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Saudi Arabia, Cuba on List of World’s Worst Fighters of Human Trafficking

The top U.S. diplomat said traffickers are currently victimizing nearly 25 million people worldwide

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human trafficking
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks on the release of the 2019 Trafficking in Person (TIP) Report at the US State Department in Washington, Thursday, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) VOA

Saudi Arabia and Cuba are now on a list of countries the United States considers derelict in their responsibilities to combat human trafficking, raising the risk of sanctions against those countries.

In its annual report on human trafficking, the State Department accused ally Saudi Arabia of widespread violations involving foreign laborers and denounced Cuba for allegedly engaging in trafficking through its program that exports doctors abroad.

“If you don’t stand up to trafficking, America will stand up to you,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Wednesday in Washington, shortly after the report’s release. The annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) assesses what countries are doing to combat what Pompeo describes as “one of the most heinous crimes on Earth.”

The top U.S. diplomat said traffickers are currently victimizing nearly 25 million people worldwide. The State Department designated Saudi Arabia and Cuba as Tier 3 countries, the report’s lowest possible ranking. China, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela have also been designated as such.

human trafficking
FILE – Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. VOA

The U.S. said the Saudi kingdom has done little to help victims, choosing to, instead, jail, fine or deport them after accusing them of immigration violations or prostitution.Cuba, a long-time U.S. adversary, has threatened or coerced physicians to participate in its overseas medical program, the report said.

Some 8,300 Cuban medical workers who had been stationed in Brazil departed the country after President Jair Bolsonaro complained earlier this year the Cuban government keeps most of the wages paid to the workers, whom he described as “slave labor.

Tier 3 countries are subject to U.S. actions, including partial or total elimination of support from the International Monetary Fund or other international support organizations.

The U.S. president, however, can waive sanctions against Tier 3 countries with the hope it will encourage them act more aggressively against traffickers. Pompeo said the U.S. took actions last year against 22 Tier 3 countries.

human trafficking
The annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) assesses what countries are doing to combat what Pompeo describes as “one of the most heinous crimes on Earth.” Flickr

The State Department report, which assesses 187 countries, concluded many world governments have enacted laws to hold traffickers accountable since the 2000 adoption of the United Nation’s Palermo Protocol. The pact requires countries to codify human trafficking as a crime both within and between countries.

ALSO READ: South African Teenagers Flying Self-Assembled Four-Seater Plane Across Africa

But the report calls on countries to do more to ensure protections for victims within their borders. Greater protections requires “political courage” to investigate “official power structures,” for example, and to “ending impunity for crimes that have long been seen as accepted local and cultural practices.”

“Acknowledging human trafficking within the borders of a country is not easy,” the report declared. “Governments should be willing to admit its existence and rise to their responsibility to address it.” (VOA)

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Sword Of Damocles In The Cold War

Here's all you need to know about political murders

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Sweden's Olof Palme
Sweden's Olof Palme

By Tania Bhattacharya

Some political murders have successfully created a void within the nation, and altered its path in history, such as the 1986 killing of Olof Palme, in Stockholm.

Most people underestimate the immense power of self-awareness and wonder why most of their relationships are less than sweet. A social lockdown can mean the liberation of our own true identity. So why not do ourselves a favor and try and fix traits in ourselves that prevent us from having great relationships with others.

Death is the great leveller, it is said. Until that is, it favours the common man over and above far more successful and visible public figures. Then, it merely becomes the final act in a play about conspiracies and the miscarriage of justice. The victims are usually high profile political and administrative personalities, who were plotting to blow the lid, off whatever had caused their conscience to flail. While scores of such deaths have been registered throughout modern history, at least four from the post-war decades of the last century, deserve to be mentioned. Their cases remain open, despite the many attempts made to close them. The Cold War’s greatest whodunit; the case of Somerton Man, has not been included.

