Sunday, August 30, 2015

Why Cuba Won't Surrender

With Vidal Calling The Shots
       To comprehend the current state of U.S.-Cuban detente, you need to understand Josefina Vidal. This photo is courtesy of AP/Cliff Owen. It caught Ms. Vidal, Cuba's Minister of North American Affairs, making a definitive statement at a news conference on February 27, 2015, at the U. S. State Department in Washington. The heated words by Vidal are still deemed so important that on August 15th the Washington Times had the foresight to rehash them in a fiery article entitled: "Cuba Won't Move 'One Millimeter' To Please Enemies In The U. S." In replying to a pointed question, Vidal's exact reply, as she pointed her index finger sharply at the questioner, was: "Decisions on internal matters are not negotiable and will never be put on the negotiating agenda in conversations with the United States. Cuba will never do absolutely anything, NOT MOVE ONE MILLIMETER, to respond to foreign orders." The lady pointing that accusatory index finger at a hostile U. S. journalist on hostile U. S. territory is the primary defender of the island's sovereignty, which has a do-or-die meaning to her. Her brilliance in that regard has been on display since the start of this 21st Century when she headed the U. S. Interests Section in Washington. Now, as the prime Cuban decision-maker on all things American, forces bent on recapturing or subjugating Cuba will have to move over her.
          This New York Times photo shows that the U. S. journalist on U. S. soil pointed his index finger at Josefina Vidal while his question suggested that little Cuba was foolish to continue trying to resist visceral Miami Cubans backed by the military might of the United States and by the legislative might of the U. S. Congress. His index finger and his words were obviously meant to intimidate Ms. Vidal. That won't happen -- not on U. S. soil, not on Cuban soil, and not on diplomatic flights between the two countries. Instead of quivering, Vidal fired her index finger back at the would-be bully, along with the stinging words that were still ringing in the ears of the Washington Times seven months later on August 15th. Vidal lives modestly in Cuba. It is well known that in 2002 she was offered $3 million plus her choice of a home in South Florida if she would defect. This was after, at the invitation of Caroline Kennedy, she made a powerful speech that stunned a roomful of historians at the Kennedy Library in Boston. But money and a mansion in Florida does not mean as much to Josefina Vidal as Cuban sovereignty, which to her means independence from foreign control, which, she says, "Cuba has had far too much of." She has sternly reminded intimidating finger-pointers of this bit of Cuban history: "Jose Marti and Antonio Maceo, and others, died on Cuban battlefields in the 1890s fighting Spanish imperialism. Celia Sanchez, Fidel Castro, and others have been willing to do the same fighting American imperialism. And that's where we stand today, just defending our sovereignty." The finger-pointer above was reminded that Vidal, rather than flinching, was willing to replicate her favorite Cuban patriots...and not skedaddle to that mansion that probably still awaits her defection to Miami.
              But anyone who shows respect for Cuba as a sovereign nation will be gifted with Vidal's beautiful smile and sweet demeanor. Those two facets of her character -- toughness and sweetness -- have established her as the most important and the most effective diplomat on the North American continent.
        U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry knows all about Josefina Vidal's toughness and sweetness...and her unwavering defense of Cuba. This AP photo shows Mr. Kerry in Havana on August 14th pointing out to Vidal, "See, Josefina, I told you it would happen." What happened was the raising of the U. S. flag at its embassy in Havana for the first time since 1961. It also marked the first time a U. S. Secretary of State had visited Cuba since 1945. None of those things would have happened if it were not for Vidal's diplomatic skills in defending Cuba against a vast array of implacable and supposedly irresistible forces.
But with that being said........
       ........don't forget that Josefina Vidal is fully capable of putting that beautiful diplomatic smile and that sweet, sanguine demeanor aside if she feels Cuba is being treated unfairly. Tomorrow I will explain: {1} Why Vidal is so keenly interested in the U. S. presidential sweepstakes; {2} why she believes a Republican in the White House beginning in 2017 would put Cuba on a war-footing; and {3} why she would prefer either Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz over Jeb Bush as the next American president.
