CubaBrief: Raul Castro’s men remain at the CCP. Implications of the Bay of Pigs Fiasco 62 years later. Opportunities for human rights defenders and Castro’s victims

Who's the Boss? Where's Alejandro?

Who’s the Boss? Where’s Alejandro?

General Raul Castro resigned his post as Communist Party of Cuba (CCP) First Secretary, and as telegraphed Miguel Díaz-Canel, is now both President and First Secretary of the CCP. General Castro’s former son in law, and father of two of his grandsons, General Luis Alberto Rodríguez-López Callejas, joined the Politburo of the CCP. General Luis Alberto Rodríguez-López Calleja, through the military conglomerate GAESA oversees 60% of the Cuban economy. He had been married to Deborah Castro Espin, one of Raul Castro’s daughters, and had two children with her.

Raul Castro's men: General Luis Alberto Rodríguez-López Callejas and Miguel Díaz-Canel

Raul Castro’s men: General Luis Alberto Rodríguez-López Callejas and Miguel Díaz-Canel

The two most “powerful” men in Cuba today are white males with light eyes that owe their power, and their continued exercise of it to their relationship with the Castro family. Yet, in the case of Diaz Canel there is an argument to be made that his position is due to “tokenism.” Tokenism, according to Merriam Webster, is “the practice of doing something (such as hiring a person who belongs to a minority group) only to prevent criticism and give the appearance that people are being treated fairly.” Unlike the dictionary definition this type of tokenism is defined by not belonging to a very exclusive minority group: people related to Fidel and Raul Castro by blood or marriage.

Meanwhile, too many in the international media give the Cuban dictatorship a free pass when young, unarmed black men are shot in the back by Cuban police, or die on hunger strike in Cuban prisons protesting their unjust imprisonment, with the aid of prison guards that cut them off from water. Despite this Major League Baseball tried to go into business with a baseball federation in Cuba that has a Castro family member, Antonio Castro, in a leadership position in the organization.

Nevertheless, debating Cuba policy and what will happen next leads to contentious debates, but facts do emerge, and oftentimes are inconvenient for the dictatorship.

Marcell Felipe, founder of the Initiative for Democratic and Economic Alternatives for Cuba, a project of the Inspire America Foundation, characterized the dictatorship in Cuba in his April 18th Oped “The Castros Still Run Cuba” in The Wall Street Journal as a  “cartel-like chain of command of hard-line Castro family members and loyalists and generals who fiercely shield their wealth and status—as well as each other.”

Professor Jaime Suchlicki of the Cuban Studies Institute in his essay “IMPLICATIONS OF THE BAY OF PIGS FIASCO” laid out all the consequences of failing to dislodge Castro  in 1961.

The U.S. failure to dislodge the Castro regime from power also forced the U.S. to deal, for the next six decades, with an antagonistic regime bent on subverting U.S. policies and institutions.  Fidel Castro and his brother have been relentless enemies of the U.S. constantly criticizing U.S. policies, spying on the U.S. government, and attacking American values and institutions. Not only the U.S. has had to deal with Cuba, but Cubans have had to suffer 60 years of repression and poverty.  The Castro policies transformed for the worse, not only the economy of Cuba, but also the nature of the Cubans, converting them into puppets and instruments of an abusive and failed system.”

On Friday, April 16th in an Al Jazeera interview the host asked me “what do you think ordinary Cubans want” and attempted to draw a distinction between the older and younger generation and that gave me the opportunity to provide some facts on what has maintained the Castro dictatorship, and many other communist regimes, in power for so many decades.

“Cubans have wanted change for a long time, and to disagree with the presentation given beforehand, the cubans that invaded in 1961 were not from Miami. They were Cubans who had left the island months prior, as the regime that had promised a democratic transition from Batista instead delivered and consolidated a communist dictatorship. So thousands of Cubans left the island and then risked life and limb to try to overthrow Fidel and Raul Castro back in 1961. They failed, the regime consolidated itself. It did so with the aid of 40,000 Soviet troops on the ground in Cuba and they were able to maintain power as many communist dictatorships have done for generations through their brutality and that regime has not changed. You still have first generation leadership in control in key sectors of the government and they have a willingness to murder. Most recently opposition activists Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero were murdered July 22nd of 2012. Oswaldo had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, had won the Sakharov Prize and was an alternative to the Castro regime and he was extrajudicially executed. So you have a regime with the willingness to commit crimes against humanity to maintain power. That’s why they hang on to power regardless of the desires of the Cuban people.”