UWE BARSCHEL

Uwe Barschel was elected the President of West Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein, in the October of 1982. He belonged to the Centre-Right Christian Democratic Union which was being headed by Helmut Kohl. Barschel was regarded as being full of promise, and his tenure was counted as a success. Unfortunately, Barschel was falsely implicated on corruption charges by vested interests, which made him resign his post, and embark on a hectic international itinerary, in an attempt to get away from the mess, probably in the hopes that the rumours would soon die down, making his return to West Germany, possible.

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His first choice of destination was Gran Canaria in the Canary islands, following which he made his way to Geneva. With what on his mind did he choose Geneva for a visit, has remained murky. However Uwe Barschel’s widow has alleged, that his getaways were essential as he was concealing incriminating evidence in the form of documents, and photos. The scandal that had consumed Barschel was termed Waterkant-Gate, after the fashion of giving a silent nod to that mother of all scandals; Watergate.

It was in his Geneva hotel room, that Barschel’s lifeless body was discovered. He was fully clothed, and lying submerged in a bathtub. A post-mortem had established that his bloodstream was carrying enough sedatives to put a dozen horses to sleep. There were barbiturates, antihistamines, sleeping pills, and more of such drugs. The official report – brushing aside objections raised by his widow – certified his death as ‘suicide’. But to even an untrained eye, the conclusion seemed erroneous. To begin with, his room bore evidence of others having been present; and many items had been moved around. The position of the corpse seemed to be odd.

Uwe Barschel’s death remains an open-ended case, but progress seems to have been made of late. In 2010, Hans Brandenberger, a Toxicologist from Switzerland, and someone who had built a reputation as a forensic expert, re-opened the case of the politician’s mysterious demise. One of his contentions was, that a number of drugs that were traced in the dead Barschel’s bloodstream, could not have been obtained over-the-counter, or even with an ordinary prescription. In all probability, the lethal combination of medications was forced down his oesophagus, in what he surmised, was a bumping off.

Olof Palme
Former Schleswig-Holstein chancellor, Uwe Barschel.

Investigations into the baffling circumstances surrounding Barschel’s death in the ensuing decades, have thrown up a curious fact. That this successful politician from West Germany, may have been a secret informer of the dreaded East German Secret Police; the STASI. Mere involvement with an espionage agency however, is not enough to prove complicity. The STASI or for that matter, East Germany, had no reason to target Uwe Barschel. This brings us to the most circulated theory about his assassination. Ex-Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky has insinuated in his writings, that Barschel was a victim of his former employers, who wanted to prevent the politician from denying the use of West German soil, for exacerbating the raging Middle East conflict. It seems Barschel’s family had already been aware of the weapons and training being provided from Shleswig-Holstein, and were opposed to it.

Ostrovsky’s claim has been, that Uwe Barschel signed his own death warrant, by disallowing Israel the use of the ports of his region, which were being recruited for shipping arms to Iran.

In time, the said arms trade, would lead to another grand scandal; this time located on the other side of the globe: the infamous Iran-Contra Affair.

OLOF PALME

Olof Palme is relatively well known among the old-timers in India. He was the Prime Minister of Sweden on several occasions, and was a key figure in the Bofors Scandal. Noble by birth, but a Social Democrat by ideology, Palme bore a unique connection to this country. His great-aunt Anna Palme had married the Bengali doctor Upendra Dutt. Their son Rajani Palme Dutt – referred to by the initials of RPD – grew up to become a leading thinker in the Marxist tradition. RPD remained an anointed figure both in Europe, as well as in his paternal homeland of India.

In Sweden, Olof Palme is a hero, despite the many unsavoury details that dot his biography. This is primarily because Sweden, aside from Count Folke Bernadotte, and Dag Hammarskjold, had not had a national leader who was able to make the country matter, on an international scale. Prime Minister Olof Palme at long last ensured, that Swedish opinion was going to be heeded, through his vocal support of the developing world, and his efforts at keeping his country equidistant from the two power blocs.

