Tuesday, May 7, 2013

U.S.-Cuban Sanity Irks Cuban-Exile Extremists

Updated: Saturday, May 11th
{New Mariela Castro photo taken Sat.-May 11th}
      Beyonce {abovewas on ABC's Good Morning America Monday, May 6th. She's in London in the middle of her European "Mrs. Carter Show" tour. {Her husband's real name is Shawn Corey CarterJournalist Amy Roback asked her about her recent controversial {at least to Cuban-exile extremists} trip to Cuba where she celebrated her 5th wedding anniversary with husband Jay-Z and their mothers. Beyonce replied: "You know, it was such a beautiful trip. I met some incredible children. I visited some incredible entrepreneurs. And it was really educational for me. I learned so much about so many people and the country."
      Photos and videos of Beyonce and Jay-Z having a wonderful vacation in Cuba and bringing joy to Cubans flew around the world. After all, with the possible exception of President Obama and the First Lady, Beyonce and Jay-Z are America's most famous couple and they are a lot richer than the Obamas. Beyonce told Fox News that the vicious anti-Cuban "backlash" from Cuban exiles was "shocking."
       Havana-born, Bush-ordained Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- entrenched in the U. S. Congress from Miami since 1989 when Jeb Bush was her Campaign Manager -- led the vociferous uproar denouncing the Beyonce/Jay-Z trip to Cuba, a "beautiful trip" -- to quote Beyonce -- that thrilled the Carter family as well as the Cubans on the island. The "backlash" should "shock" all Americans, not just Beyonce.
    The week after the Beyonce/Jay-Z trip to Cuba, Mariela Castro -- the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro -- visited the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen then blistered the airways with this comment: "It's insulting that the Cuban dictator's daughter and standard-bearer of the Castro dictatorship would visit a symbol of America's successful struggle for freedom from its colonial masters."
     To be fair, only the Cuban-exile agenda in the U. S. portrays Mariela Castro viciously. She is her own "standard-bearer" and when she has disagreed with her father and her uncle she stayed on the island to nobly and successfully make her points. She has lived modestly all her life, never contemplating Miami as a rich sanctuary. A twice-married mother of three, she strongly disagreed with her father and uncle when she performed topless in a play as a university student. She strongly disagreed with her father and uncle with her internationally famed support of gay rights, and she won that battle and dramatically changed the island. The prime reason she wanted to visit Philadelphia was to receive a major award from a major gay rights organization in the United States. But while in Philly, she also asked to see the Liberty Bell.
      The above photo taken by John McDevitt, a reporter for the CBS News affiliate KYW in Philadelphia, shows Mariela Castro listening intently and respectfully as she is provided the history of America's Liberty Bell. Afterward, both the Associated Press and the New York Times quoted an emotional Mariela as saying: "I dream of the day when Cuba and the United States will have normal relations."
     Havana-born, controversy-mired, Bush-ordained Otto Reich used his "Otto Reich Associates" website and a huge page in the Miami Herald to scathingly denounce Mariela Castro's visit to the Liberty Bell.
     As with almost all of the ultra-rich, ultra-powerful anti-Castro Cuban-exile zealots in the United States, Otto Reich is a product of the mutually self-serving Bush political-economic dynasty.
     The above photo shows Mariela Castro pausing to gaze back at the Liberty Bell. This is where she made her sane, emotional comment about her dream that "one day" the U. S. and Cuba will have "normal" relations. Of course, that won't happen as long as Cuban-exile zealots and economic-political sycophants-benefactors such as the Bush political-economic dynasty benefit from the status quo -- or as long as entrenched, elderly Cuban rulers on the island fear the return of U. S. dominance. Eleven million Cubans and 315 million Americans deserve sanity, not hubris, to prevail at long last in U. S. - Cuban relations.
     Back in Havana, the above REUTERS/Desmond Boylan photo of Mariela Castro was taken Saturday, May 11th, as Cubans celebrated International Day Against Homophobia. Like her mother before her, she is widely considered a national treasure in Cuba.