Tomorrow: "Vidal vs. The Bushes"
  ******************


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cuban Realities Often Distorted

Both Past and Present
Updated: Sunday, August 30th, 2015
        Elio Delgado-Legon is the type Cuban that Americans are not supposed to know, perhaps accounting for the fact that, to appease anti-Castro zealots, Cuba is the one place in the world everyday Americans are not allowed to visit. But Elio, a prolific writer and blogger, is easy to know. Havana Times, the top Cuban-related website edited by Circles Robinson, allows both sides of the two-sided Cuban conundrum to be aired and that includes Elio's "Diary" articles. Elio writes: "I am a Cuban who has lived for 78 years {since 1937}, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn't fully been able to so so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way." The biggest obstacle, Elio believes, remains the embargo imposed in 1962. Elio was a rebel fighter in the Cuban Revolution because of his acute resentment of the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship that he says was led by "gangsters," meaning Batista and his Mafia friends such as Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, and Santo Trafficante Jr. Elio resented the foreign connection between the Mafia and the U. S. government role. Even more than the robbery of the island, Elio objected to the extreme brutality the "gangsters" showered on helpless peasant dissenters. When a doctor's daughter named Celia Sanchez and a young lawyer named Fidel Castro provided a glimmer of hope as an alternative to Batista, Elio became a guerrilla fighter and to this day fiercely defends the Cuban Revolution and abhors what he believes has been two generations of a counter-revolutionary Batistiano dictatorship on nearby foreign soil with its capital being Little Havana, the politically powerful section of Miami. 
This photo was taken by Elio Delgado-Legon, the old guerrilla fighter.
        While the views of a Cuban such as Elio Delgado-Legon are seldom, if ever, aired in the U. S., anti-Castro dissidents such as Yoani Sanchez {center above} are afforded rock-star treatment in the U. S., with her blogs, books, and now her well-funded digital newspaper widely promoted and/or published by the fawning U. S. media. In the AP/Getty Images photo above, visceral Cuban-American Anti-Castro U. S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez are playing host in the U. S. Congress to Yoani Sanchez. Her lucrative publicity tour of Miami, Washington, and other major cities around the world is interesting considering that everyday Americans, who are neither anti-American nor anti-Cuban, do not have the freedom to visit Cuba. Proselytized and propagandized Americans are not supposed to question their lack of freedom to travel to Cuba, nor are they supposed to wonder how Yoani Sanchez is free to fly back-and-forth between the two neighboring nations. Upon her return to Havana, Ms. Sanchez announced she had the wherewithal to start her digital newspaper, which is not quite as unbiased as venues such as the excellent Havana Times, which, indeed, is neither a anti-Castro nor a pro-Castro propaganda machine.
        Meanwhile, Cubans on the island are facing water problems of epic proportions. The Huffington Post and Reuters report that Cuba is experiencing its worst drought in 112 years. The Cuban Meteorology Institute rates the provinces of Artemisa, La Habana, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo as drastically low on water, which has to be trucked-in by the government to over one million Cubans that are most affected. The provinces of Sancti Spiritus and Ciego de Avila have no water reserves usable by humans or animals. Cuba's historic rainy season is usually May through October, but Cuba's Meteorology Institute says that El Nino's warming of Caribbean seas has "changed things." Cauto, Cuba's second largest river, is dry in places. {The Toa River that starts in Guantanamo Province is the largest in Cuba and has 70 tributaries.}
The 14 Cuban Provinces coping with their worst drought in 112 years.
"Abaja El Bloqueo" {"Down With The Blockade"}
        When Cubans on the island are suffering from natural calamities, they particularly dislike man-made calamities, namely the U. S. blockade/embargo that hampers the Cuban government's efforts to help them. 
            This photo reflects how the drought is affecting a once fertile watershed of the Cauto River. Eric Benitez, the Director of Aqueducts in Granma Province, says, "80 thousand people in my province are now suffering. We are drilling 11 new water wells and getting in as much pumping equipment as we can."
