During the last Democratic debate in New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders mentioned the word “Judgment” a number of times. He is very right that good judgment is an extremely important quality in a President. However, he seems to have avoided the importance of Intent in the mind of a President. So, I thought it would be an appropriate time to discuss both Bernie Sanders’ judgment and rightfully question his intent.
History is riddled with lessons on how we should beware of charismatic potential leaders. This is particularly the case when they call for “Revolution” of “The People”. Gratefully, our forefathers had the good sense to give us a Democratic Republic with three branches of government to ensure that the “Revolutions” recorded by history can never occur in America. But still, every now and then, a charismatic person appears and promises a world he can never deliver, while thinking of his heroes. We have one in our presence today. As you can see in my previous post, “Bernie We Hardly Know Thee, But What We Know Is Horrible,” Bernie has many heroes in his mind. The Sandinistas and Ortega were “Impressive” to him. He visited Nicaragua to attend the Seventh Anniversary of The Revolution. He honeymooned in the USSR and sought out a “Sister City” to crown upon his return to Vermont. Today, the Communist and Marxist parties of the USA are thrilled to see him running for President.
Bernie also despised JFK. He said JFK “Made me sick”. The reason Bernie despised JFK had to do with one of his heroes: Fidel Castro. Bernie declared that Castro “Transformed Cuba”. Bernie was right. Castro sure did transform Cuba. Oh yes, indeed he did. Castro was just one more example of how easily Socialism “For The People” can evolve into Fascism under a “Charismatic” leader.
Our member “FLVoter” has taken the time to tell us a very important story. It’s the story of how a 4-year-old child and her family escaped Castro’s “Transformed Cuba”. As I read her essay, I could read between all the lines. I know you will feel the same way. It’s a cautionary tale that leads us to wonder about the man who likes to denigrate the judgment of others while his own is rather suspect.
I would like to thank FLVoter and her mother, with whom she collaborated. This couldn’t possibly have been easy to talk about or to write:
The following is an essay by Member FLVvoter:
In 1967 my family consisting of two small children under the age of six, my grandmother and my mother and father left Cuba via the Freedom Flights to the United States. The process to leave Cuba began almost two years prior to our departure. The Cuban Government made emigration as difficult as possible. If you were going to emigrate you could not be employed from the moment you gave notice of your intent to leave to the moment you left. At the time you left you had to have the same amount of money in the bank that you had at the time you gave your notice to leave otherwise you were not allowed to leave. If it were not for my grandfather, we could have never left. It must have been incredibly difficult for my grandfather believing that he would never see his only son again, but knowing that life in Castro’s Cuba was impossible, to help us during those two years that it took the Cuban Government to allow our departure.
So what would push my family to leave everything behind, family, friends, culture and go to the great unknown United States? How many people today could leave behind the warmth of family and the familiarity of your homeland knowing that you could never return? It was a risk, but the greater risk was staying in Cuba. Life without freedom had made Cuba unbearable. Just stop and think, could you live your life not knowing if you would wake up in your bed the next morning, or if someone you loved and cared about just disappeared? Any life in a foreign country was better than how we were living in Cuba.
Prior to 1957 Cuba was a fairly international city, with a thriving business population and robust tourism. At that time the Cuban currency and the US currency were just about equivalent. Tourism was huge since Cuba boasted the most beautiful beaches in the world. Bautista was the current dictator, who overthrew the elected Cuban President, Carlos Prio Socorras in 1952. By 1957 Fidel Castro was already in Cuba fighting to overthrow Bautista and by New Year Eve 1958 Bautista and his cronies abandoned Cuba to Fidel Castro.
At first the majority of the population was happy with Fidel Castro since Bautista was a dictator and who wants to live under a dictatorship? Castro promised a way back to democracy with his pledge of free and open elections. However, those free and open elections never materialized. Instead he chose to prosecute any and all people that he deemed part of the Baustista Government. Castro rid himself of the military leaders after mock trials and executed them publicly. And by publicly I mean televised. As you can imagine many people were horrified, who wants to see mock trials and public executions, with the favored method of execution being firing squads. After the initial outrage, Castro stopped the public executions and instead continued his reign of terror in private. Yes, hard to imagine, but mom and dad lived this way until we were able to leave. Just imagine a friend, a neighbor, a family member or you could just disappear overnight never to be heard from again. And of course let’s not forget Castro’s executioner Che Guevara who took particular pleasure in earning his nickname the Butcher of the La Cabana (a Cuban prison where political prisoners were held be they man, woman or child). Some members of my mother’s family had first hand experience of this prison. Many times prisoners were marched out thinking that they were going to die by firing squad only have the bullets fired above their heads. Or other times they would just be killed. Torture was an everyday occurrence, so death was not the worst thing that could happen.. For those not in prison but desperately searching for loved ones that had disappeared, there was no relief. You must assume the worst.
While I am no fan of guns and support gun control, it is important to note that one of the first things Castro did was to collect all privately owned firearms. In the beginning it was voluntary but if Castro’s police found you with a firearm you went to prison, no trial, no appeal, just prison.
After the Castro Revolution food became scarce, grocery shelves were empty, staples such as toilet paper, diapers, and shoes could not be found. There were no aspirins or any pharmaceuticals available. If some missing item did miraculously appear the lines were incredibly long with no guarantee of actually being able to buy anything. At Christmas, toys were scarce. My father waited in a line for two days in order to buy three toys for my brother and me. Yes, even though just about everything was scarce, nothing was free. Even in Communist Cuba there is no free ride. The first time my parents saw a US grocery store after being without food and staples for so long they were just overwhelmed. They had not seen so much since before Castro and to this day my mother still hordes food.
As to the day to day life in Castro’s Cuba the Communist Party assigned block leaders that oversaw each block. Those block leaders reported to others, so that the Communist Party always knew what you were doing. The block leaders had the right to search your belongings including anything coming in or out of your house. There was no privacy. When my parents gave the Cuban Government notice to leave, everybody in the neighborhood knew they were leaving even though they told no one.
My mother related to me so much more about how drastically life changed for us in Cuba after Castro. Eventually my grandfather’s clinic (where I was born) was confiscated. My grandmother risked her life just to obtain food via the black market that she would share with family and neighbors since if it was discovered that you had more than your rations would allow you would be imprisoned. So much to tell but I think by now you understand the desperation that we felt.
So how did Castro transform Cuba? Easy. He destroyed the economy, democracy, the judicial system, and personal freedom. In short he transformed Cuba from the jewel of the Caribbean to a third world country that enslaved its people.
Uppity Note: I asked FLVoter if I could include the following email comment, just as a reminder to all of us that, no matter how bleak things look sometimes, we are very lucky to be in the USA.
This the first time my family has spoken in any detail about what it was like. Throughout the years we always heard stories but no one cohesive account. I ended up speaking to my mom for hours yesterday. Like most Cubans of that era, we fully integrated into the US and kept our experiences private. I do appreciate the anonymity of the FLVoter name since my family is still not 100% comfortable discussing our experiences in Cuba we still have some family left there and I would imagine that it will not go well for them if someone spoke out against the Cuban government. Maybe paranoia to some people, but this is just part of the Cuban experience.