He doesn’t know it, but Fidel Castro (the one and only)
has joined True North Perspective as a Guest Columnist

By Carl Dow
Editor and Publisher
True North Perspective

Long before I’d ever heard of Fidel Castro I found a book in a used bookstore published by two American doctors in 1938. There are three things about it that I recall: the first is that some casual friends (a couple) borrowed it (I don’t remember the title); the second is that I never saw the book or the couple again (I’ve forgotten their names); the third I remember clearly: the doctors reported that there was virus in Cuba that entered the body through the soles of bare feet and caused the legs to swell so that the patients were immobilized with pain. The doctors said that they had discovered a serum that when injected caused the swelling and its pain to disappear. The only problem was that most Cubans were too poor to buy shoes. So the obvious cycle developed among those lucky enough to receive the injection.

Through the years it came to my mostly indifferent attention that Cuba, especially in Havana, was a holiday resort and an intensely practiced place of business for American gangsters. The country as a whole lay victim to unbridled exploitation by American businesses in many ventures including the production of sugar.

The next time I was made aware of that island in the sun was when this son of a wealthy landowner entered Havana at the head of a military group strong enough to kick out the gangsters and the greedy, callous corporations.

I remember thinking, “If the guy’s any good, maybe Cubans will be able to buy shoes. I was pleased that my country had decided to maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba. After all, we make good shoes here.

Then the Bay of Pigs was added to the growing list of American policy disasters.

In 1965, when I became chief and bottle washer of the Montreal bureau of the Toronto Telegram, an American gangster, Joseph Bonanno (nicknamed Joe Bannanas) was on the lam. He was under pressure from fellow mafiosa who said they had a perfect fit of cement shoes, and American authorities who found in him a person of interest. To keep breathing he moved from place to place frequently. I put out what few lines I had with the mob and was convinced he wasn’t in Montreal where he had a branch office. Then, one evening with a couple of hours to kill, I decided to call Gramma, Castro’s mouthpiece in print, if you’ll allow just one more note of vernacular, and ask there if they had any news of Bonanno being In Havana. I mean, after all, Havana was a long time underworld hang-out.

Of course I knew he wouldn’t be there. Castro and his team had made sure of that. But, operating on the William Randolph Hearst principle that if there’s no news, make it, I called because I knew that no matter the reply I had a story.

The call was routed to an operator in Miami, Florida. She was very polite and we carried on an occasional friendly conversation. Occasional because the wait was about an hour-and-a-half before she could find an open line for me, and she had other things to do.

When the phone at Gramma was picked up, I identified myself and asked my question. I was put on hold for about fifteen minutes until a male voice responded in perfect English. Again I asked if they had any news of Joseph Bonanno hiding out in Cuba.

The next day, the Toronto Telegram ran the banner line: Havana Denies Joe Bonanno in Cuba.

I considered the call a harmless prank. Something that has been entirely out of the ordinary for me in my practice of journalism. The next time I called Cuba was two weeks ago.

I was looking for copy related to International Women’s Day. The media would have plenty about the celebration. I wanted something that they wouldn’t have. All I could find on Google about Cuba were travel agencies. Frustration put a jump-start on my brain and I finally did the obvious: I called the Cuban embassy in Ottawa. I was given advice that proved only lukewarm in human interest but I used it anyway. I asked to have True North placed on the Cuban embassy mailing list. I put True North to bed and went on a Spring Break.

When I returned to battle stations I discovered in a tangle of e-mails, five e-mails from the Cuban embassy. One was about a Canadian going to Cuba for a Terry Fox run. And four pieces from Fidel Castro himself. No they weren’t personal. They were press releases only. But what was remarkable to me was that they were so brief, conditioned as I was to learning about his hours-long speeches.

I had braced myself for thousands of words. I responded with relief and good humour, thinking, Fidel, now that you’ve retired and are only working on your memoires, you’ve just found a part-time job as a guest columnist for True North Perspective. Why not? I argued. We have an image of Fidel Castro that has been handed down to us by a hostile media. Let’s have a look at the man in his own words.

