HART: Cuba: The untaught lesson on the perils of socialism
Fidel Castro, the 90-year-old communist dictator of Cuba, is dead. After his death, Cuban citizens gathered near Cuba’s lone TV to watch leftist world leaders praise Castro for all he did for them.
I went to Cuba in February and observed that while Cuba is realizing the futility of central command-and-control government, Obama was embracing it. Cuba and the U.S. are like ships passing in the night.
Like Obama, Fidel Castro held grudges. A Yale professor in our group was denied his visa at the last minute because he wrote decades ago that Fidel overstated his baseball prowess. Fidel remembered.
He took over this once-economically vibrant island in 1959, pretending to be selflessly for the "people" and for "democracy." It turned out that he and his family were just out for themselves. Fidel later decided that socialism/communism was the way to go; that way he'd be in power forever. No one in Cuba has had to wait up for election outcome results since.
Castro seized assets from landowners, corporations and Mafia casino operators. He lived longer than anyone could expect for a man who stole hotels and casinos from gangster “Lucky” Luciano.
After 55 years of rule and a personal net worth stolen from his people of about $1 billion, he felt that, at age 85 and with his government pension, he had enough money to get him to the barn. Just imagine how much more Castro would have been worth had he not been a "share the wealth" communist. Upon retirement, out of habit the New York Yankees signed him to a five-year deal.
Fidel Castro realized he was not going to live forever; he's not Larry King. So he appointed his brother and closest family confidant, Raul, to rule. ("Raul" is Cuban for "Ivanka.") Fidel said that he was retiring to spend more time repressing his family. As I have learned, when you say you are going to quit work to spend more time with your family, you might want to check with your family first.
Desperate for a positive legacy item, Obama set about normalizing relations with Cuba. This means soon they will have nukes and we will get a box of cigars.
The timing was right to normalize relations.
My main takeaway: Cuba is a political and economic lesson not taught well enough to our schoolchildren. With the rise in popularity of Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein, it's clear that Americans do not understand the dire lessons of socialism's poisonous ideology and the devastation it brings to every country that has fallen prey to its hollow temptations. In a troubling Pew Research Center survey, 49 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds had a positive reaction to the word "socialism."
U.S. teachers, who generally lean left, romanticize Marxist revolutionaries. Kids today wear iconic Che T-shirts, unaware of the 3,000 political murders he committed and economic devastation he caused.
Fifty years of Cuban socialist rule have turned a prosperous country into an impoverished one. Cubans earn $20 a month. Everything is "free" — it's just that there is none of it. Store shelves are empty; even toilet paper is scarce. All the "evil" businesses were run out of Cuba. Seventy percent of the people work for the government, so there is no one left to tax.
Trump should stick with Obama’s stance toward Cuba and see what happens. The only indication we have of what Trump’s stance will be was a Tweet when Obama visited, saying Castro disrespected him by not greeting him at Havana’s airport. We have imposed brutal sanctions on Cuba for 55 years. But to be fair, I've had a great relationship with my parents for about that long, and I didn’t pick them up at the airport for Thanksgiving either.
A syndicated op-ed humorist, award winning author and TV/radio commentator, you can reach him at Ron@RonaldHart.com, Twitter @RonaldHart or visit RonaldHart.com.