So, the drought and the embargo are Cuban realities.
Some More 1898-2015 Cuban Realities:
         Although Columbus discovered both Cuba and the United States in 1492, this photo from 1898 began the modern history of U.S.-Cuban relations. By the late 1700s the renascent United States was craving Cuba, once offering to trade Florida for the lush, strategically located island. But for decades the United States was merely one of many imperialist powers who lusted after and fought wars for Cuba. The photo above in 1898 reflects the fact that, once and for all, the U. S. saw an opportunity to gain control of Cuba from imperial Spain, which was deemed far too weak to fight far from home to defend it. But the U. S. needed a pretext to go to war. BOOOOOmmmm....! Suddenly there was a Pretext! A U. S. warship, the USS Maine, blew up in Havana Harbor, killing scores of young American sailors. "Remember the Maine!" became the battle-cry, the long-desired excuse for war. After an easy victory in the Spanish-American War in 1898, the U. S. had sole dominance of Cuba. Many expected the world's greatest democracy to shower Cuba with democracy. Indeed, the island was ripe for democracy after being brutalized and robbed by imperialist powers from 1492 till 1898. However, democracy was not exactly what the U. S. had in mind for Cuba. In a democracy, the Cubans would have been prime beneficiaries of the island's vast resources. But...in a dictatorship, via kickbacks, U. S. businesses could siphon off the resources while buying up the island. Yes, indeed..."Remember the Maine!" But..."Forget democracy!" soon became the applicable slogan.  
         This 1933 photo depicts the haunting evolution of Cuba with the compliance of the U. S., an evolution that sparked a revolution. In the photo above, holding his hat over his left knee, is a two-bit, Mafia-connected army sergeant named Fulgencio Batista. His first coup in the 1930s brutally assaulted the island. Batista and his cronies amassed enough money to last their lifetimes. Batista retired to live out his life among his equally wealthy Mafia friends, especially Meyer Lansky who was kingpin Lucky Luciano's financial guru. The Jewish Lansky had enough money to also retire for life in Florida and to assist his beloved Israel, but Lansky expressed this wish to Batista: "I've always wanted the mob to own its own country." That request was granted. In 1952 Batista's second coup established another Batistiano-Mafiosi dictatorship in Cuba. And once again the vile dictatorship was supported by the U. S. even though everyone knew that all the leaders -- Batista, Luciano, Lansky, etc., etc. -- were all infamous Mafia figures.
             Americans have always been fascinated with Cuba, its beauty and its mystery. This 1947 photo shows famed baseball manager Leo Durocher in Havana with Jackie Robinson. This was the year that Jackie was promoted from Triple-A Montreal to the Brooklyn Dodgers to break the color barrier in baseball.
           Beginning in 1952, the five main businesses in Cuba were gambling, drugs, prostitution, brutalizing dissidents, and kickbacks from the U. S. companies who also partook in or overlooked the debauchery. 
        Instead of being shamed by the U.S.-backed cesspool of sin that Cuba became during the second Batista dictatorship, wealthy Americans celebrated the degradation while other Americans simply didn't have the courage or will to object. The photo above shows A-list American entertainers -- Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner -- celebrating their honeymoon in 1951 in Havana. By the mid-1950s, Cuba had replaced Las Vegas as the Mafia's top playpen and money-maker with constant shiploads of drugs going to Miami.
        This photo shows Fulgencio Batista in 1952 as he took over as the U.S.-and-Mafia-backed dictator of Cuba. The sign on his car reads: "Batista -- He Is The Man." And he was too. A powerful dictator backed by the most powerful criminal organization in the world and by the most powerful country in the world, seemed invincible. And he was too, till he began brutalizing Cuban children as a warning to their parents and older brothers not to dissent. Cuban mothers reacted with uncommon bravery, vociferously taking to the streets to protest. A young Cuban lawyer noticed that half the population, the female half, was ready to die in a revolution against Batista. Soooooo....what if he could tap into that outrage? He pondered that question, and decided that he could. As it turned out, he was right. "Batista -- He Is The Man" had a rival.
