From radical Islam to a nuclear-armed North Korea, our way of life faces many threats at the moment. But a threat many people ignore is the one closest geographically, the one from Cuba. Would Fidel Castro’s death diminish this danger? Not likely—not as long as his brother Ra�l stayed in power.
The Castros’ Cuba, let’s not forget, became an eager aircraft carrier to Soviet nuclear weapons in the early 1960s, sparking the Cuban missile crisis. Far from wanting to defuse the crisis, Castro took great umbrage when Nikita Khrushchev withdrew those weapons under threat of nuclear annihilation. Nobody should be under any illusions about what the Castros would be capable of today. They would willingly turn their island over to Hezbollah, Hamas, Hugo Ch�vez, Kim Jong-Il or anyone else who bore hostility to the United States. As in 1961, they would not care if this put Cuba’s 11 million people at risk—so long as many more Americans were also imperiled.
Fidel Castro’s death would hardly change the equation. Ra�l Castro’s commitment to anti-Americanism already was publicly known in the early 1950s. If anything, it is of older vintage than his brother’s.
The U.S. government has long recognized the threat Castro’s Cuba represents. Cuba’s regime is classified as a rogue state by the State Department, and is on its State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
This classification has irked the Castros, and they have repeatedly demanded that Havana be removed from this list. We know how much being called a rogue regime has upset Havana, because the Castros have put their top-of-the-line intelligence services to work on removing Cuba from the list. Exhibit A is Ana Belen Montes, a high-ranking Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who insisted for years that Havana was not a threat. At one point, commenting on a report that she had helped prepare, Castro had the audacity to say that for the first time, the Pentagon was right about Cuba.
Montes was subsequently found to be a spy for the Castros. She was indicted in Washington, tried and sentenced to 25 years in prison. She confessed she had been a spy for Cuban intelligence.
Now that his older brother has taken ill, much of the discussion about U.S. Cuba policy reflects how little is known about the 75-years-young Ra�l Castro. Beyond the obvious—that Ra�l has been in the shadow of his older brother all his life, and that his appointment as Cuba’s provisional president has nothing to do with his charisma or his popularity—history shows the following: While Fidel was earning a law degree, joining gangster groups in the 1940s and becoming active in a reformist and anti-Communist political party, Ra�l was an active Communist who had already thrown his lot with the Soviet Union.
From early on he showed a cruel streak. In 1956, before departing from Mexico on the expedition that rekindled the insurrection, Ra�l personally executed a fellow Cuban accused of being a Batista spy.
Later, in 1957 as a harbinger of things to come, 28 U.S. Navy and Marine personnel were kidnapped while riding in a bus in Oriente province. The kidnappers were led by Ra�l Castro. The New York Times reported that the American consul had to get ‘‘in contact with the rebel band’’ to win their release.
Romanian Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest ranking Soviet bloc official ever to defect, has said that when he visited Havana in 1973 ‘‘Ra�l gave [him] a tour of a huge factory manufacturing double-walled suitcases and other concealment devices for secretly transporting arms and explosives for terrorist purposes.’’ Pacepa says he was present when the Castro brothers agreed on ‘‘a bilateral drug venture’’ with Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu: a more-effective way to ‘‘do damage to imperialism than nuclear weapons.’’ Not knowing this background, many people are saying that ‘‘Ra�l is no Fidel,’’ suggesting that with the elder Castro in his sickbed, this is the time to make concessions to Havana. It’s not just the Castros’ paid agents who advocate a softening of the U.S. government’s policy toward this heinous dictatorship. Many well-intended people would like to see the United States invest in Cuba, or even send tourists there. But nobody should be under any illusion: Cuba under Ra�l Castro, even more than under his brother, would pose a clear and present danger to the U.S. homeland.
Frank Calzon is executive director of Center for a Free Cuba.