The last time I saw Cuba , she was a very distant smudge of light off the starboard bow ; but I could hear her: music from Radio Havana was playing softly in the Officers' wardroom ,and -despite reports of unrest - it sounded as if folks on the big island were having a fine old time.
In case you're wondering,we were just "getting a feel" of what it would be like to conduct reconnaissance of a foreign coast . We remained in international waters at all times .
A few months after our "discreet visit" a Cuban soldier named Batista seized power - and the music changed: becoming more strident,as Batista tried to turn the Cuban people into lackies for American gangster Meyer Lansky. The people despised Batista,and began working to overthrow him.
In 1959, a man named Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz swept into power-and the music stopped : drowned out by the rattle and roar of firing squads, and the rumble of trucks carrying the intelligentsia of Cuba off to "post-graduate" work in the cane fields. They had supported Fidel, rather than his more democratic competitors, and I'm sure they wondered why he did not return their adoration.
The reason was simple: Fidel did not trust them. If they had been willing to betray Cuba to him, would they not betray him to others seeking power ?
Fidel trusted nobody -except his brother Raul , on whom he kept a close eye, and whose follies he shrugged off. When Raul introduced Holstein-Fresian cattle to Cuba-at great expense-and the cattle turned out (predictably,had anyone asked) to be totally unsuitable for tropical Cuba ,Fidel patted "little Raul" on the shoulder and put him in charge of the island's prison system: a job even a reputed drunk like Raul could handle.
Fast forward a few years: the takeover of Cuba by Russian advisers,the actual installation of some nuclear missiles (under Russian control) on the island, and the attempt to install longer-range,more powerful nukes - thwarted during the Kennedy administration.
There were clumsy attempts-(most led by the charismatic-but-inept Che Guevarra) -to "export" Communism into other parts of Central and South America;the furnishing of Cuban mercenaries to Angola,and the waging of bio-warfare in that troubled country.
The exports did not fare well. The Cuban mercenaries returned from Angola carrying AIDS, and were "treated" by enforced isolation in the Isle of Pines Prison for the rest of their painful lives.
Fidel attempted "one last hurrah" when he sent troops to occupy the peaceful island of Grenada, during the Reagan administration. Reagan-instead of blathering and blustering (as his predecessor might have done) sent in troops: forcing the Cubans to scurry home with their tails between their legs.
Somehow, 47 years later,Fidel is still in power...but gravely ill. He has given his little brother temporary authority ; but it looks more and more as if his real successor will be ...Hugo Chavez, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela; and that the "Peoples' Democratic Republic of Cuba" will soon be The Bolivarian Republic of Cuba ...to be followed (if Chavez can arrange it) by Bolivarian Republics in Bolivia , Mexico , Colombia ,and as many other countries as Hugo can bring to heel. (Chavez has already set up trade relationships with some of his prospective "targets" : a sort of Latin Common Market.)
The motive ? Absolute control of Latin America's oil ,mineral and drug supply,and the establishment of a Chinese-supported Latin Soviet Union.
What kind of leader can the world expect Hugo Chavez to be ? Click the link to see how peaceful democratic protest is handled in Venezuela.
Fidel Castro's days may be numbered, but the evil he has helped create will live long after him.