Castro’s Dead. Good

From the facebook page of libertarian movie-review site Miss Liberty’s Film & Documentary World:

Fidel Castro is dead. A great film (free online) to remember him by is “Improper Conduct,” on the subject of Castro’s gulags for gay people. He hated gays and decided to “get rid of them,” in the manner that socialists do such things.

From Foreign Policy two years ago:

“Though the Castro family is no longer sending LGBT people to labor camps as they did in the 1960s and 1970s, the only permitted LGBT movement in Cuba is the official, state-run one.”

From 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein on Twitter:

Michael C. Moynihan responds to Stein:

More. As Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas describes in his memoir Before Night Falls:

Homosexuals were confined to the two worst wards of El Morro: these wards were below ground at the lowest level, and water seeped into the cells at high tide. It was a sweltering place without a bathroom. Gays were not treated like human beings, they were treated like beasts. They were the last ones t come out for meals, so we saw them walk by, and the most insignificant incident was an excuse to beat them mercilessly. The soldiers guarding us, who called themselves combatientes, were army recruits sent here as a sort of punishment; they found some release for their rage by taking it out on the homosexuals. Of course, nobody called them homosexuals; they were called fairies, faggots, queers, or at beset, gays. The wards for fairies were really the last circle of hell.

And let us not fail to remember that other icon of the Cuban revolution, Che Guevara. And more here.

And yes, Donald Trump got this one right:

“Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights,” [Trump’s] statement said. “While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.”

Trump added: “Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty.”

21 Comments for “Castro’s Dead. Good”

  1. posted by Jorge on

    I think that money Jill Stein helped raise would be better spent paying restitution for the construction equipment she vandalized.

    Is the worst thing you can say for Fidel Castro’s repentance that his election deserves a recount and there is only one LGBT-rights organization in Cuba? There are other signs, and they all point in about that direction.

    I think President Obama should go to former dictator Castro’s funeral, regardless of if it appears to be in good form. Obama made the decision to begin diplomatic relations while he was still alive. The current leader is the former dictator’s brother. Was Obama wrong not to wait for Castro’s passing to make a new Cuba policy? The consequence is Castro dying after the new policy has come into effect. It is time to pay the piper. The Cuban dissident community has made their feelings very clear. We’ll make it up to them.

  2. posted by Lori Heine on

    The embargo was always wrongheaded because it hurt the people. It doesn’t seem to have done anything to punish Castro.

    Trade is the best way to secure peace with other nations. Coercion never works out very well. Trade leads to peace–and coercion, eventually, to war.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      By the 90s pretty much everyone else had started trading with Cuba. The embargo was just the US and something as a joke as many Americans went to Cuba via Canada or Mexico. Trump had meetings (illegal, I might add) exploring doing business there. The embargo didn’t work because everyone else had long abandoned it and it only continued to appease a handful of voters in a swing state.

  3. posted by Houndentenor on

    Jill Stein is an idiot. Tell me something I didn’t already know. Sadly, I’m not sure that Castro’s death brings about much in the way of change in Cuba. (I hope I’m wrong.)

  4. posted by Doug on

    I may be wrong, but it’s interesting that Stephen is calling out Castro for his treatment of LGBT folks but I do not recall him calling out the right wing christian community that is advising a number of African countries on anti-LGBT legislation that includes the death penalty.

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      It is a matter of degree of culpability:

      Anti-gay American evangelicals have blood on their hands here, but resistance to liberal America’s attempt to impose its values also is a significant factor.

      Good intentions expressed through heavy handed actions by a foreign government can and will backfire. A better strategy would be quiet support by privately funded NGOs backing locally controlled LGBT efforts, rather than the U.S. government throwing money around and issuing ultimatums, even if that’s what U.S. LGBT lobbies want to see.

      The Trump administration is unlikely to repeat the Obama administration’s policies in this regard. I guess that’s a good thing, depending on your point of view.

    • posted by TJ on

      Cognitive Dissonance, much?

