Editorial Note: Ozzie Guillen’s comments on Fidel Castro last week has caused a very negative reaction in many parts of North America. Knowing that a member of our contributors at Getting Blanked has spent time studying Cuban history, I invited him to share his thoughts on Guillen’s words and the reaction they caused. His opinion diverges from a lot of what we’re reading today.

If your opinion differs — and I’m certain that many will disagree with what Travis suggests — I urge you to keep your (always welcome) criticism civil. It’s my hope this post causes ideas to be shared, and I’d hate for a conflicting idea to be taken from the comments section due to name calling or threatening behaviour.

Once again, we’re dealing in political opinions and ideological interpretations with this issue. They are admittedly sensitive, so please exhibit an appropriate level of courtesy and respect to what others are writing – DP

One innocuous comment from a baseball manager known for saying ill-advised and often questionable things to the media and the spin machine gets kicked into high gear.

Ozzie Guillen, newest manager of the recently re-branded Miami Marlins sat down with a Time Magazine reporter last week and uttered the words that set every U.S. policy maker’s head on fire with rage. “I love Fidel Castro.”

Guillen went on to say that he respected the former Cuban head of state for maintaining power for so long in the face of such vitriolic international pressure. It was said in a much less elegant way, but that seemed to be his point.

Immediately, the mainstream media attacked Guillen, calling him ignorant, insensitive and fascist among many other things. They chided him for loving a dictator whose murderous rule of the small island cost many people their lives and freedoms. They called Cuba an authoritarian state that openly murders its own people and heartlessly throws dissenters in horribly maintained prisons. They verbally shellacked Guillen for not realizing the egregious error in judgment he made by making such comments while managing a baseball team from Miami, the most anti-Castro city in the world.

The flak-machine was so effective that Guillen was forced to do a 180 and recant his earlier comments, apologizing to everyone from the fans in Miami to your grandmother in Aurora. And he didn’t stop there. Guillen went on to denounce Castro by saying “I want them to know I’m against everything 100 percent — I repeat it again — the way this man [has been] treating people for the last 60 years.”

Whether or not Guillen made an error in judgment by making the comments he did is a matter of opinion. Certainly, if I was in his position, I’d probably keep my mouth shut. But, in apologizing the way he did, Guillen failed to stand up and use the opportunity to debunk some of the well-entrenched myths that exist around Cuba. Of course, this assumes he could do such a thing, which is probably a stretch to put it generously.

The ironic thing is that Guillen’s comments were attacked so mercilessly by established power (i.e. the Marlins ownership group and the mainstream media) that he was forced to publicly denounce his own comments. In all of the drum beat accusations of Cuba’s authoritarian rule, no one in the mainstream media thought it pertinent to point out that Guillen’s basic rights of free speech and freedom of association were being challenged. These are things that most often occur in authoritarian states.

In fact, this morning, the Marlins announced that they have suspended Guillen for five games. So now, not only has Guillen received an undue amount of flak for his comments, but his team has decided they can legally suspend him for having an unpopular political opinion. So, who’s living in the authoritarian state?

If you want to question Guillen’s judgement, you’ll get no argument here, but to challenge his right to say what he did in the first place denies him of a very basic human right.

Every publication I could find that commented on the situation called Castro the dictator of Cuba and never once acknowledged that he’s actually been out of power for several years after an illness forced him to step down (his brother Raul is now the President). They also don’t acknowledge at any point that Cuba has actually been holding elections every five years since the revolution that knocked Batista (an actual dictator, sponsored by the U.S.) out of power in 1959.

Cuba’s version of democracy is by no means perfect and does contain some questionable rules, but it is also very different from any other established political system and is one that has only ever been tried in Cuba. It can be referred to as a ‘step ladder’ parliamentary system.

This system starts with small neighborhood councils that act as the lifeblood of the Cuban system and the vast majority of Cubans are members of these groups. Access to these groups is denied only to those found guilty of a particularly egregious criminal offense and to Cubans living abroad. Any citizen can exercise their right not to participate in these councils, but most do.

The councils decide who will represent their neighbourhood in the Municipal Assembly. From there, the elected officials nominate the Provincial Assembly, who then elect the National Assembly and then they decide who will occupy the presidency. Cubans do not vote directly for their leader, but they do directly elect their municipal representatives on an extremely small scale where everyone’s voice can be heard. Those representatives are then afforded critical law-forming and policy-making power at the National level.

