Che Guevara’s worldwide diplomatic tour in 1960 included North Korea, which stole his heart. “North Korea is a model to which revolutionary Cuba should aspire,” he proclaimed upon returning to Havana. Then he promptly put his aspiration into action by setting up a huge prison camp at Guanahacabibes in western-most Cuba. This barbed-wire enclosure cornered with machine gun towers and featuring forced-labor in the broiling sun supervised by Soviet bayonets was set up specifically--and instantly crammed to suffocation with-- “lazy youths” and “delinquents.” But no “Occupy Guanahacabibes ” or “Occupy Havana” demonstrations have been recently reported, that I know of.
After surfacing from their scuba dive at Jardines de la Reina reef off southern Cuba, Cooper and Guggenheim rhapsodized for the CBS cameras thusly:
Guggenheim: “The corals are healthy. The fish are healthy and abundant. There are predators here, large sharks. It's the way these ecosystems really should look.”
Anderson Cooper: “You're saying this is like a time capsule, almost?”
Guggenheim: “It's a living time machine. And it's a really incredible opportunity to learn from.”
Cooper: “So something here holds the key to figuring out how to save other reefs and bring them back.”
Guggenheim: “it's because this ecosystem is being protected, it's got a leg up on other ecosystems around the world that are being heavily fished.”
Yes, amazing how that works when you convert free citizens of a nation with a higher per-capita income and car-ownership than half of Europeans, who enjoyed the 3rd highest protein consumption in Latin American, into penurious half-starved serfs. “One feature of the Cuban social structure is a large middle class,” documented a report by the UN’s International Labor Organization in 1957.
In Pre-Castro Cuba the abundant lobster, grouper and snapper that so enchanted Cooper and Guggenheim on their scuba dive served as dietary mainstays of the humblest Cuban, who owned boats, fishing gear and were perfectly free to use them at every whim and then consume their catch. For Cuban landlubbers, pre-Castro groceries stocked seafood in abundance. Now these delicacies are reserved mostly for tourists, regime apparatchiks and valued foreign propagandists. Catching and eating a lobster can land a Castro subject in jail. And owning even a dinghy is the stuff of dreams, of escape.
“In 1996, the government of Fidel Castro, a diver himself, made this area one of the largest marine preserves in the Caribbean. Almost all commercial fishing was banned,” explains a smug Cooper to his 60 Minutes audience.
Yes, amazing how that works in Stalinist Cuba: “Ah! Think I’ll decree my favorite diving and fishing site a preserve that prohibits my subjects from doing there what I do,” brainstorms the Lider Maximo (translates into German almost precisely as Fuhrer) one fine afternoon, then presents it to his “parliament”… “Now, do I hear any objections?...No?.. No?!--OK, going once, going twice…The motion passes!”
There’s just something about running a KGB-tutored Stalinist regime that jailed political prisoners at a higher rate than Stalin’s, murdered more of them than pre-war Hitler’s, and outlaws dissent that encourages this type of instant and gung-ho team-playing. Many among the tens of thousands of Castro’s prison, torture and firing squad victims were his former comrades, onetime regime officials. Unlike food, clothing, shelter, feminine napkins and toilet paper, one thing there’s never any shortage of in Stalinist Cuba is rubber stamps.
Apartheid South Africa, by the way, did a bang-up job of wildlife conservation. The segregationist governments set up many national parks and nature preserves where vigilant police kept poaching to a minimum. Came the end of apartheid and the enfranchisement of South Africa’s black population and poaching is rampant with the populations of many endangered species (rhinos in particular) plummeting.
But I search the media records in utter vain for, say, a National Geographic (which has run multiple specials extolling Castroite conservation) that extolled Apartheid South Africa’s conservation consciousness. Apparently, in the view of enlightened opinion worldwide, the vileness of that government’s segregationist policies negated the virtue of its conservation policies. If only Stalinist policies were regarded similarly by enlightened opinion worldwide. If only a totalitarian Cuban regime that jailed and murdered political prisoners at ten times the rate of an authoritarian South African regime provoked a tiny fraction of the revulsion as the latter among the “enlightened” worldwide.
On his site Dr Guggenheim also hails Stalinist Cuba’s protection of sea turtles: “The (Cuban) project also includes a comprehensive sea turtle research and conservation component focused at Cuba’s westernmost point, Guanahacabibes. Through strong community involvement and education, it has dramatically reduced turtle poaching.”
I bet! And “education” INDEED, Dr Guggenhiem. Just ask the former inmates of the area’s Che Guevara-imposed forced-labor camps. That sort of incentive program will get you “community-involvement” every trip of the train.
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.