by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz
Yesterday I came across an article by Salman Rushdie where he claims that Gabriel García Márquez’s Work Was Rooted in the Real because “in his pages I found a reality I knew well from my own experience in India and Pakistan.” According to Rushdie,
[Gabriel García Márquez, a.k.a. Gabo] was a journalist who never lost sight of the facts.
As long as you turn a blind eye to the half-century of human rights abuses in the island-prison, that is.
According to a new book on Fidel Castro,
Castro enjoyed a private island – Cayo Piedra, south of the Bay of Pigs, scene of the failed CIA-sponsored invasion of 1961 – describing it as a “garden of Eden” where he entertained selected guests including the writer Gabríel Garcia Márquez, and enjoyed spear-fishing.
The former bodyguard says Castro sailed to the island on his luxury yacht, the Aquarama II, fitted out with rare Angolan wood and powered by four motors sent by the Soviet president Leonid Brezhnev.
“Castro would sit in his large black leather director’s armchair … a glass of Chivas Regal on the rocks (his favourite drink) in his hand,” writes Sánchez.
While Fidel and Gabo sipped Chivas in the yacht, to this day the Cuban people make due on $20/month as their world literally collapses around them. Michael Totten writes about Havana, The Last Communist City, a cesspool of despair and need. Hotel workers get paid 67 cents a day,
The government contracts with Spanish companies such as Meliá International to manage Havana’s hotels. Before accepting its contract, Meliá said that it wanted to pay workers a decent wage. The Cuban government said fine, so the company pays $8–$10 an hour. But Meliá doesn’t pay its employees directly. Instead, the firm gives the compensation to the government, which then pays the workers—but only after pocketing most of the money. I asked several Cubans in my hotel if that arrangement is really true. All confirmed that it is. The workers don’t get $8–$10 an hour; they get 67 cents a day—a child’s allowance.
The regime suppresses all dissent: Cuba remains the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent. In 2012, the government of Raúl Castro continued to enforce political conformity using short-term detentions, beatings, public acts of repudiation, travel restrictions, and forced exile.
If you think repression is a thing of the past, browse through Marc Masferrer’s blog, Uncommon Sense. Here are a few items,
- Political arrests continue at a torrid pace in Cuba; more than 360 in first 13 days of May
- 3 Cuban human rights activists violently arrested during protest in Havana
- Cuban human rights group reports 905 political arrests in April
But Rushdie is not the only one turning a blind eye to these abuses. The Council of the Americas has posted a petition, Open Letter to President Obama: Support Civil Society in Cuba because
Such efforts would seek to provide openings and opportunities to support the Cuban people in their day-to-day economic activities, and in their desire to connect openly with each other and the outside world and to support the broad spectrum of civil society, independent, non-state organizations created to further individual economic and social needs irrespective of political orientation.
There’s only one catch: The totalitarian Communist regime doesn’t need to do anything in return.
Meliá’s employees would still get only 67 cents instead of $8-$10/hour. Not one political prisoner would be freed. No one would be allowed to assemble freely. No one would be able to travel without the government’s permission.
The Council of the Americas’s signatories idea of significant progress means having the U.S. government throw a lifeline to a corrupt, criminal, inhumane regime.
It takes a special type of moral blindness to want that.
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s Blog.