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      Cognitive Dissonance, much?

      No, it is just that Stephen has no use for the Obama administration and/or left/liberals.

  5. posted by TJ on

    LGBT Cubans were persecuted under the pre Castro regime and continued to be discriminated, harassed and brutalized under Castro. The homophobia and transphobia was rooted in the culture (i.e. religious traditions and attitudes about women) that much of the Revolutionary leadership and much of the US/Mafia backed Old Guard treated LGBT people as freaks who were expendable.

    In the 1970s the Cuban government slowly started to protect LGBT rights; criminal code was liberalized and openly gay artists were no longer banned.

    The AIDS pandemic promoted a backlash, as infected persons were initially relocated to a hospital/prison. This was later changed in the 1990s.

    People living with AIDS/HIV have to complete a basic health class, but then are free to leave.

    In the 1990s, a campaign began to change anti-gay prejudice through education and media. This led to more tolerance, although crackdowns and arrests of gay social functions still periodically happened.

    Castro apologized for the prison camps. He condemned homophobia in several speeches and things have gotten better for LGBT people. Hopefully, more open economic and cultural policies will benefit all Cubans.

    Long before he (Castro) died he was reduced (politically speaking) to a largely ceremonial title in favor of a new (more liberal) leadership.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      In the 80s Castro’s horrendous treatment of people with HIV/AIDS was used by the right as a “look it could be worse” for of BS” similar to what they do now with how lbgt people are treated in the middle east. Yes, Cuba got better on gay rights about the same time as the US did. That doesn’t excuse either country’s horrible policies. There’s no reason to sugarcoat who Castro was. He was a dictator. Those of us who value democracy and human rights have nothing kind to say about tyrants.

    • posted by Jorge on

      That’s about what I expected to learn.

      It shouldn’t be forgotten what dictatorship is, and what a good system of laws grounded in a belief in human rights can do. It’s not enough to simply point out the benefits of dictatorship and the limitations of law.

  6. posted by Kosh III on

    In 1980 we were attending MCC Phoenix. Almost 125,000 Cubans were allowed to leave, the “Mariel” exodus. Many of these were gay people who told stories of abuse great and small.

    I won’t minimize the problems with the Castro government but there is a silver lining in that the country has 100% literacy, excellent Universal health care and 80% of it’s food supply is organic. If only the US could manage that.

  7. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Just a caution: Stephen’s version is simplistic, conflating Cuba’s culture and laws, conflating past and present, and conflating government brutality in general with government brutality toward gays and lesbians. The history of Cuban culture and laws with respect to gays and lesbians, both pre- and post- revolution, are very complex.

    Castro should not be lionized because he was a brutal dictator, but he shouldn’t be robotically demonized, either. Facts count, and Castro’s and Cuba’s record, both, are mixed, and somewhat torturous.

    I notice that Li’l Marco was tweeting about Castro’s treatment of gays and lesbians in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Fair comment, but coming from him, odd indeed. At least Lyin’ Ted hasn’t taken it up yet. My head would explode.

    • posted by Jorge on

      I almost wish I were rapid enough to have gone to Trump’s rallies just to see his “lyin’ Ted” breakdown, which of course I caught on Youtube.

      I agree with you.

      • posted by Jorge on

        That should read “rabid”

      • posted by Tom Scharbach on

        You didn’t miss much by being insufficiently rapid or rabid. Trump was vapid.

  8. posted by Throbert McGee on

    Is the worst thing you can say for Fidel Castro’s repentance that his election deserves a recount and there is only one LGBT-rights organization in Cuba? There are other signs, and they all point in about that direction.

    All point in what direction? It seems to me that a 100% turnout for Castro and the fact that only one LGBT-rights org is permitted to exist point to the possibility that the “repentance” was superficial, and the liberalization of the regime is window-dressing.

    In other words, perhaps all the signs say “This way to the Potemkin Village.”

