A recent bestseller titled How the Mob Owned Cuba, and Lost it to the Revolution, by T.J. English parrots Fidel Castro’s script down to very "ands" and "thes."
Stephen Soderbergh and Benicio del Toro’s Movie, Che, is every bit as slavishly compliant to a script from a totalitarian propaganda ministry. (With apparently a straight face) Soderbergh and del Toro followed a screenplay confected by Castro’s propaganda ministry (Che Guevara’s Diaries), with the forward written by Fidel Castro himself — (“I am not a Communist! I am an Christian Humanist! I am a lover of liberty! 1958)
Soderbergh del Toro and their film crew visited Cuba seven times during their movies’ production and thanked the Stalinist regime’s propaganda ministry profusely in the movie’s credits.
Astoundingly, many facts get in the way of this book and movie. Let’s start with T.J. English’s very title. How the Mob Owned Cuba, and Lost it to the Revolution.
Actually: Cuba’s Gross Domestic product in 1957 was $2.7 billion. Cuba’s foreign receipts in 1957 were $752 million — of which tourism made up only $60 million. Gambling was a small fraction of this $60 million. How could the beneficiaries of that tiny fraction of Cuba’s income OWN the entire country, and “infiltrate its levers of power from top to bottom,” as the author (goaded by his Castroite mentors) claims?!
As far as the mob “owning” a town in the 1950’s, T.J. English definitely had a point — but it was named Las Vegas, Nevada. And I’ve yet to hear a historian-commentator recommend that Nevada undergo a Stalinist slaughter-revolution in order to rectify that revolting and degrading state of affairs.
Another interesting statistic — in 1953, more Cubans vacationed in the U.S., than Americans vacationed in Cuba. “Primarily for the gambling” my parents tell me, Las Vegas, Tahoe, etc. “Primarily for all the cheap prostitutes,” my older cousins tell me, “they swarmed in New Orleans French Quarter — and were much cheaper than Cuba’s ladies of joy.”
Also, there’s no mention by English of how the Castroite nomenklatura has made multiple times that measly portion of that measly $60 million in the 1950’s, in cahoots with Colombia’s cocaine cowboys in the 70’s and 80’s. "We lived like kings in Cuba," revealed Medellin Cartel bosses Carlos Lehder and Alejandro Bernal during their trials. "Fidel made sure nobody bothered us."
The cocaine cartel’s deal with Castro made Meyer Lansky’s with Batista look like a nickel and dime gratuity.
It gets better (worse). “The financial largesse that flooded Cuba could have been used to address the country’s social problems” continues the bestselling (and proudly Irish-American) author who lists them while checking off the list his helpful Castroite hosts so helpfully provided:
“High infant mortality” — (in fact, Mr. English, Cuba’s infant mortality in 1958 was the 13th lowest — not in Latin America, not in the Hemisphere — but in the WORLD — lower than Ireland’s.)
“Subhuman housing” — (in fact, Mr. English, Cuba’s per capita income in 1958 was higher than half of Europe’s, including Ireland’s.)
“Dispossession of small farmers” — (in fact, Cuba’s agricultural wages in 1958 were higher than half of Europe’s, including Ireland’s. And — far from huge latifundia hogging the Cuban countryside — the average Cuban farm in 1958 was SMALLER than the average in the U.S.)
"Illiteracy” — (In fact, Mr. English, in a mere 50 years since a war of independence that cost Cuba almost a fifth of her population, Cuba managed 80 per cent literacy and budgeted the most (23% of national expenses) for public education of any Latin American country (more than Ireland, by the way). Better still, Cubans were not just literate but also educated, allowed to read George Orwell and Thomas Jefferson along with the arresting wisdom and sparkling prose of Che Guevara.
You will be shocked to hear that English’s sources (like Jon Lee Anderson’s sources for Che, A Revolutionary Life) are primarily officials of Cuba’s Stalinist regime which English visited often. Indeed, English dedicates his book to one such official, Enrique Cirules, who he calls a “Cuban author.” Fine, I’ll call Julius Streicher “a German author.” and Ilya Ehrenburg “a Russian author. “
The Willion & Morrow published book continues the "Idiot’s Guide" manual in Cuban history by rationalizing Castro’s Stalinist regime from the get-go. "U.S. business owned much of the prime land."
