REFLECTIONS OF THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF
THE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE
of the most hostile
“Taking advantage of the negotiations to free the Bay of Pigs’ prisoners, the CIA tried to use a key person in the talks, American lawyer James B. Donovan, to deliver a lethal gift to Fidel Castro: a wetsuit contaminated with a fungus that lacerates the skin and an underwater breathing device infected with tuberculosis...the gear in fact was given to the Cuban leader in November 1962.
“The revelation is one of many anecdotes in After the Bay of Pigs, a book on the
negotiations held between the Committee of Relatives for the Liberation of
“The 238-page book, published late last year, was
written by Cuban exile Pablo Pérez-Cisneros with businessman John B. Donovan,
son of the late negotiator, and Jeff Koenreich, a veteran member of the Red
Cross who has promoted humanitarian missions between the
“Pérez-Cisneros is the son of Berta Barreto de los
Heros, who was coordinator in
“Barreto de los Heros started the book but died in March of 1993. Her son, who spent eight years researching and finishing the book, was the person who bought the wetsuit and scuba gear at the end of 1962, not knowing that both were destined for Castro.
“In June 1962, Pérez-Cisneros visited James B.
Donovan's office in Brooklyn for the first time to request his intervention in
the negotiations with
“Two months later, Donovan made the first of 11 trips
''When Donovan returns to
“Pérez-Cisneros, who had been a champion underwater
“Castro received them in November 1962, and some weeks later, on another one of Donovan's trips, the Cuban President told the lawyer that he had used them.
“Only months after the negotiations had concluded did Pérez-Cisneros learn all the details about the real story.
“During World War II, James Donovan had worked for the
Office of Strategic Services, which preceded the CIA. He was later named one of
the prosecutors in the Nazi war-crimes trials in
“When Donovan informed the CIA that Castro had
requested diving equipment, the
“In May of
1963, Castro invited Donovan and lawyer John E. Nolan, who represented
then-Justice Secretary Robert Kennedy, to a day of diving in the Bay of Pigs
area and again used the
“In late 1963, ''Donovan told me that the idea of an
attempt against Castro gave him goose bumps, and he refused to take the
equipment from the CIA, thinking that if
“The book, sprinkled with curious and unexpected events, is a tense story of how love, determination and cleverness made possible the exchange of the Brigade 2506 prisoners for $53 million in food, medicine and medical equipment.
“The efforts of Donovan and the Families Committee came at a moment of uncertainty over the prisoners' fates…
“The committee's first meeting with Castro took place
in Barreto de los Heros' house in
“Donovan's entry into the negotiations accelerated the release process.
“Knowing that Barreto de los Heros' telephone was tapped, Donovan arranged a secret code for communications.
“In mid-December, Castro agreed to an exchange and
handed over a 29-page list of food and medicine that was to be sent to
“On Dec. 23, 1962, the first five
planes left for
I have literally transcribed the article’s words. I wasn’t aware of some of the specific information. Nothing that I remember is far from the truth.
My relationship with the Cienaga de Zapata (Zapata Marsh) began very early. I learned about the place thanks to some American visitors who would talk to me about the “black fish", a very dark trout that was very abundant in the Laguna del Tesoro, at the heart of the marsh, at a maximum depth of 6 meters. In those days we were considering the development of tourism and possibly ‘polders’ like the land reclaimed from the sea by the Dutch.
The spot was famous from my days as a high school student, when the marsh was populated by tens of thousands of crocodiles. Indiscriminate catch had almost exterminated the species. It was necessary to protect it.
were impelled above all by the desire to do something for the charcoal burners
of the marsh. That was how my relationship with the
the invaders landed there, three roads crossed the marsh, some facilities had already
been built and others were being built for tourism, even an airport in the
In order to deal with the issue of captured prisoners, I met Donovan, who seemed to me –and I am pleased to confirm it with his son’s testimony– to be an honorable man; I indeed once invited him to go fishing, and without a doubt I talked to him about a wetsuit and diving equipment. I cannot remember the other details too clearly; I would have to make some inquiries. I was never concerned with writing my memoirs, and today I understand that was a mistake.
For example, I was not able to remember the exact number of wounded so precisely. What stayed in my mind was the memory of those hundreds of our wounded; quite a few died because of a shortage of equipment, medicines, specialists and the lack of suitable facilities in those days. The wounded men who were sent earlier surely required rehab or better care, but that was not available to us.
From our first victorious battle, on January 17, 1957, it became our tradition to look after the enemy’s wounded. The history of our Revolution records that fact.
