Friday, July 9, 2010

Castro, Obama and the Rule of Law

Castro, Obama and the Rule of Law
Floyd and Mary Beth Brown

This week we had the pleasure of sharing a summer barbecue with a refugee from Cuba. Our dinner conversation was starkly different than most.

This refugee came to the United States as a young boy in the early 1960s. His family was more fortunate than most as they were able to bring a suitcase and $100 when they fled Castro's newly formed revolutionary paradise.

Our dinner consisted of all-American fare: hamburgers, potato salad, watermelon and fresh ears of sweet corn. This is a menu shared with family and friends nationwide, while celebrating the birth of our beloved America on the Fourth of July.

We began with a simple discussion about our country and the direction it has taken since Barack Obama came to power. We shared the usual complaints about the sour economy and liberal social engineering emanating from the rulers in Washington.

But then he said it. The sentence came naturally. I assume it was unplanned. But it carried the weight of a freight train.

"You know when Castro took power, none of us knew he was a Communist."

We sat stunned. He continued, "Yes, we all thought he was a patriot, a nationalist. Before the revolution he didn't sound like a radical."

The comparison at this point was easy, and I interjected, "You mean just like Barack Obama?"

He responded, "Yes, just like Barack Obama."

He continued, "We were all shocked as the government just continued to grab more power. First they said the revolution is over, so please turn in your guns. We all complied."

"I remember my uncle saying after it started, 'Castro will only nationalize some of the big industries, he will never come and take our family hardware store.' But that is exactly what happened, Castro started with the sugar mills and the large industries, but they eventually came and knocked on the door of our family hardware store. My family had run this store for generations. They said we now own the hardware store, you work for us. And that nice, large four-bedroom home you own, it is now our property also, and you can move yourself and five children into two rooms of the house because others are moving in with you."

The lesson learned from this discussion is a lesson most Americans refuse to hear. Political leaders can lie about their agenda and once in office they can take totally unexpected turns.

If you had asked us three years ago if we thought General Motors would be nationalized, we would have never believed it. We could never contemplate a country where the rule of law, the most fundamental building block of a justice society would be evaporating just like it did in Castro's Cuba in the early 1960s.

But the news of injustice keeps increasing. Black Panthers are not charged with wrongdoing by the U.S. Department of Justice because their crimes are against whites. The bondholders of GM are stripped of their assets without due process by the government. Governmental leaders are bribed in full daylight only to have all investigation of the crimes stifled by the Attorney General. The U.S. borders are overrun with crime and illegal activity and the leaders in D.C. act as if it is important to protect the lawbreakers while the innocent are killed and overrun. When local communities attempt to enforce the law, they are ridiculed and threatened as racists and bigots. They are sued by the very administration entrusted with enforcing the law.

Without the rule of law the U.S. Constitution is a sham. Without the rule of law our beloved America is swiftly becoming a country where only the well connected and politically powerful will be safe. As Michelle Malkin has so eloquently explained in her recent book, a culture of corruption has replaced honest government.

The only way this problem will be fixed is by massive citizen action. All honest citizens that want to be treated equally must come together and demand that the favoritism, the bribes, the uneven enforcement of law end now. And yes, it can happen here.

U.S. Cuba Policy: A 50-Year Failure?
Mona Charen

After a 134-day hunger strike, Guillermo Farinas' waist is so small that a dog collar could fit around it. This living skeleton (who has survived this long only because he has taken nutrients intravenously) now has a victory: The Cuban government has announced the planned release of 52 political prisoners. That Raul Castro appears to have buckled to international pressure is, of course, good news -- though it comes too late for Orlando Zapata.

Zapata was a plumber and bricklayer who committed what the Castro brothers consider a treasonous act -- he joined a political group that believes in freedom, the Alternative Republic Movement. After his 2002 arrest and conviction for "disrespect, public disorder, and resistance," he was repeatedly abused and beaten in prison.

Displaying a flair for irony, he demanded treatment comparable to that which Fidel Castro endured when imprisoned by Fulgencio Batista in 1953. Instead, he was further mistreated and his prison sentence was lengthened from three to 36 years.

Zapata's only weapon was his own suffering, but his demand was not for himself. He fasted for the release of 22 other ill political prisoners. Upon his death in February, at age 42, there was a quick splash of negative headlines, and he was forgotten. A few weeks later, President Obama lifted the travel ban for those with relatives on the island and lifted other restrictions on contacts between Cuba and the United States.

Farinas, a psychologist, Cuban army veteran, and political "subversive," took up the gauntlet with his own hunger strike that now seems to have succeeded. "Seems" is the operative word since the Castro regime has often promised reforms without follow through. Even by its explicit terms, the government's agreement is to release only five prisoners immediately and the rest over the course of the next three or four months. All will leave the country.

Why the wait? Presumably, it's because the regime needs time to make its prisoners presentable. Bruises must heal. Weight must be gained. That sort of thing.

Here is a description of Cuban prison conditions from "The Black Book of Communism":

"Violence began with the interrogation ... Prisoners were forced to climb a staircase wearing shoes filled with lead and were then thrown back down the stairs. ... Working conditions were extremely harsh, and prisoners worked almost naked ... As a punishment, 'troublemakers' were forced to cut grass with their teeth or to sit in latrine trenches for hours at a time."

Cuba is a last redoubt of communism. Because Fidel Castro clings to life and to power, a veil still covers the island. Castro's crimes have scarcely begun to be revealed as he dodders toward a comfortable death in his bed. But enough, more than enough, is known. Between 1959 and the present, more than 100,000 Cubans have suffered in Castro's prisons and camps (some just for homosexuals). An estimated 17,000 were shot. Two million fled. Another 100,000 died attempting to escape.

All of this is known and has been for decades. And yet the image of Che Guevara continues to sell on t-shirts and posters around the globe.

Now Congress seems poised to lift all travel bans on Cuba and provide a tourism boon to the regime. A broad spectrum of Americans approves the legislation, including Republicans and Democrats, farmers and business interests. Fine. It may serve the interests of freedom at this point to permit trade with Cuba (though one suspects that the Chamber of Commerce is interested in the business angle). What is galling is to hear one and all describe the 50-year embargo as a "failed policy."

In what sense did it fail? We declined to help or support a criminal regime in any way. Yes, Castro claimed that his island's persistent and desperate poverty was due to the embargo, but so what? Anyone with eyes could see that Castro traded freely with Canada, Mexico, Latin America, Europe, Russia, China, and virtually everyone else. His special relationship with the USSR and later Venezuela is all that kept Cubans from starving like their ideological brothers in North Korea.

The day is coming when the true scope of Castro's reign of terror will be fully revealed. Perhaps then we will take some grim satisfaction in having attempted, however unsuccessfully, to strangle the beast.

To read an article about the life of Che Guevara, click here.

To read an article about Cuba's free and wonderful Health Care, click here.

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