Under threat of losing his job and an economic boycott of his team, Florida Marlins baseball manager Ossie Guillen was forced to symbolically drop to his knees and profusely apologize to the Cuban-American ‘community’ in Miami’s ‘Little Havana.’ His crime: daring to exercise his first amendment rights and say something mildly positive about Fidel Castro. Time magazine reported Guillen as saying: “I love Fidel Castro…”I respect Fidel Castro… “You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [guy] is still here.”
I have no personal stake in Guillen’s professional career. In fact over the years he has uttered several offensive remarks, including anti-gay sentiments, that offended me. Unlike his Castro comment (as well as supportive remarks about the democratically elected Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, whom corporate media pundits have anointed as a dictator), none of these comments got him fired. Indeed, they were easily brushed off as ‘Ozzie being Ozzie.’
What is offensive to me is the corporate media’s automatic, pious and ‘politically correct’ support for the ‘community’s’ anti-Castro political sentiments and dismissal of its repressive political culture. Indeed, residents of ‘Little Havana’ are commonly portrayed as political refugees from Castro’s island prison who, seeking freedom and democracy came to the US at great risk only to become model citizens and American Dream successes. Some of this is true. But the greater reality is that the ’community’s’ attack on Guillen is simply the latest episode in its decades-long campaign of intimidation against anyone, particularly Cuban-Americans, who don’t agree with their virulent, uncompromising anti-Castro posture. Along with spreading undocumented ‘truths’ about Castro’s alleged massacre of thousands of political opponents (the documented total number of those executed is 200), they have effectively erased any memory that Fidel Castro and his cohorts, with the support of thousands of poor and middle class Cubans, overthrew the US-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista whose routine executions of his political opposition is well-known.
The ‘community’s’ vigilance has been specifically directed at those who dare note that the major objection to Castro’s Cuba is a socio-economic system that uses the public treasury for public good rather than the pet projects of Bastista’s privileged class, many of whose off-spring now dominate the politics of ‘Little Havana’ and much of south Florida. In fact, this is why even a ‘change we can believe in’ President Obama dare not lift the economic embargo until ‘real reform’ (full fledged Capitalism) returns to Cuba.
More importantly, their campaign has spawned bombings, death threats, shootings and murder particularly in south Florida, but also in the New York/New Jersey area with the result that President Carter left office calling the anti-Castro thugs of Omega 7, the major source of domestic terrorism. It is the same ‘freedom-loving community’ that has supported, coddled and celebrated renowned international terrorists, among them Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada, both cited in declassified U.S. intelligence documents as ‘engineers of bombing of the Cubana Airlines Flight 455 on October 6, 1976’ and other anti-Cuba terrorism. Indeed, the same week the Obama Administration celebrated its assassination of Osama bin Laden, ‘Little Havana’ was grieving the ‘old age’ passing of the FBI’s designated terrorist and a ‘Little Havana’ favorite, Orlando Bosch.
It is unclear to what extent Ozzie Guillen understood what he was up against. After all, as a resident of ‘Little Havana,’ with all the talk of freedom and democracy that dominates the ‘community,’ he might have assumed that he could exercise his speech rights without paying any personal or professional price. What is clear is, that making positive comments about dictators is not the problem. It is making positive comments about ‘their dictators’ that is politically incorrect and to be punished. Had Guillen extolled the virtues of one of ‘our’ dictators such as Lobo Sosa of Honduras, he would be celebrated as a patriot who never has to say he is sorry. Nor would he have to explain why the Obama Administration increased its military aid to Sosa, who during his ongoing three-year campaign is responsible for hundreds of political murders, most recently in Bajo Aguan region where 45 citizens associated with peasant organizations have been killed. That, we are to assume, is just ‘Sosa being Sosa.’
Beau Grosscup teaches at CSU Chico.