©2012 Ross Williams
Ozzie Guillen, one-time manager of the Chicago White Sox, had a tendency to put his foot in his mouth on the South Side. I particularly liked his Jay Mariotti is a fag episode. People who say what other people are thinking are quite refreshing, and they’re significantly easier on the long-term conscience than those who mince words, beat around bushes and tip-toe ever so delicately past the graveyards of cowardly non-confrontationalism littering our world.
He’s now the manager of the Miami Marlins, and has been for all of 4, 5 games at this point. A few games ago he was interviewed by Time magazine, and among the questions he was asked – as a professional baseballer – was his thoughts on Castro.
Not Starlin Castro, the Cubs shortstop that he’ll be seeing next week when the Cubs come to town; Fidel Castro, the Cuban el heffe. ...because as the manager of a baseball team world politics is so-o-o relevant.
Guillen declared that he loved the guy. After all, he explained, “people have wanted to kill [him] for the last 60 years, but that fucker is still there.” Actually, Oz, it’s closer to 50 years, but who’s counting?
Needless to say, half the folks in Miami are Cuban exiles who live in Miami because Castro overthrew our boy Batista, and started imprisoning everyone who liked Batista, and everyone who liked anyone who liked Batista, and everyone who liked anyone who liked anyone who ... you get the picture. The Cubanos are in Miami because the alternative was the Cuban prison that many of their relatives reside in. They don’t like Castro, and for very good reasons.
Which means that they don’t like Guillen’s comments much. But their reasons are not so good. The consequences of those reasons are even worse. Disastrous, actually.
First, there’s Ozzie’s specific situation: he’s Venezuelan. Venezuela is currently in the hands of a Castro-lite by the name of Hugo Chavez who takes every opportunity to confiscate the private wealth of his people, or allow it to be confiscated – which is much the same thing in his type of government. By Venezuelan standards Ozzie Guillen is wealthy, and Hugo is best buds with the Castro boys. If you can give Ozzie credit for having forethought [I wouldn’t place any money on it, but it’s possible], his answer may have been gauged to ensure the good graces of Señor Presidente Chavez.
And if so, give him a break. Venezuela is the Somalia of the western Hemisphere in certain regards. It wasn’t all that long ago, last November actually, that Wilson Ramos, catcher for the Washington Nationals, was kidnapped in Venezuela by “criminal gangs” seeking ransom. Several ball players and especially their families have been kidnapped in the past seven years, and the government of Venezuela is more likely to allow such kidnappings to solve themselves rather than to put out a tremendous effort in finding the kidnappers, despite assurances from – not to put too fine a point on Venezuela’s similarity to Somalia – their Justice Minister ... Tareck El Aissami.
Yorvit Torrealba’s son and brother-in-law were kidnapped and released last year without police involvement. Victor Zambrano’s mother was kidnapped and rescued by police. Henry Blanco’s brother was kidnapped and killed in 2008. And Ugueth Urbina’s mother was held for months while the police did nothing.
Insulating yourself and your family from the whimsy of idiot dictators and their henchmen is always prudent.
But so is doing everything to undermine those dictators.
This is where the US, through its official policy regarding Cuba, has failed miserably. The US brought down the entire Soviet Empire and its Eastern European bandwagon, winning the hearts of their people with – arguably – rock music and blue jeans. Sure, the Star Wars missile defense system forced the Soviets to spend money they didn’t have and couldn’t earn, but the table was set by the Beatles, Elton John, and Wranglers insinuating themselves into the Eastern Bloc people... who were the ones that tore down the Berlin Wall under the noses of East German soldiers.
We set the table by engaging the socialist tyrants of Eastern Europe. Engaging means giving trifling little gifts – such as blue jeans to visiting ballet troupes. Then insulting their leaders. Then cajolery with free tickets to an Elton John concert for the families of dignitaries.
Additionally, China is now becoming more capitalist at the same time we are becoming less so; this hasn’t happened in a vacuum, either. That was accomplished, also, through engagement. Give China a lesson on the practical benefit of letting individuals make their own money and taxing them on it rather than the government making money for them and thus having nothing to tax all the while doing all the work, followed by snide commentary on their civil rights ...
The entire Soviet bloc fell to pieces and China out-profits everyone on the planet except us ... and we can’t bring down a puissant little turdball island nation like Cuba?
There’s a reason for that, and the Cuban exiles in South Florida aren’t going to like hearing what that reason is.
The reason is them; we haven’t brought down the tinpot tyranny of the happy-go-lucky Castro boys because our own Cuban exiles demand we don’t. Our Cuban exiles scream bloody murder when the subject of engaging Castro comes up. Sympathetic American ideologues then lend their political support in a spate of pandering, and the possibility of bringing down Cuba with ... let’s just say baseball for grins ... never gets attempted.
The Cuban exiles in the US have unnecessarily prolonged Cuba’s misery with their vanity and pride. No, we can’t trade with Cuba, because that just puts money in Fidel’s pocket. No, we can’t allow tourism to Cuba because that makes it seem like Castro isn’t the bad guy in all this.
The result? Castro gets to pluck the strings of world sympathy by portraying himself as the victim of American “economic warfare” – sniff sniff boohoohoo. The result of this is that we look like the bad guy for being a bully rather than him being the bad guy for being a despot. And Fidel has played this victim card with regularity in the 53 years since he putsched Batista off his perch.
Cuba prides itself on its cigars and its baseball. Fidel Castro played college baseball back in the 40s, reportedly being quite good, and he smokes cigars like they grow in his back yard. It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to play on his own pride and vanity, here. Greasing the political skids by trading Cohibas for a visit by the World Series winner each year, not to mention allowing Cubans to enter the Major League draft without having to defect first might well have put the Castro regime on life support as soon as the Berlin Wall fell. ...which in turn wouldn’t have allowed Chavez to manipulate Venezuelan politics the way he did either.
...Chavez took control of Venezuela, and is holding it, with not inconsequential assistance from Cuba’s military.
Cuba was, and still is, dependent on wealthier socialist nations to provide them their daily bread; oil-rich Venezuela is simply the most recent.
There are several ramifications to not engaging Cuba and none of them benefit us; damned few benefit the Cuban people still living in Cuba. And all to allow the Cuban exiles in South Florida to jut out their chin and puff up their chests and declare that Castro didn’t really win.
Well, compadres, he did, and he’s still winning by compelling you to convince our idiot politicians to pretend he doesn’t exist by your whining and carrying on.
Don’t worry; when I cruise close enough to Cuba to see land I still extend my middle finger and give a hearty “Fuck you, Fidel!” And Ozzie Guillen has fallen on your sword for you, as so many before him have done – the Marlins have suspended him “indefinitely” for five games.
Congratulations, mi amigos. I hope this makes you feel better as you sip your rum and Coke with a twist of lime and a dash of irony. Cuba Libre indeed.