The fact that Cubans do not directly vote for their leader gives the appearance of dictatorship and I agree that it is a troublesome arrangement, however, the vast majority of readers will know that here in Canada, we also do not vote directly for our country’s Prime Minister. She or he relies on the votes of their elected party representatives to achieve power. In that regard, the Canadian and Cuban systems are quite similar, but the small neighbourhood councils in Cuba give individual citizens far more direct power. The Cuban elections, it should be noted, are also observed by international governing bodies and elections monitors.

The current President, Raul Castro, recently put forth a law to limit the number of terms a President can serve to two (or, ten years). Again as a point of comparison, there is no such restriction in the Canadian Constitution.

Cuba is also renowned around the world for their top-notch education system (also not typically a hallmark of dictatorships) as well as one of the best health care systems in the Western Hemisphere. Both of these services are entirely free to anyone residing on or visiting Cuban soil. For those who may be interested in avoiding life-crippling student loans, for instance, Cuban post-secondary education is completely free. And not just for citizens, but any foreigner providing they can speak fluent Spanish and can meet the demanding requirements of the country’s universities, which are much higher for non-citizens.

Another issue that has a particular connection to baseball is defection. We are constantly regaled by stories of players who had to defect illegally from Cuba in order to play in the U.S., but did you know that Cubans are actually free to travel anywhere they wish?

The process of leaving the country is admittedly arduous and requires a mountain of paperwork, but defecting need only take place when a Cuban citizen would like to come to the United States. Despite what gets said in the media, the rule of defection is actually an American rule, not a Cuban one. In order for a Cuban citizen to legally enter the U.S., they must not do so through the normal legal means, but rather they must defect. Once they’ve establish residency in a third-party country (or, in some cases, the U.S. itself), they can enter the U.S. as a Cuban ex-pat. The process effectively forces Cubans to denounce their citizenship and allegiance to the Cuban government. Once this act of tie-severing has taken place, the United States welcomes the “refugee” with open arms.

Haven’t you ever wondered why Cubans seem to travel without much problem to any other country in the world other than the U.S.? And why anyone with a non-American passport is free to travel to Cuba at any time?

I digress, but I do so to illustrate a point. Whitewashing Cuba as a dictatorship ignores the reality of the situation and also incriminates our own country (and also the United States) as an authoritarian state. There are many problems with the Cuban system of governance including a rather Draconian surveillance program that is meant to root out violent dissenters (sound familiar? Ever heard of the Patriot Act?), but Cuba has put these measures in place in order to curb foreign-influenced terrorism, continually active on the island since 1960 (if not long before).

This terrorism (openly acknowledged by the U.S.) has cost the lives of countless innocent civilians in Cuba. Much of this is documented in a book by Keith Bolender, called Voices from The Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba and also by authors such as Noam Chomsky and Nelson Valdes. I urge you to read some of the material outside of the mainstream media regarding Cuba as you might just find that the boogeyman we’ve been trained to fear is much less offensive than first anticipated.

I say all of this not to convince you that Cuba is some sort of Utopian wonderland, it’s far from it. But I think it’s significant that Guillen’s comments, probably taken slightly out-of-context, were so quickly and effectively quashed by the American media system. Guillen should not have taken back his comments, he should have clarified them and the fact that he didn’t shows the sheer power of the pro-capital lobby in the U.S. Of course, trusting Guillen to articulately explain something so complicated is probably too much to ask.

Guillen’s suspension, meanwhile, is beyond inexcusable. Technically, Guillen’s first amendment rights were not violated because individual work places don’t necessarily have to follow the constitution. Of course, this represents another massive hypocrisy within the U.S. judicial system. As Jason Wojciechowski explains via twitter:

I’m not trying to argue that what Guillen said was particularly sophisticated, nor am I trying to suggest that he has anything more than a basic knowledge of Cuban politics. But the overwhelming suppression of opinion from all corners of the mainstream represents a much larger problem with the hypocrisy of the American system and the deep misunderstanding of Cuba and its situation geopolitically. The propaganda campaign against Cuba is by far the most successful such campaign in U.S. history.

Guillen was quoted as saying in his press conference today that politics “have nothing to do with sports.” This, of course ignores the role of fighter-jet flyovers, the singing of God Bless America, and the constant and rampant homophobia & sexism plays in sports. Politics play an important and everyday role in sports, but the wrong kind of politics will get you suspended. Saying politics and sports do not collide also fails to recognize the importance of Jackie Robinson, Mohammed Ali, Billie Jean King, Curt Flood, John Carlos, Scott Fujita, and Brian Burke among many others.