Mariela Castro Advocates Sanity in U.S.-Cuban Relations.
      Mariela was born a half-century ago in Havana. Her mother was Vilma Espin, the wife of Raul Castro whom Vilma married in 1959 within days after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution over the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship. Of course, Celia Sanchez {above} was with Vilma the day Mariela was born.
      Cuba's highly respected historian, Pedro Alvarez Tabio, wrote: "If Batista had managed to kill Celia Sanchez anytime between 1953 and 1957 there would have been no viable Cuban Revolution, and no revolution for Fidel and Che to join." An understanding of that sentence is necessary for any understanding of the Cuban Revolution and what it has meant -- to Cuba, the United States, and the world -- six decades now. And so is this Vilma Espin sentence: "The fate of little Maria Ochoa was the biggest mistake Batista, the Mafia, and the United States ever made on the island of Cuba." {Quotation in Bohemia Magazine, May-1972}
      Maria Ochoa was a peasant girl beloved and befriended by Celia Sanchez, the angelic, 99-pound daughter of a rich Cuban doctor in eastern Cuba. Dr. Manuel Sanchez owned three farms and was head of the Cuban Medical Association. Like almost all Cubans, rich and poor, Celia and her father hated the Batista-Mafia dictatorship but they realized nothing could be done about a dictatorship supported by the superpower United States. That is...till Celia determined that Maria, at age ten, had been legally kidnapped and raped to death in a Mafia-run casino-hotel by a rich pedophile lured to the island to gamble. That belief transformed Celia Sanchez from an angelic doctor's daughter into the greatest female guerrilla fighter and revolutionary leader in the history of revolutions, large or small ones, all around the world.
Celia Sanchez, the guerrilla fighter.
Celia Sanchez, the very day Fidel joined her revolution.
Celia Sanchez, the military leader.
Celia and Fidel, the night they captured Cuba.
Celia was one of the first celebrities hounded by paparazzi.
        In her seminal Castro biography Guerrilla Prince, Georgie Anne Geyer went into detail about Celia having to constantly deter Hollywood starlets from commanding a little too much of Fidel's attention; she actually chased a few from Fidel's beds.
     Maureen O'Hara's fixation on Fidel particularly irked Celia...for two reasons: {1} Maureen was a major Hollywood star; and {2} she had flaming red hair. {Celia and Maureen were both aware that Fidel had a notable weakness for redheads}.
       But from December of 1957 till January of 1959 in the Revolutionary War and then in Revolutionary Cuba from 1959 till her death from cancer in 1980, there were very few instances in which Celia was not in total control of both Fidel and Cuba. 
Celia, Cuba's decision-maker as Fidel relaxes.
Celia loved driving her Metari jeep.
Celia's memories of Maria Ochoa were obsessive and eternal.
      As the prime decision-maker in Revolutionary Cuba, it was her love of Cuban children that prompted Celia Sanchez to announce and to back-up this proclamation: "The Batistianos will never regain control of Cuba as long as I live or as long as Fidel lives." She died of cancer at age 59 on Jan. 11-1980 but in April of 2013 the 86-year-old Fidel is still alive, and so is her proclamation. For the most part, since 1959 anti-Castro Cuban exiles have controlled the Cuban discourse in the United States and thus Celia Sanchez's dominant role in the Cuban revolution and in Revolutionary Cuba has been conveniently denied, partly because of Machismo but mostly because it is a lot easier to vilify Fidel, Che, Camilo, Raul, etc., than the saintly Celia.
    Internationally renowned photographer and long-time Cuban insider Roberto Salas {above} wrote in his acclaimed book "A Pictorial History of the Cuban Revolution: "Celia made all the decisions for Cuba, the big ones and the small ones. When she died of cancer in 1980, we all knew no could ever replace her."
In Batista's Cuba in the 1950s Marta Rojas {above} was a young journalist.
In Fidel's Cuba Marta introduced him for his first national television address.
