Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the presidential race on Sunday, perhaps confirming that America is not ready for a presidential candidate, as the former South Bend mayor said, “with his husband at his side.” Buttigieg also proclaimed “I will do everything in my power to ensure that we have a new Democratic president come January,” and that raises an issue with remaining contender Bernie Sanders.
The Vermont socialist has been doubling down on his support of Cuba, and last week proclaimed, “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing?” That drew pushback from Buttigieg.
“Why are we spotlighting the literacy programs of a brutal dictator,” Buttigieg said, “instead of being unambiguous in our condemnation about the way he has treated his own people?” The mayor had a point, but he too was rather ambiguous about Cuba.
In 1984, two years after Buttigieg was born, Cuban cinematographer Nestor Almendros (Days of Heaven) and Orlando Jimenez-Leal (8-A) produced the documentary Improper Conduct. As Larry Hart noted in the Chicago Tribune, the film is “a full-scale assault on post-revolutionary Cuba that focuses on the regime’s institutionalized oppression of Cuban homosexuals.” Since gay rights is such a black-and-white issue, Hart wrote, “it would be difficult to give a pass to any government that throws gays into forced-labor camps, to name only one of the many ugly measures that Improper Conduct details.”
Other prominent critics explained why the Cuban regime would throw gays into forced labor camps. As Vincent Canby wrote in the New York Times, the Castro regime took an increasingly hard line against so-called “antisocial” element. These included “political and artistic dissidents and homosexuals, particularly male homosexuals” and “any suggestion of effeminacy could be interpreted as counter-revolutionary.”
Some 35 years later, in September of 2019, the Cuban Cultural Center screened Improper Conduct in New York City, with support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. By then Castro’s massive human rights violations were a matter of record, and challenged by no one except apologists of the regime.
Pete Buttigieg never called out Fidel Castro as a Sado-Stalinist dictator who threw homosexuals into forced labor camps. The mayor president is either ignorant, like the establishment media, or evasive, like Bernie Sanders. He seems unaware that Castro also targeted poets such as Heberto Padilla.
In 1971 Castro charged that Padilla was trying to overthrow the regime and jailed the poet. As Celestine Bohlen noted in the New York Times, “Mr. Padilla was released after a month of brutal interrogation during which he was forced to make a humiliating 4,000-word public confession.” Jean-Paul Sartre and Susan Sontag, among others, rose to Padilla’s defense and “for some left-leaning authors, it was the event that forever changed the way they viewed Castro’s Cuba.”
Padilla is the author of Heroes are Grazing in My Garden, in which a diabetic woman sells her urine, enabling the buyer to get more food rations based on a fake urinalysis. The Castro regime rationed food and the current Communist dictatorship under Miguel Diaz-Canel maintains the practice.
As CBS News reported last year, the Cuban regime launched “widespread rationing of chicken, eggs, rice, beans, soap and other basic products.” The government limited powdered milk to four packs a person and peas to five packs a person. The nation produced 900,000 eggs fewer than the 5.7 million needed and the production of pork, the most-consumed meat, was “hundreds of tons below target.”
The strict rationing forces Cubans to line up for food, and Bernie Sanders is okay with it. As the Vermont socialist said last year, “It’s funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food: the rich get the food and the poor starve to death.”
For Bernie Sanders, waiting in line for food is good thing and Castro’s literacy program is a good thing. Actually, Cuba in the 1950s was a highly literate country and as Cuban refugee Yuri Perez recalls, the literacy program served a different purpose.
“I was forced to learn how to read and write by teachers who brainwashed me while teaching me how to write the “F” for “Fidel,” the “C” for “Castro” and so on,” Perez explains. Under a socialist regime, education becomes “one of the most essential tools of indoctrination and repression.” Under the teachings of Che Guevara’s teachings, Perez writes, “I was taught to hate different ideas, looks and behaviors.”
One of those behaviors was homosexuality, condemned by the Castro regime as antisocial and counterrevolutionary. If Pete knew the truth, he wasn’t talking, and that sets a bad example for candidates who must contend with Sanders.
“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba,” Bernie contends, “but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad.” The candidate who wants to surpass Bernie will have to show why everything about the regime is in fact bad. That includes suppression of freedom and human rights, the persecution of writers, rationing of food, and the practice of throwing homosexuals into forced labor camps.