John Gerassi, The Great Fear in Latin America, 1963, 1965.
PART VII: Castro vs. The United States
The Battlefronts and the Forces
Since Bolivar and San Martin led Latin America's fight for independence, no general, politician, caudillo, or statesman has had so much significance or created so many repercussions as Fidel Castro. He is better known than Stalin or Khrushchev, Roosevelt or Kennedy. His name plasters every city's walls from Patagonia to Monterey. Hundreds of songs praise or condemn him. In Uruguay, Cuba's revolutionary anthem (Adelante Cubanos . . . ) is almost as well known as its own (Orientates, La Patria o La Tumba . . . ). In Venezuela, the Committee for the Defense of the Cuban Revolution has 100,000 members pledged, theoretically, to rush to Cuba's defense as part of the would-be International Brigades should the next invasion get a foothold. And in Haiti, even a voodoo performer got into the act by sticking a pin into "Kastroh."
To us, Castro is either a Communist threat or a danger to free enterprise. To Cubans, he is either a savior or a tyrant. To Latin Americans everywhere else, he is a rallying cry, good or bad. As such he cannot be defeated by slogans, dollars, or invasions. And as long as the conditions he rebelled against exist elsewhere in the hemisphere, there will be new Castros.
This, and not Fidel, is what scares our policy-makers. A Communist Cuba even ninety or nine miles away from Florida is not a threat, just as a capitalist Iran zero miles from Russia is no threat to Moscow. But a rebellious Latin America, whence comes our copper and our oil, our bananas and our coffee, our tungsten and our tin, is very much a danger. And an independent Latin America whose big industry can eventually compete with our Big Business on the world markets is even more frightening -- to many of our important citizens. If the ability of our trusts to make $10 billion a year instead of $8 billion is the policy of the United States, no more need be said. But if our foreign policy is to defend our system for ourselves, to guarantee our safety and to assure ourselves of a decent livelihood for all our citizens (and not a disproportionately high income just for a few), then we must make the effort to understand just why Castro became and remains a symbol of hope for many Latin Americans.
We have seen how underdeveloped Latin America is in a stranglehold. Its oligarchies, foreign companies and, except in a few cases, its churchmen and its Armed Forces are allied to keep that hold just as tight for just as long as possible. We have also seen how in underdeveloped countries money talks, as the saying goes. It does more than talk: it orders. Even if the press were free and independent, which it rarely is, and even if elections were honest, which they almost never are, political democracy cannot and does not succeed in economic undemocracy, that is, in underdeveloped countries.
"Underdeveloped" is not synonomous with "poor"; a country can be poor, yet its potential can be fully and equitably exploited. If so, it is developed. Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, New Zealand are poor countries, especially in comparison to the United States or even to France, Germany, and England. But the former are well balanced. There are few beggars. There are no deaths from starvation and there is enougn distributed wealth so that competition can allow social mobility. Small farms in Denmark are solvent because there are not so many huge ones as to be able to crush all others. Nor is Denmark -- or any European country, New Zealand, or Australia -- owned 40 percent by corporations from just one foreign power and 51 percent by corporations of three allied foreign powers.
There are only two ways to develop and equitably industrialize a nation: through tough competition or through efficient government planning. For there to be competition, a country must have a great deal of capital distributed among many people, enough so that self-defeating duplication can be avoided only by creating many industrial centers throughout the country. Industrialization is not accomplished by raising one huge plant such as Venezuela's INSA costing $5,000,000, but by numerous smaller ones costing $500,000 each in ten different sections of the country. (These expand, reinvest profits, attract local services, and only then begin interconnecting into trusts.)
Latin America does not have such capital. It has only the big kind, the kind that raises mammoth plants -- and ships its profits either to parent corporations in the United States or to banks in Europe and New York. Now it is too late. Competitive industrialization takes time, as well as cheap labor to start. Latin America has plenty "of cheap labor but no time. In the 1960's, when world communications inake contacts, comparisons, and envy unavoidable, Latin Americans are not willing to sit back and "be rich next century."
