- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Castro brothers received a warm and grateful audience with the Congressional Black Caucus last week. Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat and the current head of the 42-member caucus, and her colleagues seemed by all reports to have had the time of their lives.

According to the gushing pundits on the 24-hour news channels, their meeting was an extraordinary if not magnificent series of events. The focus was the almost-48-year trade embargo placed on Cuba that has well served the foreign-policy agendas of many U.S. presidents, Democrats and Republicans alike.

There was a private meeting with Fidel Castro with some of the Caucus' delegation of six representatives. This friendly and neighborly meeting supposedly took place at dictator Castro's home, where his wife met the group at the front door. “Leave it to Beaver” episodes crossed my mind. I wonder if she wore pearls.

Miss Lee said, “We believe it is time to open dialogue and discussion with Cuba.” Another member of the delegation, obviously overcome by Fidel Castro's “very healthy, very energetic, and very clear thinking demeanor” said, “Castro looked directly into our eyes and asked how Cuba could help [President] Obama in his efforts to change the course of U.S. foreign policy.”

Reps. Laura Richardson, California Democrat, and Bobby L. Rush, Illinois Democrat, also attended. Discussions, we are told, ranged from travel restrictions to free trade and exchange programs.

At one point, the issue of racism in America was mentioned, a big concern for the Castro brothers. This has been the cornerstone of the Castros' continued propaganda, perpetrated on the Cuban people and throughout Latin America since the so-called Liberation Revolution came down from the Sierra Maestra, led by Fidel Castro with his coldblooded thugs in tow in 1959.

There also was a subsequent meeting with now President Raul Castro at a different location. The setting was magnificent: an Italian marble-pillared grand room with picture windows filled with waving palm trees symbolic of the Cuba most of us remember. It looked like a palace in paradise. This ornate, glamorous room looks nothing like the debilitated 1950s relic buildings and streets that make up most of Cuba today. It's glorious to be in Cuba, but only if you are a high-ranking Communist Party member. Too bad the people can't experience the luxuries enjoyed by its communist leaders. I suppose the people are still sacrificing for the good of all.

As I listened to the reports last week when this story broke, I was overcome by even the most balanced of news forums commenting that the embargo obviously has not worked and something new has to be tried.

As a Cuban refugee who fled my native land to escape tyranny and obtain liberty, I find these throwaway observations read from a teleprompter to be naive, uneducated and totally irresponsible. Cuba is not in the economic or political parole in which it finds itself because of the U.S. embargo. The rest of the world trades with Cuba and has no travel restrictions there. The flow of money has continued to enter Cuba regardless of the U.S. embargo. Europeans flock to the beaches of Cuba with hard currency. Native Cubans are not allowed on those beaches except to work with permits, given by the government and monitored strictly.

These activities only further enrich the Castros' and their cronies. It is estimated that Fidel Castrohas more than $11 billion in overseas accounts.

The underlying cause of Cuba's economic, cultural and political status is of the Castro government's own making. Cuba's communist totalitarian regime has inflicted insurmountable and possibly permanent damage on an Island nation that should be the envy of the hemisphere.

This institutional communist regime has stripped its people of God-given freedoms and human rights that must never be taken by any tinhorn dictator. These same basic freedoms were set forth in the Cuban Constitution of 1940. Fidel Castro dismissed the constitution and replaced it with his own manifesto, doing away with any notions of individual rights. Cubans have suffered excruciating pain for what some misguided “progressive” American politicians would call social justice and balance.

In fact, the majority of Cubans live in poverty. And the majority at this time is of African descent. A report published in 2002 by the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami puts the black population in Cuba at 68 percent. The most comfortable and highly educated Cubans on the Island are white.

Cuba is not a progressive paradise. It's a banana apartheid 90 miles from Miami, sustained by a constant balm of approval from our hard left, who falsely claim to support human rights. I respectfully ask the Congressional Black Caucus certain questions arising from my concerns, as a taxpayer who funded your recent love-fest with the Castro brothers. If you are so concerned about human rights and insist on opening the gates for Cuba to enter a Free World - a world the Castros have systematically denied to their own people - why did you not ask to visit the prisons, the detention work farms, and talk to the brave dissidents who have been incarcerated for decades because of their views? I assure, you would find many liberty-loving blacks suffering among them.

Why not inquire of Fidel Castro about the days when Cuba went to war in Angola and why the majority of the front-line troops (not volunteers) were black. I also would challenge the delegation to give the American people a true account of the Cubans of African decent in leadership positions that you met with during your visit. How many blacks are in the so-called Cuban Cabinet of Ministers, in the “Politburo” made up of 29 party leaders? I have never seen one. What is the percentage of Cubans of African decent that make up the Central Communist Party (ruling party) of Cuba?

How many black Cuban government spokesmen have you seen on television? Has anyone ever seen a high-ranking black Cuban general in Raul Castro's army in 48 years? Where is the outcry for equality? Only in sports do you see Cubans of African descent - and then highly monitored so they don't escape their chains of slavery and flee to freedom.

I could go on, but I am sickened by the thought of our elected representatives from the Congressional Black Caucus honeymooning with tyrants, murdering racists, true bigots.

The injustice Fidel Castro's communist regime has perpetrated on the Cuban people and especially on the African-descended population on the island is deplorable. Shame on all of you for representing our country in this way, participating in a grotesque, vile exhibition, planned and manipulated by liars and master tyrants, the Castro brothers.

Antonio Benedi is a former special assistant to President George H.W. Bush and is a member of the board of directors of the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty.

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