      Marta Rojas interviewed Cuba's famed revolutionary heroines Haydee Santamaria and Melba Hernandez the day after they were freed from a brutal Batista prison in 1955, which was also the day they resumed their notable do-or-die efforts to overthrow Batista. Melba was recently interviewed for a documentary the BBC did about Celia Sanchez; Haydee, distraught over Celia's death from cancer, committed suicide in 1980 -- facts confirmed by Haydee's biography "Rebel Lives" and by her daughter.
      Today Marta Rojas undoubtedly is the world's greatest expert when it comes to Celia Sanchez, Fidel Castro, and the Cuban Revolution. A renowned author/historian, I believe Marta's best book is Tania: The Unforgettable Guerrilla, which was first published by Random House in 1973. In 2005 after my trip to Cuba to research my biography of Celia Sanchez, Marta helped me via an exchange of emails, one of which included the attachment of the obituary Marta wrote when Celia died. In another 2005 email Marta wrote: "Since Celia died of cancer in 1980, Fidel has ruled Cuba only as he precisely believes she would want him to rule it." If there is anyone who would know such details about Revolutionary Cuba, it is Marta Rojas.
Now back to the Mariela-Vilma-Celia Connection
      The above photo {taken by America's all-time greatest war photographer Dickey Chapelle} shows Celia Sanchez and Vilma Espin {Mariela's mother} between battles in the Sierra Maestra Mountains of eastern Cuba in 1958. By this time Celia had become the one person that Fidel Castro would literally worship for the rest of his life. And by this time Vilma had become engaged to Raul Castro. This photo captures the personalities of Cuba's two greatest guerrilla fighters-revolutionary leaders. Celia was always the studious one, as befits a prime decision-maker. Vilma was always the carefree one; around campfires in the Sierra Maestra Vilma played the guitar and sang for the guerrillas and by the end of the war Raul and the other rebels had fallen madly in love with her. Vilma, the daughter of a rich Cuban lawyer, was a student at MIT in Boston when Celia sent her a letter and invited her to return and become an anti-Batista rebel.
      By the way, Dickey Chapelle -- on her way to becoming America's greatest front-line war photographer -- had become close friends with Celia and Vilma when she covered the Cuban revolutionary war.
        Thus, Celia Sanchez and Vilma Espin were heart-broken in Cuba when they learned that Dickey Chapelle had been killed on the front-lines on Nov. 4-1965 while covering the Vietnam War.
      In 1959, in addition to marrying Raul Castro and becoming the mother of their four children, Vilma Espin founded the ultra-powerful Federation of Cuban Women {above} and meticulously led it till she died of cancer in 2007. Apart from his leadership of the Cuban military, Raul's power and influence in Cuba never matched Vilma's. After the modest Celia refused the overture, Fidel named Vilma Cuba's "First Lady."
          Unbiased historians and chroniclers of the Cuban Revolution agree with Fidel Castro that the photo above depicts the Big Four of the Cuban Revolution. It shows Vilma Espin on the left with Celia Sanchez on the right flanking the Castro brothers. It's Fidel's favorite photograph. The original copy kept at his home has his hand-writing {in red ink} on the back: "#1 Celia, #2 Fidel, #3 Vilma, #4 Raul." And that's the order, to this day, he ranks the four most important fighters-leaders of the Cuban Revolution.
      All of which brings us back around to that day fifty years ago when a little girl named Mariela was born in Havana, one of the happiest days in the memorable lives of Vilma Espin and Celia Sanchez.
   In this month of May, 2013, the 50-year-old Mariela Castro visited America's Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and then told of her "dream" that one day Cuba and the United States would have "normal" relations. Her mother Vilma and her godmother Celia, undoubtedly, would be very proud of Mariela. 
If a little girl had survived 1950s Cuba, the Batista dictatorship probably would have too.
     If Batista's enforcers had not murdered Cuban children and thereby outraged the female half of the population, the Batistianos/Mafiosos probably would still be ruling and looting the island of Cuba today.
