The Aldrich Alert
Gary Aldrich

A Publication of the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty

Cuba Libre

May 19, 2001

by Gary Aldrich - Volume 2, Issue 27

This article appeared on on Thursday, May 16, 2002.

Reports of human rights abuses in communist Cuba are nonstop. Fidel Castro is nothing more than a lying, murderous dictator who has oppressed an island nation for more than 40 years. These facts are indisputable. The mere passage of time does not soften these facts. That a former Democratic president named Carter is visiting Castro is no surprise. The left has had affection for Castro and his politics since he seized power many years ago.

A focus of this human tragedy is south Florida, where thousands of Cuban refugees settled after fleeing their homeland. As a young boy growing up in Hialeah, Fla., I went to school with hundreds of Cuban children whose parents were lucky enough to "get out." Thatís how everyone in south Florida talked about fleeing Cuba – they were fortunate enough to "get out." It truly was a "great escape," like something straight out of a World War II P.O.W. movie.

For years, Cubans boarded small boats and made the 90-mile trek from Cuba to Key West – if they were lucky. If they were unlucky and missed the Florida Keys, they often drifted north getting caught in the currents of the Gulf Stream, never to be seen again.

Sometimes – like in the case of Elian Gonzales – the passengers on the crowded boats were found by south Florida fishermen out for a day of sun and fun. Other times, the boatsí passengers fell victim to the fierce storms that raged in the Atlantic. Thousands died fleeing Castro.

But why did they flee? What were they trying to get away from? What were they seeking? What did they hope to find in America?

Many have reduced these brave Cuban patriotsí desires and the risks they took to the material. Thatís because so many see life in America as a continual quest for more "things." The dignity and wonder of life is too often defined by the number of items stocked on our grocery shelves and our ability to purchase as many goods as we can carry off in our new luxury SUV.

To be fair, more than a few Cuban refugees have been reduced to tears as they walked through our giant superstores for the very first time, gazing at the great quantities of food and overwhelming variety that we take for granted. In their homeland everything is rationed, including basics like toilet paper, sugar, coffee and other staples.

Seeing their joy, their excitement, we easily mistake their emotions as evidence that the differences between living in Cuba and living in America are all about the kind of car one drives or the number of chickens one can put into the family pot. How mistaken we are if we think that.

We sully the memory of the thousands who died in the cause of freedom when we describe their efforts as mere cover for those who search for the almighty dollar. We forget that without freedom there is no prosperity.

In 1982, I was smuggled into the hotel room of an old Cuban woman visiting the U.S. for a few precious weeks. She was the grandmother of a very good friend of mine. Most Cubans view the FBI much like we, as Americans, view the KGB. Castro had preached for years about alleged FBI and CIA plots that were underway to undermine his power-base. But, she wanted to talk to me, an FBI agent, because she wanted to tell as many people as possible about the horrible fear she lived with day in and day out.

Was this brave woman afraid of terrorists or criminals or wild animals? No, she was simply afraid of Fidel Castro and the thousands of Castro agents that had been recruited all over the island of Cuba. And, what purpose did these "block captains" serve? Why did Castro want an agent on every single block in every single town on the island? To spy and report back suspicious activities, of course! Every citizen on the island of Cuba is being watched around the clock by Castroís agents. When a Castro agent suspects dissident activity on the part of someone – no matter how young or old – odds are, the truck with the troops will arrive at night and that "comrade" will disappear for awhile … or maybe, forever.

This is the constant fear that the Cuban people live with. In seeking a meeting with an FBI agent, this brave, old woman was risking imprisonment, or worse. South Florida was riddled with Castro agents on the lookout for any signs of dissent. Not only would she be in serious trouble, but her relatives would be also. Castro has a way of being especially angry and revengeful with those whom he considers disloyal to the revolution.

Was this grandmother trying to tell me she wanted more coffee or bread? Was she risking so much to send a message to America that her nation needed more medicine or pantyhose?

The courage she displayed that day was the same courage displayed by the thousands of Cubans who had come before her. They were trying to tell us – we, the people who they believed to be their friends and supporters – that they had lost their liberty and their freedoms to an angry and evil dictator who had instituted in their land a most dangerous and inhuman oppression.

The fact that they donít enjoy a steady supply of coffee, or bread or toilet paper is the direct result of the loss of liberty of the Cuban people, stolen by a treacherous and murderous form of government, and not because the United States supports an embargo designed to drive Castro from illegitimate power. Castro lied to get power and he lies to keep it.

But Jimmy Carter will never understand that. Carter and his friends think that one day some communist leader will "get it right" and communism will prevail so that we can all reach that one-world utopia envisioned and lusted after by the left. The American left had high hopes that Castro could pull it off. The fact that he has failed and his people still suffer so much has not diminished the American leftís affection for him.

The evidence of that is the smiling face of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter as he criticizes a war-time commander-in-chief, and simultaneously embraces a murderous foreign dictator.