Hired help might be hard to find nowadays—but not for Fidel Castro. Jack Benny had his Rochester. Louise Jefferson had her Florence. And Fidel Castro now has Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic magazine’s freshly-minted “Cuba-Expert.”
Last month Fidel Castro granted Goldberg an extensive “interview.” This week a seemingly conscience-pricked Goldberg cops a plea for the arrant apple-polishing that resulted. Regarding his portrayal of a “benign” and grandfatherly Fidel Castro whom he also called a “great man,” Goldberg rationalizes thusly: “A close reading of the human rights literature suggests to me that the leadership of Cuba is not morally comparable to the leadership of Zimbabwe, Burma, Iran, Syria, Libya, North Korea, Eritrea, Venezuela (!)”
Well, Mr. Goldberg, perhaps a closer reading might help. To wit: In his book Against All Hope, Armando Valladares, who suffered 22 years in Castro's dungeons, forced-labor camps, and torture chambers, then served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission reveals how at one point in 1961, Castro's Gulag held 350,000 political prisoners. Freedom House estimates that half a million Cubans have passed through Castro’s Gulag. That's out of a Cuban population at the time of 6.4 million.
In her book Gulag, Anne Applebaum estimates that at any one time, two million people were incarcerated in Stalin's Gulag. That was out of a Soviet population of 220 million.
Now punch your calculator...see, Mr. Goldberg? Turns out that calling Castro a "Stalinist" actually lowballs his repression. Castro and Che Guevara jailed and tortured Cubans at a higher rate than Stalin jailed and tortured Russians.
"The Black Book of Communism," written by French scholars and published in English by Harvard University Press (neither an outpost of the vast right-wing conspiracy, much less of "Miami maniacs!") estimates that Castro’s regime murdered from 14,000 Cubans by firing squad mostly during the 60s. Again, Cuba was a nation of 6.5 million in those years. Given the U.S. population, a proportionate bloodbath would equate to over 600,000 firing squad murders.
According to the Cuba Archive Project, headed by scholars Maria Werlau and Dr. Armando Lago, the Castro regime – with firing squads, forced-labor camps and drownings at sea – has caused an estimated 102,000 Cuban deaths. According to the Harper Collins Atlas of the Second World War, Nazi repression caused 172,260 French civilian deaths during the occupation.
France was nation of 42 million in 1940. – and as mentioned, 172,260 of these died from Nazi policies. My calculator reveals that “The Great Man” Fidel Castro caused an enormously higher percentage of deaths among the people he "liberated" and lavished with free and exquisite health care than the Nazis caused among the French they enslaved and tortured with the SS and Gestapo.
Many opponents of the Cuban regime qualify as the longest-suffering political prisoners in modern history, having suffered prison camps, forced labor and torture chambers for a period THREE TIMES as long in “The Great Man’s” Gulag as Alexander Solzhenitsyn suffered in Stalin's Gulag. An association of these heroes, representing 3551 years in Castro’s prisons, and torture chambers reside in the U.S. today and would be as happy to indulge Mr. Goldberg with an interview as was Fidel Castro. But unlike the “The Great Man” they’ll tell the truth.
“I judge his (Castro’s) revolution against what it replaced, namely, the thugocracy of Batista, who was a friend only to a handful of oligarchs and American mafia leaders,” further rationalizes Goldberg. Granted, the Godfather II is a superb film. But better educational sources on pre-Castro Cuba do exist. This “friend of oligarchs” was a mulatto grandson of slaves born on the dirt floor of a palm roofed shack in the Cuban countryside. Cuba’s oligarchy in fact denied Fulgencio Batista admittance into their Havana Yacht Club and largely bankrolled his violent overthrow. From Cuba’s richest man, sugar magnate Julio Lobo, to Pepin Bosch of the Bacardi dynasty, and hundreds of oligarchs in-between, Castro’s July 26 Movement was funded by the very people the learned Mr Goldberg claims were Batista’s “friends.” “Many of the poorest Cubans under Batista, which is to say, most Cubans, appreciated (Castro’s health-care and educational) innovations,” Goldberg further elucidates.
In fact, Cuba’s per-capita income in 1958 was higher than half of Europe’s. “One feature of the Cuban social structure is a large middle class.” starts a UNESCO study of Cuba from 1957. “Cuban workers are more unionized (proportional to the population) than U.S. workers. The average wage for an 8-hour day in Cuba in 1957 is higher than for workers in Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany. According to the Geneva-based International Labor Organization, the average daily wage for a Cuban agricultural worker was also among the highest in the world. Cuban labor received 66.6 per cent of gross national income. In the U.S. the figure is 70 per cent, in Switzerland 64 per cent.”
These citizens of this “Oligarchic Thugocracy” had owned more TVs per capita than any European country, had enjoyed the services (some free, most extremely cheap) of more doctors and dentists per capita than citizens in the U.S. or Britain and had never emigrated from their homeland. Instead, in the 40's and 50's when Cubans could get U.S. visas for the asking and Cubans were perfectly free to emigrate with all their property and family, fewer Cubans lived in the U.S. than Americans in Cuba, and Cuba was deluged with immigrants. At the time Cuban laborers earned the 8th highest wages - not in Latin America-- but in the world.
“Cuba’s laborer’s always maintained a stony indifference to Fidel Castro’s movement,” admitted Fidel Castro’s bankroller Julio Lobo, who knew because he employed thousands of them. Granted this information is not yet available on Blu-Ray, Mr. Goldberg, much less from an “interview” with Fidel Castro. I’m afraid the fully documented historical record above would require actual reading by The Atlantic’s newly-minted “Cuba Expert.”