Latin America

In Praise of El Jefe


The Guardian, the paper of record amongst Britain's left-wing intelligentsia, reviews Fidel Castro's autobiography and political testament, My Life (My Struggle was already taken), which it also excerpted last week. Reviewer Seamus Milne heaps scorn on "the heirs of the grisly US-backed dictator Fugencio (sic) Batista" in Miami and those who denounce El Jefe as a brutal dictator ("In Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Times, one writer ludicrously branded Castro 'another version of the tyrant that he replaced in 1959').

Some excerpts:

Far from being beached by history, Castro has in his final years provided a vital link between the socialist and communist experiences of the 20th century and the new movements against neoliberal globalisation and imperialism that have taken root in Latin America and elsewhere in the 21st.


There is a gripping, almost cinematic quality to Castro's recollections of some of the most dramatic episodes—under fire in the mountains with Guevara in the 50s; his chilling exchanges with Khrushchev on the brink of thermonuclear war in 1962; hands-on negotiations with US-indulged hijackers in 2003.

A few comments are in order here: First, the three "US-indulged hijackers" were attempting to flee to their island prison when they were intercepted by the Cuban coast guard (the commandeered vessel ran out of fuel). Milne neglects to mention that a mere two weeks after they were apprehended, the Cubans were summarily executed. Soon after, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement denouncing the farcical trials as "violat[ing] basic human rights standards." HRW executive director José Miguel Vivanco commented that "To execute these men is itself a human rights violation, and to do it less than two weeks after their alleged crimes shows a flagrant disregard of the right to a defense." As for the Cuban missile crisis, it is worth pointing out that Castro's "chilling exchanges" with Khrushchev included admonishing the Soviets for failing to strike America with nuclear weapons. When Moscow agreed to remove the missiles, in exchange for Kennedy secretly removing missiles from Turkey, Castro, according to biographer William Taubman, raged: "Son of a bitch…bastard…asshole…No cojones [balls]…Maricon [homosexual]."

Speaking of homosexuality, Milne manages a brief mention of Cuba's appalling treatment of its gay citizens:

Just as revealing from the perspective of today's politics are his self-critical comments on issues such as Cuba's changing approach to gay rights ("homosexuals were most certainly the victims of discrimination")…

What a mensch, that Castro. The communist dictator's "changing approach to gay rights" means that homosexuals and those suffering from AIDS are no longer forced into the island's vast gulag system. I think this counts more as systematic persecution rather than the more benign "discrimination."

Milne again:

For some, Cuba's resistance to multi-party elections, its clampdown on those who work with the US against the regime, its shortages and bureaucracy mark Castro down as a failed dictator, even if the only prisoners tortured and held without trial on the island are in the US base at Guantánamo. But for millions across the world, Cuba's resistance to US domination, its internationalist record in Africa and Latin America, its achievements in health and education and its pursuit of an independent, anti-capitalist course remain an inspirational point of reference.

You heard him right, kids: there are no prisoners tortured or "held without trial" (remember, they have Stalinist show trials, after all) in Cuba.

Full review

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  1. It sounds like this reviewer was lifting the ideas from the book, i.e. just mailing it in.

    Professional Journalists they have!

  2. Wow, there is no Bozo the Clown like a Bozo the Clown of the hard (but soft-headed) left.

  3. Can’t Fidel just fucking die already?

  4. “Milne, Why don’t you shut up?”

  5. King of Spain | November 12, 2007, 3:44pm | #

    “Milne, Why don’t you shut up?”

    Not to threadjack, but did anybody else catch the King of Spain yelling at Chavez this weekend? It’s pretty out of character for him to do that–he’s often made fun of by Spanish comedians for how laid back and mellow he is.

  6. That settles it. Fuck you Yanquis. I’m moving to Havana.
    Viva la Revelucion!

  7. After seven years of the rabid right running amok, I’d forgotten how fucking scary the left’s infatuation with despotism was.

  8. I’ve been thinking lately that it would be in character for Castro to leave his power to Chavez, creating a new country (Cubezuela?)

  9. After reading the review I have one question, Seamus.

    Did you spit or swallow?

  10. Warren,

    I have the same feeling. At least purist libertarians are just silly, not menacing.

  11. On the other hand, given some of Ron Paul’s supporters, he might turn scary. The best fanatics are dorky and uncharismatic.

  12. Yeah, edward, liberty is certainly a terrifying prospect.

  13. Who needs liberty when you are “free”.

    You know: free health care, free education, etc.