       Celia Sanchez, were she alive today, would probably be very proud that Cuban children on the island are now better off -- from the standpoints of safety, health, education, shelter, and food -- than they were during the Batista-Mafia dictatorship. Yet, it was Celia who recognized fully that, for Cuba's sake, friendly relations with its superpower neighbor, the United States, should be an absolute priority.
       That's why, in 2013, Americans should study this photo of Celia Sanchez, which is copyrighted by Yale University. It shows Celia Sanchez in April of 1959 -- less than four months after she had shed her guerrilla uniform -- in the lobby of a New York City hotel. She had taken Fidel Castro to the United States in the dire hopes and expectations that Cuba and America would be "best friends and leading trade partners." She had instructed her acolyte, Fidel Castro, to tell President Dwight Eisenhower that Cuba would hold democratic elections by the fall of that year and that the U. S. could "closely monitor" those elections. Furthermore, Fidel was instructed to tell President Eisenhower that neither he nor Che Guevara would be candidates nor would "proxies" run in their stead. Celia, before she agreed to the trip, had been assured by the U. S. State Department that Fidel could personally present those points to President Eisenhower.
     But the crooked, Cuban-exile-aligned U. S. Vice President Richard Nixon persuaded the decent but malleable President Eisenhower to go on a golfing trip while Nixon hosted Fidel, who at the time was very popular in the United States. Nixon, playing McCarthyism to the hilt, publicly accused Fidel of being "a communist" and privately informed Fidel that "your revolution will survive three months, at the longest." An incredulous Fidel {see above} informed Nixon that Batista, not the Cuban Revolution, had been supported by the "Communist Party of Cuba that twice had been reinstated by Batista." And that statement was true.
      After their four-hour meeting in April of 1959 Fidel shook Nixon's hand for the benefit of photographers. But the disbelieving look on Fidel's face countered the smirky smile saturating Nixon's countenance.
Fidel was still in a cheerful mood after the 12-day U. S. visit in April of 1959.
       But the mood that counted was Celia's, not Fidel's. By the time they were back on Cuban soil after the 12-day trip to the U. S., she realized that self-serving right-wingers in the U. S. government, aligned with the Batistiano and Mafioso elements that had fled the Cuban Revolution, ruled America's Cuban policy. She easily over-ruled Fidel's view, expressed to her on the return flight, that "you underestimate the strengths and best points of the American democracy." {Note: Even conservative journalist Georgie Anne Geyer, in her seminal Castro biography "Guerrilla Prince," clearly stated that Celia could and did "over-rule" Fidel whenever she chose to do so} This was one of those times and it inspired her proclamation: "The Batistianos will never regain control of Cuba as long as I live or as long as Fidel lives." Historians are aware that, indeed, Batista twice reinstated the Communist Party of Cuba and splattered his dictatorship, and later South Florida, with hard-line, Moscow-trained communists such as the infamous Rolando Masferrer.
      When Celia Sanchez was fighting the Cuban Revolution she considered her four prime enemies to be: Batista, the Mafia, The Communist Party of Cuba, and America...in that order. It took three developments before she allowed Fidel to announce that Cuba was a "Marxist-Socialist" state: (1) Her 12-day trip to the U. S. in April of 1959; (2) multiple assassination attempts against Cuban leaders conducted by the CIA, Mafia, and Cuban exiles in 1959, 1960, and 1961; and (3) the Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba in April of 1961.
     Indeed, it was only after the Bay of Pigs attack that Celia permitted Fidel to both label and conduct Cuba as a "Marxist-Socialist" state. Her rationale, as defined by her proclamation, was simple: She would do whatever she had to do to keep the Batistianos from regaining control of Cuba, at least during her lifetime or Fidel's. She well knew by 1962 that the superpower U. S. still supported the Batistianos/Mafiosos who were retrenched in nearby Florida and fixated on recapturing Cuba. And she well knew that the only other nuclear-armed superpower in the world was the Soviet Union. She felt she had no choice. One superpower wanted to devour her revolution; the other one had already sent its Deputy Premier, Anastas Mikoyan, to Cuba in an effort to befriend Cuba and draw it into its orbit. The sovereignty-loving Celia at that moment in time believed the Soviet Union was the lesser of two evils as far as Cuba was concerned.
