by Peter Fernandez
Quico (pronounced Keekoh) & Carmen Josez, along with daughter, Maria, 12, visited Vermont relatives during the summer of 1964, but this wasn’t your typical, care-free vacation. The Beatles were turning the world on with musical joy, as we were still mourning JFK’s assassination. Refugees from Cuba, my primos, or cousins, no longer had a home to return to because Fidel Castro took that, their generations-old, family-run sugar plantation, and bank accounts. It was needed, after all, to support the glorious communist revolution. All they had was some luggage.
My cousins lived in Northfield for, maybe, 18 months, before moving somewhere near Chatham, New Jersey. They were fortunate, unlike tens of thousands of Cubans murdered by the noble revolutionaries. The Cuba Archive project, www.cubaarchive.org, based in Chatham, has, thus far, verified and documented 10,723 victims of Castro’s murderous regime.
Many US lawmakers are speaking out in support of the latest uprising against Cuba’s repressive communist government, but not Bernie Sanders. On CBS’ 60 Minutes, 2/23/2020, the senator was questioned by Anderson Cooper about his nostalgic 1986 speech to a toady UVM audience: “I remember, for some reason or another, being very excited when Fidel Castro made the revolution in Cuba. I was a kid, and it seemed right and appropriate that poor people were rising up against rather ugly rich people.”
The overwhelming majority of Cubanos, like Quico, Carmen, and Maria, were honest and hard-working people, not “rather ugly rich people.” Sanders preached to the choir that “Castro educated the kids, gave their kids free health care, and totally transformed the society.” Decades later, he explained to Cooper, “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing, even though Castro did it?”
According to the late historian Hugh Thomas, the problem with that thinking is it is without context: “Cuban literacy was 80% in 1958, the fourth most literate nation in Latin America.”
In an NPR interview, Andy Gomez, Professor Emeritus of Cuban studies at the University of Miami, and author of “Social Challenges Facing Cuba” commented,” The trick to this whole thing was, in his (Castro’s) narcissistic mind, he used education to indoctrinate the children to a Marxist ideology.”
According to Gomez, the government decides what books are allowed. “I’ve spoken to many faculty at the University of Havana and other universities. There’s no freedom of speech, so students, for speaking out or faculty for speaking out, have actually been expelled.
“I have books here on history and international relations that are completely Marxist ideology,” added Gomez, “or even Cuban history, where, for many children, Cuban history started in 1959, which, of course, you know is not true.”
In a 2.25.2020 New Yorker interview, Cuban artist, Tania Bruguera, responded to then presidential candidate Sanders’ remarks: “Yes, they taught us to read and write, and then they forbade us to read what we want and write what we think. It’s quite another thing to consider voting for someone who thinks that a place that caused my parents so much pain is not just OK but exemplary in some ways.”
According to a Wall Street Journal, 3/1/2020, commentary by Mary Anastasia O’Grady, “Immediately after dictator Fulgencio Batista fled, Fidel and his henchmen began executing policemen and soldiers without trials in a campaign of terror.” CubaArchive counts 1,003-firing-squad executions in 1959. But the purges didn’t end there, as Castro, aping his adoring poster-boys, Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong, turned against anyone, mostly allies that he suspected of treason. 1,862 executions from 1960-67, as well as 816 combat deaths were documented by CubaArchive.
Safe, arrogant propagandists in fat lands like to describe Castro’s victims as greedy capitalists. “But they were a cross section of society,” noted O’Grady. “Castro slaughtered thousands of farmers who owned and worked small plots across the island because they resisted collectivization.”
Castro did “transform Cuban society,” but Sanders’ assertion that many Cubans didn’t oppose and overthrow Castro was, Rep. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) explains, “Only because his opponents were jailed, murdered or exiled.” In 2020, Rep. Donna Shallala (D-Fla.) tweeted that Sanders should speak to Florida’s Cuban population before “he decides to sing the praises of a murderous tyrant like Fidel Castro.”
In a May 25 tweet, Ali Pardo, a former Trump campaign spokesperson, recalls her parents escaping communist Cuba: “…it’s ok because…wait for it…an entire nation stripped of their freedoms…has a literacy program.”
In Anderson’s interview, Sanders, a self-described ‘socialist-democrat,’ denounced “the authoritarian nature of Cuba,” but dangerous politicians exploit language: “When we get ready to take the United States,” exclaimed ‘socialist’ Alexander Trachtenberg in 1943, “We will not take it under the label of Communism; we will take it under the label of socialism. These labels are unpleasant to the American people. They have been speared too much. We will take the USA under labels we have made very lovable; we will take it under liberalism, under progressivism, under democracy. But take it, we will.”