Yet that is precisely what most Latin American Nationalists were forced to say -- until Castro. They could not hope that our corporations would change their practices or that social revolutions could ever succeed. They knew that should United States corporations be nationalized, Washington would immediately resort to economic boycotts (if not marines.)
True, Mexico had had a revolution and subsequently nationalized its oil. But it did not dare push its social reforms all the way. As a result a new oligarchy, new United States corporations, and new economic repressions became standard. Sad but factual. As one character in La region mds transparente (by Carlos Fuentes, perhaps Mexico's best young writer) says: "I cannot bring myself to think that the only concrete result of the Mexican revolution is the formation of a new privileged class, the economic hegemony of the United States, and the paralysis of all domestic politic life."
True also, Bolivia had had a revolution and subsequently nationalized its tin. But it too has seen its revolution stalled, not so much by adherence to nonrevolutionary economic policies per se, but by allowing democratic process to lead its revolution before development was completed. Until a country is developed, democracy is impossible. In extra-underdeveloped Bolivia the immediate return or democracy meant government hesitation and corruption and the upsurge of new crops of monopolistic industrialists.
Thus, Latin American Nationalists had lost hope. They talked of revolution, but did nothing. One group of intellectuals from each Latin American country became permanent ex-patriots. Another, mainly journalists, worked hard at whatever job paid best for two years in order then to spend a third in Paris. There they planned and replanned the revolutions they never really believed were possible. Some, it is true, went to Guatemala in the early 1950's. But Arbenz was either a phony or a coward, or both. He did not arm the people -- an absolutely necessary move, since it was inevitable, as he must have known, that the minute he expropriated United Fruit property we would intervene by force of arms to bring him down. We did, in 1954.
Then came Fidel Castro. Until he launched his Agrarian Reform and nationalized our oil companies' refineries, Latin America's Nationalists supported Castro only because they were anti-Batista. Afterward, however, their whole lives were changed. Castro armed the people, destroyed the oligarchy and curbed the bourgeoisie, launched literacy campaigns, drafted what doctors did not flee to serve in the fields, giving medicine, care, and inoculations to the masses.
The intellectuals, the Nationalists, and the reformers had to back Castro. They poured into Cuba, helped set up people's universities, took over the alphabetization program, and launched Castro's Prensa Latina wire service, which became, objectively speaking, one of tfie best in the world in terms of depth, and the only one in Latin America that sent facts instead of propaganda. These Latin Americans were the technicians of Castro's revolution.
And then the inevitable happened: Cuba's Communists moved in. It was inevitable for two reasons. The first was our policy. When Castro began nationalizing our companies, which he had to do, we not only branded the whole regime Red but also cut off the sugar quota, instituted an embargo, and pressured all our allies and followers to do the same. Castro needed help, badly. Cuba's buses, phones, tractors, machines, elevators, roller skates, cameras, pencil sharpeners, meat cutters, freezers, lipsticks -- in fact everything from food itself to airplanes -- were United States imported. The embargo would have brought any leader to his knees. Castro called for help.
Russian diplomats were no fools. They knew that Castro would fall sooner or later from some United States intervention. Russia was unwilling and/or unable to wage a world war to defend him; and to help out economically until his fall was deemed too expensive and too useless a sacrifice. Thus Russia agreed to a few barter deals but not to massive aid. Castro wanted Russia not only to import buses but also to help Cuba set up its own bus industry, not only to import elevators but also to help set up Cuba's elevator industry, not only to import pencil sharpeners but also to . . . Russia refused. It had too many much-closer allies still far from being on their own feet to get involved with tiny Cuba halfway around the world, on which a United States base (Guantanamo) could not be removed without risking war.
Barter deals would not save Cuba, and Castro knew it. Hence, he had to force Russia to come through with more. Castro calculated, and rightly, that if Cuba identified itself as a member of the Socialist camp, Russia would lose immeasurable propaganda points if it let Cuba down. So Castro officially declared Cuba a People's Socialist Republic and Khrushchev was stuck. Russian aid began to pour in -- too slow in 1961, faster in 1962. But Castro had to pay a stiff price: he opened his office doors to Communist Party regulars.
