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Cuba: Bringing Up the Rear

Further evidence has become available that,30 years after he led a revolution that turned Cuba into the Western Hemisphere’s first Communist state, Fidel Castro is falling back on rigid Marxist orthodoxy even as his partners in the Soviet Bloc experiment with radical change.

The worst examples involve human rights in Cuba. On a recent visit to the island several Western news correspondents found that the Castro government has reversed a brief campaign to improve Cuba’s human-rights image. A team of U.N. investigators visited Cuba in September to assess the human-rights situation there. Preparing for that visit, Castro freed some political prisoners and curtailed government harassment of religious groups and human-rights activists. The United Nations is still preparing its final report on Cuba, but since the investigators left the island the harassment has begun anew; at least 30 human-rights workers have been arrested.

Even more frightening, another human-rights worker, Jesus Leyva Guerra, is being held in a psychiatric hospital despite having no history of mental illness. There he is reportedly being subjected to electric-shock treatments. There was a time when such brutal Stalinist tactics were confined to the Soviet Union and its client states in Eastern Europe. It seems Castro has decided that the time is now opportune to import them to the Caribbean.

On the economic front, statistics that the Cuban National Bank recently made available to several European governments that lent money to Castro indicate that the island’s economy may be in worse shape than thought. They show a 3.5% decline in Cuba’s output in goods and services in 1987. Interestingly, the figures indicate that the Soviet Union reduced its trade with Castro by 12% in the first part of 1988, apparently as a result of Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s efforts to restructure his own nation’s economy. The long-term effects of such cuts could be profound, because the Soviets subsidize Castro with an estimated $5 billion in aid per year. This may account for Castro’s criticism of Gorbachev’s efforts at perestroika .

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How ironic that the man who once thought of himself as communism’s chief envoy to the Third World has become so outdated even among his fellow Marxists. At this rate Castro will soon turn Cuba into a Stalinist museum--a dreary place that Communists from other countries will visit to see how things were in the bad old days.


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