The Corner

Romancing Raúl

In response to Credible Threats? Serious Threats? in Saudi Arabia?

It will not surprise Jay, or most conservatives, to discover that Time magazine published a panegyric to Raúl Castro in its just-released “100 Most Influential People” feature. But, given the plight of Antúnez and other Cuban dissidents, it is fittingly ironic that the following, titled “Cuba’s Evolutionary,” should appear today (I’ve bolded the fun parts):

“You see me as I am now, happy and free,” a long-haired, 27-year-old Raúl Castro told a LIFE journalist in 1958, as the two bumped along mud roads in an open jeep. “But when I meet the United States consul, I will be very serious indeed.” LIFE was in Cuban rebel territory in the wake of Raúl’s bold kidnapping of 47 Americans, whose release he was about to negotiate in exchange for his own set of demands. The negotiations worked, and the event was a public relations coup for the rebel cause: the charmed “hostages” heartily embraced their captors as they were let go.

Until he shook hands with President Obama, first at the 2013 funeral of Nelson Mandela, then at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City this April, that 1958 meeting in the mountains of Oriente province was very probably the last time Raúl Castro had spoken with a U.S. official. Rumor has it that Fidel disapproved of Raúl’s kidnapping stunt but could do nothing about it. Now that Fidel has transitioned to something like a Cuban Jimmy Carter, preoccupied with nuclear proliferation and climate change, Raúl has taken groundbreaking steps toward normalizing relations with the U.S. Those changes have prefigured Obama’s late-date but also significant efforts, which we can hope will finally end the insulting, cruel and utterly failed 50-year U.S. embargo against the island.

Raúl, I wager, will insist that the U.S. respect Cuba’s right to sustain some form of socialism and protect its main achievements, such as education and universal health care. But the real question is, can Cuba manage to do so, despite the destabilizing influx of foreign capital that will be sure to follow this historic rapprochement.

Impressive how Rachel Kushner, who wrote the ode (she penned a commercially successful novel set in Cuba, if you were wondering) can squeeze so much ideological tripe into three paragraphs: Cuba, the paraíso tropical of state-run medicine; Raúl Castro, the gallant rebel, adored even by his hostages; and America, the colonialist oppressor whose slavering capitalists threaten to end Cuba’s elegant island ways. It would, of course, have been passé to mention that that “historic rapprochement” is with a (soon-to-be-former) state sponsor of terrorism that operates a gulag. No, it’s American policy that has been “cruel.”

The Left’s love affair with tyrants waltzes onward.​

Ian Tuttle — Ian Tuttle is the former Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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