As a student at Kenyon College in the United States, it is believed that Palme was sought out by STASI handlers who honed his talents in espionage, sending him on a number of missions for gathering intelligence. A not-so-well known image of the Prime Minister, taken in 1948, was examined by the Scotland Yard sometime ago, and the conclusion they drew was, that it was a doctored photo, probably manufactured to hide the true whereabouts of Palme. Alternative media site Blueshift has the relevant details, here:

https://blueshift.nu/karlas-secret-olof-palme-greatest-spy-of-the-cold-war/

 In the 1980s, the Swedish Premier was embroiled in a child prostitution scandal, with at least two of the victims, now in their fifties, alleging, that among the high profile men they had to service, was Palme himself. Over the years, and many media onslaughts later, neither women – one of whom is named Eva Bengtsson – have budged an inch from their original statements. It is a testament to Palme’s popularity, that he could successfully dodge the accusations being levelled at him from different quarters, retain his popular appeal, and continue to steer Sweden in the path of Democratic Socialism, even though this alienated a section of society that loathed the high taxes he made them pay.

So when Olof Palme was felled on the night of the 28th of February 1986, as he was strolling down from a movie theatre along with his wife, Sweden was in shock. The murder was anything but an open and shut case. There has been no closure till date, with competing theories still trying to establish for a fact, as to what the true nature of events had been.

Media reports had stated that the assassin had sauntered up to the couple and shot Mr. Palme in the back, in the process, injuring his wife Lisbet. Common sense though, finds this assumption had to stomach. Surely, bullets travel on a linear route? How then could the same one have both, killed the Swedish Prime Minister, and simultaneously injured his wife?

Who would have benefitted from Palme’s death? This particular whodunit has vexed the conscience of Sweden more than anything else, in its modern history. It is almost as though the Gandhi of that country, had been made to perish.

 Author and scientist Jan Bondeson has speculated on some feints in his book Blood On The Snow. He informs the reader, that at least three people had warned Swedish law enforcement of Palme’s impending fate. One of them was Yugoslav soldier Ivan Von Birchan, who had claimed that one Charles Morgan of the CIA had hired him and placed a hit on the Prime Minister. To prevent the latter from assuming office once again, a secret organization under the aegis of the American politicians Caspar Weinberger and Henry Kissinger, had approached Von Birchan. If this is true, then a wider, international conspiracy needs to be taken into account.

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 It is notable, that Olof Palme was yet another high-profile player in the trans-Atlantic arms trade. It is entirely possible, that he was privy to sensitive secrets, which vested interests were afraid, would be compromised.

WILLIAM COLBY

Olof Palme
William Colby.

Not many are familiar with his name, not even his own coutrymen. The Man Nobody Knew: In Search Of My Father, is a book by Colby’s son, the documentary filmmaker Carl Colby. William Colby was a former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who was responsible for the success of many of the organization’s operations in the 60s and 70s. He was in knowledge of the CIA’s MK-Ultra program, which was centred upon the development of mind-control drugs that could be used to neutralize enemies or people who posed a threat to the country’s agenda. For a long time, passed off as a mere ‘conspiracy theory’, it is now established for a fact, that MK-Ultra was used on a number of celebrity test subjects such as Ken Kesey, Whitey Bulger, and James Stanley, and was responsible for the November 18, 1978 cult massacres of Jonestown.

In present times, there is a petition on Change.Org demanding an end to mind-control research by the CIA, given its deadly effects. Last year NPR (National Public Radio) of the US, named Sidney Gottlieb as being the chemist who was enlisted by the CIA in developing the MK-Ultra program.

Espionage requires its personnel to carry certain virtues. Attention to detail, secrecy, fastidiousness, and being methodical to a fault, being a few of them. William Colby, as a top spymaster, was presumably in possession of these qualities. Upon his retirement from the agency, he purchased a simple, nondescript home across the marina from Cobb Island, situated near Washington DC. He would spend the weekends rowing his canoe, and never forgot to wear his life jacket.

That is why, when he disappeared in the April of 1996 from his Cobb island home, and didn’t surface for days – quite literally – it caused concern to his family and friends. Especially one particular friend who happened to be an author and publisher, Mr. Zalin Grant.