If you have an open mind and are interested in learning more about Cuba, check out the authors I listed above. For a very brief economic history of the country, check out this article, which is also quite critical of some of Cuba’s practices. And before I get scolded for not “sticking to baseball” I should mention that I’ve actually studied this matter quite extensively both on my own and as a paid researcher/writer. This by no means is to suggest that I know everything on the topic or that I’m right, but my opinion is informed and I’d like to pre-emptively block any “stick to what you know” comments.

Comments (75)

  1. Great post.

    But apparently saying just “Great post” is too short of a comment…

  2. Also, I was reading your tweets, they were awesome.

  3. Using thought and analysis to approach a complicated matter? You sir, are a communist.

    Great read.

  4. Your argument that Guillen’s basic human rights of free speech and free association are being challenged by the decision to suspend him is erroneous. The US Constitution (and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) protect individuals from intrusion on their basic human rights from government interference (not private interference). Your comment about “So, who’s living in the authoritarian state” is also misplaced. Guillen’s suspension was not mandated by the state (Federal or State government), but rather it was a discipline imposed by his private employer, which is governed by the terms of their own private employment contract…. Your post would have been better, in my opinion, had you refrained from resorting to this sort of rhetoric.

    • Please educated yourself on the PATRIOT Act and the NDAA (which allows the US to detain it’s citizens without due reason) and get back to me on the “freedoms” in America.

      • I am not certain what any of that has to do with my point… perhaps you’d best stick to coaching third base.

        • It might not have to do with your point, but that wasnt really the point of the article. While he clearly believes that he shouldnt have been suspended (which I STRONGLY agree with), but rather its more about the media reaction to someone making REALLY innocent comments about an 86 year old man who remained in power for 50 years, despite open aggression from the world’s great power.

          It really boils down to hypocrisy tho. When you have the commissioner of baseball sitting next to Castro, nothing happens, however a manager talks about him he gets suspended (and while it was the team that suspended him, the commissioner endorsed it).

          In a similar vein, Josh Lueke can rape a woman (though only be convicted of false imprisonment), and receive no punishment from MLB, but you better not talk about Castro.

          • This wasn’t a punishment meted out by the MLB, which would certainly have been misplaced.

            The punishment was meted out by the Marlins organization. I’d have punished Ozzie too if I were running the Marlins, given the fan base they have. If the fan base is offended, you do what you can to make it right.

          • Yet the league came out and endorsed the suspension. Same difference IMO.

    • Agree completely with this comment.

      If you followed that logic through you’d have workplaces that have to abide by their employees publicly saying some rather awful stuff. In Canada, we do have hate speech laws, but the US doesn’t. If Guillen made blatantly racist, sexist or homophobic comments (and I’m talking something more akin to group defamation than to an ignorant slur), he would not be censored by government. In such a circumstance, you can’t fault the employer for such censorship, nor can you analogize such censorship to the infringement of constitutional rights.

  5. You mean to say that there is a grey area here? I’m sure you will be censored in the US for suggesting that Cuba is neither absolutely right, nor absolutely wrong in its policies.

    Now to sit back and wait for the inevitable troll to post a comment…..

  6. I worry that in the effort to try and deflect the torch mobs you’ve gone a lot too far in defending a Castro regime that has a TON wrong with it. A few quick points;

    You’re right that Raul Castro has liberalized Cuba’s economy and (to a lesser extent) its politics, but we shouldn’t forget that this was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union made the old Cuban system literally collapse (Cuba lost 15% of GDP in one of the years following USSR’s fall)

    The comparison of Cuban surveillance systems to the Patriot Act is insulting to anyone that has been a victim of them. Though the US constitution does not protect a citizen’s right to privacy (due to its ignorance of 21st century technology) protections like the freedom from search and seizure, the right to due process and the right to freedom of assembly are essential differences between the system in the US and the one there. Not one week ago protestors at the Pope’s Havana speech were carried away by plain clothes officers and imprisoned.

    The Cuban health and education system is a true anomaly for a country its size and wealth, but the days of the Cuban social system being a global example are long gone. As someone who (very briefly) spent time living in Cuba, I was as appalled with the condition of clinics and schools in rural Cuba as I was impressed with the hospital in Havana (showcased in Michael Moore’s Sicko).

    I think by debating the merits of the Castro dictatorship we’re missing the point though. Does anyone think Guillen is wrong? Fidel was a peasant from rural Cuba who managed to defy his giant neighbor, his domestic opponents and most of the world community. The fact that he is still alive in 2012 despite exploding cigars IS truly amazing.

