Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
HVK Archives: Castro : torturer, murderer - and hero of the liberals

Castro : torturer, murderer - and hero of the liberals - Daily Telegraph (London)

Barbara Amiel ()
30 January 1997

Title : Castro : torturer, murderer - and hero of the liberals
Author : Barbara Amiel
Publication : Daily Telegraph (London)
Date : January 30, 1997

I have never been to Cuba. The Canadian family of my first husband
built a casino in Havana in pre-Castro days. It was big and
expensive and the sort of place one might go on a flashy honeymoon.
I saw newspaper photos showing my extremely beautiful blonde
mother-in-law, wearing fur coats and jewels, waving like Eva Peron.
I could almost smell the perfume.

By the time I got married, the Havana Riviera had been expropriated
by Castro to house some ministry or other. I am ashamed to say in
those days I never thought much about the ethics of political
theft, especially when it was the theft of casinos financed in part
by the gangster Meyer Lansky. In my early twenties, my notion of
property rights and their relationship to liberty was shaky.

When I grew up, my perspective changed. By 1969, 20 per cent of
Cuba's population had either fled the island or were in prison.
.One wrote about the terror, the tyranny and, later, the shattering
story of poet Armando Valladares's 22 years in Cuba's political
prisons. But Canada's winds blew in Castro's favour. Canadian
intellectuals adopted prisoners of conscience in South Africa.
They took holidays in Cuba.

A Hampstead psychoanalyst could make quick work of this. Rich,
powerful America was Castro's fiercest opponent. Canada has always
been a reliable ally of the US, but any opportunity to show its
independence from its southern neighbour brings on a patriotic
boomlet. Which is why the visit to, Cuba last week of Canada's
foreign affairs minister, Lloyd Axworthy, in the face of US
criticism, was entirely predictable. If America was trying to keep
the bubonic plague out of its hemisphere, Canadians would import it
just to show their independence of American foreign policy.

Last week, Mr Axworthy, a not-very-bright and rather dated
politician, shook hands with Fidel on the front pages of a gaggle
of newspapers, discussed human rights, symbolically stuck two
fingers up at America's Helms-Burton Act and went home to Ottawa.
I reached for the sickbag.
But, one has to say this. Canada and the European Union's policy
of engagement with Cuba may now be the right way to bring about
change there - even though both are doing it for the wrong reasons.

There is a period in the life cycle of every social or political
system during which it becomes most vulnerable to "engagement",
that is, exposure to another system. There are also times when a
socio-political system is at its most vulnerable to "containment" -
the policies of isolation and ostracism. International diplomacy
feels its way around the choices.

By now, "engagement" is the most likely way to topple Castro. But
until 1991, the trade contacts and cultural exchanges of engagement
were exactly, the wrong approach. Countries such as Canada, which
opposed the US policy of containment, helped keep one of the
world's most virulent and intolerant countries afloat.

Apart from being an internal tyranny like South Africa, a country
with which the likes of Canada had a no-compromise containment
policy, Cuba was also engaged in the support of international
terrorism and military aggression. Cuba was a distribution centre
for every hideous Latin America guerrilla group from Colombia's M19
terrorists to the Tupac Amaru of Peru, as well as a way-station for
European terrorism. South Africa never tried to export its
wretched ideology of apartheid. Cuba actively tried to export
communism. Evidence also suggests it was second only to General
Noriega's Panama as a drug-smuggling state.

A few could see that, in spite of the sexy battle fatigues, Castro
wore no clothes. In Canada, a prominent Left-wing man of letters,
George Woodcock (an old friend of George Orwell), stood up in 1986
after the publication of Valladares's prison memoirs Against All
Hope and spoke out against the hypocrisy of a foreign policy that
condemned South Africa while condoning Cuba.

But most Canadians had got accustomed to a world in which Pierre
Trudeau skinny-dipped with Fidel and shouted "Viva Castro". As
Pierre and wife Margaret holidayed on Cuba's cheap sunny beaches,
Valladares and thousands like him including homosexuals, religious
believers and dissidents - were in the Cuban gulag, being showered
with human excrement, tortured, watching prisoners commit suicide
rather than face their genitals being filled with gunshot or young
boys raped for the amusement of the political police.

Only in the 1990s has the Cuban system reached such a point of
decay that the policies of engagement have finally caught up with
those countries in the world that have been objecting to America's
policy of containment. But a word needs to be said, I think, about
the vilified Helms-Burton Act.

Helms-Burton seeks to prevent foreign businesses from using assets
stolen without compensation from American citizens. To my mind,
such a law falls into exactly the same category that would have
morally prevented Canadians or anyone else trading or purchasing
businesses that the Third Reich expropriated from Jews. I don't
see the slightest difference between an offer Hitler might have
made to businessmen to come and invest, trade and operate
such-and-such a business or help run this factory taken away from
"filthy Jews" than that of Castro offering businesses stolen from
"filthy capitalists".

Today, Mr Axworthy may pay lip-service to human rights in Cuba and
say that Castro will be more hurt by engagement than ostracism (a
hilarious approach given his erstwhile enthusiasm for the regime),
but in fact everything indicates that essentially he - and the
world - want to do business with Castro for all the same old
reasons. They like him.

Canada, in particular, suffers from a very peculiar syndrome.
There is a nostalgic feeling for two great cultural icons: it was
not Soviet communism they adored, but rather Fidel Castro and Che
Guevera. They touched some chord in youthful Canadian
intellectuals and elites that still wriggles about in their psyches
now that they are the middle-aged establishment running the
country. Put this together with their psychological need to assert
independence from America, and you come up with the jubilant visit
of Lloyd Axworthy, waving his little bit of paper on some vague
human rights assertion.

Well, fine. This time it may work. And now all the familiar
players are on the scene, like the Canadian branch of Oxfam
(repudiated in the 1970s by British Oxfam for its political
involvement) urging Canadians to holiday in Cuba rather than

In 1994, Maria Elena Cruz Varela, Cuban poet and founder of the
human rights group Criterio Alternativo, was released from prison
and allowed to go to America where she wrote of her persecution in
the New York Times. "Here I am; 41 years old, my spinal column
damaged as a result [of beatings]; an irreversible vitamin
deficiency acquired in prison, and an anxiety for my compatriots
that does not leave me night or day.

"And over there is my country, an improbable raft in the middle of
the ocean waiting for a sign of hope before the inevitable
shipwreck, trying to hear a coherent voice beyond the stale
ideologies. Perhaps my countrymen will at last stop arguing about
the effects and bring themselves to face the cause, which has a
first, middle and last name: Fidel Castro Ruz."

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements