A new film is to be made about Che Guevara, the man whose image adorns the T-shirts of many a young student “radical” or someone trying to appear hip (even if they haven’t much clue about his real life). This story, drawn from a report at the Venice Film Festival, suggests that the man will be portrayed warts an’ all, making use of declassified CIA files. Good. It is something of a pet issue here at Samizdata that while the monsters of Fascism are rightly excoriated in film and print and unthinkable of a youngster to wear a picture of Adolf Hitler on his shirt, it is considered okay to do the same with the portrait of a mass murderer like Lenin or Chairman Mao. Of course in some cases the results of this mindset are unintentionally amusing.
Maybe the message is getting through. Totalitarian socialists are not hip, and not clever.
I love this headline:
Castro Lauds Cuban Municipal Elections
I bet he does.
Under Cuba’s one-party system, city and provincial leaders, as well as representatives of the National Assembly, are elected by citizens on a local level. Anyone can be nominated to these posts, including non-members of the island’s ruling communist party – the only one recognized in Cuba’s constitution.
So, in theory, anyone can stand for election, and if they win they can then take part in choosing anyone as President.
Well, not quite.
Cuba consistently defends its system as democratic, but critics of Castro’s government argue that tight state control, a heavy police presence and neighborhood-watch groups that report on their neighbors prevent any real political freedom on the island.
It is easy to sneer, and I hereby sneer, at elections like this. But what also strikes me is that fraudulent though this system obviously is at the moment, it might eventually mutate into something genuine. To put it another way, window dressing can end up taking over the shop.
What if Castro dies – Castro will, I predict, eventually die – and there is no longer any widespread agreement about who it is proper to vote for, and who those voted for should themselves vote for when they choose Castro’s successor?
At least Castro now feels sufficiently pressured by the challenge of true democracy to feel the need to arrange his own fraudulent version of it. And the experience of participating in this charade is quite likely to make at least some of those taking part in it wonder how it might feel to vote in a real election.
Harry Hutton mostly does sarky, misanthropic humour, so this on the spot reportage from Colombia might very well get missed by a lot of more earnest types than him who would appreciate reading it.
Here is John Pilger arguing that American military aid has caused a humanitarian disaster in Colombia. The trouble with this is that, since the really huge flows of US arms and money began, the level of violence has plunged.
Kidnapping fell 42% last year, and 26% the year before that; the number of massacres was down 53% in 2004, and murder fell 17.7%; street crime, the number of displaced persons, crime against taxi drivers… all down. And every single Colombian I have spoken to, without a single exception, has told me that the situation has improved. I had dinner with some foreign human rights workers, who told me that this was also their strong impression.
Harry’s commenters have mostly concentrated not on whether the above reportage is true, but rather about the rights and wrongs of legalising the drugs, the proceeds of which are so much a part of the problems of Colombia. Or maybe not, because Colombia has always been a violent place. I favour total drug legalisation for all the usual libertarian reasons, but whatever you think about that, this is an interesting piece of reportage.
A few other commenters have also pointed out what a lying twat Pilger is. It is good that such drivel as his can now be challenged quickly by bloggers who, unlike Pilger, actually know what Pilger is talking about. Had I come across it by some other route, I would have dismissed Pilger’s piece as almost certainly being made-up rubbish, purely because of who it is by, but it is nice to be sure.
Yet another attempt is underway to portray Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara as someone who was actually admirable, rather than someone who should be remembered, if at all, as an inept communist thug and mass murderer who deserves to be buried under the scrapheap of history.
Fortunately not everyone is fooled.
Just when you think that language cannot possibly become any more twisted or discourse any more debased, up pops a reminder that we still have a long way left to fall:
The 1971 shooting of students by government forces in Mexico’s so-called “dirty war” has been classified by an investigating prosecutor as genocide.
While marvelling at this breathtaking and brazen ridiculousness of this charge, I note that it is merely the opinion of a prosecutor as opposed to an official verdict. However, if it becomes an official verdict I trust that no-one will be surprised.
Like the word ‘rape’, the word ‘genocide’ has increasingly been deployed as a political trigger word and abused to the point where it has not just been devalued but is perilously close to being stripped of every smidgeon of meaning. I suppose we will have to find a new term to describe the extermination of an entire race now.
This particular case may or may not go any further but it almost does not matter. The point is that the bar has been lowered again and the occasion will not go unmarked among that class of jurists and campaigners who weave together the fabric of supranational laws.
Within ten years, charges of ‘genocide’ will be laid against people who tell racist jokes.
According to the great leader’s physician, Fidel Castro can live to “at least” the age of 140 years old. His proof? Castro still has the strength to go on protest marches. God help us if participation in moonbat gatherings is all it takes to guarantee more than a century of life on this planet; if you think old people are crazy these days, just wait until they’re all sporting “Not in my name” badges and spouting communist rhetoric.
Speaking of which, how long do we reckon it will it be before Fidel’s fans start trotting out this doctor’s expert opinion as further evidence — along with the country’s literacy rates and supposedly world-class, “free” healthcare — that Cuba is a great nation from which we could all learn so very much?
Online purveyors of imperialist Yankee running-dog capitalism are not welcome in socialist paradise:
A new law has been passed in Cuba which will make access to the internet more difficult for Cubans.
Only those authorised to use the internet from home like civil servants, party officials and doctors will be able to do so on a regular phone line.
So there we have it. A country that has (allegedly) 100% rates of literacy but you are not allowed to actually read anything.
Seeking out fiskable material in the Guardian is altogether too much like spearing fish in a barrel. It’s almost unfair. Callous, even. In fact, spoilt for choice, I generally elect to leave the tiddlers and save my energies for the succulent, fat ones that drift serene and oblivious to my cravings for their ample and oily flesh.
Dinner is served, courtesy of one Brian Wilson who takes his readers on a moist-eyed trip down memory lane:
Twenty-five years ago this month, I visited Cuba for the first time. The occasion was the World Festival of Youth and Students, which drew 20,000 to Havana from 150 countries – probably, to this day, the country’s biggest display to the world of its revolutionary wares.
Come on over, Mama, whole lot of schtoopidity goin’ on.
Yet, for our Brian, these were the salad days:
But for me, that visit was the start of a life-long love affair.
Ah yes, the romantic boulevards of gay Havana, where Brian strolled arm-in-arm with the Revolutionary Vanguard of the Hoopty-Squat Dirtbag 25th of November People’s Liberation Front Army (or something).
There is no need to confuse that statement with uncritical acclaim for everything about the place. But criticism should never ignore the fact that Cuba’s primary service to the world has been to provide living proof that it is possible to conquer poverty, disease and illiteracy in a country that was grossly over-familiar with all three.
Where’s the ‘living proof’, O Besotted One? Why isn’t every Cuban Embassy on the planet besieged with sick, starving, illiterate people all clamouring for passage to Havana and salvation? → Continue reading: In Cuba, no-one can hear you scream
I’m back onto Cuba again but, hey, it’s not my fault. The buggers keep provoking me.
But at least I can now look back on a certain record of achievement on this particular subject. No sooner have I intimated that Cuba’s allegedly splendiferous health-care and education statistics were probably a crock, then up pops cast-iron confirmation courtesy of this hilarious bit of fawnography in the Guardian:
Which only goes to reinforce what has long been obvious: that US hostility to Cuba does not stem from the regime’s human rights failings, but its social and political successes and the challenge its unyielding independence offers to other US and western satellite states. Saddled with a siege economy and a wartime political culture for more than 40 years, Cuba has achieved first world health and education standards in a third world country, its infant mortality and literacy rates now rivalling or outstripping those of the US, its class sizes a third smaller than in Britain.
Which goes a long way to explaining why untold numbers of Americans are risking their lives every year in order to escape from America and get a better life in Cuba.
Er, no, wait a sec…that’s the other way around:
Untold numbers of Cubans flee the island every year, trying to cross to nearby Florida – including via a truck turned into a raft this week.
Have these ‘untold numbers’ of Cubans all gone stark, raving mad? Who, in their right minds, would want to risk being eaten by sharks in order to get away from first-class health-care and education? Don’t these insane Cubans realise just how poor, miserable, stupid and sick they are going to be in America?
Some ungrateful people just don’t deserve ‘social and political successes’.
Fidel Castro, in a speech to the masses, has announced that he will not accept any more aid from the European Union as people connected with this organization have made critical comments about some of the policies of his regime.
Now if Fidel Castro actually keeps his word (I admit that this a dodgy assumption) his regime may soon fall.
Cuba has various sources of income. Some are not that important – for example the Castro regime’s drug dealing has long been limited by the desire to maintain plausible deniability (cocaine dealing having a negative public relations aspect in modern times – although at one time it was considered a respectable trade, and may one day be so considered again). Also there is little point for Latin American cocaine sellers to work via Cuba (when they can sell direct) – although some groups (such as the F.A.R.C. and the E.L.N. in Colombia) have an ideological interest in working with Cuba.
Other sources of finance are important, but also vulnerable. For example the cheap oil from Venezuela depends on the President there continuing to hold power. Now whilst it is true that large sections of the population continue to be part of the ‘Chavez cult’ (the President is consided a sort of God – who is to be worshipped no matter how much harm he causes his worshippers), the majority of the population are not part of the cult and the President may feel it sensible to sell oil at market prices to whoever wishes to buy it – or the President may lose power.