       On his visit to Cuba, the cunning Anastas Mikoyan -- the Soviet Union's Deputy Premier -- made an astute observation: Fidel Castro spoke for Cuba but he never uttered "a decisive word" without checking with Celia Sanchez. Mikoyan became enchanted with this feminine phenomenon. He drank vodka and flirted with her; he nicknamed her "Spanish Eyes." Mikoyan and Fidel signed lucrative business deals, approved by Celia. Before he returned to Moscow, Mikoyan gave Celia a note that included his private phone and cable numbers. After the Bay of Pigs attack in April of 1961, Celia sent Mikoyan a cable. She asked for nuclear missiles to be secretly installed on the island of Cuba. She signed the cable "Spanish Eyes." The cable had arrived in Moscow before she informed Fidel what it contained. He was furious. But, in the end, as always, he supported her 100%. Her Spanish Eyes cable soon frightened the entire world.
The Cuban Missile Crisis in Oct.-1962 is the closest the world has ever come to a nuclear holocaust.
      The above photo shows Fidel Castro inspecting an anti-aircraft battery during the missile crisis. Historians now know, confirmed by de-classified documents, that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had ordered his generals in Cuba not to fire on U. S. spy planes flying over the island during the crisis.
     On Oct. 14-1962 -- at the height of the Missile Crisis -- a Sam missile shot down a high-flying Lockheed U-2 U. S. spy plane {above} and it fell back to Cuban soil, audaciously defying Khrushchev's order.
      Major Rudy Anderson of South Carolina and Clemson University piloted that spy plane and perished.
        When President Kennedy and Secretary of Defense McNamara got word of the shoot-down of the Rudy Anderson-piloted spy plane, it is believed that everyone in the War Room at the time thought President Kennedy would be forced to retaliate with an all-out nuclear attack on Cuba and Russia, something the prime "hawks" advising Kennedy had strongly advocated prior to the shoot-down. As Kennedy hesitated, even McNamara later admitted that he believed the shoot-down "signaled the end of the world and I believed I had seen my last Saturday night." And so did most in the rest of the world.
      Sergei Khrushchev, the son of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, was a key advisor at his father's side during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He later moved to the United States, became a renowned historian, and is a highly respected Professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. In a long, insightful, and historical essay that first appeared in American History Magazine, Dr. Sergei Khrushchev stated that his father and President Kennedy were "shaking in their boots" in Moscow and Washington while Fidel Castro in Havana was the calmest and thus "the catalyst" during the missile crisis. He referenced the order his father had given his generals not to fire on spy planes and also mentioned that even after the shoot-down of the Rudy Anderson plane, other U. S. spy planes were fired at and hit by anti-aircraft fire.
       This map shows the nuclear missile sites on Cuban soil that specifically targeted nearby South Florida. 
The foregoing facts are indisputable, so ask yourself this question:
        Did the fate of a peasant girl who was mortally loved by a doctor's daughter constitute the biggest mistake Batista, the Mafia, and the United States ever made on the island of Cuba, as Vilma Espin opined?
      And if Celia Sanchez is not the major player in the Cuban Revolution and Revolutionary Cuba, why is the elderly woman above so emotional as she places a flower over Celia's crypt decades after her death?
      And why, decades after Celia died in January of 1980, do Cubans still sit around in front of her native home in Media Luna and discuss what she still means to them? I don't believe it has anything to do with dictators, democracy, the Bay of Pigs, the Missile Crisis or things of that nature.
I think it has to do with Celia's unending love for peasant children.
         This poster would outrage Celia more than it seems to outrage her enemies in America. 
        Loudly searching for expensive, revengeful ways to hurt Celia's Cuba is wrong.
Especially while ignoring things like child hunger in America.
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