Today only a single dictatorship remains in the Western Hemisphere:
Thanks to communism, Cuba -- once one of the wealthiest Caribbean
countries -- is now one of its poorest. Cuban society is ruthlessly
regimented by a police state modeled on those of Stalin and Mao.
Much of the Cuban population has been forced to flee in successive
expulsions since the 1960s.
The response proposed by American liberals? The United States
should be nicer to Fidel Castro. Today almost all liberal politicians,
pundits and journalists, joined by many in the American business
community, claim that ending U.S. economic sanctions on Cuba will
promote political freedom and ultimately democracy in Castro's
bankrupt police state.
Curiously, the American left made the opposite claim in the 1980s,
when it backed the economic sanctions that played a role in ending
apartheid in South Africa. And few liberals show interest in easing
sanctions on Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
Will ending sanctions bring democracy to Cuba? Many European
and Latin American nations have been trading for years with Cuba
without weakening Castro's control, which, like any tyranny, bases
its power on controlling the police and the military, not the
Why, then, would trade with the United States bring Castro down?
Trade with China has not weakened the grip on power of the Chinese
communist party. Indeed, foreign trade and investment may strengthen
the power of dictatorships like Castro's and China's, by easing
the economic pain that communist elites have inflicted on their
captive subjects. In any event, new infusions of cash are likely
to end up in the bank accounts of well-connected Cuban officials.
The illogic and inconsistency of the American left can be seen
in the equally disturbing double standard in the contrast between
liberal perceptions of the former Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic
Like Milosevic, Castro is a hard-line communist skilled at manipulating
nationalist sentiments. Just as Milosevic expelled ethnic Albanians
from Kosovo, so Castro has expelled tens of thousands of his enemies
in successive waves from Cuba. At least Milosevic's atrocities
were limited to the Yugoslavian civil war, while Castro sent Cuban
mercenaries to promote Soviet imperial aims in Africa in the 1970s
and 1980s, while intervening in civil wars in Central America
to spread communist totalitarianism.
Yet none of the liberal hawks who loudly urged the United States
to wage war in Kosovo on behalf of its Albanian minority has proposed
military action to free the Cuban majority.
What about judicial action against Castro? The Western left applauded
the attempt by Spain to try Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet
for crimes against humanity. But don't wait for American liberals
or leftists to propose putting Castro on trial for the imprisonment,
torture and execution of political dissidents, homosexuals, and
even colleagues like Maj. Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, a potential political
rival whom Castro put in front of a firing squad in 1989.
Psychologists may be better able than political scientists to
explain why many American liberals idealize foreign dictatorships
with institutions or values that they find horrifying in milder
forms in the United States. For some reason, many American leftists
who loathe the military are not troubled by the fact that Castro
appears in public only in a military uniform. American liberals
somehow manage to support gay rights in the United States while
ignoring Castro's vicious campaigns against homosexuality, which
he has defined as a "bourgeois perversion." American liberals
fret about the FBI and Internet censorship, while calling for
the United States to befriend a regime where culture and religion
are rigidly controlled by the secret police.
American liberals opposed to the death penalty often discover
charisma in this Cuban caudillo who has frequently resorted to
the firing squad to eliminate his opponents. Liberals who mock
the "family values" and law-and-order rhetoric of the right, suddenly
discovered the importance of family values and law and order when
applauding Janet Reno's seizure and deportation of Elian Gonzalez
to Cuba (where he is now being programmed like other Cuban children
to revere Castro and hate the United States).
As we saw during the Elian incident, liberals who would be offended
by stereotypes about Mexicans or Haitians feel free to smear Cuban-Americans
as a group. Last but not least, many liberals who want to stamp
out sexism and smoking in their own country find themselves titillated
by a macho despot whose characteristic prop is a phallic cigar.
Can anyone seriously doubt that, if Castro were a right-wing
military dictator rather than a self-described socialist, American
liberals would be demanding internationally supervised free elections
in Cuba, calling for tighter sanctions to bring down the regime,
and perhaps even demanding an international invasion to free the
Unfortunately, from the Bolshevik coup d'etat in Russia in 1917
until the present, all too many liberals and leftists in the United
States and Europe have been willing to excuse murderous dictators
like Castro who have used the magic word "socialism" to describe
their despotic rule. Even now, some gullible liberals still excuse
Castro's vicious autocracy by falling for the regime's propaganda
about universal literacy and free health care. (As was the case
in the Soviet Union and East Germany, the glowing official reports
about Cuban schools and hospitals will almost certainly turn out
to be lies).
Few on the American left anymore defend Lenin, Stalin, or Mao,
who between them starved or executed almost a hundred million
of their own people in the 20th century. But their murderous disciple
Fidel Castro can still inspire a flutter in the hearts of many
American liberals who are willing to withdraw their objections
to tyranny when the tyrant claims to be on the left.
Copyright 2001, United Press International