62 years later and the new bosses are the same as the old bosses in Havana, and Cubans are long past getting tired of it. With Raul Castro formally departing the scene, although informally retaining control through his former son-in-law, and others he and his family control, his victims can pursue him in the international courts citing universal jurisdiction, as they did with General Augusto Pinochet in 1998. General Raul Castro is on a June 1996 tape taking responsibility for the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot-down. He needs to be held accountable.


The Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2021

MLB Hypocrisy and the Racist Castro Regime

A special brand of absurdity gives CEOs license to lecture us on Georgia voting rights while doing business with murderous Communist regimes.

Cuban President Raul Castro, right, cheers next to U.S. President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, and their daughters Sasha and Malia, at the start of a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national baseball team, in Havana, Cuba,…

Cuban President Raul Castro, right, cheers next to U.S. President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, and their daughters Sasha and Malia, at the start of a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national baseball team, in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, March 22, 2016 Photo: AP

Regarding Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s “Baseball Says Cuba ‘Sí,’ Georgia ‘No,’ ” Americas, April 12): Antonio Castro, a son of the late dictator Fidel Castro, is the vice president of the Cuban Baseball Federation. Major League baseball was directly involved with him in the negotiations to “garnish [Cuban ballplayers’] salaries and send the dollars back to the dictatorship,” as Ms. O’Grady writes. If not for the prior U.S. administration, MLB would be trafficking Cuban players, who are predominantly black, to enrich a dictatorship whose nomenklatura is predominantly white.

The MLB was happy to ignore the murder of young black Cubans by Castro’s police and the silencing of Cubans who speak out. A high-profile example was the extrajudicial killing of a black youth this past summer. Hansel E. Hernández, 27, was shot in the back by police on June 24, 2020. Civil society was silenced when questions were raised, and the dictatorship organized a “heroes of the blue” social-media campaign to promote its officers. Does Major League Baseball wish to continue its collaboration with this racist and repressive police state?

John Suarez

Center for a Free Cuba

Falls Church, Va.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/mlb-hypocrisy-and-the-racist-castro-regime-11618756980

The Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2021

The Castros Still Run Cuba

Raúl’s resignation as head of the ruling Communist Party changes nothing.

By Marcell Felipe

April 18, 2021 6:01 pm ET

Cuban Colonel Alejandro Castro Espin, son of President Raul Castro, speaks in Havana, Feb. 21, 2009. Photo: adalberto roque/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Cuban Colonel Alejandro Castro Espin, son of President Raul Castro, speaks in Havana, Feb. 21, 2009. Photo: adalberto roque/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Raúl Castro announced his resignation as chief of Cuba’s Communist Party on Friday. Many U.S. media outlets characterized the move as the “end of an era” of communist rule on the Caribbean island. This is false. For many years Cuba has not really operated as a communist or socialist state. Instead it has been ruled by a military dictatorship that concentrates its power within a cartel-like chain of command of hard-line Castro family members and loyalists and generals who fiercely shield their wealth and status—as well as each other.

Many analysts are focused on whether Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel will inherit Mr. Castro’s leadership position as party secretary, which—on paper, at least—is the highest office in the land. This is a distraction, as is Mr. Díaz-Canel, who was installed by Mr. Castro in 2018 as part of a faux transition of power. In Cuba, the Castro family leads with an iron fist, and the party and government follow suit. Even the Communist Party’s online motto, #SomosContinuidad—“we are continuity”—implies the regime is determined not to change.

The key figure of Cuba’s silent elite is Gen. Luis López Callejas, Mr. Castro’s former son-in-law and the father of his grandchildren. Mr. López Callejas leads Gaesa, a military-run conglomerate that controls about 75% of the Cuban economy, including hotels, construction companies, shipping companies, hard-currency transmitters and currency exchanges. In 2018, a former State Department official told a Senate subcommittee that Cuban military personnel under Mr. López Callejas’s command were “directly involved” in trafficking cocaine from Venezuela.

Another key figure is Mr. Castro’s son, Col. Alejandro Castro Espín, a powerful member of the Cuban intelligence apparatus. He maintains a close relationship with the Kremlin and was directing Cuba’s spy agencies at the time of the 2019 sonic attacks against U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Cuba, which are still unexplained.