As is usual with cases of skulduggery involving people of importance, Colby’s disappearance was attributed in its early days to suicide. The more enterprising among the speculators, conjectured that Colby was probably silenced by the people he had opposed during his days as the CIA chief. But it seems as if there was more to the case than previously thought.

Bill Colby had been in the process of writing a tell-all, that was to inform people about the secret and unacknowledged actions of the American deep state; up to and including its denial of knowledge pertaining to extra-terrestrial energy harvesting. His book would have disclosed the machinations of the CIA in its quest for world domination; the global figures it had assassinated or plotted to, and its involvement in the international arms trade.

Mr. Grant has correctly estimated that ex-intelligence agents, especially someone like Bill Colby, who despite being in his mid-seventies was in the prime of his life, were unlikely to commit simple mistakes like not wearing his life jacket before going out to canoe, canoeing on a full stomach, or doing so well after sundown; features that were curiously present during the investigation into Colby’s disappearance. About ten days later, his bloated body had washed ashore at exactly the same place, where search efforts had looked thoroughly multiple number of times in the preceding days.

If Mr. Colby had not planned to write the incriminating tome he was doggedly bent on doing, he might have lived out his entire lifetime.

 THE JFK ASSASSINATION’S NEGLECTED DETAILS

A lot has been written and discussed about the usual suspects pertaining to JFK’s assassination. Reader’s Digest had serialized Jay Epstein’s The Secret World Of Lee Harvey Oswald in the late 1980s, which I used to read passionately. With the birth of the internet, many websites have been created exclusively dealing with the contentious points of Oswald, and Jack Ruby’s roles. Films have been made that pin the blame on the CIA. There are reliable bloggers who have produced photographic evidence of many of Oswald’s images standing solo and holding a weapon, being doctored. These having much literature dedicated to them, I would like to instead highlight some aberrations that appear in the Zapruder film – a citizen’s effort that captures the assassination much to the chagrin of those behind it – in combination with some suspicious happenings that occurred in the aftermath of the event.

A. Umbrella Man

umbrella man
Umbrella Man has been circled.

The grassy knoll in the captured footage moments before the tragedy, has a man attired in black, sitting on it. As the President’s motorcade begins to pass by, he stands up, opens his umbrella and waves it in the air in a circular motion. It almost seems as though he is signalling for action to begin over something, but the man was later questioned, and he defended himself by saying that it was a sign of protest at JFK’s father Joseph Kennedy’s policies when he was ambassador to Great Britain in the late 1930s. The umbrella was a reference to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who was never seen without one. Even though this may sound plausible, one wonders if the man already had his excuse ready knowing full well that he could be questioned. And if he was indeed gesturing at his co-conspirators, then who was he working for? It had been a sunny day in Dallas, where umbrellas would not have been required.

B. Babushka Lady

An even more mysterious figure in the plot, is a woman who has never been identified, but who seemed to be filming the assassination as it progressed. She is referred to as ‘Babushka Lady’ in reference to the Russian-style scarf that was covering her head. Interestingly, while the other bystanders run for cover once the shots are heard, Babushka Lady remains rooted and unmoved. Theories have abounded as to her true identity. Was she a Russian spy? Once again, the presence of an unusual object – her scarf – raises questions. The clement weather did not require one’s head to be protected from a drizzle. And unlike the other regular female eyewitnesses, her legs are positioned apart. What’s more, even though everyone else told the authorities what they saw that day, BL did not attempt to do so.

C. Dorothy Kilgallen

Dolby Kilgallen
Dolby Kilgallen.

Dorothy Kilgallen was a charismatic television presenter, who doubled as a journalist. She participated in ‘What’s My Line’, a TV show that aired in the 1950s, and remains the only investigator to have spoken with Jack Ruby before his trial began. JFK was a friend of hers. Through exhaustive research, Kilgallen had collated a bunch of evidence that she wished to get published on the President’s murder. Criminal attorney Mark Shaw has detailed her efforts in his book The Reporter Who Knew Too Much. Days before travelling to New Orleans for an appointment with an informer on the case, Kilgallen was found dead in her home. The cause of death was drug overdose. Her diary and paperwork containing proof on the circumstances surrounding the President’s murder, were never found.

