Congressional Black Caucus Democrats went to Cuba to see what they wanted to see. Not since The New York Times reporter Walter Duranty traipsed around Stalin's Russia, filing cheery travelogues whitewashing Communist-engineered famine, has America witnessed such disgraceful propaganda tourism.
Led around by the nose by the Castro brothers, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver declared, "If there is repression in Cuba we didn't see it." Somehow, the gulags and slums got left off the itinerary. Go figure. The CBC members saw instead a land of milk and honey. Fresh air and freedom. Shiny, happy people cared for by a kindly, benevolent leader. As Comrade Fidel himself put it in his official statement on the visit: "Persons who move on the streets in an active and almost always happy manner do not match with the stereotyped images that most of the times are portrayed about Cuba abroad."
Rep. Cleaver swallowed the Kastro Kool-Aid in one big gulp: "We've been led to believe that the Cuban people are not free, and they are repressed by a vicious dictator, and I saw nothing to match what we've been told." Cleaver unabashedly basked in the cult of Raul Castro's personality: "He's one of the most amazing human beings I've ever met."
Lord, what tools these lawmakers be.
Accompanying Cleaver were radical left-wing House Democrats Barbara Lee, Laura Richardson, Bobby Rush, Marcia Fudge, Mel Watt and Mike Honda. Rep. Rush was enraptured by the tyrant's "keen sense of humor, his sense of history and his basic human qualities." Lee fawned over the Castros like your neighborhood tweens giggle over the Jonas Brothers. The aging dictator Fidel "looked directly into our eyes," she delighted. Where was he supposed to look? Into their ears? He "was very engaging and very energetic," she confided.
Yes, ask the dozens of independent journalists and dissidents jailed over the last six years: Fidel's a veritable fuzz ball.
It's too bad Castro's American bootlickers jetted back home (Why is it these fervent admirers of the Communist regime always buy themselves return tickets?) before Easter. They might have run into someone with seeing eyes who could have reminded them of the religious oppression the kindly Castros oversee. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reported last year that "(r)eligious belief and practice remain under tight governmental control in Cuba. … Both registered and unregistered religious groups continue to suffer official interference, harassment and repression. Political prisoners and human rights and pro-democracy activists continue to be denied the right to worship." The panel compiled reports of religious leaders "being attacked, beaten or detained for opposing government actions."
The Cuban Communist Party requires religious groups to register to obtain official recognition. They must inform the regime "where they will conduct their activities" and obtain official permission to travel. The government controls the distribution of Bibles. Processions and worship services outside tightly regulated religious buildings are not allowed without permission of the local ruling official of the Communist Party. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is expressly forbidden from proselytizing. Religious schools are banned.
Two years ago, the U.S. international religious freedom panel reported, a Pentecostal preacher and his family were evicted from their home and their church demolished. A month after that, police raided the Santa Teresita Catholic Church in Santiago de Cuba, beat several persons gathered for Mass who participated in a political protest earlier that day, and detained 18 worshipers.
Every Sunday in Havana, a brave group of jailed dissidents' wives walk to a government-approved Mass at an old Catholic cathedral to pray for their husbands' freedom. They are known as the Ladies in White. The group has been harassed and bullied by Castro's henchmen at Easter time for demanding regime change. Their church is named for Saint Rita, the patroness of lost causes. The hopeless sycophants of the Congressional Black Caucus, willfully blind to Castro's systemic brutality, could certainly use the saint's intercession.