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Ozzie (April 2012)

 

Back when President Clinton was shucking and jiving to keep his scandalous head above less-than-holy waters, his fans praised him for publicly wriggling out of spots tighter than Dick's hat band. Nevertheless there were others who seemed to believe that the highest office in the land needed better representation.

By the same token, Ozzie Guillen, manager of the Miami Marlins baseball team, has said that he "loves" Fidel Castro and respects him "for staying in power for nearly half a century". Others not sharing those opinions, like several Miami officials, have called for Ozzie to be sacked.

Ozzie's apparent dilemma lies not in the outcome of baseball competitions but in offending a community of Cuban exiles living in the Miami area. For lauding Fidel and outraging too many Cuban exiles, Mr. Guillen has been suspended for five games.

However there are at least two sides to every story and some people are of the opinion that a tiny handful of ex-pat Cubans could get enormously favorable mainstream media attention simply by maligning the Castro regime—official pariahs in America ever since the US-backed Bastista regime capitulated to revolutionary forces in January 1959.

Prior to the Castro regime American business interests controlled almost all of Cuba's wealth—the mines, cattle ranches, utilities, oil refineries, half the public railways and almost half the foundational sugar industry—and all of this was done at the lucrative expense both of workers and public Cuban coffers, Batista payola excluded.

It has been estimated that Batista's final repressive seven year regime murdered over 20,000 Cubans. Revolutionary forces captured records and pictures of people being tortured and murdered. Using public tribunals, Castro tried as many as possible of those responsible and ultimately executed an estimated 600 people. Various distortions of this tale still contribute to Cuban hobgoblin narratives.

Castro considered alcohol, drugs, gambling, homosexuality and prostitution to be major evils and set about to neutralize the ingrained mafia-casino influence then a part of Cuban society. Some corrupt businessmen professing to be capitalists fled the country.

When the new government needed money for its programs neither the US nor the IMF would reasonably help, so Cuba turned to the Soviet Union for trade agreements.

When the US curtailed its sugar purchases the Soviets agreed to buy all the sugar that the US would not. When US oil companies refused to refine Soviet crude, Castro seized the oil companies. Land allotment programs for landless peasants redistributed the property confiscated from American companies and other large land holders. Eventually there would be a nationwide system of education as well as universal healthcare for all—phenomenal successes well hidden from public view by western mainstream media.

After even a glimpse of this background, it is no wonder that a US instigated invasion of Cuba failed a little over two years after the fall of Batista. US-trained troops landed from the Bay of Pigs on Cuba's south shore and once ashore hoped to foster a general uprising against the popular Castro Government. The invaders were summarily defeated in less than 3 days. Ongoing assassination attempts have failed as well.

Despite continuing Cuban poverty exacerbated by western economic sanctions, Castro ostensibly has held the respect of his people better than the DC mob controlling America. Even without prospects for material gain and promise of perhaps a somewhat easier existence, the Cuban people do not exhibit the restlessness once apparent under Batista and heavier US influence.

Just maybe there is much unrecognized merit in Fidel's achievements and tenure.

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