He probably would have done so anyway. Reason Number Two: Castro needed an efficient, financially uncorruptible, obedient organization to run his reform programs. The Latin American technicians could plan them. But Cubans had to put them into practice. Since his revolution was so radical, uprooting tradition, overturning habits, destroying old institutions, he felt unable to trust the non-Communist, educated men around him. In most countries of the world, certainly in all underdeveloped countries, to be educated means to be well off, either a bourgeois or an oligarch. The bourgeoisie and oligarchy were naturally hostile to Castro's reforms. The only other "safe" educated class was the Communist elite.
Though Cuban Communists follow the orders of Russia, not Cuba, Castro decided that since Russia would be stuck with Cuba, it must be in its interests to develop Cuba's economy. A strong, economically independent Cuba would do more to destroy United States propaganda in Latin America than a thousand Sputniks playing tag over it. Thus Castro thought Cuba's Communists would work hard for his revolution while his own men, the Sierra Maestra veterans sticking by him, would train their own cadres eventually to take over from the Reds.
Communists may be dogmatically tied to such world-shaking events as the polemic between Bernstein and Kautsky, they do know the value of being in charge of training centers. Hence, they rapidly took them over. Suddenly Communists were so powerful and their influence so spread out that Castro decided it was imperative to strike back. That is the reason for his well-known December 1, 1961. "I am a Marxist-Leninist" speech which, while denying that he was a Russian-type Communist,1 was meant to regain the backing of the militias, trained by the Communist regulars. Next Castro attacked the Cuban Communist Party itself, booting out of Cuba Red leader Anibal Escalante (who is now in Prague), Finally, "Che" Guevara followed through with a Castro-approved attack on the Communist economic mastermind Carlos Rafael Rodriguez.
But as threats of a new invasion faced Castro anew, as the country shook to armed attacks from Cuban exile boats havened in Florida, and as our congressmen clamored for United States unilateral intervention in Cuba, Castro was again forced to beg Russia for more arms, more military instructors, more massive aid -- and, discovered later, missiles. This provoked many of our congressmen to demand an immediate United States Marine attack upon Cuba.
President Kennedy reacted calmly. He insisted that no such intervention would be contemplated so long as the Castro regime did not acquire an "offensive capability." However, after such previous promises had been followed by the Bay of Pips invasion, Castro obviously could not take us at our word. Furthermore, the Voice of America, a propaganda arm of our State Department, immediately broadcast that "the government of the United States threatens no nation and no people," which, as we have seen, is unfortunately false and which implied that it was Cuba that was doing the threatening. And many of our leading statesmen continued to demand an invasion to "stop Cuba's aggressive intentions." Anyone who can claim that tiny Cuba had or has such intentions when our Guantanamo base stares down its throat and when we have made it amply clear that we are anxiously awaiting an excuse to wipe Cuba clear of all Castroites is either insane or a liar. But then lies did get us to invade Cuba once before, in 1898.
In this atmosphere, then, Castro was perfectly justified to ask Russia for missiles, even with nuclear warheads. If you are convinced that your enemy is going to try to kill you, you are going to do your best to kill him too. Cuba will be destroyed by the Yankis, Castro could say, but maybe Cuba can get a shot at Washington too. And so Russian missiles were installed 90 miles from the United States -- to protect Cuba.
The fallacy, of course, was that the missiles were Russian, controlled by Russians and at the service of Russia -- not Cuba. As such, they did represent a threat to us. Objectively, one can point out that Russia was only giving us back some of our own medicine, since we have long pointed missiles at Russia from 35 bases in foreign countries. Nevertheless, Kennedy was perfectly right to denounce this as a breach in the balance of power, even if our definition of "balance" is plenty of United States bases around Russia, no Russian base around the United States.