 DMary Meyer

Mary Meyer
Mary Meyer.

Mary Pinchot Meyer was a different kind of woman that had been introduced to JFK. She was married to a CIA operative Cord Meyer, and was an educated socialite. JFK had previously been involved with provocatively attired, air-headed floozies from the movie and modelling industries, who rarely if ever, offered him intellectual companionship. They would seek him out due to the aura of power he had about him. He looked upon them as needy and wanting. Meyer was more than a tad different. For the first time, as a skirt-chaser, the philandering President had met his match. He had felt deeply drawn to her educated upbringing, and her talent as a painter. Kennedy’s lovelorn paeons written to Meyer, reveal an unsure man who was craving for Meyer’s attention. The two remained lovers till the time of his death, often consuming LSDs in each-other’s company, in the White House.

Mary Pinchot Meyer became the victim of an unsolved murder in 1964. A Black American man Ray Crump, was arrested on the charges of sexually assaulting and robbing her, but the truth may never be known. As the ex-wife of a CIA aide, and a lover of the President himself, Meyer had long been targeted by powerful forces who were intimidated at her efforts of trying to unravel the facts over JFK’s demise.

E. Sam Giancana

Sam Giancana
Sam Giancana.

Sam ‘Mooney’ Giancana was a well-feared Italian-American* mobster of Chicago, whose brush with politics first occurred when Joseph Kennedy approached him, requesting the former’s intervention in winning a mandate for JFK, during the Massachusetts primary. The mobster willingly helped out by exerting his influence on the pollsters and the polls themselves, involving assassinations, death-threats, and booth capturing; which to a crime syndicate, was just another day at work. The claims were made by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in his book The Dark Side Of Camelot.

Thus, it was entirely unacceptable to Giancana, when the same forces he had helped to power, turned against him. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the President’s younger brother, was tasked with eradicating the Mafiosi from American soil, which he had every intention of following through with. In the eyes of ‘Mooney’, this was high treason. Giancana was himself, no stranger to duplicity. He had worked in tandem with the CIA, in trying to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and not just once.

Of the many theories posited pertaining to the JFK case, one deals with the culpability of the American underworld in general, and the Chicago mafia, in particular. Did the CIA and Giancana join hands to rid themselves of a common enemy?

A word of caution here. One must be careful not to idolize the Kennedy clan. While the face they present to the world is one of philanthropy and social justice, a background check of their origins will reveal, that they made their fortune through bootlegging and underhand dealings during the Prohibition of the 1930s.

*American Mafia has often been culturally confined. There were Irish gangs, as well as Jewish ones like ‘Murder Inc’ headed by the mobster Bugsy Siegel, just as there were Italian outfits. Over the last few decades, African-American and East Asian syndicates have emerged as well. It would be timely to remind ourselves, that Film Industries and the underworld, all over the globe, have shared a disturbing bonhomie.

 While the Kennedy killing continues to remain a ‘Whodunit’, its consequences are no longer moot. Once again, and not surprisingly, the arms trade makes its appearance, along with the larger role of the Vietnam War that Kennedy had come to oppose.

Investigative reporter Patrick Baab and former Pentagon advisor Robert Harkavy, have published a joint effort named: The Spider Web Of Secret Services: Why Were Olof Palme, Uwe Barschel and William Colby Murdered?

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 It is easy to dismiss Cold War conspiracies and their dynamics as a thing of the past. How, for example, does the Trans-Atlantic arms trade matter anymore?

Well, it matters, because the weapons trade after receiving an initial jolt from the dissolving of the Eastern Bloc and its Afghan War, reinvented itself as the illegal arms market that was made available to the Islamic Jihadis, who discompose us to this day.

