This is from a British born citizen of the United States, and I’m sure only one of many thousands in this country who would also wish you well, but are aware that it is not politically correct to do so, and don’t have the guts to say so. You probably won’t find other messages saluting you like this one. Here, people either want to condemn you out of hand for mostly anecdotal reasons, or do it the safe way, make fun of you, and in a few cases want you to open your borders so they can come over from Florida and kill you.
It is easy to ignore the fact that you are in charge of a sovereign nation of around 11 million people, around the population of an extended London, or Tokyo, or New York, or Los Angeles. And in an area less than that of Pennsylvania. And that the notion of diversity may not sit well if such a small number is to be contained for the general good.
I praise you because you had a vision way back, and have been true to it, and the result is that you have a politically stable country, and an orderly society. I don’t think the same can be said for some other meaningful Caribbean countries, and one might say the same for America, which is becoming more divided by the day. (Read this criticism of America)
Seriously now, on this your anniversary, it is time for a fresh assessment, and review of your life. Here are the events, as we know them.
You were born in 1926, survived a Jesuit boarding school, and later obtained a law degree. You got married at 24, and were divorced six years later, and had one son.
You were an early critic of the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Your political ideas were nationalistic, anti-imperialist, and reformist. You were not a member of the Communist party then. In 1953 you attacked Batista, unsuccessfully, were caught, tried, and sentenced to 15 years in prison, but released 2 years later; at which time you went into exile in Mexico vowing to continue the fight.
Just over a year later, you and a band of guerillas including the Argentinean physician Che Guevara, returned to Cuba and succeeded in the fight. Batista fled on Jan. 1, 1959, finding no support from the United States.
Thus you became the new hero to your countrymen. Early on, you formed a government that included moderate democratic politicians.
Your reasons for changing from that democratic beginning are not clear, but you did improve the living conditions of your people, and for that they rallied behind you.
Of course, we are all aware that you later embraced Communism, and looked to the Soviet Union for material support.
This the United States did not like, of course, and they cut imports of sugar, your main crop, and you in turn nationalized U.S. businesses in Cuba.
On April 14, 1961, you announced to the world that your society was Socialist.
The next day, U.S. planes bombed your airfields.
Two days later, a bunch of expatriates, trained by the CIA, landed on your shores hoping to foment an uprising. The U.S. failed to back them up, and you captured them all.
Thus, the “Bay of Pigs”, your fear of invasion, and your turn to the Soviet Union for protection. which suited Khrushchev just fine.
In February 1962, the U.S. created its first embargo, hoping to force you to your knees.
In October, U.S. spyplanes were observed in your airspace, and you shot one of them down. But the planes found evidence of Soviet missile sites being placed, aimed of course to the North, and then found ships bearing missiles headed your way.
Our President Kennedy acted immediately, and the people of the world saw the onset of the third world war looming, this time with a nuclear arsenal between America and the USSR, with Europe right in the middle, or, perhaps, the Far East. We all held our collective breath.
After much tense negotiation, Khrushchev agreed to withdraw his missiles from Cuba. In return, the United States agreed not to invade Cuba, and to remove its missiles from Turkey.
That’s when your legal training came into play, very smart of you. To this day, the treaty has protected you.
By Dec 1965, a disgruntled U.S. (they hate to be foiled) began airlifting some of your residents who wanted to leave and live in America.
The following year, our President Johnson granted permanent residency to Cuban immigrants who arrived in this country after Jan. 1, 1959. The airlift ended after some years, and by then, over a quarter of a million Cubans had arrived.
Oct. 9, 1967. Che Guevera, who had left your side 2 years earlier to spread non Soviet Marxist dogma elsewhere, had been detained in Bolivia by a CIA/U.S. Special Forces military operation, and was executed without trial, according to testimony.
In 1975, U.S. Intelligence admitted to more than eight attempts on your life by the CIA.
The next year, the Cuban Communist party adopted a new constitution, and so Socialism was institutionalized, and you assumed the presidency. And, of course, to ensure your country’s viability, you kept up your ties with the Soviet Union, without which your economy would have foundered.
But some sixteen years later, the USSR went under, withdrew their support, and your economy fell into recession.
Sept. 9, 1994: Cuba and the United States agree to cap the number of Cuban refugees admitted into the United States at 20,000 per year.
There were hundreds of thousands of relocated Cubans living in Florida by now, and they decided to bombard your country with leaflets urging revolt.
You shot down two of these planes that were violating your airspace, and in response, the United States made its trade embargo permanent.
And so you were ignored at this side of the water, except we were prepared to let Cubans in if they were able to successfully complete a sea crossing by boat. The rule was, if anybody was stopped before setting foot on dry shore, they would be returned to you.
Europe and the rest of the world watched, and did not desert you, however. January 1998, you and your people welcomed Pope John Paul II on a state visit.
Then a dramatic personalizing thing happened in real time that electrified everybody.
In November, 1999, a little boy, one of your people, by pure chance was found floating on a rubber inner tube, out in the Atlantic. Investigation showed that his mother had secretly left her husband, and attempted the dangerous crossing with her boyfriend and a few others. Little five year old Elian watched them arguing as the water got rough, fell asleep, and woke up alone and adrift. Funny how anecdotal family trouble gets attention. Finally. Real people with real names and faces and problems. To that, we can all relate.
Did our Coast Guard turn his inner tube around, wish him luck, and push him back out to sea? Of course not. He was brought ashore, and left with his uncles and aunts somewhere in Miami, and everyone was supposed to think that that was an American “happy ending” to his story.
Not so. Your voice and his father’s voice were heard loud and clear, there were legal ramifications, and America was embarrassed enough to find its human side, follow its own family laws by the book (not by the judge), and Elian was forcibly returned to his father.
I was among the millions who watched his interview last year on CBS’s Sixty Minutes, and it was clear that the right thing had been done. We saw an impressive little boy, met his father, and saw his school chums in their school uniforms.
Attitudes began to change here. In October 2000, the U.S. House of Representatives approved limited sale of food and medicine to Cuba, revising the Cuban trade embargo.
But taking the high road, through the United Nations, in April 2004 we censured Cuba over recent human rights abuses, including the detention of more than 75 political dissidents, held in inhuman conditions. (I’ll trade that with the thousands held here similarly, in places like California’s Pelican Bay high security prison), and also you were accused of some sort of sin that you were worth $550,000,000, a paltry sum by American standards. You claimed, believably, that you did not benefit from state owned enterprises.
Then just last month we heard that you were ill following a bad fall, witnessed on television, and that you were in the hospital with internal bleeding. Already, the media here were almost gleeful in quoting rumors that you were dead. You were very smart, and simply disappeared to be out of touch, which brings us to today.
I have written several times about Cuba before on this site.

Freedom of Speech
; Elian Gonzalez; Richard Branson
You have shown yourself to have a very human side, and a great sense of humor and irony.
Your legacy is that you stood up to the great Goliath to the North, and have survived in your role as David, remained true to yourself, and hopefully everybody will draw their own fair conclusions from your story.
To close, again, a very Happy Birthday to you.
The New York Times invited readers to send in their brief comments on this subject, and here is the list, all 741 of them (including mine). It is incredible that the result was almost 100% in favor of letting the Cubans decide what should happen next. In fact, most were very much in sympathy with Castro and the Cubans. Bravo!
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