  14. Yeah, Jamie, liberty, mother, God, and apple pie.

  15. I any case, Jamie, I wasn’t talking about Ron Paul’s admirable love of liberty; I was talikng about all those Nazis who’ve been giving him money.

  16. Jamie,

    Liberty is terrifying for a lot of people. With liberty comes responsibility. The responsibility part is very frightening.

  17. I think King Juan Carlos said “porque no te callas!” to Chavez this last weekend, and left the room shortly afterward. It’s about time.

  18. I think King Juan Carlos said “porque no te callas!” to Chavez this last weekend, and left the room shortly afterward.

    Yes. Chavez was badmouthing Aznar (and Bush) and Zapatero was trying, politely, to stop him by explaining that Aznar had been the democratically elected President and the people had chosen him at that time. Chavez wouldn’t stop calling Aznar a fascist, and the King just lost it and told him to shut up; then he immediately walked out.

    Chavez was being a total prick, but it is very out of character for Juan Carlos to lose his composure.

  19. Rdio talk shows had a good laugh this morning replaying the King of Spain telling Chavez to “shut up.”
    Pretty funny. And about time.

  20. Uhh, let’s hear it for a non-elected monarch?

    Anybody else hearing a Moxy Fr?vous song in their heads?

  21. Speaking of responsibility, should Ron Paul take responsibility for his outrageously stupid misrepresentations of the Founding Fathers’ intentions regarding the role of religion in our country? Is he a liar or just badly uninformed?
    Oops, sorry, off topic. Castro is a pig! Down with Castro!

  22. This is Jaun reminding Hugo to SHUT UP,(rewind) reminding Hugo to SHUT UP, (rewind) to SHUT UP…

  23. Oops, sorry, off topic.

    “porque no te callas!”

  24. My Life (My Struggle was already taken)”

    mycket bra! 🙂


    Eddie – srsly – what actually are his misrepresentations (besides that despite some of his rhetoric, his positions would default to socially conservative ones)?

  25. Porque disfruto nuestra maravillosa libertad de expression.

  26. Actually the people of Spain DID vote to retain Juan Carlos as monarch, along with a parliamentary type of democracy. Mainly he gets to “veto” the prime minister.

  27. Fidel Castro’s autobiography and political testament, My Life (My Struggle was already taken)

    Two reactions:

    He shoots, he scores!


    Is this a land speed record for calling Godwin on teh intertubes? A post that Godwins itself in the first sentence.

    Can’t Fidel just fucking die already?

    Silver lining: Given his condition, he is undoubtedly suffering horribly. I’m torn on this one. Love to see him suffer, would also love to see him die. I guess its a win/win!

  28. Sorry about the bold tag. Bill me.

  29. You hit Babelfish for that EDDIIEEE? No sabe nada?

  30. “The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, our Founders’ political views were strongly informed by their religious beliefs. Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion. The establishment clause of the First Amendment was simply intended to forbid the creation of an official state church like the Church of England, not to drive religion out of public life”. –Ron Paul

    “Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”
    -Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom

    “The whole history of these books [the Gospels] is so defective and doubtful that it seems vain to attempt minute enquiry into it: and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right, from that cause, to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine. In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man; and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds. It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.”
    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, January 24, 1814

  31. “Can’t Fidel just fucking die already?

    Silver lining: Given his condition, he is undoubtedly suffering horribly. I’m torn on this one. Love to see him suffer, would also love to see him die. I guess its a win/win!”

    Actually, some believe he is already dead and Chavez, along with the Cuban government are trying to hide it until Chavez wins the Constitution Referendum and builds “Cubazuela”.
    I saw Chavez’ speech in Chile (the one he gave to all the lefties, which was attended by Evo Morales and Allende’s widow). Chavez’ cell phone “casually” rang during his speech and he answered. To his “surprise” it was Fidel! Chavez “tried” to put Fidel on speaker phone but couldnt “figure out” how to do it(neither could anyone around him). Of course, he had to resort to speaking on Fidel’s behalf.
    (Please forgive all the “”, but I find no other way to convey the charade).

  32. “The Founding Fathers envisioned a robustly Christian yet religiously tolerant America, with churches serving as vital institutions that would eclipse the state in importance.”–Ron Paul

    “Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being.”

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, April 13, 1820

    “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814

  33. I find no fault with Ron Paul’s views regarding religion and public life. There is a huge difference between a state religion and allowing religion to have a place in public life.

    Thomas Jefferson may have been hostile religion. However, John Adams was a very religious man. The founding father’s were not of one mind or faith, but they were not uniformly hostile to religion.

