(/sites/default/files/uploads/2014/12/518024350_15_ov1.jpg)“I first went to Cuba in January 1968, during the height of revolutionary aspirations,” writes New Left celebrity Tom Hayden in “50 Years Later It’s Time for Closure,” a Dec. 21 oped piece in the Sacramento Bee. On recent visits Hayden hung out with Cuba’s former minister of foreign affairs Ricardo Alarcon, and that inspired Hayden to write the forthcoming Listen Yankee! Why Cuba Matters. Meanwhile, Tom Hayden is excited about recent moves by President Obama.
“The Cuban Revolution has achieved its aim,” Hayden explains, “recognition of the sovereign right of its people to revolt against the Yankee Goliath and survive as a state in a sea of global solidarity.” Further, “After the fall of the Soviet Union, there was a decade of American triumphalism based on the mistaken belief that the Cuban state would collapse like East Germany. We underestimated Cuban nationalism.”
However, “a sticking point on the U.S. side was the persistent funding of ‘democracy promotion,’ or our secret efforts to promote a more open society.” Hayden further explains that Alan Gross “was a covert agent, not a home appliance distributor.”
Cuban spies Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez, were all tried and imprisoned in the United States for gathering intelligence on U.S. air bases. They also infiltrated Brothers to the Rescue and tipped off the Castro regime, which scrambled MIG fighters and downed one of the Brothers’ unarmed planes, killing four people. Tom Hayden’s take is rather different: “The Cuban Five were protecting Cuba’s security from us, not acting as terrorists.”
Hayden contends that key episodes in Cuban history are “best recalled” through Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather: Part II. Fortunately, American viewers can gain knowledge of Cuba in films by actual Cubans that cover events Tom Hayden and Ricardo Alarcon prefer to avoid.
When Cuban general Arnaldo Ochoa returned from his military campaign in Africa, “8A,” a play on his name, began to appear on walls all over the island. Long oppressed Cubans believed the popular general was the only one with a chance to topple Fidel Castro’s Communist dictatorship. Fidel knew it too. He held a show trial for Ochoa and put it on satellite television. Cuban filmmaker Orlando Jimenez Leal taped it and made the documentary “8A.”
Viewers can see the regime’s lawyers demanding that their clients get the death penalty. Fidel Castro agreed and on July 12, 1989 duly carried out the sentence by firing squad, just like back in the revolutionary days. No appeal process, and no more threat from Arnaldo Ochoa.
In “Improper Conduct” Jimenez Leal and cinematographer Nestor Almendros portrayed the Castro regime’s repressions against political dissidents, journalists, poets and homosexuals. The New York Times called the film “convincing” and former Castro supporter Susan Sontag said “The discovery that homosexuals were being persecuted in Cuba shows how much the Left needs to evolve.”
It will be interesting to see what Tom Hayden says about this in his new book Listen Yankee! Why Cuba Matters. In the meantime, readers might consult books written by actual Cubans.
In Against All Hope, which has been compared to Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, Cuban dissident Armando Valladares charts 20 years in Castro’s prisons, and the violence he and other political prisoners suffered. Arrested in 1960, Valladares was not freed until 1982. This came through the efforts of French president Francois Mitterand and human rights organizations. A ballpark figure for the number of Cuban dissidents the American New Left has supported is zero.
In Family Portrait with Fidel, Carlos Franqui charts the Cuban Revolution from 1959 to 1964. Franqui broke ranks over Fidel’s shift to Soviet Communism, after which “nothing worked.” The privations of the regime get extensive treatment in Heberto Padilla’s novel, Heroes are Grazing in My Garden.
In The Longest Romance, Humberto Fontova calculates that between 65,000 and 85,000 people have died trying to escape Cuba, 30 times the number of Berlin Wall casualties. Cuba’s prison population is 90 percent black and includes Eusebio Penlaver, “the world’s longest suffering black political prisoner.” That wasn’t a sticking point for Barack Obama.
Tom Hayden recently showed up in Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Author Lee Ellis was shot down over North Vietnam, imprisoned and tortured. Americans were kept in cages with their legs tied together and arms laced behind the back until the elbows touched and shoulders pulled out of joint. Some Americans were kept awake for two weeks and beaten, but the treatment wasn’t just physical.
As Ellis explains, the prison guards piped in propaganda broadcasts by Tom Hayden, a “regular speaker” who supported the regime and said the reports of torture were nothing but lies. Given that record, Cuban prisons may soon ring with readings from Listen Yankee! Why Cuba Matters, by Tom Hayden.
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