Even after the spectacular collapse of Communism elsewhere, the regime in Havana has continued to use increasingly scarce resources on its ambitious sports program.
It’s a way of showing the superiority of socialism – a crass but highly effective propaganda tool.
That is why the regime hits the roof whenever one of its supposedly pampered, ever-loyal athletes defects.
Which is exactly what happened earlier this week during the Pan-American Games in Rio, when a handful of athletes decided that all things considered, they’d rather not return home.
Those defecting included Guillermo Rigondeaux, the Olympic gold-medal winner who was the undisputed star of the boxing team.
As you can read here, the ailing 80-year-old dictator was livid.
From his secret recovery room, a furious Castro launched a virulent attack on Rigondeaux and the others, describing them variously as ungrateful, weak, greedy, mercenaries and traitors.
Not to be outdone, the rest of the Cuban athletes in Rio have now been forced by their political overseers to send a special “loyalty pledge” to Castro, which they have dutifully done.
In the message, the athletes thank El Comandante en Jefe and his younger brother Raul for giving them the opportunity to represent Cuba at the Games.
They also attack those who defected as “traitors” and mal nacidos, a particularly nasty Spanish term that translates as someone who should have never been born.
And just so there is no misunderstanding, the message to Castro ends with a pledge from the athletes that they “would rather die than stop being loyal to the Commander in Chief.”
I kid you not.
You can read the whole sickening document here. In Spanish.