July 28, 2013, 6:28 p.m. ET
The Castro Brothers Get Caught in the Act
News of arms shipments to North Korea rudely interrupts the happy talk about reforms in Cuba.
By MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY –
The news that Cuba was caught smuggling fuel and weaponry on a North Korean freighter through the Panama Canal surprised many who have bought the line that the Castro regime is reforming and eager to lose its reputation for criminality.
They are like the fabled frog that agrees to carry the scorpion on his back across the water. When the scorpion stings the frog midstream, the amphibian is confounded because it is clear that both will drown. But the scorpion explains that what he did was inevitable because “it’s my nature.”
The same goes for the Castro brothers. They are simply incapable of containing their beastliness.
A handout picture provided by Cubadebate on February 24, 2013 shows Former Cuban President Fidel Castro (L), and his brother, Cuban President Raul Castro (R), during a session of the Cuban National Assembly, in Havana, Cuba.
To pretend otherwise is to deny that the Castros, who lobbied the Soviets for nuclear war against the U.S. in 1962, are still dangerous. Yet denial is in fashion in some newsrooms and in the cloakrooms on Capitol Hill, which is why the weapons-smuggling story was so evanescent.
The scorpion nature of the Castros is hardly news to Cubans. They are not permitted to use the Internet, to watch independent news broadcasts, to earn dollars, to speak their minds, to send their children to private school or to worship freely. Something as basic as milk for children is hard to find.
Some Cubans who rebel languish for years in dungeons. Others are now victims of a new method of repression that observers call “catch and release.” The Council of Human Rights Rapporteurs in Cuba reported last week that “in the first six months of 2013 the Cuban government political police made more than 1,000 arbitrary arrests for political activity, the majority [of the arrests] violent and lasting on average between 12 and 24 hours.” The council counts more than 70 political prisoners serving multiple-year sentences.
Increased repression has accompanied recent efforts to bring in more foreign exchange by attracting American visitors through “educational” and “cultural” excursions that are permitted by the U.S. under its long-standing embargo. The movements of these visitors and their interaction with Cubans must be tightly controlled by the dictatorship to ensure that they don’t see too much of the real Cuba. They are supposed to go away singing the praises of the happy communist paradise, and many do.
A dictatorship is apparently an exotic curiosity for well-to-do Americans. They are being herded through selected parts of the country in large numbers to view firsthand what deprivation can inspire.
This week the elite Phillips Exeter Academy announced that it would join with Miss Porter’s School “on a weeklong exploration of the fascinating art and culture of Cuba.” There was no mention of whether students in these prep schools would be visiting the jails where nonconformists—including artists, musicians and the black human-rights advocate Sonia Garro—reside. Nor was it clear whether the children would learn about the dual-currency regime in which the military government pockets dollars from the visitors while it pays workers in almost worthless bits of paper. Somehow I doubt it.
?Now comes the news of the arms shipment aboard the Chong Chon Gang headed for North Korea, a land of barbed-wire fences and starvation, a regime so dangerous to world peace that even the dithering United Nations Security Council, China included, agreed unanimously in March to heightened sanctions against it.
The Cuban foreign ministry immediately claimed that the weaponry, found hidden under 10 tons of sugar and undeclared, was obsolete and going abroad for repair. But José Otero writes in the Panamanian daily La Prensa that Panamanian officials found two MiG fighters and full tanks of jet fuel, along with “a mid-air refueling plane, two vehicles for towing radars, a rocket-launching platform, a radar antenna with platform and many cables” in the ship’s hold.
Experts say the story doesn’t add up. Weapons repairs are normally made by ordering parts and flying in technicians. What is more, since everything was made in the Soviet Union, sending it to North Korea doesn’t make sense.
Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe tweeted on July 18 that a reliable source told him that part of the shipment was destined for Ecuador. Colombian journalist Eduardo MacKenzie noted in an online column last week that “seven other North Korean ships had made trips to Cuba in the last four years with itineraries similar to the Chong Chon Gang.” A further mystery is what these ships may have brought to Cuba in the first place.
All of this smells bad. Cuba wants to shake off its international pariah status so that it can get World Bank and InterAmerican Development Bank handouts and credit from U.S. banks, thereby avoiding economic and political reform. Indoctrinating the girls at Miss Porter’s School is part of that effort. The arms-trafficking is, or should be, a wake-up call.
Write to O’Grady@wsj.com
A version of this article appeared July 29, 2013, on page A11 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Castro Brothers Get Caught in the Act.
Source: “Mary O’Grady: The Castro Brothers Get Caught in the Act – WSJ.com” – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323610704578630152321250888.html