A couple of weeks ago I got an email from old friend, author, and Cuba blogger Luis M. Garcia. In he directed me to a column in the Chicago Tribune entitled: “Americans fear Iran, but there is much to learn from Cuba.”
I sent a letter to the editor but of course it never saw the light of day. Here it is in its entirety:
William Pfaff tells us there’s much to learn from Cuba but clearly there’s much he needs to learn about Cuba and the Castro brothers.
Mr. Pfaff states: “In 1952 a young lawyer, Fidel Castro, brought suit in Cuba to overthrow the U.S.-supported dictator, Fulgencio Batista, for cause of corruption and tyranny. The suit was disallowed and Castro arrested. He said, “History will absolve me.”
This isn’t revisionist history; it’s provably wrong. Fulgencio Batista came to power in a coup in March of 1952. Scarcely a year later, on July 26, 1953 Fidel Castro led a force of 160 men in an attack on two army posts in eastern Cuba. He and his followers succeeded in killing several soldiers and policemen but the attack failed. Dozens of the attackers were executed in the immediate aftermath. Fidel Castro escaped but ultimately turned himself in. He stood trial, was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Within three years Castro was out on an amnesty passed by the Cuban Congress and approved by Batista himself, so terrible was the dictatorship at the time. Imagine if someone did the same thing in Cuba today. After all, in 2003 three Cubans were executed for the mere act of attempting to steal a launch and escape to freedom.
Fidel ultimately left Cuba to regroup and returned to mount a guerrilla war. He named his movement M-26-7 (July 26th) in honor of the date he took up arms in the botched attack.
Antonio de la Cova, Ph.D. documents all of this in great detail in his book Moncada: Birth of the Cuban Revolution (University of South Carolina Press). Additionally, a cursory search of the Tribune’s own archives finds many references to the Moncada attack. Castro’s role as the organizer of the attack is not in doubt.
When Mr. Pfaff errs in his accounting of elementary facts about Fidel Castro, omitting the fact that he was responsible for the deaths of soldiers, policemen and his own men (none of whom had anything to do with Batista), how can we accept his advice to learn from Cuba seriously? When the Tribune allows such falsehoods to be printed, how can we take it seriously?