          Cuba's Athlete of the Year in 1948 didn't envision Cuba as a Mafia playpen. His name was/is Fidel Castro Ruz. As a law student in Havana, he got into a street fight with three U. S. sailors when he objected to them urinating on a statue of Jose Marti. Although his father Angel was a millionaire plantation owner, Fidel famously never cared about money and he strongly resented the dire living conditions of Cuba's majority peasants during the Batista-Mafia dictatorship. Before he exited law school, he foolishly believed he could lead a peasant revolution that could overthrow the dictators, who were backed by the military might of the United States. Fidel and about 120 other lightly armed rebels, including Haydee Santamaria and Melba Hernandez, attacked the powerful Moncada Garrison on the edge of Santiago de Cuba on July 26th, 1953. They were easily shot to pieces, most killed outright or executed later. But Fidel, Haydee, Melba and a few others were imprisoned. Batista's plan was to murder Fidel but, as the hero of the peasants, he was high-profile and closely monitored by admirers that included the influential New York Times reporter Herbert L. Matthews. So, Fidel was imprisoned for almost two very long years on the Isle of Pines.
       Richard Nixon, President Dwight Eisenhower's Vice President, was Batista's main supporter during the 1950s. This photo was taken in 1954 with Nixon on the right and Batista on the left. They were toasting each other on the rape and robbery of Cuba, which the politically ascending Nixon helped orchestrate.
      This photo shows President Eisenhower shaking hands with his honored guest, Cuba's ruthless dictator Fulgencio Batista. The malleable Ike, the supreme hero of World War II, was old, had heart trouble, and loved to golf during his two-term presidency. Taking advantage of those facts, Vice President Nixon and two other powerful right-wingers -- Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and CIA Director Allen Dulles -- made the anti-democratic, right-wing decisions that supported such vile dictators as Batista. In this photo as Eisenhower and Batista shake hands, that's John Foster Dulles in the middle. Decades later we would learn that the Dulles brothers had financial interests in businesses, such as the infamous United Fruit Company, that were robbing helpless countries like Cuba blind. Decades later, of course, Americans would see President Nixon on television telling the American people "I am not a crook" at a time when it was abundantly clear that he was. But "decades later" revelations didn't do Cuba any good in the 1950s.
         This photo shows Dictator Fulgencio Batista on July 27th, 1953, informing the nation of Cuba and his backers in Washington that "the criminal rebel uprising on the southeast of the island has been totally wiped out at Moncada." Not quite. The brutal way his henchmen had treated the Moncada prisoners, and the unconscionable brutality that became worse than ever against the peasants, not only kept "the uprising" alive but kept it growing...and growing...and growing...!! It became obvious to New York Times journalist Herbert L. Matthews that "Havana and Washington couldn't lose in Cuba if they were smart enough to do two simple things -- throw at least some crumbs and services to the majority peasants and stop murdering children." By the time he wrote that sentence, Mr. Matthews seemed to cogently realize that "Havana and Washington" were neither smart enough nor prescient enough to do either of those two things.
            After the ill-fated Moncada attack in July of 1953, Fidel Castro was in prison and Batista still had the firm support of the Mafia and the U. S. government. But his sheer brutality was his undoing, especially the murders of children to supposedly quell dissent. Instead, it outraged mothers who took to the streets to defy Batista. Photos like this were also used by New York Times reporter Herbert L. Mathews to make sure that Washington knew what was happening in Cuba, not just the thievery but the murders of children.
         Do-or-die female guerrilla fighters like Haydee Santamaria and Celia Sanchez, on the heels of the female marches, made the Cuban Revolution largely a female-powered revolt, an historic first.
          This photo in 1956 shows Batista's soldiers executing a rebel. Anyone remotely suspected of aiding or even sympathizing with the rebels was routinely executed, many after being inhumanely tortured. For example, Haydee Santamaria's brother and fiance were both famously and brutally tortured to death.