In fact, of Cuba’s 161 sugar mills 1958, only 40 were U.S. owned. And United Fruit — the outfit generally cast as the Boss Hog/Luigi Barzini/J.R. Ewing/Snidely Whiplash/Hannibal Lecter in this episode — owned only a third of these. And according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in 1958 U.S. investments in Cuba accounted for only 13 per cent of Cuba’s GNP.
"44 per cent of Cubans — a higher percentage than Americans — are covered by social legislation," starts a report on Cuba dated 1957. “One feature of the Cuban social structure is a large middle class. Cuban workers are more unionized (proportional to the population) than U.S. workers. The average wage for an 8-hour day in Cuba in 1957 is higher than for workers in Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany. According to the Geneva-based International Labor Organization, the average daily wage for an agricultural worker was also among the highest in the world, higher than in France, Belgium, Denmark, or West Germany. Cuban labor receives 66.6 per cent of gross national income. In the U.S. the figure is 70 per cent, in Switzerland 64 per cent.”
Prior to Castro, Cuban industrial workers had the 8th highest wages — not in Latin America, not in the hemisphere — but in the world. Cuba had established an 8-hour work-day in 1933 — five years before FDR’s New Dealers got around to it. The much-lauded (by liberals) Social-Democracies of Western Europe didn’t manage this till 30 years later.
These aren’t the ravings of a "Cuban exile right-wing crackpot!" (me) this right-wing crackpot is only regurgitating a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) report on Cuba from 1957.
When no New York Times reporters, CNN correspondents, and eminent American Ivy League and Think-Tank scholars are within hearing range, Commies can be extremely frank with each other.
Early in the Cuban revolution, for instance, Czech economist Radoslav Selucky visited Cuba and was rudely awakened: "We thought Cuba was underdeveloped except for a few sugar refineries?!" he wrote when he got home to Prague. "This is false. Almost a quarter of Cuba’s labor force was employed in industry where the salaries were equal to those in the U.S.!"
Now here’s Che Guevara himself in 1961 after he returned to Cuba with his Cuban underlings from a lengthy tour of Eastern Europe: "We’re not going to say we only saw marvels in those countries, " admitted Che who (given their national propensity for sarcasm had undoubtedly heard much scoffing and snickering from his Cuban subalterns about the — to them — pathetic socio-economic conditions in the major capitols of Eastern Europe — that Cuba was supposed to emulate!!)
"Naturally for a 20 th Century Cuban with all the luxuries which Imperialism has accustomed him,” Wrote Che Guevara, “much of what he saw (in eastern Europe) struck him as belonging to undeveloped countries.”
But fear not! As Cuba’s Economics minister, Che Guevara was already plotting on how to wipe those snickers from those Cubans faces!
He (Che Guevara) as Cuba’s Economic Czar, converted a nation with a higher per capita income than half of Europe, the lowest inflation rate in the Western hemisphere, a larger middle class than Switzerland, a huge influx of immigrants and whose workers enjoyed the 8th-highest industrial wages in the world into one that repels Haitians. And this after being lavished with Soviet subsidies that totaled almost ten Marshall Plans (again, into a nation of 6.4 million) — an economic feat that defies not only the laws of economics but seemingly the very laws of physics. One place where Cuban exiles agree wholeheartedly with Castro and Che is regarding their exalted posts as Third World icons. He and Che certainly converted Cuba into a Third World nation.
We turn now to a United Nations (no less!) study of Cuba circa 1958. "Cuba has a tremendous advantage in national integration over other Latin American countries because of a largely homogeneous white Spanish immigrant base. Cuba’s smaller Negro population is also culturally integrated. Those feudal modes of labor that exist in the rest of Latin America, don’t exist in Cuba. The Cuban campesino does not resemble the one in the rest of Latin America who is tied to the land, and is profoundly tradition-bound and opposed to innovations which would link him to a market economy. The Cuban campesino, in all respects, is a modern man. They have an educational level and a familiarity with modern methods unseen in the rest of Latin America."
PLEASE NOTE!! A professor/U.N. technician named Juan Noyola (Mexican, no less!) wrote the above passage — not me! So bash HIM as a "racist" or a Falangist if you like.
Humberto Fontova [send him mail] is the author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him. Visit his website.