So Fidel, you’re on. We can’t afford to pay you but so long as our readers show interest you’ve got a platform on True North Perspective. So here he is, by press release from the Cuban embassy, in his own words, for better or for worse.

Reader response more than welcomed.

Reflections by Comrade Fidel
The International Criminal Tribunal   

For the past months and ending yesterday on March 5, La Hojilla, a Venezolana de Televisión programme, took on the task of selecting facts and sentences that exactly reveal the imperialist scheme of doing to Chavez what was done to Milosevič after the genocidal Kosovo conflict: to have him tried by the International Criminal Tribunal.

Last night after midnight Cuban time, in other words, just today, when I heard official press releases given by a group of officials who are dealing with the pertinent legal procedures in Colombia, I had absolutely no doubt.  This is no secret.  It is a battle of pre-packaged opinions.  I very much have in mind La Hojilla’s excellent summary as I write these lines.

What has been said about Chavez recently?  He was elected by a popular majority vote.  Immediately there is an addition: just like Hitler.  Of course this doesn’t explain what we know all too well: that Hitler was the genuine product of the capitalist system, that this was expressed through the Treaty of Versailles and the sanctions it imposed — I have already mentioned this before in a reflection — and these magnified the nationalist sentiments in the fledgling German Republic.  Fascism murdered countless numbers of people.  Chavez never killed anyone, he has been elected several times, and the most incredible insults about him are published and distributed daily in all the media. They will never make the President of Venezuela accept this.

Once the U.S. government was certain they could destroy missiles in mid-air from California by using space satellites, they were unashamedly speaking about atomic war and not covering up their intent to rule the world with blood and fire. They spend trillions of dollars on weapons that contribute nothing to satisfy the necessities and the well-being of humankind; quite the opposite, they maintain a constant state of tension in the world economy; like the bandits in the American Wild West, they force countries to hand over their money or their lives.

Listening for hours to the economists assembled in Havana to discuss globalization and the problems of development in a civilized manner, one can appreciate the tremendous clash of ideas and the contradictions surging with increasing vigour and complexity in today’s world.  I keep a good number of facts in my mind which, quite certainly, were dealt with at that meeting.

The solidarity with the people of Ecuador that was expressed at that conference is, by itself, extremely valuable.

The President of that nation, Rafael Correa, stated today that if the Organization of American States “does not condemn the aggression on his country, we will have to throw it into the garbage heap of history”.  “We must make decisions tomorrow in Santo Domingo in order to clearly condemn the aggression against Ecuador”, he added.  I heard these two declarations not just in the televised interview with Correa.  They also appear in several of the news cable agencies.

The seriousness of the problem created by the U.S. government cannot be under-estimated.

Yesterday, Bush gave his support to the Republican candidate McCain who is committed to the Iraq War and enjoys dropping bombs on the civilian population, is opposed to any kind of negotiation and swears he will uphold the economic blockade against the Cuban nation.  Two days ago, the cables informed us about some of Bush’s new measures to further expand the blockade against Cuba on the Internet.

What can the peoples of Latin America, who would like their sovereignty to be safeguarded, hope for from the Empire?

Can such a tyranny that is so damaging to the peoples of the planet be sustainable or not?

Fidel Castro Ruz
March 6, 2008
6:32 p.m.

Reflections by Comrade Fidel
The one and only loser

The knock-out took place in the capital of the Dominican Republic. We followed every second of the match on Telesur. Nearly all of the Latin American presidents from the Rio Group were there. Ecuadorian President Correa had announced it the day before. I underscored the importance of this meeting in one of my reflections. It did not take place within the OAS. Most importantly, U.S. diplomats were not in attendance. In one way or another, despite the profound ideological and tactical differences, everyone shone and showed the virtues that earned them important positions in office.

In today’s crisis, these positions acquire a stark significance. The undeniable fact is that, on the brink of armed conflicts between sister nations stemming from Yankee intrigues, for now peace has been sealed, as has the awareness that we can avert wars between peoples united by solid bonds of brotherhood.