  34. As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?
    — John Adams, letter to FA Van der Kamp, December 27, 1816

    God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world.
    — John Adams, “this awful blashpemy” that he refers to is the myth of the Incarnation of Christ, from Ira D Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

  35. As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims] … it is declared … that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever product an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries….
    “The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation.”
    — Treaty of Tripoli (1797), carried unanimously by the Senate and signed into law by John Adams (the original language is by Joel Barlow, US Consul)

  36. You know you’re a douchebag when you are in a thread discussing the autobiography of Castro and all you can think to post about is Ron Paul.

  37. Down with Castro! Down with Chavez!

  38. Edward, if people were to cherry pick quotes from your many posts over the last few months, the could surely make you look like an asshole . . .

    Wait, you are an asshole, never mind.

  39. You know you’re a douchebag when….

    you post as Edward.

  40. I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies.
    — Benjamin Franklin, quoted from Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (2001)

  41. Imagine you’re playing the lifeboat game and the choice comes down to throwing Edward or Castro out into the drink.

  42. Edward — Nobody gives a crap what you think about Ron Paul. Stop threadjacking.

  43. Edward could you at least do something more creative than copying and pasting from previous discussions? You’re like a spam bot only without the girth and length inducing goodies.

  44. The Constitution of the United States, for instance, is a marvelous document for self-government by the Christian people. But the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian people and atheistic people they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society. And that’s what’s been happening.
    — Pat Robertson, The 700 Club television program, December 30, 1981

  45. Edward, I’ve had dogs that were both smarter and better mannered than you. What does Ron Paul have to say about that? You are a used piece of bathroom tissue. And you’re not funny at all. Dan T. on a lame day provokes more chuckles, asswipe.

  46. On the subject, I’ll just announce that the next guy who praises Cuban healthcare will get a punch from me.

    A close friend of mine has a really messed up body, so she has to go to many doctors, including Cuban ones. Most of the time, she gets the nice care the lefties like, but once she had to go to one of the hospitals used by the common people, and she tells that there were rats feeding off the IVs.

    Praising Cuban healthcare is the same thing as praising the high living standards of South Africa during Apartheid. Probably even worse.

    As for Fidel himself, a good compromise would be a condition that leaves him in long, excruciating pain but unable to communicate.

  47. Edward — Nobody gives a crap what you think about Ron Paul. Stop threadjacking.


    Not everything is about your pet pissing contest. Fuck off.

  48. Boy, you guys really don’t want to deal with Ron Paul’s religious fanaticism and lies about the founding fathers, do you? Okay, forget it.

    Down with castro!

  49. Yeah, I think it’s time to bring the ban hammer down on Edward. It’s bad enough when he was dominating every Ron Paul related thread with trolling, but when he starts posting flamebait in non-RP related threads it’s just comment spam.

  50. Free Cuba from Castroite marxist oppression! Down with socialized healthcare! Death to communist dictators!

  51. Be retarded all you want, but be retarded on topic.

  52. May Castro suffer unspeakable pain! And Chavez too! Die, die, collectivist monsters!

  53. I think the real “Edward” has long since left and the recent “Edward” is a collection of one or more different people trolling the board.

  54. Cesar,

    Stay on topic.

  55. Left-wingers defend left-wing despots and react with anger to the claims that they’re dictators?


  56. Although I don’t endorse Paul’s views on religion, it’s hardly inaccurate to state that the early U.S. did not share our viewpoints on the strong separation of church and state. As I recall, several states actually had official religions, which lasted in one form or another until the late 19th century (surviving in the form of anti-Catholic laws, I think).

    The real emphasis at the time of the founding was on the right of free exercise of religion and on preventing the national government from establishing a single church. Not on purging every vestige of religion from government.

    Even I, a person who likes his religion and his government kept far, far apart, can see that the battle to keep religion out of government occasionally goes too far, to the point of hindering people’s right to free exercise. For instance, that happens when some kid wants to talk about religion at a commencement address and is prevented from doing so.

    This is not an easy issue, and we all tend to be too dogmatic. It’s easy to get nervous and very anti-religion when religious extremists want to force things like creationism on our kids. However, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience need to leave room for people to be religious in most any way that they want to be. In the end, what we’re really talking about isn’t religion; it’s the right to think, say, and do whatever the heck you want, within certain limits. Government has no business in religion, but it also has no business fighting it, either. It’s the meddling in every aspect of our lives that’s made the government position on religion so danged important.

