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    Frank Calzon*

    ( The Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fl)

    Neither I nor Guillermo were bothered by the cold front that had closed
    in on Havana that January. At 13 and 14, we were full of self-importance
    as new traffic cops changing signals at important intersections. Batista
    had fled, and Fidel Castro had asked the Boy Scouts to take over traffic
    control until he arrived.

    Everyone was celebrating, and hope surged through Cuba. People had read
    Fidel's 1953 speech about the Cuban Republic that "had a constitution,
    laws, liberties; president, congress, courts; anyone could meet,
    associate, speak or write with complete freedom … when there were
    political parties, discussion programs on the radio, debates on
    television, public meetings where people gathered with enthusiasm." He
    was fighting to restore these liberties, and only those associated with
    the old regime had doubts. Nobody then talked about Marxism, the Soviet
    Union or Yankee imperialism. "Fidel is no communist," we said. "This is
    just propaganda by Batista's followers."

    The imprisonments and executions – even of some revolutionary heroes –
    came all too quickly. Expropriations of foreign companies and large
    landowners followed; then eventually all property – newspapers, radio
    stations, beauty parlors and fruit stands – were nationalized. Would Ted
    Turner ask his friend, Fidel, why?

    After the expropriations came shortages and "temporary" rationing, still
    in effect today. Worse, thousands were sent to UMAP (Military Units in
    Aid of Production) work camps: long-haired youths, Jehovah's Witnesses,
    intellectuals, gays. Would Sean Penn, another admirer of Castro, inquire
    about those UMAP concentration camps?

    Later, when over 100,000 Cubans fled the island, Castro packed the boats
    with violent criminals and mental patients. Has author Gabriel García
    Márquez, a Castro sympathizer, considered how a Latin American country
    might react if a neighbor dumped criminals and mental patients on its

    More recently, three black Cubans were caught trying to flee Cuba. They
    were summarily tried and executed. Has filmmaker Michael Moore, an
    apologist for Havana, asked why does trying to leave Cuba merit the
    death penalty?

    Now there are no Boy Scouts on the streets of Havana. Cuban children
    today are expected to be "like Ché," who died trying to spread Castro's
    brand of communism. Education is free, but students are forced to work
    half the day harvesting vegetables to help achieve the communist utopia.

    For some, these things are inconceivable.


    *Frank Calzon is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

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