So we got tough. Aside from the nonsense about our bases being "defensive" and theirs "offensive" -- ours "good," theirs "bad," as Cuba's United Nations ambassador remarked sarcastically -- our justification for the Cuban blockade and the ensuing risk of mass destruction was simply that we thought we would have our way, and we did. Russia, unwilling to fight a war over a reluctant and costly ally, capitulated. Cuba's genuine and fully justified fear of United States aggression had been used by Russia as a Cold War weapon, and like most modern weapons, it had become obsolete before it was even fired.
After that, of course, Russia and the United States began to relax. Ironically, Kennedy's showdown and war risking, which, granted, was unavoidable, turned out to be the first step in a detente in the Cold War. It was as if both sides learned that they were not willing to start the shooting, hence could drop their guard. But the showdown also benefitted Cuba, curiously enough. First of all, to save face, Russia had demanded and received from us the promise that we would not invade Cuba. Secondly, Russia's" capitulation widened the Russo-Chinese split, and Cuba began to take advantage of it.
Without signing the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, which has become Khrushchev's pet achievement, Castro found himself in the advantageous position of being able to exact more and more Russian aid, yet curb the influence of Communist regulars in Cuba. Thus he slashed Rodriguez' power, kicked upstairs Fabio Grobart, fired Juan Marinello from the rectorship of Havana University. Back in the top circle appeared such old Sierra fighters as Faustino Perez, Pedro Miret, Efigenio Almejeiras, Sergio delValle, William Galvez -- anti-Communists all. But these men, as Castro himself, are not anti-Communists because they are moderate. On the contrary, they are revolutionaries who are convinced that Russian Communism is no longer revolutionary. Meanwhile, however -- to go back to 1961 -- what was the outcome in Latin America when it did appear that Cuba had been taken over by Communists?
The Nationalists working for Castro until 1961 were not Communists. Most were not even Socialists. All, of course, realized that nationalizations are necessary in order to let Latin Americans recapture their own fates. They knew that they must reconquer Latin America in order to think, feel, and act like Latin Americans, in order to make it possible for Latin Americans, not foreigners, to make the decisions concerning Latin America. In the admirable book Latin American Issues, published by the Twentieth Century Fund, Editor (and Economist) Albert O. Hirschman put it this way:
The aim of economic development is far more than an increase in per capita income: it is also, and more importantly, this "conquest of decision centers," which were previously in foreign hands, and a new ability to strike out on one's own, economically, politically and intellectually. For this reason, the quest for development is also a quest for self-discovery and self-affirmation and thus comes to be indissolubly tied to a new nationalism which is so noticeable a feature of the intellectual scene in Latin America.
The intellectual Latin American technicians of the Cuban Revolution were in a quandary: Stay and be bossed by Communists or return home but remain pro-Castro, since, in view of the United States position, Cuba's revolution is the only type possible.
For a while they managed to hold their ground. There were about 50,000 of them, and though none, except Che Guevara, was a decision-maker, they had acquired some strength. In January, 1961, the Argentines directing Prensa Latina went to Castro himself and got his permission to purge all Communists out of the service. They got Havana's university closed, reopened, closed again, but held on. In the fields, the doctors and engineers and agronomists had less trouble keeping Communists out. Then came the Bay of Pigs invasion. No act of ours could have helped the Communists more. As in any war, a national emergency was proclaimed, and under its cover the Communist militia heads moved in faster. The Argentines in Prensa Latina were first to go, then the university policy center fell, and finally there began a general exodus. But not all left. And with the new arrivals plus some who returned, the number of Latin Americans in Cuba is again about 50,000.
Those who did leave, including almost all the journalists (Prensa Latina quickly degenerated into a very poor propaganda service), were changed men. They were disillusioned, perhaps even feeling cheated or betrayed. But they could no longer resume their old habits. They now knew that social revolutions were possible. Communist or not, the Cuban Revolution did break the stranglehold of foreign and native capitalists. It did give shoes to peasants, medicine to the sick, education to all. According to all reports, whether from British journalists, pro-United States visitors, or Latin American returnees, Cuba completely wiped out illiteracy in three short years. That Cubans can now read only a controlled press, censored books, and propaganda posters is not apropros. They can read them; that is an achievement that no other Latin American political system has been able to do in three, thirty, or three hundred years.