These Castro family members and loyalists like José Machado Ventura, Ramiro Valdés and other Cuban military officials whose names most Americans have never heard are the real rulers of Cuba.

Fortunately, President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are consulting with and listening to Sen. Bob Menendez, the Democratic Party’s top Cuba expert in Congress. Mr. Menendez knows these names well. In a statement, he said that the regime is playing a “symbolic little game of musical chairs” and “the U.S. government must remain firmly on the side of the Cuban people in their fight for freedom.”

U.S. engagement with the Cuban government should come only after the regime implements real democratic reforms. Cuba is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the Castro regime itself almost collapsed. This time there is no Fidel and no revolutionary ideology. All that’s left is a dictatorship.

What would political change in Cuba look like? It will most likely happen in one of three ways. In the first scenario, as the old military guard dies, a younger military figure could attempt to seize power from the new generation of Castros. If such a figure is savvy enough to align with the dissident movement and the Cuban-American community, this could yield real change.

In a second scenario, the civil unrest that has plagued the regime for the past year could lead to crowds overtaking the regime. No one can rule this scenario out or predict when it might happen.

In a third scenario, the crumbling Cuban economy and pressure from the dissident community could force the regime to negotiate and avoid a violent end. This is admittedly the least likely scenario.

No matter what the headlines suggest, political change is not imminent in Cuba. The island still marches to the beat of the Castro family’s drum. A system of free and fair elections with respect for civil rights and the rule of law can come only when Cuba’s military dictatorship is eradicated and a constitution based on democratic principles takes its place.

Anything less is a show staged for the Castro regime’s apologists in the international community. As always, they will demand the lifting of sanctions against the regime that has oppressed the Cuban people for 62 years.

Mr. Felipe is founder of the Initiative for Democratic and Economic Alternatives for Cuba, a project of the Inspire America Foundation.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-castros-still-run-cuba-11618783289

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Cuba Insight

April 18, 2021

A publication of the Cuban Studies Institute

IMPLICATIONS OF THE BAY OF PIGS FIASCO

By Jaime Suchlicki

The disillusionment and frustration caused by the 1961Bay of Pigs failure among anti-Castro forces, both inside and out of Cuba, prevented the growth of significant organized opposition.  With little hope for change more than 2 million Cubans migrated from the island mostly to the U.S.  With his power consolidated Castro could embark on massive confiscation of both foreign and domestic properties; the establishment of a Marxist society; the transformation of the educational and value systems following the Soviet model; and the creation of a highly repressive force organized by the German Communist Stasi.

The single most important event encouraging and accelerating Soviet involvement in Cuba was the Bay of Pigs fiasco.  The failure of the United States to act decisively against Castro gave the Soviets some illusions about U.S. determination and interest in the island.  The Kremlin leaders now perceived that further economic and even military involvement in Cuba would not entail any danger to the Soviet Union itself and would not seriously jeopardize U.S.-Soviet relations.  This view was further reinforced by President Kennedy’s apologetic attitude concerning the Bay of Pigs invasion and his generally weak performance during his summit meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna in June 1962. 

One of the lessons coming out of the U.S. failure in Cuba is that policy actions in one area of the world, no matter how insignificant or limited, are carefully assessed by enemies as well as friends of the U.S.  These assessments lead to policy changes that affect their actions. In some cases, encourages risky policies. The introduction of Soviet nuclear missiles into Cuba in October 1962, brought the world close to a nuclear holocaust.

The years that followed the Bay of Pigs failure ensued in questioning about who was responsible for the failure.  Why did Americans engaged in such a military operation that failed?  The wisdom and maturity of the Kennedy administration came into question.  U.S. prestige in Latin America and throughout the world sank to a low point.

One of the consequences of the Bay of Pigs failure was to bring to the national attention U.S. policy toward Cubans.  While some advocated a continuous hard line toward the Castro regime, others advocated diplomacy to deal with the Cuban leader.  To this date the debate over confrontation or engagement remains a thorny issue in U.S.-Cuban relations.  The recent Obama engagement with Cuba has once more shown the weakness of this policy.  Despite removing the Castro government from the State Department terrorist list; allowing travel by American tourists to the island; a visit by President Obama to Cuba and normalization of diplomatic relations, the Castro regime failed to moderate its foreign policy, its internal repression or its anti-American posture.  The Bay of Pigs unleashed a difficult and troublesome issue into the American scene, one that has not been resolved for over 60 years.

