Instead, minutes into the interview and in response to another Godfather-ite cliché by the smug TJ English, Stewart-- this winner of the Television Critics Association award for “Outstanding Achievement in News and Information,"-- gushed: "WOW! So the Mob actually built Cuba's economy! So it was actually worse than shown in Godfather II!"
I know, I know, the “the Mob ran pre-Castro Cuba” meme is so entrenched into the worldwide media/Hollywood/academia Cuba narrative that perhaps we shouldn’t single out Jon Stewart as a Castro dupe when so many other Castro dupes parrot the same propaganda every time Cuba hits the news cycle. Take a Boston Globe editorial just this week:
“Cubans… are also aware that the United States doesn’t have clean hands in Cuba. Under the thuggish reign of US-backed Fulgencio Batista, American sugar plantations exploited laborers and stoked racial anger through segregation; the US mafia, having been dislodged from American cities by the crusading Kefauver committee, took over much of Havana, operating gambling rackets, drug rings, and prostitution.”
Please be informed, Jon Stewart and Boston Globe: better sources on pre-Castro Cuba than Godfather II actually exist.
In 1955 Cuba contained a grand total of three gambling casinos, the biggest was at the Tropicana and featured ten gambling tables and thirty slot machines, the Hotel Nacional, featured seven roulette wheels and twenty-one slot machines. “By contrast, in 1955 the single Riviera Casino in Las Vegas featured twenty tables and one hundred and sixteen slot machines. This means that in 1955: one Las Vegas Casino had more gambling action than all of Cuba.
Also interesting: according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Commission the typical tourist spends five days in their city and spends an average of $580 ($75 in 1957 dollars) on gambling, the main motive for 90 per cent of visitors. Well, throughout the 1950's Cuba averaged 180,000 tourists a year.Let's assume ALL those tourists —men, women, adolescents, children—did nothing in Cuba but gamble, and at the Las Vegas' rate.Well, this would mean an extremely generous total of $13 and a half million for Cuba's gambling industry annually. But in 1957 Cuba's Gross Domestic product was $2.7 billion, and Cuba's foreign receipts were $752 million. How could the beneficiaries of that miniscule fraction of Cuba's income “take over” one of the wealthiest, most modern and economically diverse cities in the Western hemisphere?
Here’s another snark-opportunity for Jon Stewart’s writers in case they again host T.J. English: “Mr English, your book claims that: "Every Monday at noon, a bagman for mobster Meyer Lansky delivered a satchel filled with $1.28 million in cash that was to be delivered to Batista.”
“So Mr English, are you claiming that Mob chief Meyer Lansky was slipping Batista MORE every week than the COMBINED annual GROSS from EVERY casino in Cuba, including those unaffiliated with Meyer Lansky?”
Also interesting: In 1953 more Cubans vacationed in the U.S. than Americans vacationed in Cuba. How could the wretched and brutalized residents of that plundered and impoverished nation, (as the Boston Globe, New York Times, Hollywood, NPR, Jon Stewart, etc. depict it) have possibly pulled that off?
In fact, in 1958 the year prior to Castro’s U.S.-backed takeover of Cuba…
“But wait-a-minute Humberto?!” you say. “The media, Hollywood and our professors all swear up and down that Batista was backed by the U.S., who bitterly and violently opposed Castro?!”
Well, here’s the U.S. ambassador to Cuba from 1957-59 Earl T. Smith testifying to the U.S. Senate in 1960: “various agencies of the United States directly and indirectly brought Fidel Castro into power.”
And here’s the CIA’s Caribbean desk chief from 1957-60 Robert Reynolds, another knowledgeable party to the issue, you might think: “Me and my staff were all Fidelistas.”
In fact, during that horrible period for Cubans ( as depicted by Godfather II and Jon Stewart) not only did most Cubans voluntarily remain in Cuba despite open doors both from Cuba and into the U.S.—but the island’s standard of living and booming and diverse economy attracted immigrants from both Europe and the U.S.
During this period people (from nearby Haiti and Jamaica) often jumped on rafts trying to enter Cuba.
All “heresies” above fully-documented here.
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.
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