    I’m sorry for such a long post. I’ve spent a lot of time studying living conditions under communist state and thought such a well thought out post deserved a measured response. Cheers.

    • “Not one week ago protestors at the Pope’s Havana speech were carried away by plain clothes officers and imprisoned.”

      I don’t know the full context, but does that not sound like the G20 in Toronto? And I supported that.

      • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/27/cuba-mystery-protester-pope-visit_n_1383597.html

        Please never compare the enforcement mechanisms in Canada to those in Cuba. They are not the same, nor are they similar in any way.

        • “An independent Cuban group that monitors the detention of dissidents”

          The fact that such a group is even allowed to exist suggests that if this is an autocracy, it’s a fairly liberal one. Nobody is saying that Cuba is on par with Canada for human rights and freedoms, but it’s not an all or nothing situation. You don’t have to be just as good as Canada to be a decent place to live or to have a decent government.

  7. I’m disagreeing with a colleague within disagreeing with a colleague, but to the extent that Jason is suggesting that private organizations *should* “commit themselves to the ideals of free speech,” I couldn’t disagree more. I’m not even sure that’s a cogent idea, actually. Like, it’s not possible.

    Time Magazine interviewed Ozzie Guillen because he was employed as manager of the Miami Marlins, and everything he was quoted as saying, he said in that capacity. What he says reflects upon the entire organization. If disciplining him on the job for his comments constitutes suppression of opinion, you’re holding the Marlins to a much higher standard than the American (or Canadian, from what little I know) government itself is held. If an employee of the military or the White House went about publicly trashing his employer or, say, praising the Taliban, that would carry certain professional consequences, which may well include a suspension or even firing, and none of it would touch his rights to free speech. Like Ozzie Guillen, a federal employee has the right to say whatever the hell he wants (beyond the limits of a confidentiality agreement or anything like that), but his employer sure doesn’t have to like it, or put up with it.

    And the media doesn’t have to like it, either. Telling someone they’re wrong — even loudly, even if everyone’s saying it at once — isn’t “suppression of opinion,” it’s expression of opinion. It’s not an infringement of freedom of speech, it’s freedom of speech in action.

    • I think that for many of us (such as myself) the bigger issue isn’t people saying that Ozzie shouldn’t have said it, because that’s tough to deny, but that most pundits making the case for why he shouldn’t have said it are sorely misinformed on Castro and Cuba, and are spreading misinformation in the process.

      Also, the suspension seems like an over-reaction, but that’s debatable.

      • Couldn’t have said it any better

      • And those are fair points I’m ill-equipped to argue. My only beef is with Jason’s comments and with the “overwhelming suppression of opinion” line.

      • Although I do think it has to be considered not just in a general, global context, but in the context of his local audience, some huge percentage of which are defectors or the children of them, who risked their lives to get away from him (and may well know others who didn’t make it). His overall goodness or badness really isn’t the issue, here (though to the extent people are spreading misinformation about that, I certainly get your point) — to a very large minority of the people the Marlins care about, he’s justifiably considered really, really bad.

    • There is certainly something to be said about the fact that he was “on the job” at the time, but I still think the public response/suspension HAS been a suppression of opinion. Like I said, I agree that Guillen should probably have kept his mouth shut, but forcing him to, whether legal or not, just doesn’t pass the smell test for me.

      • So aren’t you basically saying that the public should suppress its own opinion in order to avoid suppressing Ozzie’s?

        • Nope. Be angry, disagree, ask for clarification. All of these are reasonable responses to differing opinions which can be employed without suppressing anyone’s opinion.

          Calling for punishment, suspension or otherwise, in addition to an apology for an opinion which is questionable is different.

        • Sorry, I meant media response. The drum-beat way they covered the story without any self-doubt is what I find egregious. Public was a typo.

      • I find it amazing that I read this post as long as I did before I read the word dissident. Marge Schott by your way of thinking did nothing wrong and her fundamental freedoms were usurped when she was banned from Baseball for a year. You can’t say what you want and believe that there will be no consequences for your comments. Many Cuban born people are very upset because they were the ones that lived under Castro. With such a huge Cuban American presence in Miami I think Guillen should count himself lucky.

    • I think the comparison to government employees works almost too well, because the government acting in its proprietary capacity is treated like a private entity. That is, saying “even the government isn’t held to this standard” doesn’t really do any work because it’s not really the *government* being held to that standard. It’s just another private employer that happens to be called “The United States.”