Also Read- Castro Gang Murders: How Cuba Eliminated An Opposition

(Disclaimer: All images have been supplied by the author and sourced from Wikimedia Commons).

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Castro Gang Murders: How Cuba Eliminated An Opposition

To most people familiar with the Cuban Revolution, there are two men who symbolize its leadership; Fidel Castro and Che Guevara

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Cuba revolution
A Havana memorial, for those who fought to defeat the forces of dictator Fulgencio Batista.

By Tania Bhattacharya

[Dear Readers, Tania Bhattacharya’s final contribution for NewsGram is titled ‘SWORD OF DAMOCLES IN THE COLD WAR’. It will be hosted on the 6th of April ’20, and will feature in the ‘MORE FROM AUTHOR’ section, visible below this article. Thank You]

Revolutions Devour Their Own Children – Jacques Mallet du Pan

To most people familiar with the Cuban Revolution, there are two men who symbolize its leadership; Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. They believe that the revolution was orchestrated by them, and, its salient features were devised by their – referring to Castro and Guevara’s – genius. Had the militant lawyer, and intrepid Argentine revolutionary not been at the helm of navigating the anti-Batista rebels of the Sierra Maestra, all would have been lost. Such individuals would be rather intrigued, had they heard none other than Castro himself, state in the opening decade of the twenty first century, how Cuba’s revolutionary war, was masterminded not by him and Che, but by two unlikely figures, who have remained less known to the wider public outside of Cuba. The two in question are; Celia Sanchez and Frank Pais. The Cuban dictator’s forthright admission had only come when his rule over his people was all but over, and a change of guard was in order.

It had been very different during the anti-Fulgencio Batista movement, when Fidel Castro was planning to attack the Moncada army barracks. Contrary to popular notions, the revolution was not the handiwork of two men, but many participants, with the other notable figures being: Frank Pais, Celia Sanchez, Huber Matos, Camilo Cienfuegos, and Haydee Santamaria

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When the movement was in full swing, one of the aforementioned, was brutally executed. After its success, two of the others, were quietly annihilated. The cover-ups have left generations of Cubans and those interested in the history of the country, confounded and pained. How and why, were such important figures of the Twenty Six July movement, removed? We shall examine below. 

FRANK PAIS

Cuba revolution
A dedication to Pais’ memory, at his home.

In the words of historian Pedro Alvarez Tabio, Fidel Castro had become a non-entity among those desiring an overthrow of Fulgencio Batista in the intervening years between 1953 and 1956. Instead, Celia Sanchez and Frank Pais, had sustained the anti-Batista movement through recruiting, funding, and training. Too embarrassed to admit that their musclemen had been defeated by a very young schoolteacher – Pais – and a woman – Sanchez – historians of post-revolution Cuba (for the most part funded by Batista supporters exiled to Miami, alongside the powerful Havana mafia, and the CIA); attempted to  fabricate a record, that showed the enemy to be a pair of macho men in the form of Che and Fidel. 

Frank Pais was a quiet and serious twenty-two year old instructor, who was essential in spearheading the Twenty Sixth of July Movement. So feared were Pais and his mentor Celia Sanchez, that Batista had unleashed the sinister murder syndicate MASFERRER TIGERS, at their heels, in the hopes of having them assassinated. Frank Pais underwent many sacrifices in his single-minded goal of having the dictator removed from power. His brother, then seventeen years of age, by the name of Josue Pais, was hunted down, tortured, and publicly executed by the regime’s secret police. Josue’s body was left on a Santiago de Cuba street in full public view, with the intention of serving as a warning to Frank, and others in the rebel fraternity. The name of the movement has been derived from the date, on which the older Castro brother – Fidel – and about one hundred and thirty trained rebels, had carried out their attack on the army barracks of Moncada. As a diversionary tactic, it had been left to Frank Pais, to simultaneously arrange for an assault on the adjoining city of Bayamo. The theatre of guerrilla activity now intensified through a two-pronged approach, had intimidated Batista’s men, bringing them heavy losses. Fidel Castro may have been captured after the ill-fated Moncada incident, but had it not been for Frank Pais, the military forces that met up with the band of a few dozen revolutionaries, would have been far greater, resulting in certain death for Fidel.

