Chapter 18 - Taking on Soviet-Cuban Imperialism in Latin America and Africa

torship to totalitarian single-party police state. Lenin followed this model in Russia in his November 1917 campaign against the Russian Provisional Government (Chapter 2) as had Stalin in Eastern Europe’s Stalinization process after the Second World War (Chapter 3). In that region, obedient puppet regimes, known as “Peoples’ Democratic Republics,” imprisoned and often murdered anti-Communist socialists, independents, religious groups, artists, and other dissenters. Stalin, who feared any Western presence in areas of Soviet control, meawhile rejected all U.S. offers of Marshall Plan aid to these war-ravaged nations.

Like Stalin, Castro turned down U.S. offers of aid and instead forcibly confiscated private companies and property and began to create Soviet-style industrial and agricultural “collectives.” Like Stalin, Castro established a massive intelligence service (the KGB-style DGI) to spy on the Cuban population and subvert neighboring countries. Like Stalin, Castro waged class warfare, brutally collectivized farms, set up block wardens and labor camps, and “re-educated” the people into Communist class warfare. To block attempted escapes, Castro fortified Cuba’s coasts with barbed wire, mines, and armed guards. As the regime became increasingly totalitarian, all Cubans became political prisoners when Cuba’s beaches and the Caribbean Sea became the Western Hemisphere’s equivalent of the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain.

The Soviet Role. Within two years of seizing power, Castro was the absolute dictator and “maximum leader” of a totalitarian Communist regime closely integrated with Soviet doctrine, personnel, and interests. When Castro was named premier in February 1960, Soviet First Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan sealed the deal by signing a Soviet-Cuban agreement in Havana on both economic and military collaboration. By July 1960, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was threatening to launch Soviet rockets against the United States if the latter attacked the Castro regime. In October 1960, an emboldened Castro nationalized all banks as well as large industrial and commercial enterprises without compensation to Cuban or U.S. owners. At this point, the Eisenhower Administration retaliated with the imposition of a U.S. embargo on exports to Cuba—an embargo still in place over fifty years later.

Castro Takes off his Mask, Kennedy launches the Bay of Pigs. Cuban-U.S. tensions increased rapidly. In response to Castro’s actions, including a January 1961 demand that the U.S. Embassy reduce its staff to eleven people, President Eisenhower severed U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations. In April 1961, the new U.S. president, John F. Kennedy, half-supported an invasion attempt at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs by 1,600 Cuban exiles, who were rapidly captured or gunned down when the U.S. failed to provide the naval and air support promised earlier to help the forces secure a base for what was hoped would spark a popular uprising against the Castro regime.

On December 2, 1961 Castro took off his last political mask, openly declared himself a Marxist-Leninist, and announced a new united Communist Party to bring Communism to Cuba. In August 1962, Cuban agriculture was declared a failure and Castro announced that it would now be based on “collectives” and “co-operatives” owned by peasants, but controlled by the Communist Party. Cuba’s Communization blueprint was now complete. More than a half-century after taking power, the Castro brothers, Fidel and Raul, and their cadre have never tested the will of the Cuban people through free speech, free press, free religious practice, free enterprise, free elections, and free travel.

 The U. S.-Soviet Cuban Missile Crisis—October 1962. A year and a half after the Bay of Pigs, Soviet Premier Khrushchev acted on his perception of Kennedy as a weak leader and precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis. In September 1962, Khrushchev publicly announced that Soviet arms were being sent to Cuba “exclusively for defensive purposes.” This was a lie, as Khrushchev was covertly installing nuclear-capable SS–4 Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs) at Soviet military bases in Cuba. Such missiles had a range capable of reaching cities and military and industrial installations throughout the southeastern United States. As Khrushchev knew, the U.S. had no anti-missile defenses against this new threat.

Blockade and Resolution. Kennedy’s response was to publicly expose the secret Soviet actions, establish a United Nations-approved naval blockade of Cuba, and alert U.S. forces for possible strikes against regime targets. Soviet officials at first denied the existence of their missiles in Cuba, but their lies caught up with them when Adlai Stevenson, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, during a session of the United Nations Security Council made public U.S. U–2 spy plane photos of the Soviet missiles going into deployment sites on the island. At the same time, Kennedy enforced a naval quarantine around Cuba to block Soviet ships and marshaled substantial U.S. naval, air force, and army airborne units for use in a possible invasion of Cuba.

[Book pg. 422]