           This 1953 photo shows Lucky Luciano, the all-time most powerful Mafia kingpin, in Havana flanked by some of his U. S. and Cuban supporters. That's Lucky third from the left on the bench in the light-colored suit. This was the year Lucky began shipping shiploads of cocaine to Miami and from there to all other major U. S. cities. Charles Luciano earned his nickname, "Lucky." Thomas Dewey, a young New York prosecutor, had gotten Luciano sentenced to prison for 55 years on a prostitution charge. But even in prison Lucky still ran the Mafia, which controlled such vital American entities as the New York waterfront. The U. S. government, to Mr. Dewey's chagrin, insisted on freeing Luciano so he could help the World War II effort. For supposedly helping protect New York Harbor from sabotage and German U-boats and for supposedly helping the U. S. and England invasion of his home nation, Italy, Luciano actually was given his freedom although barred from the U. S. That was no problem. After World War II, and especially after his friend Batista's coup in 1952, Cuba was as American to Lucky Luciano as New York had been to him. 
             Fidel Castro's first major speech as the leader of Cuba -- in the first week of January, 1959 -- resulted in this iconic photo. Some white doves were released to highlight the now peaceful nature of the Cuban Revolution. One of the doves actually landed on his shoulder and a video revealed it stayed there a rather long time. Later, tame white doves were placed on Fidel's other shoulder during another speech.
The staged pigeon on Fidel's right shoulder to commemorate the first pigeon.
         This photo soon after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 is far more definitive than the image of the white dove. From the get-go, Fidel's only notable advantage over the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship was his realization that Cuban women, who constituted half of the island's population, were the most maligned throughout the Batista domination. Fidel correctly surmised Cuban women were also the most outraged. He took advantage of that outrage and that's why Cuban women such as Celia Sanchez, Haydee Santamaria, Melba Hernandez, Tete Puebla, Vilma Espin, etc., turned the tide against Batista.
          The aforementioned Herbert L. Matthews used his forum as a top New York Times reporter to denounce Batista and praise Castro both during and after the Revolutionary War. At one key point in the war in 1957, Batista's vastly superior army was winning. He assured both Havana and Washington that Fidel Castro had been killed by his vastly better-armed soldiers. Celia Sanchez knew it wasn't so but the rumor was hurting her vital recruitment of rebels and supplies. She had to prove that Fidel was still alive and still fighting. Celia and her best rebel, Haydee Santamaria, proved to the world that Fidel was still alive. Celia and Haydee themselves went to a designated rail-head and personally fetched Herbert L. Matthews. The two physically fit women somehow managed to get the unfit Matthews over rivers, rocks, and thickets to take him high up into the Sierra Maestra Mountains to meet his rebel hero, the still-living Fidel Castro.
        This is one of the most historic photos of Cuba's iconic Revolutionary War. That is Herbert L. Matthews interviewing Fidel Castro at a rebel camp high up in the Sierra Maestra Mountains. Celia Sanchez and Haydee Santamaria had risked their lives to take Matthews to Fidel so the New York Times could prove that Fidel was still alive. It worked. This photo and three consecutive front-page articles in the New York Times proved that Batista had lied or was mistaken about Fidel being dead. Moreover, those front-page articles in America's top newspaper sharply boosted Celia Sanchez's recruitment of rebels and supplies.
         During the crucial two-month period in 1957 when Batista had convinced a lot of people that Fidel was dead, Celia Sanchez knew differently because she fought beside him by day and slept beside him wherever they camped at night. But she had a vital supply line that stretched across the island and all the way to Caracas, where she received weapons, and another to Miami and New York City where she had money pipelines. She had a messenger contact Matthews to arrange the rail-head rendezvous with her and Haydee because the rumors of Fidel's demise were hurting her recruitment of rebels, supplies, and money. The very day Celia got word via messenger that Matthews would be waiting at the rail-head, she and Haydee took off. Celia and Fidel were quintessential night-owls, during and after the war. During the wartime night above, that's Celia holding the candle in their tent so they could study some notes. 
