BY MARK CURTIS
FT. MADISON, Iowa-When Cuban jet fighters shot down two light planes operated by anti-communist "cowboys" from Miami, there was a solid front by media and government spokespeople that "Castro's flyers had committed murder." In the real world, however, thinking people were voicing a variety of opinions about the incident.
Here in the Iowa State Penitentiary prisoners favor everything from U.S. military action against the small island to agreement that the nation did the right thing to defend itself. "Just because they say they were in international waters doesn't mean they were," said a coworker of mine in the upholstery school the Monday morning after the shooting of the planes on February 24. "But it was overreaction to shoot them down. What's next," he said, "commercial airliners?"
"It was a cat-and-mouse game these people were playing and they finally got caught," a friend of mine told me when we met outside the chow hall. He was most impressed by the number of times Brothers to the Rescue had been warned to stop their flights over Cuba. "They were told right before that they were in danger and to turn back," he said.
"I think Cuba's been getting away with too much for a long time now," was the unexpected comment from someone I know to be involved for years in the fight for Black rights. When I asked him what kind of things Cuba's been getting away with he mentioned the rafters who left the island in 1994 to come to the United States. He did hear me out though, when I explained that it was the U.S. government that provoked the rafter crisis by encouraging immigration to a land of "milk and honey" while at the same time denying visas to those wanting to immigrate to the United States.
This latest incident has been an opportunity to remind people why Washington hates Cuba so much: the socialist revolution there nationalized the sugar cane plantations, the Havana Hilton Hotel, the Bacardi Rum plant, and other property the wealthy here and their counterparts in Cuba thought would always be theirs to profit from. If you check out the Helms- Burton bill President Clinton says he'll sign, you'll see these wealthy individuals are still sore about "their Cuban property."
Cuban workers and peasants in their great majority are loyal to their political party, the Communist Party of Cuba. They are eager to help any other small nation stand up to the U.S. government and fight for its own freedom. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans volunteered to fight in Angola to help defeat the invading racist army of South Africa, an internationalist feat that contributed in the struggle to bring down the apartheid regime.
Five years ago Cuba's representative Ricardo Alarcón stood up in the United Nations Security Council and explained why "Operation Desert Shield" against Iraq was illegal, immoral, and should be stopped. Today it's clearer than ever how right the Cuban leadership was.
One of my best friends here is a Native American man who joined me in a study group of the Communist Manifesto. We've been talking every morning over breakfast about Cuba and he brings me the questions and arguments of those he works with. We talk it over and "reload" our arguments in defense of Cuba. We have found the Pathfinder title To Speak the Truth with speeches by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara to be very helpful in discussions and in our own education.
Probably the biggest question guys here have is couldn't Cuban jets have simply forced the light planes down rather than launch rockets at them? But Brothers to the Rescue is not a nonviolent humanitarian group. When I told my pal that José Basulto, the group's leader, had been an invader at the Bay of Pigs and had come back to Cuba to fire a handheld rocket from a speedboat, he asked me if Basulto was the same guy he read about who fired a grenade at the United Nations building when Che Guevara spoke there 30 years ago representing the Cuban government. No, I said, not the same guy but they were both "Brothers to the Rescue" for U.S. imperialism. Letting deadly counterrevolutionaries like these fly over children in their schools, farmers in the fields, and people living their lives would have been a foolish price to pay to satisfy "morally outraged" politicians in the United States. Castro made the right call. Because of this action working people here will respect and learn more from the Cuban revolution.
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