The U.S. failure to dislodge the Castro regime from power also forced the U.S. to deal, for the next six decades, with an antagonistic regime bent on subverting U.S. policies and institutions.  Fidel Castro and his brother have been relentless enemies of the U.S. constantly criticizing U.S. policies, spying on the U.S. government, and attacking American values and institutions.

Not only the U.S. has had to deal with Cuba, but Cubans have had to suffer 60 years of repression and poverty.  The Castro policies transformed for the worse, not only the economy of Cuba, but also the nature of the Cubans, converting them into puppets and instruments of an abusive and failed system.

*Jaime Suchlicki is Director of the Cuban Studies Institute, CSI, a non-profit research group in Coral Gables, FL. He is the author of Cuba: From Columbus to Castro & Beyond, now in its 5th edition; Mexico: From Montezuma to the Rise of the PAN, 2nd edition, and of Breve Historia de Cuba.

https://cubanstudiesinstitute.us/principal/implicatons-of-the-bay-of-pigs-fiasco/

Transcript from April 17, 2021  news interview with John Suarez on Al Jazeera

Host: Let’s turn to John Suarez who’s executive director for the Center for a Free Cuba he joins us now on skype from Miami. Good to speak to you how significant a moment is this?

Suarez:
 It is a significant moment because what we are probably going to see is someone other than a Castro, formerly head of the  regime in Cuba, for the first time in 62 years. However this is due to the fact that they got a lot of bad press when they did the succession back in 2006 from Fidel to Raul Castro describing this as a monarchy.

So if Raul Castro were to turn over power formally to his son Alejandro Castro, who by the way is an intelligence officer, who oversaw the negotiations between the United States and Cuba for normalizing relations during the Obama Administration. He also led the organization of the meeting between Raul and Vladimir Putin that same year.

Having him formally assume power would open up the regime to charges that it was a monarchy similar to what’s happened also in North Korea with the different generations of leadership passing down from father to son so I believe that Raul Castro wants to avoid that so they’ll have someone like a Diaz Canel, or someone else to assume the head of the Communist Party which is the maximum authority [on paper] in the regime but you will still have the Castro dynasty, not only Raul Castro himself but also his son Alejandro Castro,  Raul Castro’s son-in-law, General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, who oversees the economy through the military conglomerate of GAESA with 60 percent of the Cuban economy directly under the control of this Cuban family member.

So all those factors indicate to me that the Castro dynasty will remain in control of the destiny of Cuba at least over the short term. However with Raul Castro leaving power it does open the opportunity for victims of the regime, like Brothers to the Rescue shoot-down victims, to pursue Raul Castro in international courts under the basis of universal jurisdiction. The same way that it was done with Augusto Pinochet back in 1998, if I recall correctly, in London when a Spanish court sought his extradition for crimes against humanity committed.

Host:  John, what do you think that ordinary Cubans want? We heard from our reporter that younger Cubans perhaps don’t feel uh the same as uh the older generation but will that translate to anything really happening on the ground?

Suarez:  Cubans have wanted change for a long time, and to disagree with the presentation given beforehand, the cubans that invaded in 1961 were not from Miami. They were Cubans who had left the island months prior, as the regime that had promised a democratic transition from Batista instead delivered and consolidated a communist dictatorship. So thousands of Cubans left the island and then risked life and limb to try to overthrow Fidel and Raul Castro back in 1961. They failed, the regime consolidated itself. It did so with the aid of 40 000 Soviet troops on the ground in Cuba and they were able to maintain power as many communist dictatorships have done for generations through their brutality and that regime has not changed. You still have first generation leadership in control in key sectors of the government and they have a willingness to murder. Most recently opposition activists Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero were murdered July 22nd of 2012. Oswaldo had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, had won the Sakharov Prize and was an alternative to the Castro regime and he was extrajudicially executed.  So you have a regime with the willingness to commit crimes against humanity to maintain power. That’s why they hang on to power regardless of the desires of the Cuban people.

Host:  John Suarez executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba many thanks for that.

Suarez: Thank you.