The Corner

The Color of the Opposition (for Those Who Care)

In Impromptus today, I mention Orlando Zapata Tamayo — the Cuban political prisoner who died on Tuesday after a hunger strike. He was an amazingly brave and valuable man. I will write about him more in the next issue of NR.

There is one thing I did not say in my column (well, many things, but I’m thinking of one in particular). The support for the Cuban dictatorship among free peoples, such as Americans, rests on three myths: 1) The regime has been good for black people (“Afro-Cubans”). 2) The regime has made Cubans literate. 3) The regime has set up excellent health care, which we should all envy.

These things are baloney, but, as Armando Valladares (the Cuban dissident, writer, and exile) says, even if they weren’t — can’t a country have those things (health care, etc.) without a totalitarian dictatorship? Without denying people fundamental rights? Don’t democracies, free countries, have literacy and all that as well?

Back to race, which is so important to so many. The Castros’ nomenklatura is pretty much lily. Back during the revolution, Spaniards referred to Fidel Castro as “the Great White Hope.” (The dictator Batista was a mulatto.) And the opposition movement is dominated by Afro-Cubans.

One of them is Dr. Oscar Biscet, whom George W. Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (in absentia, of course — Biscet has long been in a dungeon). Another is the man known by one name, “Antúnez.” Another was Zapata, who died last week.

I don’t know how long the Castroite myths I grew up with, and perhaps you grew up with, will endure. But if they endured forever, that would be too bad, to put it mildly.

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