Letter to the Boston Globe: Better educational sources on pre-Castro Cuba than The Godfather II DO exist.
Dear Boston Globe editorialists,
Your cliché –ridden May 4th editorial titled, “In twilight of Castro regime, failed US embargo must go” contains the following:
“Cubans proudly wear American baseball caps and boast about their relatives in Florida and New Jersey. But they are also aware that the United States doesn’t have clean hands in Cuba. Under the thuggish reign of US-backed Fulgencio Batista, American sugar plantations exploited laborers and stoked racial anger through segregation; the US mafia, having been dislodged from American cities by the crusading Kefauver committee, took over much of Havana, operating gambling rackets, drug rings, and prostitution.”
Please be informed: better sources on pre-Castro Cuba than Godfather II do exist. Regarding Batista’s “U.S.-backing:”
In January 1959 the U.S. gave diplomatic recognition to the Castro regime more quickly than they had recognized Batista's in 1952. State Department records also show that the U.S. imposed on arms embargo on the Batista government and refused to ship arms the Cuban government had already paid for. The official record also documents that U.S. ambassador Earl T. Smith personally notified Batista that he had no support from the U.S. government, which strongly recommended that he leave Cuba. Batista was then denied political asylum in the U.S. Furthermore, Batista’s coup in 1952 surprised and enraged the U.S. ambassador to Cuba.
In 2001 while visiting Havana for a conference with Fidel Castro, the CIA's "Caribbean Desk's "specialist on the Cuban Revolution" from 1957–1960, Robert Reynolds boasted that: "Me and my staff were all Fidelistas."
Now regarding the “exploitation” of Cuban agricultural laborers.
First off: In 1958 U.S. investments in Cuba accounted for only fourteen per cent of Cuba's GNP, and. U.S.-owned companies employed only seven per cent of Cuba's workforce.
Secondly: In the 1950's the average farm-wage in Cuba (as paid by U.S. corporations) was higher than in France, Belgium, Denmark, or West Germany. According to the Geneva-based International Labor Organization, the average daily wage for an agricultural worker in Cuba in 1958 was $3. The average daily wage in France at the time was $2.73; in Belgium $2.70; in Denmark $2.74; in West Germany $2.73; and in the U.S. $4.06.
Also important: In 1957 only 34 percent of the Cuban population was rural.
Now regarding the U.S. mafia "taking over Havana:”
In 1955 Cuba contained a grand total of three Gambling Casinos, the biggest was at the Tropicana and featured ten gambling tables and thirty slot machines, the Hotel Nacional, featured seven roulette wheels and twenty-one slot machines.
“By contrast, in 1955 the single Riviera Casino in Las Vegas featured twenty tables and one hundred and sixteen slot machines. This means that in 1955: one Las Vegas Casino had more gambling action than all of Cuba.
Also interesting: according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Commission the typical tourist spends five days in their city and spends an average of $580 ($75 in 1957 dollars) on gambling, the main motive for 90 per cent of visitors. Well, throughout the 1950's Cuba averaged 180,000 tourists a year. Let's assume ALL those tourists —men, women, adolescents, children—did nothing in Cuba but gamble, and at the Las Vegas' rate.
Well, this would mean an extremely generous total of $13 and a half million for Cuba's gambling industry annually. But in 1957 Cuba's Gross Domestic product was $2.7 billion, and Cuba's foreign receipts were $752 million. How could the beneficiaries of that miniscule fraction of Cuba's income “take over” one of the wealthiest, most modern and economically diverse cities in the Western hemisphere?
Also interesting: In 1953 more Cubans vacationed in the U.S. than Americans vacationed in Cuba. How could the wretched and brutalized peasants of that plundered and impoverished nation, as you depict it, have possibly pulled that off?
"Asi que NO JODAN!...Le RRRRRONCA!!!"