       Herbert L. Matthews hated Batista and loved Fidel. Those two passions helped reshape Cuba. After the Moncada attack, Batista executed or tortured to death the survivors -- except the Castro brothers and the two women participants, Haydee Santamaria and Melba Hernandez. As noted earlier, Haydee's fiance and brother were unmercifully tortured to death, for example. And the same fate was ticketed for the Castro brothers, Haydee, and Melba...except for the fact that important people, such as Herbert L. Matthews, were monitoring their imprisonments. This saved their lives and put pressure on the U. S., which induced Batista to grant them amnesty in 1955 after almost two years in prison. Death squads were put on Fidel's trail but safe houses, orchestrated by his soul-mate Celia Sanchez and his lover Naty Revuelta, kept him alive till he escaped to the U. S. and Mexico and, in December of 1956, finally joined Celia Sanchez's rebel unit in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra. The above biography of Fidel Castro was written by Herbert L. Matthews.
        Herbert L. Matthews knew that during and after the Revolutionary War Fidel never down-played the leading role Celia Sanchez played during the war and the leading role she and Vilma Espin played after the war. Celia in this photo is the studious one and Vilma the gaily smiling rebel. This photo is copyrighted by Yale University and was taken in 1958 by the great and fearless war corespondent Dickey Chapelle.
      Dickey Chapelle survived many major wars till she was killed while photographing U. S. troops during a battle in Vietnam on November 4, 1965. At a memorial service for Dickey Chapelle in Wisconsin, there was a beautiful spray of flowers that had this tag: "Our dear friend, forever love in our memories; Celia & Vilma." 
            Herbert L. Matthews was one of the journalists who knew that, after the Revolutionary War, this photo depicted Revolutionary Cuba's Big Four. That's Vilma Espin on the left and Celia Sanchez on the right flanking the Castro brothers. By Fidel's own reckoning, Celia was #1, Fidel #2, Vilma #3, and Raul #4. By this time, Vilma was Raul's wife and Celia was Fidel's eternal soul-mate. If you extended the Big Four to a Big Seven in 1959, you would have Camilo Cienfuegos #5, Haydee Santamaria #6, and Che Guevara #7. Pundits and anti-revolutionary zealots dispute those rankings but the two most knowledgeable journalistic insiders of that era -- Carlos Franqui and Herbert L. Matthews -- concurred, as do Cuba's three best still-living and unbiased historians -- Marta Rojas, Pedro Alvarez Tabio, and Roberto Salas in Cuba today.
           Of all the defining moments in U.S.-Cuban relations, this photo chronicles what might well be the most defining of all. On April 15, 1959 -- barely three months after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution -- this iconic handshake between Cuba's new leader Fidel Castro and America's Vice President Richard Nixon was staged for the cameras. They had just finished a hostile closed-door two-hour-and-twenty-minute talk in Nixon's office. A surly Nixon summarized the conversation with these words: "You have just three weeks to decide...resign, leave, whatever. If not, within three months we will again have total control of Cuba."
         Fidel knew immediately that Nixon had double-crossed him. But he would make no drastic reaction until he discussed it with Celia Sanchez. This was Fidel's demeanor as he listened to her reaction, the definitive one. With Fidel's concurrence, Celia was Cuba's decision-maker. She realized, after the revolution, Cuba needed good relations with the nearby military and economic superpower. She quickly arranged the U. S. visit by dealing with the American Society of Newspaper Editors. The U. S. State Department assured Celia that Fidel could meet with President Eisenhower, whom Celia trusted. Fidel was to tell him that Cuba would hold an election that fall in which the U. S. could closely monitor and in which, if the U. S. desired, neither Fidel nor Che Guevara would be candidates. {With that concession prior to the trip, Celia envisioned 27-year-old Camilo Cienfuegos as the winning candidate in the fall election}. Fidel never got to meet Ike because Nixon's wing of the White House made sure Eisenhower was out of town on an unscheduled golf trip. With the demeanor depicted above, Celia was told by Fidel of the Nixon double-cross and threat. She started her reply with this short sentence, "Then the revolution isn't over, is it, Fidel?" Her uninterrupted reply lasted "a full ten minutes" according to Carlos Franqui, the journalist who had accompanied Celia, Fidel, and Camilo to the U. S. on the 12-day trip in April of 1959. Celia summarized her soliloquy to Fidel with this sentence, according to Carlos Franqui: "It was do-or-die for us every day to win the Revolution and now it will be do-or-die every day for us to protect it. That's not the way I wanted it."