Thus the returnees have remained publicly silent about their disillusionment. Committed to revolution, they are today the leaders of the national liberation movements that have sprouted across the continent. Not only do the returned journalists no longer earn fat salaries working for the La Prensas, the El Commercios, or the El Mundos, but they write the kind of article that gets them persecuted, beaten, jailed, or even, in the case of Argentina's novelist-essayist Ismael Vinas, bombed.
The dedication of these Nationalists is romantic, naive, and misguided to our embassy staffers everywhere in Latin America. "They are the willing or duped pawns of the Communists," is a remark I often heard. Perhaps. Thd Nationalists, of course, feel otherwise. As one in Barranquillai told me: "During World War II we were with the Allies. That did not make us democrats. Today we are with Cuba, and that does not make us Communists. It is simply that we have learned that nothing is easy or perfect or pure and that we must fight hard and long and sometimes with people not too pleasant for the sake of our countries. The United States fought with Russia in World War II. Did the United States become Communist? Was it its pawn?"
At first, these Nationalists thought that direct action and/or participation in elections were both possible and advantageous. In Chile the Socialists may indeed win legally in the next election. The oligarchy might then try a coup to stop them. But this time the Socialists will be ready. They are armed and are being trained in peasants' and workers' leagues. As one Christian Democrat said: "Force to stop the Socialists, if they win -- and they might -- will only serve them. They will have legality on their side, and can wage a real revolution under the pretense of stopping the oligarchy from usurping power. I'm sure they are actually hoping that the Right tries a coup. And I'll tell you this: if it does, we'll fight with the Socialists."
The disastrous result of putting too much faith on winning power through elections and "democratic process" was shockingly visible in Brazil in 1964. There, the Nationalists were well on their way to power legally: Brizola trounced the candidates of Lacerda in Lacerda's hometown of Rio in a contest for a Congressional seat; Francisco Juliao, head of the northeast's Peasant Leagues, won another such seat; Recife Mayor Miguel Arraes got himself elected Governor of Pernambuco and was becoming a very likely candidate for Vice President in the 1965 elections. But then, of course, the Lacerdas, the right-wing militarists and the U.S. got worried for many reasons: Goulart was already quite independent but the Nationalists would be even more so; U.S. corporations would surely get nationalized; and perhaps most important of all, Goulart wanted to buy oil from the Soviet Union instead of from Venezuela, whose reserves are owned by Standard Oil (a fact that was not reported in any U.S. newspapers). Whether the CIA actually fomented the coup is hard to say, although we do know -- from the highly documented The Invisible Government by David Wise and Thomas Ross as well as from Allen Dulles' own The Craft of Intelligence -- that the CIA fabricates phony Communist "documents" and has plotted against popular regimes everywhere from Iran and Laos to Guatemala and Ecuador.
In any case, the Nationalists now know that winning power through elections is useless. In most cases, a revolution is also out of the question. They must therefore try to find or create or mold Latin American Ben Bellas or Nassers. Perhaps they have finally learned their revolutionary lesson, the same lesson taught by Che Guevara who warned that popular rebellions are doomed to failure in countries where the regimes maintain at least some semblance of democratic process. Perhaps, it was the failure of the Venezuelan Nationalists to overthrow Betancourt and stop Leoni's election that served as their eye-opener. In any case, Latin America's Nationalists appear calmer today because they are seeking stronger, firmer, sounder bases from which to operate. From these bases, they will be much more capable to taking power, and fashioning a revolutionary state. Precisely for this reason, too, they have lost the support of the traditional Communists.
Actually, it was Castro himself who frightened the Communists. Russia could never afford a whole bunch of Castros in Latin America. A Communist takeover of Paraguay or Bolivia or Haiti would drain Russia's funds like quicksand, and the resulting fiasco could only hurt Russia's prestige. Many of our brighter embassy staffers often say, off the record, that the best way to defeat Communism in Latin America is to let the Communists take over Paraguay. Within three years, every Latin American Communist Party would be changing its name.
