’s
patriots during the Spanish-American War, once wrote that “only
oppression should fear the full exercise of freedom.” This is a
truth that all peoples should hold to dearly, for it is only by
the consent of the governed that the State may continue its actions,
good or bad.

January
10, 2007

Alexander
Villacampa [send him mail] is a sophomore in economics
at the University of Florida and summer fellow at the Mises Institute.

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