  57. Kudos to the King of Spain for telling Chavez to shut up.

    The King told Chavez to shut up because Chavez was accusing Spain’s former right-of-center Prime Minister, Felipe Aznar, of being a fascist. Spain’s current way-left-of-center Prime Minister, Bambi, stepped in to defend Aznar as a democratically elected leader (a bit of a dig at Chavez).

    Chavez started babbling about how being democratically elected didn’t make Aznar less of a fascist, and that it really depends on how one uses the power. It sounded silly saying a democratically elected leader who peacefully gave up his power is a fascist, meanwhile Chavez is closer to the definition of a fascist.

    The King pointed at Chavez and said, “why don’t you shut up?”

  58. I agree with MikeP… err… I mean Pro Lib

  59. I have to agree with Eric the .5b at 5:52pm.

    People like Castro, Stalin, Tito, Chairman Mao (loved the suits) are thrust into impossible positions that can only be resolved by implementing some very regretable, temporary, dimished freedoms that the enemies of the revolution are exploiting for their own selfish, reactionary, counter-revolutionary ends. After all the power is centalized in a compassionate, benevolent leader or politburo, then the proletariat will discover that freedom is devolving to them naturally as espoused by Comrade Marx.

    Why do you Libertarians, tools of the enslaving, exploiting, corporate, globalization traitors, that you are, hate poor people.

    I’m applying for a position at The Nation. Critiques are welcome.

  60. The King told Chavez to shut up because Chavez was accusing Spain’s former right-of-center Prime Minister, Felipe Aznar, of being a fascist.

    I imagine that didn’t go over very well, considering that Spain was governed by an actual fascist dictator within the living memories of everyone in the room.

  61. Pro, that was very well said. Thanks.

  62. This is not an easy issue, and we all tend to be too dogmatic.

    This is not an easy issue, and we all some tend to be too dogmatic.

    I’m an atheist that really doesn’t care about the Xmas display on the city hall lawn, the benediction at High School graduation or even the, added after the fact, words “under God” in the Pledge od Allegiance. Allow me the freedom to flip the bird at Jehovah’s Witnesses when they bother me, and start taxing churches LIKE EVERY OTHER SOCIAL CLUB, and I’ll be content.


  63. If Cavanaugh was here he who cannot be named would be banned for thread jacking with intent to morph.

  64. J, I agree, but social clubs aren’t taxed. They’re all like churches. From YMCA to Yoot Soccer to Little League to the Masons, exempt organizations, all.

  65. J sub D,

    I stand corrected. I just meant most of us who hang around Hit & Run. I’d lump myself in with the “not dogmatic” crowd, so it’s clear that I misspoke.

    I’m no tax lawyer, but non-profits aren’t taxed, either. I think the degree of tax-exempt status is different between Mensa and the Catholic church (and it shouldn’t be), but I don’t know for sure. Perhaps a better comparison is between non-religious charities and churches.

  66. J Sub D,

    You want to use more powerful modifiers, like fascist and robber-baron. You really want to get the readership riled up.

    And try to add things like “the unfair excesses of the rich capitalist pigs.” It’s a good catch-all phrase for any situation.

  67. Actually, some believe he is already dead and Chavez, along with the Cuban government are trying to hide it until Chavez wins the Constitution Referendum and builds “Cubazuela”.

    Who believes this? Stuff like that only happens in pro wrestling.

  68. The acclaimed documentarian, Michael Moore, showed factual evidence that under Castro’s leadership, the people of Cuba have come to recieve better health care at a far better price than can be had by the reglar folks in the U.S.
    ’nuff said…

  69. The capital city:


  70. Chavez would be perfect for pro wrestling! And who else could be stupid enough not to be able to find the “speaker” button on his cell phone.

    Probably a CIA plot though.

  71. The acclaimed documentarian, Michael Moore, showed factual evidence that under Castro’s leadership, the people of Cuba have come to recieve better health care at a far better price than can be had by the reglar folks in the U.S.

    Well, no, but pretending he said that is much easier to refute than the point he actually made, so in an echo chamber like this, it’s easy to understand how you could come to think so.

  72. Pro Libertate, near as I can tell, on the Federal level NPOs and churches are treated the same. No profit, no income, no federal taxes. Of course social security and employee income is taxable and there is obviously o lot of in kind benefits that would be taxable if GM was giving them. I am NOT, REPEAT NOT, a tax atty. It also appears that on the state and local levels it’s an inconsistent mish-mash. IMHO, if the Fire Department is gonna gome to your blaze, you should be paying local property taxes. Tax law sucks. I don’t blame the accountants and lawyers, I blame legislators.

