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Because of the Bay of Pigs betrayal, this country has a moral obligation to help Cuba free itself of Fidel Castro.
Hal Feeney (Cmdr., U.S. Navy, Ret.) served in Naval Intelligence, including participation in the Bay of Pigs operation. He lives in Corpus Christi and continues to serve as an adviser to an agency of the U.S. government.
The beginning of the end for Castro is now taking place. It is time to yank his chain, or see his people face another 12 years or so of his cruel dictatorship.
There is a clamor in the media for the United States to help get rid of Fidel Castro’s Communist government by lifting the embargo. Many believe it would cause Castro to change his ways and give democracy and a free-market system to his people.
First, the embargo which Castro wrongly calls a "blockade" does not exclude medicine or humanitarian aid.
Neither does it prevent Cuba from buying food from countries such as Mexico, Canada and European countries with which it has diplomatic and trade relations.
Cuba simply does not have money to pay for it. Moreover, the island is a very rich agricultural country and it is only the grossly ineffective communist system that encumbers agricultural production and distribution to its more than 10 million people. They are uncomfortable, but not starving like people in Somalia.
Those who predict that a lifting of the embargo will hasten the downfall of Castro or cause him to change Cuba into a democratic state are extremely naïve.
Fidel Castro has an ego bigger than that of Saddam Hussein. He is not about to admit that he was wrong about communism or to make a voluntary exit.
Lifting the embargo would in fact give him a chance to hang on to his personal power while manipulating the U.S. government by making cosmetic, rather than substantive changes.
Among my Cuban friends are many who went to school with Fidel. One was with Castro in the hills as a chief lieutenant in the fight against Batista. Those who know Castro laugh at the idea of his making democratic changes that might lesson his dictatorial powers. They say that in the present crisis Castro is taking great pleasure in treating the U.S. government like a yoyo, calling the shots as our new "Minister of Immigration". According to them he has always had a pathological hatred for the United States.
Despite Clinton’s bold statement that the United States would not stand for another Mariel Boat-lift, his subsequent actions have been passive responses that have complicated the problem and are very costly to the U.S. taxpayer.
Our reaction to the Castro-engendered refugee crises—the "slow motion Mariel"—is yet another example of almost total lack of foreign contingency planning by the Clinton administration which gets into deeper water "playing it by ear".
The president has been urged to make political contingency plans for an almost certain military coup against Castro and the subsequent struggle for power, which could come at any time, especially if we do not come to Castro’s rescue by doing his bidding on the embargo issue. So far the Clinton White House has not made such contingency plans.
Even though Clinton flatly stated that the United States is now only engaging in mid-level talks on immigration issues, political pressures almost certainly will lead him to waffle and expand the talks-thus giving in to Castro’s agenda again.
Cuba obviously is not of the same strategic importance to us as it was during the Cold War, but it certainly is more so than Haiti, which we apparently are preparing to invade.
No American soldier should have to set foot on Cuban soil to liberate it from its Communist dictator. That is obviously a job for Cubans to do.
However, it behooves us to help those Cubans inside and outside the island in every way feasible, most especially by not interfering with their efforts to unseat Castro. For those who feel reticent about that idea. Mexico set an interesting precedent in 1959 by sheltering Fidel in Mexico and turning a blind eye to his preparations, including the arming of his group on board the boat Granms in which he departed to begin the struggle against Batista.
It is ironic that we sent halfway around the world, covertly, to help Afghanistanis rid themselves of a Communist have been harassing, arresting and jailing Cuban exiles who try by boat. Clandestinely, to provide supplies to the anti-Communist underground and the dissidents in Cuba. We should make it easier for them, provided they do not engage in terrorism.
The pressure is growing especially among Cuban military officers who are bitter about the wasted years fighting as Soviet surrogates in Africa and the unjust execution of their most popular general, Arnold Ochoa.
If we can be supportive of the Cuban anti-Castro forces, the dictator may be ousted soon by a military coup. We should not bolster Castro at a time when his political and moral stature are at their weakest. It is time to yank his chain, or see his people face another 12 years or so of his cruel dictatorship. We should participate in and support human rights and labor organizations worldwide which are protesting the abuses of Castro’s regime.
The beginning of the end of Castro is now taking place in Cuba. The recent riot and demonstration in Havana had two significant characteristics: It was the first open spontaneous demonstration by Cubans against the Castro government and Castro’s police were reluctant to fire on or use violence against demonstrators.
A recent incident of insurrection reported by underground sources in Oriente Province but not in the media involved a Castro general who was executed when the effort failed.
In my view, we have a moral obligation to the Cuban people for having betrayed those brave men who, three decades ago tried to liberate their homeland at the Bay of Pigs. I feel a sense of national shame for that betrayal and the historical consequences of failure to liberate Cuba in 1961 because an earlier young president did not have the experience or gumption to follow through on a U.S. foreign policy decision.
I must confess that I may be somewhat subjective in the way I think about what happens in Cuba. I hope my readers will indulge me for feeling a sense of brotherhood with those patriots who tried in 1961 to achieve what is still the goal in Cuba today. FREEDOM!
(Editor’s Postscript: In April, Feeney was awarded a medal for valor by the Cuban exile Assault Brigade 2506 in Miami for his heroics in saving Cuban Freedom Fighters at the Bay of Pigs)