         Back on Cuban soil, Celia and Fidel spent the next few weeks traveling around the island to inform key revolutionary supporters of the "strictly defensive posture we are forced now to take, even ahead of the social changes we fought so hard for." It was on these trips that Celia told Fidel, "There are two nuclear world superpowers. One is the U. S. and the other is the Soviet Union. We must now choose one of them."
          In 1960 -- the year after his ill-fated 12-day, Nixon-marred trip to the U. S. -- Fidel was back in the U. S. for this UN speech. He assailed "the imperialist aggression of the United States against my country."
         At a news conference outside the UN building in 1960 Fidel made an even more definitive and defining statement. The video excerpt of that statement has been aired thousands of times since, including hundreds of times since the U. S. and Cuba in 2015 reopened embassies in the two capitals. Speaking in English, Fidel said in a clip re-aired multiple times recently on U. S. television: "I love Americans. Americans are good people. But the U. S. government has aggression against Cuba. Khrushchev wants to defend Cuba." Yet, it was not until after the military Bay of Pigs attack in April of 1961 that Fidel was persuaded to announce that Cuba was "permanently" a socialist country aligned with the Soviet Union.
        The Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba, like a lot of the U. S. policy related to Cuba since the 1950s, added to the Castro mystique as a David-vs.-Goliath phenomenon. The CIA had predicted to President Kennedy that Fidel would run to his getaway airplane when he heard the bombs falling on Camp Columbia, the military airfield on the edge of Havana. Fidel, in Celia Sanchez's 11th Street apartment, heard the bombs but he ran to the front-lines to lead the defense. The startling Bay of Pigs victory massively impressed the leaders in Moscow, including Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan, a great admirer of Celia Sanchez after he had earlier learned, on a trade mission to Havana, that "the tiny woman in Havana, I swear, is a really big power."
 Anastas Mikoyan visited Cuba in February of 1960. 
          In 1961 Nikita Khrushchev, the dictator of the nuclear-superpowered Soviet Union, was delighted to fill the wide void in U.S.-Cuban relations. For Cuba, it was a survival mode that extended into the 1990s. With the demise of the Soviet Union, although Russia remains a nuclear power, Cuba has had to invent various other survival modes because, even with thawed relations in 2015, a small number of second generational Cuban-American Batistiano-types continue to dictate the U. S. Congress's approach to Cuba.
         The last eleven U. S. Presidents have had defining moments with Fidel Castro but Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon had the most lasting effect. Fidel and Cuba revealed Nixon's right-wing crookedness but it was non-Cuban factors, of course, that caused Nixon -- on August 9, 1974 -- to become the only U. S. President to resign in office. But Nixon is emblematic of the fact that anti-Cuban criminals generally get lifetime free passes, a continuing consequence of deposed Batista leaders viciously regrouping on U. S. soil.
         This photo is an historic example of why Fidel called Nixon "a bully, a coward, a criminal." This photo was taken in Nixon's hometown of San Clemente, California, when President Nixon hosted Soviet Premier Brezhnev. Both Nixon and Brezhnev had too much to drink. In the moment captured above, Brezhnev is casting a lecherous eye at the shapely movie star Jill St. John. Nixon hobnobbed with powerful dictators.
       Fidel and Cuba have generally gotten along well with Democratic U. S. Presidents but, of course, not Republican leaders. In 1972 George McGovern, the Democratic U. S. Senator from South Dakota, lost his presidential bid to Richard Nixon. It was also a loss for Fidel and Cuba. The above photo was take on May 8, 1975, as Fidel was driving Senator McGovern around Cuba. He appeared to stop to tell ABC-TV's famed newswoman Barbara Walters, "Barbara, wait here. After I bring George back, I'll take you for a good ride."
