CUBA: A COUNTRY HELD HOSTAGE
Castro’s technique of taking hostages and use of blackmail and extortion were present from the beginning of his revolution. In February 1958, in order to call the attention of the world, Castro’s clandestine group in Havana successfully kidnapped the internationally known auto racer Juan Manuel Fangio.
In March 1958, Castro’s brother, Raúl, masterminded the taking of about 47 hostages in the province of Oriente, mostly US citizens. Among the hostages were 27 unarmed US Marines aboard a bus traveling back to the US Naval Base in Guantanamo after a day’s pass.
In 1958, Castro’s rebels took 10 American engineers and two Canadians from the installations of the Moa Bay Mining Company. Since this was an action directed against the US, described by Castro "interventionists" and "exploiters," the Canadians were released.
In the case of the Marine hostages, Marine Headquarters asked permission from President Eisenhower to conduct a rescue operation, but he rejected the idea. The hostages were finally released - two a day - after direct negotiations between the rebels and Park Wollan, the US consul in the City of Santiago de Cuba and his assistant, Robert Weicha, who was a CIA agent and later found to be a Castro sympathizer.
According to writer José Carreño, some of the former hostages told the US authorities that during their captivity they were interrogated by Vilma Espín, the lover and later wife of Raúl Castro, and the infamous Manuél Piñeiro, alias "Red Beard." The hostages testified that both were using communist techniques and language. But, they were silenced by some elements at the State Department that were not interested in revealing the communist leanings of Castro’s rebel elite.
In October 1958, Castro’s clandestine group in Havana unsuccessfully tried to kidnap the famous international film star from Spain, Sarita Montiel, who was performing in theater and television. Raúl Castro kidnapped another group of American engineers in Oriente province. But the US Ambassador in Havana, Earl E. T. Smith, told the rebels that if they were not released immediately, he would recommend to his government that the arms embargo against Cuban dictator Batista be lifted.
Once the revolution began ,Manuel Piñeiro ("Red Beard"), one of Castro’s most loyal supporters, was hand-picked for several positions in the repressive political machinery. In 1974, he became Chief of the America Department, charged with implementing Cuba’s political-military revolutionary program in the Americas, which caused thousands of deaths as he directed the well trained and armed Marxist guerrillas. One of their techniques was the taking of hostages – a technique that continues today.
With this background, we can trace the propensity for the use of this terrorist technique from the beginning of Castro’s revolution.
Cuba is a country taken hostage by Castro and his cronies who took power by deceiving the Cuban population and the world. They betrayed the democratic principles and desires that drove people to revolt against the authoritarian dictator Batista.
Today, Castro continues to apply the techniques of blackmail and extortion against the population, their land and their properties. Cubans continue to pay ransom in money or properties for being allowed to leave the country. While in exile, many are very much aware that they have to pay with their silence because they have dear relatives trapped on the island.
In December 1962, about 1,200 prisoners from the Bay of Pigs were released after a ransom of 63 million in medicines was donated by individuals and US companies, and one million in cash was paid to Castro. Later, Castro shipped the medicines to the Soviet block in payment for his external debt.
The rule is that in order to survive in Castro’s Cuba, to be able to work, eat or to have a university education the citizens have to pay with their submission and political silence. If you do not want to go to Castro’s jails or concentration camps, or be harassed and ostracized by the neighborhood committees or paramilitary rapid deployment brigades, you have to pay with your silence and obedience.
For clothing, appliances, housing and other basic needs, your payment is your silence and cash forwarded by your exiled relatives - 1,053,000 according to the 1990 US census - for the ransom in US dollars.
For a "free education" you have to pay by allowing your children to work in the fields, and after their graduation, they have to live and work where Castro assigns, earning a miserable salary in worthless Cuban currency.
For "free health care" you have pay sometimes with your life. You have to adapt to the mediocrity, lack of water and electricity, and the most basic medicaments and sanitary conditions in the hospitals where the unprivileged citizens are forced to go due to Castro’s apartheid. Or if you want better health care and medicines, you have to ask your exiled relatives for US dollars as ransom.
Castro has been circumventing the US embargo for decades. Cuba is free to trade with every other country in the world. Since the early sixties everything that he did not make available to the ordinary citizen, was plentiful in the special stores for Castro’s elite and the foreigners. These US-dollar-only stores have become available recently to ordinary Cubans after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the Cubans, whose salaries are in Cuban pesos, have to pay in US dollars. This is another devious scheme to extort money to keep his regime strong. And the Cubans in exile are paying close to 600 million a year in ransom for the welfare of their relatives - although they know their money ends up in Castro’s pocket.
When a Cuban is given an "exit permit" by the Castro regime to visit relatives abroad it amounts to an extortion of money in fees that have to be paid in US dollars. The ransom comes from their exiled relatives.
The exit permits to visit abroad issued by Castro’s regime are valid for a month even when the Cuban wants to stay for a longer period. In another effort to extort more money, the Cuban visitor is requested by Castro’s regime to pay a monthly fee of $175.00 for each additional month. This is a "rent-a-visitor" scheme.
When a Cuban American that is a US citizen goes to Cuba, he or she has to buy a Cuban passport, because Castro does not accept the fact that he or she is a US citizen. Even with the Cuban passport, a visa must be purchased. In addition, there are hefty fees for numerous unwanted "services" that must be purchased from the Cuban Interests Section and at the Havana airport. All of these charges must be paid with US dollars. So a heavy ransom is paid to Castro to keep your family ties.
Cuba’s 11-million people live in a country held hostage against their will. That is why 60,000 have died at sea rather than continue being Castro’s hostage. That is why the total confirmed death toll in this 40-year hostage situation currently amounts to 97,000.
Agustín Blázquez, Producer/Director of the documentary COVERING CUBA
4020 Rickover Road
Silver Spring, MD 20902