It takes decades, not years, to rebuild an economy. Every day, despite all of Russia's aid, Cuba is finding it harder to feed its people, run its transportation, increase its production. Wages are cut, prices frozen, holidays eliminated, Penalties applied. True, once the new structure is rebuilt on firmly balanced foundations, the Gross National Product can jump 20 percent a year. But meanwhile Russia's tab is huge. Khrushchev cannot afford a dozen Cubas; therefore, all Communist parties in Latin America have been given the order to create trouble, unrest, flareups, and instability but prevent the real social revolutionaries from taking power. This was made even more clear in September, 1962, when. Russia's ideological magazine Kommunist said: "Neglect of general democratic problems and undue haste may narrow the popular basis of Socialist revolution and compromise the noble idea of Socialism in the eyes of the masses. That is why Communist and workers' parties warn the masses and politicians against unjustified overzeal in the use of Socialist slogans." Translation: If a Communist revolutionary regime cannot show quick results don't try it. Khrushchev also canceled an announced tax cut- -- foreign-aid costs being too high. Conclusion: Russia cannot afford, hence its parties must stall, revolutionary governments.
In fact, however, this has been Russia's Latin American policy for a long time: To keep Latin America capitalistic -- and a headache for Washington. Once we realize this, we can readily understand Latin American Communists' tactics. Communists have often supported dictators, always opposed Nationalists, and inevitably formed alliances with the extreme Right to bring down centrist governments whose programs included mild reforms. In the past, Latin America's Communist parties have been our best allies.
Brazilian Communists fought Vargas until 1949, enduring years of jail and persecution, and reversed themselves only toward his end, by which time it was clear that his reforms were less important than his career. When Peron had mass support and the backing of all Nationalists, when his program was one of reform and social restructuring, Communists opposed him; when he began to falter because he did not carry out those reforms, when he did not take over the land and the big corporations, when Nationalists plotted "against him, Communists supported him, as they do now.
When Quadros ran against Marshall Lott, an honest but traditional army man, Communists supported Lott. When Quadros fell and the country was on the verge of a civil war that would have been won by the Nationalists, Communists talked of avoiding bloodshed and saving lives. When Colombia's guerrillas began to acquire political consciousness, Communists backed the phony revolutionary oligarch Lopez Michelsen. When Ecuador's Velasco found himself forced to be one of the leaders opposed to United States intervention in Cuba, Communists joined the far Rightists to bring him down. When we sent Cuban exiles to invade Cuba and Castro wired Russia for help or at least for open solidarity, Moscow ignored him until Castro's militias had definitely beaten the invaders. When Kennedy told Russia to get its missiles out of Cuba and Castro pleaded that they remain, Russia got them out.
In Bolivia, Communists oppose the MNR. In Brazil they opposed Juliao, Brizola, Arraes. In Argentina they officially back Vinas' MLN but actually try to handcuff its activities. In Peru they refused to support the Social Progressists, voting instead for their own weak candidate or for Odria, the traditional Rightist military man. Today, they back Belaunde, not because he is a Nationalist but because he may nationalize U.S. holdings without appealing to Russia for aid. In Chile, at first glance, the theory is false: Communists and Socialists are united in FRAP. But a closer look reveals a different picture.
Chile's Communists make much ado about the Via Pacifica. Theoretically, this means peaceful co-existence. Actually, it means no revolutions. The Socialists, stronger and more popular, are perfectly willing to wage a revolution if necessary to assure them of power. The Communists are not. In case Socialist candidate Allende won the presidential elections of 1964, the Communists, who supported him, indicated they would not participate in his government. They would "support" him in Parliament, they had said, but would retain their "independence." This so-called independence would let them criticize the reforms enacted by the Socialists as too mild, and their agitation would keep Chile from becoming a People's Socialist Republic that would require Russian aid. Such tactics were another reason the Socialists hoped that the Right tried a coup to stop them from taking elective power. "A Rightist coup would force the Communists to fight," one Chilean Socialist told me, "committing them to our revolution."
