With friends like these
There are some standard questions you get all the time when people find out you were born in Cuba. Are Cuban cigars really that good? (Yes, they are). Are Cubans happy people, like you see on TV? (Mostly). Do Cubans spend all their time dancing under the hot, tropical sun? (A stereotype but yes, many Cubans do enjoy dancing).
Then there is this question: if Fidel Castro is a dictator and if he has been such a disaster for Cubans over the past 47 years, then how come so many otherwise intelligent writers, painters, actors, film directors, etc, etc, still support him, especially in Latin America?
It’s a good question.
Perhaps these otherwise intelligent people are the modern equivalent of those intellectuals and artists who used to visit the Soviet Union during the 1930s and return home praising Josef Stalin as a great and wise man - at about the same time Stalin was knee-deep in the blood of his countrymen as a result of what became known as The Great Terror.
Or perhaps these are people who still cling to a supposedly romantic vision of what could have been?
Most likely, I think this inexplicable support for someone like Castro from people who really should know better stems from the fact that the old dictator has been successful at thumbing his nose at the United States for nearly half a century. In some places, this is seen as a great achievement, something to be celebrated. It’s a case of, Provided you are anti-American, we will be on your side regardless ... Silly? Well, yes.
The latest example of this seemingly enduring love affair with Castro among “intellectuals” of the Left is an “open letter” published today by the Cuban official newspaper Granma under the heading La soberanía de Cuba debe ser respetada – The sovereignty of Cuba must be respected.
It’s been signed by the likes of Desmond Tutu of South Africa, assorted Latin American writers and American actors such as Harry Belanfonte. In fact, most of the signatories would be familiar to anyone who keeps an eye on Cuban affairs for they have all signed similar pro-Castro, anti-American letters in the past.
Except this particular letter is curious for what it doesn’t say …
The open letter - which you can read here - claims the United States is making “threats” against Cuba which, the signatories argue, is bad news for peace in Latin America and elsewhere. They then call on President George W Bush to respect “the sovereignty of Cuba”. I suspect Mr Bush would have no problem with that. I don’t.
However, nowhere in the document is there any explicit or even implicit support for Castro or for the continuation of the Castro regime - a first, I think. In fact, the signatories don’t even wish the old man a speedy recovery. Perhaps whomever drafted the letter knows something we don't?
As I said, curious.