Anyway, let me quote a bit from that piece — for the purpose of giving a little of Castro’s history:
[Zapata] began his hunger strike on December 3. He wanted to be recognized as a prisoner of conscience and not be forced to wear the uniform of common criminals. He also wanted, ideally, to be treated as Fidel Castro was treated, when the future dictator was a prisoner, for a year and a half, of the Batista regime.
Oh, did Castro have it made! Large, comfortable quarters, full mail privileges, conjugal visits, daily exercise and sports, excellent food, two baths a day. He said in a letter, “They’re going to make me think I’m on vacation.”
Oh, yeah. And let me quote once more from Rafael Diaz-Balart. I have quoted him before. He was Castro’s brother-in-law. He was also the majority leader of the Cuban house of representatives. In America, two of his sons, Lincoln and Mario, would serve in the U.S. House.
In May 1955, the Cuban body passed a bill amnestying Castro and his band. (Batista would sign it.) And here is what Diaz-Balart — who knew Castro well, indeed intimately — had to say:
Fidel Castro and his group have repeatedly declared, from their comfortable prison, that they will be leaving prison only in order to continue plotting new acts of violence and whatever it takes to achieve the total power they seek. They have refused to take part in any type of peaceful settlement, threatening both members of the government and members of the opposition who support electoral solutions to the country’s problems.
They do not want peace. They do not want a national solution. They do not want democracy, or elections, or fraternity. Fidel Castro and his group seek only one thing: power, and total power at that. And they want to achieve that power through violence, so that their total power will enable them to destroy every vestige of law in Cuba, to institute the most cruel, most barbaric tyranny — a totalitarian regime, a corrupt and murderous regime that would be difficult to overthrow for at least twenty years.
An understatement, as it turned out. Diaz-Balart ended,
I believe that this amnesty — so imprudently adopted — will bring days, many days, of mourning, pain, bloodshed, and misery to the Cuban people, even though these very people do not see it that way now. I ask God that the majority of the people and the majority of my fellow representatives present here be the ones who are right. I ask God that I be the one who is mistaken — for Cuba’s sake.
With Felix Rodriguez, I try to get into a little of the psychology of Fidel Castro. He says that Castro “hated the Cuban people. He was a bastard son, and he knew it.” (His mother was “the maid of the house.”) He experienced various slights. “He had a lot of resentments, and he proved that when he took power.” For instance, he appointed as the head of the national police “a common thief and drug dealer.” That showed contempt for Cuba and its people.
For years, Rodriguez dreamed of going back to Cuba, as is natural: People don’t want to be shut out of their homeland by brute regimes. But he realizes the Cuba he knew is not the Cuba that is.
A younger friend, a Cuban immigrant to Florida, said to him, “Why the hell would you want to go back to Cuba? Everyone there wants to leave Cuba. You never saw the Cuba I saw. I would rather be in the United States. You weren’t raised under the regime. You’ve never known the lack of privacy, the hunger, the humiliation . . .”
Rodriguez contends that the Castros keep Cuba deliberately poor. If people are worried about how to survive, day by day, they don’t have much time or energy for political resistance.
If he went back to his hometown, says Rodriguez, he wouldn’t know anybody. His hometown is Sancti Spíritus, in the center of the country. One of the things the Castro regime did, he says, was uproot families: force them to live in places they were unfamiliar with. This was part of creating the new Communist society, in which “bourgeois” ties were severed.
You know the drill . . .
Rodriguez’s very first memory is of being with his mother as she talked of what Hitler was doing in Europe. He got worried that the Nazis would come to Cuba. They never made it that far. But in 1959, other, homegrown monsters took over. (Guevara came from Argentina, but nevertheless . . .)
Let me quote Rafael Diaz-Balart once more: “Fidel Castro is nothing more than a psychopathic fascist, who could choose to align himself with Communism only because fascism was defeated in the Second World War.”
Felix Rodriguez is 100 percent a Cuban patriot, and 100 percent an American patriot. Normally, that would be an utter contradiction — but the circumstances of the Cuban exile are not normal. Rodriguez himself is extraordinary, and a credit to two countries: the one he grew up in, and tried to liberate, and the one he adopted, and served so well.