      I can’t disagree with the meat of the second paragraph, though, about my implied endorsement of more free speech commitments by private entities being a raising of the standards. It is a raising of the standards, and it’s one that I think would be worthwhile, both for government-as-employer and private employers. I think you’ve described the world as it exists, but I’m not convinced that the world I think could exist is (or at least was at one point) impossible.

      The main issue, practically speaking, is probably inertia — because we live in a world where we expect people to get punished for saying certain things (from John Derbyshire to Ozzie Guillen), we would read an organization declining to so punish someone as an endorsement of that speech. If we had a different square one that involved employers (when it matters) simply saying “I don’t agree with that” and that’s the end of it, then there’d be no implied endorsement. We’ve set up an expectation that forces highly public employers to behave in ways that chill speech. Maybe this is the path we’re on and all I can do is shrug about it, but in a parallel reality, I don’t see why what amounts to People Sayin’ Stuff would cause companies to fail, economies to collapse, etc. Life would go on.

      • I don’t think economies would collapse, but I also don’t think it’s remotely workable (or ever was). You very quickly start bumping up against other, equally important rights, forcing other people to associate with people who are actively trying to undermine them by sayin’ stuff. And I also don’t think it’s remotely possible to completely disassociate the speaker from the organization he represents. If X says something awful and is known primarily for his association with Y, that’s always going to reflect badly on Y, no matter what our rules with regard to free speech in the workplace, etc.

        I think freedom of speech starts to lose meaning if it becomes freedom from the non-governmental consequences of one’s speech. I just don’t see the value of everyone always being able to say whatever they want with no consequences.

    • “If an employee of the military or the White House went about publicly trashing his employer or, say, praising the Taliban…”

      This is not parallel to Ozzie’s case. In your example. the remarks have a direct bearing on the speaker’s job, and can be seen as demonstrating an inability to do the job they are employed to do.

      Ozzie was not saying anything that was related in any way to his employer or the business of baseball. He was also not promoting anything immoral or illegal, criticizing a demographic group without cause, or any of the other things we could reasonably object to. He wasn’t even admiring Castro’s performance, just his ability to survive for so long in the face of powerful opponents.

      • “Ozzie was not saying anything that was related in any way to his employer or the business of baseball.”

        Except that there are a lot of Cuban “refugees” in Miami and team ownership is trying to win them over and the new stadium is located in Little Havana, you’re right.

  8. In fact, in Canada we don’t elect our head of state at all. They (the Governor General) are appointed. The Prime Minister is merely the head of government.

    Having been to Cuba (and no, not just the resorts) what struck me is how freely the residents speak about their issues with their country and government. They often complain about it openly, without fear.

    In fact, many of the more draconian elements of the control system put into place by the Cuban government are relics of a day when Cuba lived in fear of American invasion, and when the CIA was actively working to undermine Cuban leadership. And lets not forget that many of the most egregious crimes committed against individuals in Cuba in the last few decades have be perpetrated not by the Cuban government, but by the American government (at Guantanamo Bay). While that doesn’t excuse any offenses committed by the Cuban government, it does help put them into context.

    Honestly, Cuba’s biggest problem is that they are poor. If the country had lots of money, they would be doing fine. But of all the consistently poor countries in the world, I don’t know of many or even any where the citizens are better off.

  9. With all due respect to Parkes, Getting Blanked should not be providing a platform for the communist sympathies of Reitsma. Regardless of his academic qualifications, this article is a pretty egregious example of white-washing and special pleading.

    Castro’s political executions only amounted to thousands- far better than most Communist states; but I think that’s plenty to justify people taking proper offense at Guillen’s comments.

    • Good thing I’m not a communist then, eh?

      • And even if you were. Is that a problem? Are we really to the point where we’re retreating to McCarthyism because of the big scary communist boogie man?

        • We do not face a communist “boogie man” today, but neither should we give any respect to apologists for an ideology that killed around 120 million people in the 20th century.

          Reitsma says he is not a communist, and I take him at his word; but his article neglects to mention much of what people object to in Communist Cuba, and distorts other aspects. For instance, the instruments of democracy present in Cuba are manipulated and controlled by those in power- they are not permitted to embody dissenting views. In theory, the Soviet Union had a democratic system and admirable constitutional protections of individual rights- but these merely were an appearance, rather than an actual restraint on the injustices perpetrated by the regime. It is difficult to read Reitsma’s account as anything but a weakly qualified apologia for the Cuban state.

          Even where Reitsma admits some flaw in the Cuban system, he hastens to force some pseudo-equivalency (the Patriot Act, whatever its flaws, has not been used to imprison political dissidents). An honest accounting of Cuba would have at least mentioned the history of political executions in the country, and the ongoing imprisonment of prisoners of conscience.

