07 January 2017

Miami Herald: “Former Cuban President Fidel Castro dead at age 90”

“As you may well know,” Castro said during a 1993 speech, “my job is to talk.” His orations were legendary. Without a text, but with a crowd of supporters cheering him on in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución, Castro could hold forth for hours. His record, in 1968, was a meandering discourse that lasted nearly 12 hours. On the day he officially stepped down from the Cuban presidency in 2008, a biologist in Havana told a Miami Herald reporter with obvious relief: “Now I can watch my Brazilian telenovelas without worrying that they’re going to be interrupted by a six-hour speech.”

The Moncada attack was a military disaster, but it made Castro the top anti-Batista leader overnight. He turned his trial in Santiago into an indictment of the dictatorship. In his final courtroom speech, he reportedly concluded with the phrase: “Condemn me, it does not matter! History will absolve me!” (It would be years before scholars would note the ringing phrase was lifted from another dramatic courtroom oration — by Adolf Hitler, on trial in Germany for an attempted 1923 coup.)

In a mark of just how close to the brink the Cuban economy really was, Castro even welcomed the large-scale return of prostitution, which he had called a “social illness” in the early days of the revolution. But in a 1992 speech to the National Assembly, he bragged that the army of freelance hookers who swarmed through Havana’s streets every night in search of tourists were the most cultured in the world.

“There are no women forced to sell themselves to a man, to a foreigner, to a tourist,” Castro said of the women, known as jineteras in local slang. “Those who do so do it on their own, voluntarily, and without any need for it. We can say that they are highly educated and quite healthy.”

Glenn Garvin

About ten years ago, a colleague at my former workplace described his trip to Cuba full of excitement: everything there is very cheap, the men very open and friendly, the women beautiful. In fact the men were so open, they were offering their wives to foreign tourists for sex for modest amounts. I have never quite believed his story before reading this article. Cuba is the living example of what the Eastern European Communist states would have become if not for the popular revolts at the end of the 80s, and Castro’s behavior the reflection of every other dictator – including Romania’s Ceaușescu.

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