While this was taking place in Santo Domingo, Bush was at a meeting in Washington to discuss the transition in Cuba.

Though much still lies ahead, as the meeting on Globalization and Development Problems held in Havana has shown, ultimately, imperialism proved the one and only loser.

Fidel Castro Ruz
March 7, 2008
5:44 p.m.

Reflections by Comrade Fidel
Chavez visit

Raúl had invited him. He replied he didn’t want to come see me so I wouldn’t catch the flu he had. That was nothing but a pretext to avoid the torture of my habitual questions. “What am I taking vitamin C for?” I told him in a message.  Should we expect all the heads of State who attended the Rio Group’s warm and successful recent meeting to get sick?

He was content, euphoric about that battle for peace and his role in it —recognized by international cables — made him happy. He was serene, persuasive, thoughtful and with an excellent sense of humor. Even Bolivar, who was never wholly satisfied with anything, would have been pleased at that moment.

At the end, he sang “Quisqueya.” The meeting had proven fruitful and, flu and all, his musical voice and ear could finally take the floor.

He remarked that oil prices had gone up 5 dollars. He asked to be excused by Leonel who, in a reflex-reaction, overcome with joy, had begun to cough.

Many of the countries that had gathered there (at the Rio Group conference) export coffee and cocoa to the U.S. market, in addition to all kinds of vegetables and fruits. I am not up to date as regards the latter’s prices, but the price of coffee and cocoa is about what it was 50 years ago, when the dollar had a few dozen times the purchasing power it has today.

Simple trade, increasingly unequal, is crushing the economies of many Latin American countries. Some African countries are oil producers. Others produce coffee and cocoa. Some attract transnational capital like bees around a honey pot. Others attract debt and its steep interests. And all suffer the scourge of rising food prices.

Today, Saturday, I had a long conversation with Chávez. We are like brothers. The decision to publish what we discussed is not mine to make, as it has never been and will never be. Venezuela is not Brazil. I will publish only what he authorizes in my memoirs.

All I can say is that the meeting was excellent. And I have yet to feel any flu symptoms.

Fidel Castro Ruz
March 8, 2008
3:17 p.m.

Reflections by Comrade Fidel
Ever onwards and upwards

Secondary Education students have met at their XI Congress. Listening to them, I felt wholesome pride and justifiable envy.  What a privilege to be that fertile age!  If today university education has become massive, an even more important activity is massive:  the battle of ideas before starting university.

It would appear that nature has determined human evolution to make us capable, from a very early age, of having consciousness prevail over instinct.  My dear comrades of the Federation of Middle Education Students: that will be your battle.

Today, the greatest effort of the decadent and unsustainable empire is to deprive us of the right to knowledge and thinking.  Meditate a moment on the petty effort made by the ringleader of that empire to prevent our people access to the Internet; Rosa Miriam, a young and profound journalist, denounces this in an article, adding information that The New York Times, in its article criticizing the deed, does not even mention:

“…OFAC (the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury) black list shows 557 “accursed” enterprises in the entire world and 3719 .com domains that have been blocked in the Network without any previous notification to its owners... the United States has blocked almost three times more sites than all those the country has registered under the generic of our country...."

“This is new evidence that the United States not only controls the access of its citizens to cyberspace, but that of all users of global Internet.”

She refers to the policy pursued by Bush during his term in office.  Even though her article was published in Juventud Rebelde, it is worthwhile to repeat the abovementioned information.

What a response there was in the statements of the Middle Education students!  Is there anything like it in the United States consumer society? Unfortunately, distressing news comes to us from there about teenage and young adult students coming in contact with lethal fire arms that are freely on sale in a society where money and the marketplace are charting the way. The United States administration is supported by the National Rifle Association and the culture of fear, but it cannot impede Cuban culture.

Forward, young Cuban students!  Let us fight against egoism, vanity and the sterile ambition for glory that are serpents devouring human souls; let us be the bearers of ideas and conscience, ever onward and upward, together with our glorious forefathers.

Fidel Castro Ruz
March 9, 2008
6:19 p.m.