          • ” For instance, the instruments of democracy present in Cuba are manipulated and controlled by those in power- they are not permitted to embody dissenting views.”

            Yet the Americans have no issue propping up oppressive regimes in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Libya (prior to last year), to say nothing of Isreal.

            For some reason they’ve decided to single out Cuba because they had the audacity to embrace a different form of government.

            Lets use an even better example. China potentially has the worst human rights record in the world, to say nothing of their environmental policy, and their evil communistic ways. Yet because the American economy is entirely reliant on China to make all their goods, there’s no issue with that regime.

            But for some reason, Cuba’s the one being singled out.

            Another point is that its not Travis’s job to present a fully balanced piece. There are many many articles out there extolling the evil side of the Cuban culture, and system. This was offering a counterpoint, that I havent seen made anywhere else. I’ll take that fresh point of view gladly.

          • To be fair, the ideology you refer to in the first paragraph has nothing to do with “communism” per say.

          • “neither should we give any respect to apologists for an ideology that killed around 120 million people in the 20th century.”

            Sorry, but the ideology didn’t kill anyone, and it’s absolutely ludicrous to suggest as much. The individuals who implemented and ruled were the ones responsible for all those deaths. There’s nothing in communist manifestos that suggests that you should murder millions of people.

            Countless people have been killed by American aggression throughout history, but we don’t “blame” capitalism for that.

            Personally, I’m a socialist, but there is nothing wrong with being a communist supporter. Being pro-communism does not make you pro-oppression, pro-murder, pro-corruption, or pro-Stalin. Just like being pro-capitalism doesn’t make you pro-annexing Mexico, or pro-nuking Japan.

          • Mentoch- I have no interest in defending American foreign policy, and I have a low view of China’s human rights record as well. My point is that Cuba is repressive, and was far more so in the not-so-recent past.

            Reitsma- Frankly, that’s horseshit. These were (and are) regimes that publicly professed Marxist ideas, indoctrinated their party cadres in those ideas, and implemented Marxist economics. It is a historical fact that wherever Communism gained control of the state, political violence and other human rights abuses followed immediately. And one can see why this is so: Marx’s historical materialism reduces non-proletarian classes to enemies of the proletariat and hence, of the state. We also see in Marxism the clear theoretical basis for the repression of religious believers. The internal logic of Marxism begets violence- and history bears it out. 120 million dead.

            Your claim is the same as that which one runs into among the few communists left around today- “all that communism wasn’t real communism- trust us”. We would be fools to believe it.

          • You’re referring to essentially two regimes, no? The Soviet Union and China?

            I can name a lot more than two democratic, capitalist states which were oppressive and eventually failed. I can also name a lot more than two such states who were only democratic and capitalist because of direct American intervention. And I can name a lot more than two such states that are presently far, far worse places to live than Cuba.

            It’s not the ideology that causes the oppression, but the individuals who implemented it.

          • Colin-

            When an ideology provides motivation and justification for crimes against humanity perpetrated by those in power, the ideology cannot be carved out. And indeed, such has been the case through the whole range of Communist states- Warsaw Pact nations, Albania, Yugoslavia, China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Ethiopia, North Korea, etcetera. I’d heartily recommend The Black Book of Communism as a good introduction to the various crimes of Communism in the 20th century.

            As for the kind of moral equivalence you seem to be making- for all the faults of various democratic nations, it simply is not the case that democracies have perpetrated crimes against humanity in anything like the degree seen in Communist countries.

          • Gabriel – I admire your tenacity and patience in the face of a Canadian readership well-trained by the CBC and a leftist professoriate to like all things Chomsky. I love how Reitsma is offered as someone who has “studied Cuban history” as if that somehow purified his opinions. I suppose the sequel to this will be a justification of Guillen’s sympathy for Chavez.

          • Your distortions of Marxism are quite egregious. May I suggest you give him another read. When Marx made his infamous comment about religion, the “opiate of the masses” comment, he actually meant that as a good thing. At the time when Marx was writing, Opium was legal and tolerated within society as a legitimate way of calming people. If you read some of Marx’s later works, you’ll find that he is in fact religious himself. He saw religion as a calming mechanism that was necessary for the proper functioning of society. MANY Marxist theorists have interpreted his remarks this way and corrected it in later works. The Frankfurt School is the most well-known example of this.

