Cuba Libre

Fidel Castro is dead.  In all sincerity I pray for his soul, but it is always a good thing when a dictator dies. A dear Venezuelan friend writes on Facebook: 
Murió en la paz de sus lujos, sin haber enfrentado la justicia por tantos crímenes que cometió. No le deseo mal, solo justicia. [He died in the peace of his luxuries without having to face justice for the many crimes he committed. I wish him no evil, but justice.]
The Miami Herald has an interesting and decent obituary.  What is fascinating, given our current preoccupation with "fake news," is their reminder that Fidel Castro owes a lot to the New York Times. 
His recruiting was aided immeasurably by his skills at propaganda and psychological warfare. Castro’s greatest ploy was luring a New York Times correspondent named Herbert Matthews to his mountain camp. Though the rebels had barely 20 bedraggled men, Castro marched the same group past Matthews several times and also staged the arrival of “messengers” reporting the movement of other (nonexistent) units.
Matthews, convinced Castro controlled a huge army, wrote: “From the look of things, General Batista cannot possibly hope to suppress the Castro revolt.” A wave of favorable coverage followed in the foreign press, and with it, international support.

Lest you think, well, of course the Herald would put it that way, the Formerly Grey Lady herself largely confirms the story, although in her telling she seems to be taking credit for Castro's revolution:
The escapade began when Castro loyalists contacted a correspondent and editorial writer for The New York Times, Herbert L. Matthews, and arranged for him to interview Mr. Castro. A few Castro supporters brought Mr. Matthews into the mountains disguised as a wealthy American planter.Drawing on his reporting, Mr. Matthews wrote sympathetically of both the man and his movement, describing Mr. Castro, then 30, parting the jungle leaves and striding into a clearing for the interview.“This was quite a man — a powerful six-footer, olive-skinned, full-faced, with a straggly beard,” Mr. Matthews wrote.The three articles, which began in The Times on Sunday, Feb. 24, 1957, presented a Castro that Americans could root for. “The personality of the man is overpowering,” Mr. Matthews wrote. “Here was an educated, dedicated fanatic, a man of ideals, of courage and of remarkable qualities of leadership.”The articles repeated Mr. Castro’s assertions that Cuba’s future was anything but a Communist state. “He has strong ideas of liberty, democracy, social justice, the need to restore the Constitution, to hold elections,” Mr. Matthews wrote. When asked about the United States, Mr. Castro replied, “You can be sure we have no animosity toward the United States and the American people.”
I can't imagine being proud of having a reporter shown to be such a wide-eyed romantic and credulous dupe. But in any case, here's an instance in which fake news cost a nation its freedom and doomed hundreds of thousands of people to death at the hands of a tyrant. 

I'm afraid to even look at other coverage, because, as my same friend puts it (can't you feel his deep sigh?):

Y hoy veremos a cientos de políticos (de derecha y de izquierda, del norte y del sur) rindiéndole homenaje a quien causó tanta muerte, hambre y odio. Un profundo silencio es lo que corresponde. [And now we will see hundreds of politicians (right, left, north and south) paying homage to this man who caused so much death, hunger and hatred. Profound silence would be more fitting.] 

(And indeed, as I am composing here,  Eldest Weed just came in to read Justin Trudeau's vomit-inducing encomium.)

They are throwing a party over at Babalu Blog (though heavy traffic has blown them up -- be patient and check back later if you can't get in.)

Mr. W. & I will be dining at Cuba Libre this evening -- if we can get in. 


Just had a memory of the time in the 70s -- 1978?-- my father was part of a journalistic exchange that took him to Cuba. What I vividly recall from his trip there was that even then Cuba was supposed to have this advanced medical system, and yet my dad found that Cubans on the street were willing to practically give him their firstborn children for one of those little tins of aspirin. 

Also, this memory from another Venezuelan commentator: 

Fui a Cuba en el anio 2001. Visite la casa que le quitaron a mis abuelos ( a mi abuelo se lo llevaron preso por querer entrar a la fuerza a su propia casa) y recorri a Cuba entera... El nivel de miseria y prostitucion me erizaron la piel sobretodo cuando un taxi bicicleta me pregunto que de donde venia? Y cuando le conteste que de Venezuela se compadecio de mi y me dijo "Somos las dos alas de la misma paloma: nosotros ya vamos saliendo del tunel ustedes apenas estan comenzando..." 

Collecting interesting links here as they accumulate. 

Interview w/ Dr. Biscet, cuban doctor imprisoned for many years by Castro (Spanish)

Cuban-American reaction (story accompanying video above).

Re-visiting Michael Totten's The Last Communist City

Who "wears" it better:  Trudeau, Obama, or Trump (and more Trump)? 

Other US politicians react

This piece reminds us of the brutal Castro oppression of homosexuals. Wondering how Trudeau and other progressives lauding Castro today square that? 

A reflection from a clergyman of his childhood impression of Castro.

Armando Valladeres' address upon receiving the Canterbury Medal earlier this year. 

Astonishingly, Nancy Pelosi's statement isn't bad.  Other world leaders continue to beclown themselves

Mercedes Schlapp talks about her dad's reaction (her dad was a Cuban political prisoner for 8 years). 

Counting Castro's Victims

Ted Cruz on our Cuba policy and Castro's real legacy.

Glenn Reynolds: Castro, Chavez and "bad luck."