Six members of the Congressional Black Caucus traveled to Cuba last week and were delighted with their reception. They met with Raul Castro for four hours (including dinner). Three lucky members of the delegation were even entertained by Fidel at his home. As the Miami Herald reported, the representatives found Castro, to be "very engaging, very energetic … very talkative.'' Imagine. The dictator known for his five-hour speeches. Who could have guessed?
Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Calif., was impressed that Castro knew her name and her district. "He looked right into my eyes," she gushed, "and he said, 'How can we help you? How can we help President Obama?'"
"This is the dawning of a new day,'' exclaimed Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill. "In my household I told Castro he is known as the ultimate survivor."
Funny how easy it is to survive when you don't hold elections. And when all of your opponents wind up in prison or dead. And when even those who dare to whisper a word of dissent to your absolute rule find themselves harassed, beaten, humiliated, and imprisoned. According to the Black Book of Communism, more than 100,000 Cubans have served time for political offenses in Cuba's equivalent of the Gulag Archipelago since Castro came to power in 1959. Among those particularly singled out for persecution were human rights activists, homosexuals, and religious believers.
Members of the CBC paid lip service to the notion that they opposed the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba because "it hasn't worked." But the tenor of their comments betrays other motivations. They are genuinely Castrophilic.
In finest useful idiot fashion, Rush said this of 77-year-old Raul Castro, who has served Fidel throughout the 50-year totalitarian siege of the island: "I think that what really surprised me, but also endeared me to him," he told the L.A. Times, "was his keen sense of humor, his sense of history and his basic human qualities. I intend to do everything that I can when we get back to the States to make sure that normalization with our relationship with Cuba is given proper consideration both within the House of Representatives and the neighborhoods of America."
Here's the Black Book of Communism again on treatment of prisoners in Cuba: "The violence of the prison regime affected both political prisoners and common criminals. Violence began with the interrogations conducted by the Departamento Tecnico de Investigaciones (DTI). The DTI used solitary confinement and played on the phobias of the detainees: one woman who was afraid of insects was locked in a cell infested with cockroaches. The DTI also used physical violence. Prisoners were forced to climb a staircase wearing shoes filled with lead and were then thrown back down the stairs. Psychological torture was also used, often observed by a medical team. ... The children of detainees were banned from higher education, and spouses were often fired from their jobs."
The U.S. Department of State reported in February 2009 about continuing appalling conditions in Cuba's prisons: "Health conditions and hygiene at prisons were very poor. Many prisoners, such as Tomas Ramos Rodriguez, released in June after serving 17 years, said that cell floors had standing pools of water contaminated with sewage. There were several reports that toilets were essentially wooden platforms above an open sewer, with no process for treating the waste. Family members reported widespread serious disease and illnesses among political prisoners, for which the prison staff sometimes withheld treatment. Digestive disorders, dengue fever, and outbreaks of skin diseases caused by contaminated water were frequent."
The CBC didn't ask to visit political prisoners. Perhaps they might have made time to see the brave Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) who have gathered -- or attempted to gather -- every year since 2003 to draw attention to their imprisoned spouses. In 2003, 75 pro-democracy demonstrators were arrested, summarily tried, and sentenced to long prison terms. Their wives and other supporters have been dressing in white and marching in Havana to call attention to their plight. In 2005, the Damas de Blanco were awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament. The Castro regime (the first name isn't so important) has responded by ransacking the women's homes, forcibly removing them from public busses as they made their way to Havana, and detaining them.
Cubans who dare to oppose the regime pay a terrible price. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who led this delegation and has been a Castro apologist for decades, should be deeply ashamed. So should they all.