            And also, to suggest that Communism is the only economic system that has “caused” human rights abuses ignores the fact that unfettered capitalism has been far more brutal in this way. Corporate power and those who implement it is a major tool in the suppression of the third world and countless genocides that continue TO THIS DAY. Of course, you don’t hear about these things because the mainstream media itself relies on these systems of capital and to criticize them would in fact be suicide.

          • Yeah Reitsma, you’re not sympathetic to communism at all.

            The “countless genocides” that continue to this day? That’s ridiculous and absurd- and no, there isn’t a massive conspiracy among all news organizations to conceal these unknown horrors from us.

            As for Marx’s attitude towards religion, the essential point is that Marx teaches that religion deadens awareness of proletarian oppression. While ambivalent in the context of a static political system, in the context of Marx’s historical materialism, it becomes a barrier to the inevitable historical progression towards proletarian rule, to be subverted or repressed – as has been the case to greater or lesser degrees in every Communist state.

          • “Albania, Yugoslavia, China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Ethiopia, North Korea, etcetera”

            All if not most of those are essentially totalitarian regimes, no? So could it not be totalitarianism, not communism that’s responsible? The same totalitarianism that was responsible for countless deaths all over the world in non-communist states for centuries?

            Any ideology can be interpreted in a negative way. You could say that capitalism systematically encourages stratified societies and exploitation of lower classes. Hell, you could argue that capitalism encourages slavery, if people have no moral fiber. The same goes for communism systematically encouraging murder; this will only happen if your leaders are unethical people.

    • Is this a serious comment? There’s nothing communistic in this article at all. It just explains the political system. Just offers a counter point that you arent seeing elsewhere on the internet.

      This article probably taught me more than any other article that I’ve ever read on this site.

      I think the site would do well to offer more like this. Yes its controversial, but odds are that helps the site traffic wise.

      • The article does not explain the political system- it ignores the power structures and repression that subverts those democratic structures that do exist in Cuba.

        • He spent 2 or 3 paragraphs laying out the grass roots political system. What are you talking about?

          • White-washing is not the same thing as an explanation. If I told you what the Soviet Union’s constitution provided in terms of rights and elections, I won’t have explained their political system.

  10. I thought this was a baseball blog… kidding, kidding, I’m not supposed to learn this much while at work. Great post.

  11. While I usually don’t like posts that are more about politics than baseball, great post

  12. I agree with all that Bill Parker and rdillon99 had to say about the suppression of speech.

    I have two questions:

    1) Do you really think that the Patriot Act is a good analogy to use? First, I doubt that the abuses perpetrated under the Patriot Act are comparable to the abuses perpetrated in Cuba towards political dissenters. Second, the Patriot Act itself is itself a cause for concern in the US (and to some extent, given the flow of confidential information across borders, a concern in Canada as well). In other words, the comparison doesn’t help.

    2) Supposing the “step ladder” parliamentary system truly plays out the way you think it does, can you explain why there hasn’t been any change in leadership since Castro took power? The evidence just doesn’t fit the system you describe, unless there is rampant corruption (which would not be surprising…). Is there any adequate explanation here?

    • I’m sure there is corruption to some degree, but is it not possible that Castro had remained in power as a national hero who had done a pretty good job, all things considered?

      Or are you assuming that most Cubans in Cuba are unhappy?

      • Or the fact that most of the trouble in the Cuban economy has more to do with the US sanctions than anything else.

      • I think that it is impossible, in reality, for a leader in a democratic country to hold power for 50 years without endemic corruption.

        And it isn’t a matter of happiness. Canadians are quite happy (5th on the recent global happiness index I think), yet governments, and leaders, still change hands on a regular basis.

        • It is equally improbable that a truly democratic country would accept the succession planning that the Castros have orchestrated. If Stephen Harper were to step down after governing for 50 years, would we happily accept his brother as a replacement?

          The whole situations strains the bounds of reason as Travis has explained it.

          I could accept that local governmental institutions are more democratic, but at the national level, there isn’t any real democracy at work. Either the system has been improperly described, or there is corruption at work in a very serious way that Travis has failed to allude to.

          • If his brother was the deputy Prime Minister for most of that time, why not?

          • Haha if you really think that a man can rule a country for 50 years, and that the system that allows him to do so is democratic, then you are more of an optimist than I could ever be.

            What you propose is possible in theory, but again, it really strains reason in practice.

            From the limited reading I’ve done since posting the above comments, it does appear that there are serious problems with the Cuban democratic model. There is a strong grassroots democracy at the municipal level on paper, as Travis described, but it is incredibly unlikely that the elections are, in fact, open ones. There is strong top-down party control, and plenty of what we, in Canada, would describe as corruption.