  9. posted by Throbert McGee on

    I won’t minimize the problems with the Castro government but there is a silver lining in that the country has 100% literacy, excellent Universal health care and 80% of its food supply is organic. If only the US could manage that.

    Oh, that’s some silver lining there.

    100% literacy in a country where the state maintains an Inquisitional degree of control over written content. If you want to read something without the regime’s imprimatur, your options are samizdat or nothing.

    Universal health care whose appearance of excellence is carefully created by taking foreign visitors to “Potemkin hospitals,” while many of the clinics visited by ordinary Cubans suffer chronic shortages of aspirin, syringes, and bandages that haven’t been boiled over and over for re-use.

    As for organic food — I’m sure the Cubans are delighted that their dinners of bread, rice, and beans; rice, beans, plaintains, and beans; plaintains, bread, plaintains, beans with rice, and dubious pork; rice, rice, beans with a little bit of chicken plus a side of plaintains are almost totally GMO-free. And you can bet that fear of Monsanto is NOT what drives people to cross seas on inner-tube rafts.

    Perhaps an LGBT commenter in Cuba might be able to join the thread and address these issues — oh wait, no they CAN’T, at least not without Mariela fookin’ Castro looking over their shoulder.

  10. posted by Throbert McGee on

    In the interest of fairness, let me add: The 1958 Revolution (like Russia’s 1917 Revolution) may have been morally justified in and of itself because of the previous regime’s horrible abuses.

    But (again, as with the USSR) clinging for decades to Marxist-Leninist dogma, and forcibly suppressing the emergence of some sort of “democratic market-socialism” was a Reactionary, Fundamentalist, Inhumane, and Evil thing for Castro to do to the Cuban people.

    P.S. The unilateral US embargo did serve one useful purpose: it meant that Castro did not have quite as many Yanqui dollars to paper over the massive flaws of a centrally planned economy. It made it just a little bit harder for him to pretend that Communism works. It was harder to deny that the Law of Diminishing Returns had long since kicked in after the initial gains made by the Revolucion.

  11. posted by TJ on

    Homophobia was widespread in Cuba before Castro came to power and remains so after he has gone.

    Prior to the Castro revolution, the homophobia was based on traditional religious beliefs, traditional attitudes about gender roles and the fact that the most visible signs of homosexuality were male prostitution (mostly catering to wealthy foreigners)

    After the revolution — at least initially — the homophobia gained an additional justification; “revolutionary men must be real, red-blooded manly men.” In the 1970s, the Castro government began to slowly adopt a more liberal “live and let live” policy.

    A group of Cuban gay artists won a court case, and the anti-gay criminal law was liberalized (although transgender people and effeminate gay and bisexual men were still subjected to harassment).

    The AIDS/HIV pandemic (1980s) prompted a temporary backlash, with infected men being quarantined into segregated hospitals. Quite a few of the Cuban refugees that fled in the 1980s were gay .

    International scrutiny of the concentration/work camps (the film being just one example), cased them to be shut down and by the late 1980s, Cuban started to make some changes with regards to gay people.

    In the 1990s, Cuban films and TV shows with LGBT characters started to be released (some with international praise). The AIDS/HIV policy was revised to allow for “outpatient” care and more comprehensive sex education. The Institute For Sex Education became a proponent of comprehensive sex education, as well as combating homophobia.

    Castro did actually apologize for the homophobic policies that happened under his role. He also gradually gave up most of his power (in the years prior to his death) and the new leadership in Cuba (as well as internationally) has been steadily working on more open global relationships.

    The challenge for LGBT Cubans is largely (a) social attitudes — which take lots of time to change and (b) fighting off feelings of isolation. Both of which are goals of the National Institute For Sex Education.

  12. posted by Throbert McGee on

    TJ, thank you for that response. While I’m very skeptical about whether the post-Fidel regime is making any changes that are more than cosmetic, I hope to be proven wrong — for the sake of all Cubans, including the LGBT ones.

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