And he did. It was not the only car ride or boat ride Fidel took Barbara on.
Roberto Salas took this photo of Fidel Castro in New York City -- April, 1959.
Roberto Salas photo from 1960: Earnest Hemingway and Fidel Castro.
        Because the Cuban narrative in the U. S. since the 1950s has been controlled by remnants of the ousted Batista dictatorship, and their easily acquired sycophants, perhaps the biggest of many distortions relates to Celia Sanchez. Because it has obviously been easy to vilify Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and it would be impossible to similarly vilify the child-loving doctor's daughter, the transplanted Batistianos have chosen to ignore Celia Sanchez's dominant decision-making role in the Cuban Revolution and in Revolutionary Cuba, accounting for American's limited knowledge of her. But all Cuban insiders -- Franqui, Tabio, Salas, Rojas, etc. -- acknowledge her significance. Roberto Salas, in his book, said, "Celia made all the decisions for Cuba, the big ones and the small ones." Marta Rojas, in a 2005 email, told me, "Since Celia died of cancer in 1980, Fidel has ruled Cuba only as he precisely believes Celia would want him to rule it." So, yes. Cuba's seminal reactions to the Batista dictatorship and to Richard Nixon's double-cross in April of 1959 were Celia Sanchez's reactions. Her vivid imprint is why Cuba today is still a sovereign island.
      Many historians and pundits who hate Fidel Castro admit that the survival of Revolutionary Cuba since 1959 is attributable to Fidel Castro's out-fighting and out-smarting his multitudes of powerful enemies. And speaking of smarts, what about the prescient quotation Fidel make in the above speech in 1973!! "The U. S. will come to talk to us when they have a black president and the world has a Latin American Pope." The United States in 2015, as Fidel Castro celebrated his 89th birthday, is talking to Cuba. And the United States has a black president, something no one else could have predicted in 1973. and Pope Francis, who will visit Cuba in September, is a Latin American born in Argentina. Yes, Fidel Castro, 1973: "The U. S. will come to talk to us when they have a black president and the world has a Latin American Pope." Amazing! 
         In 1961 Fidel Castro, as depicted above, began to sign new Cuban laws that included the appropriations of U. S. companies and properties that he considered stolen or ill-gotten during the Batista-Mafia dictatorship. This affront to superpower America was after the warning by Vice President Richard Nixon in April of 1959 and after the U.S./CIA/Cuban exile attack at the Bay of Pigs in April of 1961, an attack that only resulted in cementing Fidel's legendary reputation as a revolutionary icon. To this day, backed by their dominance of the U. S. Congress on Cuban issues, U. S. companies and alleged property owners are still demanding reparations for the properties Fidel appropriated in the above photo in 1961. Reparations? They might get a couple of pennies on the dollar if...if...the U. S. meets Cuba's demands -- which include at least $118 billion the embargo has allegedly cost Cuba, the return of Guantanamo Bay, and compensations to thousands of Cubans for such terrorist acts as the downing of the civilian Cubana Flight 455 airplane. In other words, good luck on reparations although some U. S. companies are now willing to forget claims as long as they can invest in Cuba now that President Obama has sharply thawed relations with Cuba. 
           This photo from 1961 shows the U. S. flag being folded after it was removed from the U. S. Embassy in Havana. From that day till the summer of 2015, U.S.-Cuban relations were in a Cold War state of affairs.
This photo shows Fulgencio Batista {middle} in exile in Spain in 1962.
Batista died of a heart attack at age 72 in Marbella, Spain, in 1973.
Fidel Castro turned 89-years-old at his home in Havana on August 13th.
            Here in the summer of 2015 this AP/Andrew Harnik photo shows the Cuban flag flying at the U. S. embassy in Washington for the first time since 1961, emblematic of a new era in U.S.-Cuban relations.
In Havana the U. S. flag now flies at the newly opened U. S. embassy.
Powerful Miami politicians still dictate a strong anti-Cuban agenda.
But President Obama is trying to help Cubans.
Mr. President!!
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