          • Robocalls are laughable in comparison…

        • Canada’s had the same head of state for the last 60 years in Queen Elizabeth II. Is that due to endemic corruption, or just a function of our political system.

          • Ha. You’ll have to do better than that to be taken seriously.

          • Really, is it impossible to have a figurehead as the head of state, while the actual running of the country is left to a more democratic system?

          • Of course it is possible… That is precisely what happens in Canada.

            But if you think that Castro has been a figurehead for 50 years and the country has been democratically going about its business otherwise, you really haven’t been paying attention.

            I’m done with this now. You lost me as soon as you compared the Queen to Fidel and Canada to Cuba.

  13. Great article and tweets today. I think it’s a complete joke that the anti-Cuba sentiment in American politics and media is still so strong. The USA does business with countries far worse than Cuba. Obviously nobody in their right mind would condone the various human rights violations that Cuban citizens have endured over the years, but it’s no worse than than the shit going on in China or Russia at the same time.

    You can respect a person without agreeing with what they stand for in any way. I respect Hitler for his political charisma and a few extremist ideas. At the same time I think he was one of the biggest pieces of shit to ever walk on this planet. Does this make me a Nazi who should be suspended from my job? No. It’s a free country and as long as we are not inciting anything harmful then we should be allowed to say whatever we want.


  14. well it’s a lose-lose for Ozzie in a state full of cuban immigrants, they probably just reacted to hear/seeing the word castro, if they could actually read you’d realize that nothing in the article is slanderous or offensive. In America Fidel Castro is synonymous with Lex Luger

  15. It’s ironic those Cubans risked their lives to come to the freedom of the United States but then call for the suspension of a man who voices an opinion they don’t agree with.
    That said, most of the fake outrage about this story seems to be coming from people who think in black and white and believe the United States is the beacon of democracy and freedom while Cuba is a murderous authoritarian regime.
    This great article shows how the truth is so much more complicated.

  16. my favorite part of the well-written article was the tweet you quoted, honestly – SPECTACULAR quote. the average American is more affected by the restraints of their job than their government – if you want to maximize freedom of speech, that’s where you should point your flags.

  17. Although I do agree with most of the points made in this post and enjoyed reading about Cuba from a much less biased perspective, I don’t think it was just “Big Capital” that wanted this kind of opinion suppressed.

    This kind of reaction is pan-spectrum. At this point, almost every influential group in the United States has at least some stake in maintaining the myth about Cuba. Even if it’s no more than just to avoid admitting they were wrong to support (passively or otherwise) the US sanctions against Cuba.

  18. Great post. I haven’t really seen anyone discuss it, but I think the fact that Ozzie is Venezuelan really informed his comments. Venezuela and Chavez’ weird little petro-state socialism is as foreign a concept to most Americans as I can imagine. Then again, Ozzie has publicly bashed Chavez, so maybe he really has no clue about politics and just likes to hear himself talk.

  19. Great article! I really enjoyed reading it. It is refreshing to see someone actually talk about both sides of the story!

  20. I appreciate this site trying to put some context to the Guillen comments, but seriously, equating a free and fair democracy like Canada to a repressive regime like Cuba is an insult to the people who have risked their lives to escape Cuba and the Canadians who have given their lives to defend freedom in countless wars and UN sponsored actions around the world. You should be ashamed of yourselves for this intellectually dishonest display of moral relativism. There is such a thing as right and wrong, and Cuba and Castro aren’t right and Canada isn’t wrong, sorry.

    • Who equated the two? Pointing out similarities within the political structures for context is in no way showing that the two are direct comparables. I think a re-read is in order.

  21. Canadian hey? Perfect Cuban propaganda and it may fly with the ignorant masses in most of the USA. But that shit won’t float in Miami. It’s all about the Benjamins. By the way, it’s no different in Canada. Put down that self righteous pen and get back to baseball.

  22. You forgot one last name dealing with politics and sports …. Luke Scott

  23. I think one of the problems that people have when trying to understand the political structure in Cuba is that in much of the world Political ideas and dissent are spread through another institution – rather than through overt political participation.

    All politics are expressed through the Party in Cuba. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t dissent.

    Its in some ways similar to the Middle East where you have most politics being expressed through Islam. Or the US, where all politics tends to be expressed through Christianity.

    I’ve known a few defectors in my days – one who I worked with very closely and you’ll never meet a guy who hated Fidel more – while loving socialism and his country. You don’t hear about people like him in these types of polarizing discussions.

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