Then there is the nickel mining in Cuba. Nickel is a good source of money, however the mining depends on western companies and both the E.U. and Canada seem to be getting tired of encouraging private companies to operate in Cuba (considering the way these companies tend to get treated there). The belief that Castro should be supported because he is a ‘progressive’ (and also as a good way of twisting the tail of the United States) is finally slipping away. Also the fad of Cuba tourism seems to be losing its shine. Pre Castro musicians are dying off and pre Castro buildings are decaying (in spite of all the aid sent to prevent their decay).
This leaves Cuba with the income sent home by Cubans living overseas.
It is ironic that such an important source of income for Cuba (perhaps more important than tourism) is from people in the United States sending money back to their families.
A regime that depends on the population being supported by people living in the ‘great enemy’ can hardly be considered a strong one.
My guess (it can be no more than that) is that Fidel Castro will be out (or dead) within a year.
Only the BBC could possibly publish a full-page editorial about the 50th anniversary of Castro’s revolution in Cuba without once mentioning the word ‘communism’. Not overlooked, however, is a bit of fawning over the Beard himself:
Mr Castro, then a 26-year-old revolutionary, led about 120 fighters in a raid on the Moncada barracks – with a garrison of about 800 soldiers – on 26 July 1953.
So brave! So dashing! So bold! Our hero! (swoon).
Still there are some brief, grudging but nonetheless damning admissions:
His country has gone from being the third-richest in Latin America to one of the poorest.
Its economy now relies heavily on funds sent from Cubans abroad and on tourism.
Untold numbers of Cubans flee the island every year, trying to cross to nearby Florida – including via a truck turned into a raft this week.
Grim reading indeed but completey overshadowed, of course, by Castro’s laudable ‘humanitarian achievements’:
Cuba boasts the highest life expectancy in Latin America and one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.
It has one doctor per 166 people and one of the most extensive free public health systems in the world.
It also has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, with just over 95% of the population being able to read.
Makes you wonder why so many Cubans are so hell-bent on getting the flock out of Cuba. Perhaps they are all ‘extreme right-wingers’.
In any event, I wonder if those oft-touted statistics actually bear any resemblance to reality? Or are they, like Soviet grain harvesting figures, a mere device to provide Western leftists with a tool of apologia. The ‘best healthcare in the world’ schtick is now such familiar copybook mummery that it is even accepted by people who should know better. Perhaps somebody should ask those fleeing Cubans what life is really like.
It has been reported that Iranian dissident TV programmes being broadcast into Iran via satellite from the USA are being jammed… from Cuba! Of course I have no doubt that the Communist Cuban government will deny they are responsible.
Fair enough. As a result, it would be really… interesting… to see some equally non-governmental action to stop them. I wonder how much it would cost to lash up ‘private sector’ anti-radiation missile with just enough range to reach the jammer in Bejucal, (near Havana) from not-too-far-into Cuban airspace? Let’s call it a ‘Rattlesnake’ (as in Don’t Tread on Me)
As tactical surprise would be complete, the ‘Rattlesnake’ would not need to be fast (more akin to a cruise missile than a Shrike or HARM), just so long as it had enough range. A simple aluminum airframe with little wings to minimize the propellant requirement, perhaps a stripped down off-the-shelf GPS unit for cruise guidance and a tuned passive homer for terminal guidance (you know, the sort of gear the US government pays hundreds of thousands for and which can be bought in Radio Shack for a few hundred bucks). If the weapon was accurate enough, a small 10 lbs improvised pre-fragmented warhead would probably be sufficient. If the whole thing could be kept under 250 lbs, it would be easy to modify all manner of private airplanes to carry it.
A 15 mile engagement envelope for a Hi-Hi-Lo stand-off attack would probably be adequate: skirt Cuban airspace, suddenly turn in for the attack, shallow dive for speed to maximise range of the missile, release the ‘Rattlesnake’, then dive for the deck at just under the speed your wings will fall off and run for Key West (or elsewhere) at wave-top level long before you develop any MIG or SAM ‘problems’…but obviously the longer the range of the weapon, the better.
Key West, Mexico and a zillion little islands are only a few minutes flight time away for a low flying private airplane and, as I am sure any trafficker in ‘herbs and spices’ in that part of the world will tell you, there are an awful lot of small airfields in the Caribbean.
It is just an idea, of course… pure fantasy…I would not dream of actually inciting anyone to do this. That would be bad. I mean, if people started doing that sort of thing, folks might get it into their heads that it is okay to shoot at tyrants wherever they are found… and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?
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