In the book of memoirs called “Faith of my Fathers”, written by McCain with the omnipresent help of Mark Salter, technically very well written, the main author states:
“I was often accused of being an indifferent student, and given some of my grades, I can appreciate the charity in that remark. But I was not so much indifferent as selective. I liked English and history, and I usually did well in those classes. I was less interested and less successful in math and science.”
Further along, he assures us:
“A few months prior to graduation, I had taken
reputation as a rowdy and impetuous young man was not, I’m embarrassed to
confess, confined to Academy circles. Many upstanding residents of lovely
Earlier, upon describing some of the events of his childhood, he tells us that:
“At the smallest provocation, I would go off in a mad frenzy, and then, suddenly, crash to the floor unconscious.
“The doctor prescribed a treatment that seems a little severe by modern standards of child care. He instructed my parents to fill a bathtub with cold water whenever I commenced a tantrum, and when I appeared to be holding my breath to drop me, fully clothed, into it.
Upon reading this, one has the impression that the methods that were applied to us in those days –both in my case, living in that pre-war era, just as in his –were not exactly the most fitting to deal with children. In my case, there was no doctor advising the family; they were ordinary people, some were illiterate, and many of them only applied traditional treatments.
Other episodes narrated by McCain relate to his adventures as a cadet on training trips. I am not mentioning them because they stray from the contents of my analysis and they have nothing to do with personal matters.
Naturally, McCain was not in the Congress hall on the night of Bush’s speech last January 28th, because some things in this man’s policies are compromising to him. He was in Little Havana, at the Versailles Restaurant, where he received the tribute of the Cuban community. It is just as well that we don’t look too closely into the background of several people who were there.
supports the war in
recognizes the importance of keeping strong relations with
would reinforce security on
wants the Latino vote, unfortunately most of these don’t vote or do it
exceptionally; they are always fearful of deportation, of their children being
taken away or of losing their jobs. On
He supports Bush’s “The No Child Left Behind Act”. He supports the allocation of more federal funding for low interest scholarships and university grants.
Like any other candidate, he has his little government platform. He promises to reduce dependence on foreign energy. It is easy to say, but these days it is difficult to do.
opposes subsidized ethanol production. Fantastic: I suggested just that to
Brazilian President Lula Da Silva, that he demand the
other Latin American nations were set on the path of producing ethanol from
sugarcane by the
And we can’t miss the promises ensuring quality of air and water, the suitable use of green areas, the protection of the national parks that would become just a memory of what once used to be the nation’s natural splendor, victim of the unrelenting dictates of the market laws. The Kyoto Protocol, nevertheless, would not be signed.
These sound like the dreams of a castaway in the middle of a storm.
He would reduce taxes for middle class families, keeping the Bush policy of cutting back the permanent taxes and leaving rates at their current level.
He wants greater control over the costs of Medicare and Medicaid. He thinks that families should be in charge of their healthcare dollars. He would carry out health and prevention campaigns. He supports the plan of the current President allowing workers to move money from social security taxes to private retirement funds.
Social security would suffer the same fate as the stock market.
He is in favor of the death penalty, the growth and build-up of the armed forces, and the expansion of the FTAs.
Some McCain maxims:
“I'm well-versed in economics; I was at the Reagan Revolution.” (Jan 2008)
“To avoid recession, stop unchecked spending.” (Jan 2008)
“Loss of economic strength leads to losing military strength.” (Dec 2007)
“Republicans have forgotten how to control spending.” (Nov 2007)
“Certify border is secure; only then allow guest workers.” (Jan 2008)
“2003 "amnesty" didn't mean rewarding illegal behavior.” (Jan 2008)
“Round up and deport two million aliens who committed crimes.” (Jan 2008)
“Do everything I can to help all immigrants learn English.” (Dec 2007)
“No official English; Native Americans use own languages.” (Jan 2007)
“Immigration reform needed for national security.” (Jun 2007)
“Bipartisanship shows preparedness for presidency.” (May 2007)
“Maintain Cuban embargo; indict Castro.” (Dec 2007)
“Naive to exclude nukes; naive to exclude
promises to visit his properties on the continent. He said that after being
elected to the White House in 2008, his first trip would be to
In his entire book, an obligatory reference in my Reflections, he states that he was good in history. There is not one single reference to any political philosopher, not even to one of those who inspired the Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies on July 4, 1776; in 4 months and 23 days it will celebrate its 232nd birthday.
More than 2400 years ago, Socrates, the famous Athenian wise man, celebrated for his method and martyr to his ideas, conscious of human limitations, said: “One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing.” Today, McCain, the Republican candidate, proclaims before his fellow citizens: “One thing only I know, and that is that I know everything.”
I shall continue.
Fidel Castro Ruz
Date: February 11, 2008.
Time: 5:35 p.m.