  73. Who believes this? Stuff like that only happens in pro wrestling.

    Wait a minute! What really happened to Andre the Giant? I mean, did anyone actually see the body?

    Chavez kinda looks and sounds like him. (Well, maybe Chavez doesn’t sound as bright, but that could be the result of too many drop kicks to the head.

  74. Taktix? – Thanks for the constuctive criticism. I’ll work on the derogatory nouns and adverbs a bit more.

  75. My theory? Hugo was actually killed in the 1992 coup or died in prison, so the CIA erased Andre the Giant’s memory and with plastic surgery and hair grafting, switched him with Chavez! Because they needed an excuse to invade Venezuela.

  76. Exempt orgs are not my specialty but as far as I know all exempt orgs are taxed the same, at least at the federal level.

    There is a rather complex issue of what is known as unrelated business income (which is taxable) that affects exempt orgs.

  77. The way Fidel Castro apologist dismiss all opponents to his regime as reactionaries is absurd. Some of my Cuban immigrant neighbors are actually quite liberal, and they don’t like Castro because he’s a dictator.

    Nonetheless, I still think it’s just as absurd that I can’t travel to Cuba.

  78. apologist=apologists

  79. Wait a minute! What really happened to Andre the Giant? I mean, did anyone actually see the body?

    Aresen –
    Andre the Giant, while discussing his expected lifespan said, I paraphrasing here, “The big people and the little people, we get screwed.” He wasn’t an idiot by any means.

  80. Today the FFF EMail Update featured a link to a column from Seamus Milne.


    Has Bumper become a Stalinoid Communist? Or has he just completely adopted the idea that The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Friend, and the only enemy on his mind is the Lame Duck In Chief?

  81. J sub D

    Aw, there you go, spoiling my conspiracy theory again.


    FWIW, I realize that Andre the Giant was just playing the role of a “big dumb guy.” His part in The Princess Bride was a great piece of self-parody.

  82. Porque ese comecandela Edward no se calla al fin?

  83. “Who believes this? Stuff like that only happens in pro wrestling.”

    Grand Chalupa,
    Im not comfortable with conspiracy theories either, but I live here and you hear all sorts of things.
    As far as the “Cubazuela” theory, well, that’s not too far off. Chavez has said that the Cuban and Venezuelan government are one. He is introducing legislation to make this a reality (I believe he wants to throw in Nicaragua as well). Also consider that Venezuela gives Cuba millions (if not billions) of US dollars for WHAT in return? half-assed doctors? sugar? (which BTW, I cant find at the grocery store) rum? (Vz has bettr rum) guerrilleros? We have a winner.
    It certainly is not crazy to say that it is not in Cuba’s current regime’s or Chavez’ best interest for Fidel to be dead now.
    Again, I’m not saying Fidel is dead but after seeing Chavez’ charade the other day, it certainly makes me suspicious.

  84. “The King told Chavez to shut up because Chavez was accusing Spain’s former right-of-center Prime Minister, Felipe Aznar, of being a fascist.”

    Actually, it’s Jose Maria Aznar. I was in Spain during his presidency and don’t recall him shutting down any TV stations or arming his supporters to intimidate the opposition. Very ironic choice of words by Chavez. Long live King Juan Carlos!

  85. Sounds like Milne is gunning for a gig at the New York Times…

  86. Human Rights Watch should actually pay attention to the cases it comments on. I was in Havana when the hijackers were arrested (this was the 3rd hijacking in a couple weeks). They met with Fidel himself on live TV and confessed their crimes to the very detail and admitted they deserved the maximum punishment to prevent more deadly hijackings. They admitted their guilt, so what “defense” were they lacking??

    As for the homosexual “gulags” (nice Bushism), Cuba has the lowest AIDS rate in the region because of its early recognition and action on the problem. Before much was known, Cuba played it safe and created special hospices for infected patients to live. This is the reason why the epidemic never got out of control, like in Haiti or Jamaica. But it would be better for tens of thousands to die because of “individual freedom” I am sure to you al… The UMAP camps that homosexuals were placed in for 2 years in the 60s were nothing more than the alternative to national military service. Pacifists, religious people, etc. could opt out and cut sugar cane or whatever. But calling that a gulag sounds better. The record shows Fidel was outflanked on this issue (for 2 years) by the military. Today gays serve openly and live openly.

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