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.
Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of four books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. For more information and for video clips of his Television and college speaking appearances please visit www.hfontova.com.