by Duncan Currie | Weekly Standard
FIDEL CASTRO is not known for his subtlety. So when Cuba’s state-run TV dove headfirst into the comic-satire pool last winter, the results were predictably ham-fisted. A brief cartoon introduced Cubans to “Transition Man,” a quirky-looking bloke in a pink gown and carrying a magic wand. On the show, which still airs, Transition Man seeks to reverse the Castro revolution’s accomplishments in such areas as medicine, education, and race. Once this pesky avatar of Yanqui imperialism loses his wizard garb, he’s revealed to be a rat.
The real-life Transition Man—and the cartoon’s inspiration—is James Cason, the career Foreign Service officer who recently capped a three-year term as chief of mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana (our de facto embassy). Speaking to an audience at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies on September 12, Cason holds up a picture of his animated alter ego.
“Dictatorships are not good at humor,” he says wryly. “We’ve heard stories of [Cuban] children on buses pretending they were me, incanting ‘Cachan, Cachan’ as they waved imaginary wands to magically obtain some scarce object. I don’t think this was the regime’s intent.”
Cason leaves Cuba a minor celebrity—“an icon of dissent,” as he puts it. The Cuban government brands him a “provocateur” and much worse. The exiles here in South Florida, of course, see things differently. His plucky support for Cuba’s democracy movement has made Cason a hero to the likes of Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, two Miami-area Republicans.