Michael J. Totten is an indispensable journalist who in recent years has provided immensely perceptive reportage from some of the most oppressed and/or war-torn corners of the world, notably the Middle East and the Balkans. On March 22, he posted on his blog a memorable item entitled “In Cuba, Prosperity is a Crime.” We’ve spent some time on this site detailing the horrors of the Castros’ island prison, but did you know this?
The United States has a minimum wage while Cuba has a maximum wage. And that maximum wage is a paltry 20 dollars a month. No one can get ahead. It’s impossible. It’s illegal. When prosperity is a crime, there can be no prosperity, and that’s entirely the fault of Cuba’s communist party.
Totten also reported that just hours before President Obama landed in Cuba, the Castros “arrested more than 20 people at a Ladies in White demonstration.” Who are the Ladies in White? They’re an internationally respected human-rights group consisting of the female relatives of jailed Cuban dissidents. The women attend Catholic Mass every Sunday in white dresses, then walk through the streets in silent protest against the Castros’ tyranny.
But they weren’t allowed to carry on their silent protest while Obama was around. On the day of his arrival, wrote Totten, secret policemen “dragged women to a police bus and threw men onto the ground and handcuffed them.” Yet when an American reporter, CNN’s Jim Acosta, stood up at Obama’s joint news conference with Raul Castro and asked about political prisoners, the Cuban leader replied with a royal combination of utter contempt and absolute mendacity: “If there are political prisoners, give me a list, right now. What political prisoners? Give me their names, and if there are political prisoners, they will be free by tonight.”
The Ladies in White weren’t alone. Mike Gonzales of the Heritage Foundation wrote that during Obama’s visit, a number of other dissidents were “beaten, arrested, dragged through streets, stripped naked, and threatened with the rape of their daughters.” Gonzales quoted anti-Castro leader Antonio Rodiles, who was brutalized and detained (as was his wife), as saying that the American president’s trip had engendered “a festival of repression.”
Gonzales made a crucial point that has been almost completely lost in recent commentary about Cuba and its future. “While the vast majority of commentators speak of Fidel, 89, and Raul, 84,” he suggested, “the Castros to keep in mind are Raul’s son, Col. Alejandro Castro Espin, 50, his daughter, Mariela Castro Espin, 53, and his son-in-law, Gen. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas, 54.” The point being, of course, that the death of the two octogenarian brothers will not necessarily mean the end of brutal totalitarianism in Cuba. After all, Alejandro, an officer in Cuban intelligence, is “an unrepentant ideologue who sports a Lenin mustache and goatee.” Alejandro wrote a 2009 book, The Empire of Terror, that Gonzales describes as “an anti-American screed.” And “he speaks in the hackneyed jargon of a Marxist-Leninist.” This is Raul Castro’s heir apparent – the man who’s in line to inherit the throne when the old men bite the dust. Does anyone really expect such a person to relinquish absolute power the moment he inherits it?
Gonzales also offers an important observation about Mariela, who, as he notes, is a “member of Cuba’s rubber-stamp National Assembly.” This is a woman who has received a boatload of positive press in the Western media in recent years because she is – or at least professes to be – a gay-rights activist. This self-identification is food for thought. These days, many far-left enemies of Israel and apologists for oppressive Islamic regimes have been trained by their cynical capos to accuse Israel of “pinkwashing” – that is, of using its excellent gay-rights record to promote itself as a beacon of human rights, when in fact those enemies’ prime objective is to ensure that Israel is viewed in the West as a first-class violator of human rights.
Now the pinkwashing charge, when leveled against Israel, is of course nothing more than an obscene slur. It’s highly interesting, however – though hardly surprising – to note that those who promote the concept of pinkwashing don’t ever use it against Cuba and Mariela, even though, in her case, the otherwise preposterous concept actually makes a kind of sense. How, after all, can there be such a thing as gay rights in a country with no basic freedoms whatsoever? How can a loyal, lockstep member of a Communist ruling family and of a Communist rubber-stamp parliament be seriously considered an activist for any kind of rights whatsoever? Never mind: as Gonzales puts it, Mariela’s “position as an LGBT activist will ensure that Western useful idiots continue to lionize the Revolution” even after the old revolutionaries kick the bucket.