Hugo Does New York


Whoever doubts Fidel Castro’s demise — political if not physical — need look only at Hugo Chavez’s recent monkeyshines at the United Nations. If Castro is sentient, he’s furious. The organ grinder gets laid up, the leash comes off, and in no time the monkey makes a mess of things. Chavez even provoked harsh words from Charlie Rangel!

In Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel, Fidel Castro has his main booster (of many) in the U.S. Congress. Sure, the accolades from Harry Belafonte, Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Norman Mailer, Ted Turner, Dan Rather, George Mc Govern, etc., are all nice. But Charlie Rangel provides more than mere attaboys. He’s also there to facilitate Elian’s return and to bear-hug Fidel during his last visit to Harlem.

In Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro has his main financial booster. Sure, the accolades from Britain’s Galloway, Spain’s Zapatero, Argentina’s Kirchner are all nice. But given recent oil prices, the 100,000 daily barrels of essentially free oil from Chavez actually surpasses in value the daily subsidies from Cuba’s former Soviet patrons. Sitting atop all that oil, Hugo is positioned to put his money where his anti-Yankee and pro-Cuba mouth is.

So, a falling out between these two Cuba friends and benefactors cannot help the Castroite cause — and would have never come to pass if Castro was still in a position to mentor his Venezuelan suitor.

“Holding up Chomsky’s book was the right idea, Hugo,” a healthy Castro would have advised. “That’s the beauty of this type of thing, Hugo. So many American pinks and reds are so eager to echo our ravings that there’s absolutely no need for us to mouth them ourselves, you idiot! From Norman Mailer to Susan Sontag and from Saul Landau to Michael Moore, I’ve relied on such people to mouth or echo my ravings for decades! Every car-salesmen gets taught this the first day on the job: don’t say it yourself, you idiot! Let the customer/prospect say it! Or use an endorsement from one of his friends! Every rookie ambulance-chaser knows you only ask a question if you know you’ll get the right answer! Shoulda phrased your Bush-Bashing as questions, you idiot! 98 per cent of the Assembly woulda joyfully yelled the answers! You idiot!

Now look what you’ve done! Prominent Democrats, my historic allies, the same party that provided my Mutually-Assured-Protection with the Kennedy-Khruschev deal — this same bunch, are speaking against you from Rangel to Pelosi to Schumer! It takes a lot to get Democrats riled up against a Latin leftist — and here you’ve managed it, you idiot!

Chavez might have taken a cue from the Cuban Maestro’s own visit in 1995 to New York (a city he twice tried to incinerate. See full documentation in Fidel; Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant) for the U.N.’s 50th anniversary festivities. “The Toast of Manhattan!” crowed Time magazine about Castro’s reception by the General Assembly and later by Manhattan’s Beautiful People.

“The Hottest Ticket in Manhattan!” read a Newsweek story that week, referring to the social swirl that engulfed Castro. After Castro’s whooping, hollering, foot-stomping ovation in the General Assembly, he was fted by New York’s best and brightest, hobnobbing with dozens of Manhattan’s glitterati, pundits and power brokers.

First, there was dinner at the Council on Foreign Relations. After holding court there for a rapt David Rockefeller, along with Robert McNamara, Dwayne Andreas and Random House’s Harold Evans, Castro flashed over to Mort Zuckerman’s Fifth Avenue pad, where a throng of Beltway glitterati, including a breathless Mike Wallace, Peter Jennings, Tina Brown, Bernard Shaw and Barbara Walters, all jostled for a brief tryst, cooing and gurgling to Castro’s every comment.

All clamored for autographs and photo ops. Diane Sawyer was so overcome in the mass killer’s presence that she rushed up, broke into that toothy smile of hers, wrapped her arms around Castro and smooched him warmly on the cheek.

“You people are the cream of the crop!” beamed the bearded Cuban man of the people to the smiling throng that surrounded him.

“Hear, hear!” chirped the delighted guests while tinkling their wine glasses in appreciation and glee.

And the mass murderer had barely scratched the surface of his fan club. According to the U.S. Cuba Trade and Economic Council, on that visit Castro received 250 dinner invitations from Manhattan celebrities and power brokers.

Fidel’s reception at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 was no less rapturous. Afterward, he made his way to Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, where pastor Calvin Butts gushed: “It is in our tradition to welcome all who are visionaries, revolutionaries and who seek the liberation of all people. God Bless you, Fidel!”

“The mainly African American audience, which included New York Democratic representatives Charles Rangel and Nydia Velasquez, enthusiastically greeted the Communist leader with a ten minute standing ovation,” reported People’s Weekly World. “Chants of ‘VIVA FIDEL!’ resounded from the rafters.”

Harlem’s delirious ovation for the incarcerator of the century’s longest suffering black political prisoner rose to the level of an earthquake — to a hurricane. The very walls and rafters shook with shrieks of “FIDEL! VIVA FIDEL!!” 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?”

“FIDEL!” They erupted. “FIDEL! VIVA FIDEL!” Then, with Congresswoman Maxine Waters looking on in rapture, Charlie Rangel waddled up to the podium beside the Great One. Fidel — oomph! — finally caught his breath, beamed and returned the rotund senator’s mighty bear hug.

Chavez, scurrying from a hostile New York with Rangel’s carping ringing in his ears, can only read these stories and weep. For simply saying the U.N. “smelt of sulfur,” Chavez was censured by New Yorkers. After trying twice to make the entire city smell of charred flesh, his former mentor, Fidel Castro, got a reception to shame Simon and Garfunkel’s in Central Park.