In our Uruguayan Embassy one day, a sharp observer said: "I have become absolutely convinced not only here in Uruguay but in Argentina and Honduras, where I have spent time, and elsewhere too, that the strongest counterrevolutionary party in Latin America is the Communist Party." Just a few weeks later, at the Punta del Este conference, Che Guevara greeted a delegation of Argentine Communists thus: "i,Che, por que estan aqui? Para empezar la contra revolution?" (Hey, you, why are you here? To start the counterrevolution?)
I found only one Latin American Communist Party honest enough to admit that it does not want power -- in Venezuela. "Do you realize what would happen if we took over?" one Communist deputy told me. "We'd either be invaded by your Marines, which would not be too bad from an international cold-war point of view, or we would have to nationalize the oil. But who the hell could we sell it to? To Cuba and Chile, perhaps, but that's all. We'd go broke. We can't eat oil and Russia cannot afford to feed us." Later an official from Rockefeller's Creole told me: "We're not afraid of the Communists. If they take over, they'd raise our taxes a little, but they'd sell to us just as always. But these goddam MIR bastards, they want to nationalize the oil. They'd rather starve than compromise their idiotic sense of dignity or whatever they call their stupidity!"
The MIR represents one of the best examples of a National movement allied to Communists. Having split away from AD but only after Betancourt refused to nationalize or control United States companies, the MIR soon realized that only through violence could Venezuela break the vise that we held on the country. Thus, it became progressively more extreme until today it is openly acknowledged as much more revolutionary than the Communists who, in Venezuela, tend to be pro-Castro and pro-China. It is the MIR, not the Reds, which launched FALN, the terrorist outfit called Armed Forces of National Liberation, though the Communists support it. Right now, this Alliance between Communists and Nationalists is not producing the results it desires. For one thing, it suffered a major setback in the last election. For another, it is heavily persecuted; the Machado brothers who head the Communist Party and Domingo Alberto Rangel, MIR's chief, are in AD jails. Nevertheless terrorism is bound to continue in Venezuela.
In Mexico, one Nationalist explained his alliance with Communists this way: "Your propaganda is so consistently limited to anti-Communism that you have fooled yourself. You believe it. Instead of realizing that Communists have one tactic for Europe and one for us, you lump everything into the same bag. You look at Latin America just as you look at Berlin or Hungary. You forget that Russian tanks and armored divisions cannot get here so easily. That makes quite a difference. Latin American Communists, like all Communists, talk about nationalizations and expropriations and agrarian reforms. If we do those things, how can they refuse to back us? They're stuck with us. And if they're stuck, Russia is stuck. Do you remember France after the war? The Communist Party was the biggest party, so it was asked to form the new government. It refused. No Communist Party wants power unless its country has frontiers with Russia. You say we are tools of the Communists. That's what your capitalists say because they are more afraid of us than of Communists. I say the Communists have become our tools."
If this statement is true, and if our Latin American policy is to defend the interest of our big companies, then our attack against Castro makes sense. He is a symbol to Latin American Nationalists, not to Communists. He is opposed to our investments, to our capital, and to our pressure. And what makes him even more dangerous, he does not even obey Moscow's orders. What if other Nationalists did the same?
Other Nationalists are hoping to do exactly the same in every country of Latin America. They are not Communists, whether we call them so or not. But they are committed to the very same reforms Castro has put into effect in Cuba. To these Nationalists, Castro gave not only the will to fight but the determination to do so even in failure.
"Castro may have disillusioned us, and I for one left Cuba a very bitter man, but he also gave us back the right to our own dignity," one former Chilean technician in Cuba said. "Now we have to earn it. We will."
1 Many anti-Communist Marxists are Leninists: all Trotskyites, for example, who hated Stalin earlier and longer and harder than even our most sincere Crusader.