Author Jose Alvarez in his biography of Pais (available in English) named FRANK PAIS: ARCHITECT OF CUBA’S BETRAYED REVOLUTION takes the reader through neglected chapters of the Cuban Revolution’s history. What is relevant to the scope of this synopsis, are the ones on the last days of Pais’ life. He may have been a co-founder of the anti-Batista movement and played a leading role in its functioning along with the heroines Haydee Santamaria and Celia Sanchez, but Pais’ outlook on the future of Cuba had been vastly different from that of Fidel. This had resulted in bitter arguments between the two. Frank was a deeply religious man who took his Christianity very seriously. Had he survived, he may have wanted the Cubans to have a definite spiritual direction. This was quite unpalatable to his fellow revolutionary Fidel, who was a true Marxist. 

The events surrounding Frank Pais’ death, are the focus of this section. As mentioned previously, his efforts had been instrumental in galvanizing anti-Batista forces throughout the country on a massive scale, both in the cities and the interiors. The dictator was well-aware of the young man’s potential, and had placed a large bounty on the former’s head. 

Raul Pujol and Eugenia San Miguel were friends of Pais, whose homes were treated as safe abodes by Pais and his confidantes. He was hiding there on the 28th of July 1957, when law enforcement came looking for him. According to the official account, Frank was betrayed by a squealer whom he had known since his days at grade school. He was then shoved into a government vehicle idling nearby, for interrogation. Like his dead brother Josue, Frank was tortured, but the attempts were futile. The young school teacher bore his adversity with defiance, and plenty of resolve. This was later attested to by his interrogators. His angered captors then executed him publicly, on a by-lane of Santiago de Cuba. 

The only account we have of the events surrounding the death of Frank Pais, fellow revolutionary and arch rival of Fidel Castro within the July Twenty Sixth Movement, originates from a woman named Vilma Espin. She was a revered figure among the rebels, being an educated woman who came from a background of prestige and wealth. Her forefathers had been landlords in Batista’s Cuba, but she had fought against their wishes, joining the anti-Batista forces in order to end the island’s American-backed dictatorship. In the years following Pais’ assassination, her account changed several times, with new characters, locations and scenarios making their appearance, and sometimes an entire scrapping of a previous one, for an unheard-of setting. 

But what interest would a fellow revolutionary who was a member of the rebel forces, and therefore in agreement with Frank Pais over the removal of Fulgencio Batista, have in providing conflicting eyewitness accounts of Pais’ death? 

It so turns out, that Espin, despite being a comrade within the movement, was vying for the top spot in the organizational hierarchy of the revolutionary brigade, along with Pais. The two had shared an acrimonious rivalry. But Vilma Espin was not going to play second fiddle to Frank. She had the backing of Fidel Castro himself! Espin was the wife of Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, and her position of influence within the Castro family, helped her case. Once the Cuban Revolution was successfully over, her brother-in-law would assign her to high posts within the country. It would have suited Vilma and Fidel well, to have joined hands and ‘taken care’ of Frank Pais, who was increasingly posing as an ideological rival to the two. 

A number of unanswered questions remain pertaining to Pais’ assassination. Who was the squealer that ratted him out? Who had paid him to betray Frank? Is it possible that Frank Pais had been released post his interrogation, and been slayed by other shadowy interests? No subsequent findings have proven satisfactory enough. 

CAMILO CIENFUEGOS

Cuba revolution
A talented Fine Arts student, Cienfuegos (centre) became the most popular rebel before he disappeared.

Among the Cuban rebels, the one who wore his beard the longest, was Camilo. He was the son of immigrant parents from Spain to Cuba. In the words of his friends, Camilo epitomized the typical Cuban spirit of joie de vivreHe was a good-looking, outgoing fellow; a man who enjoyed his drinks, the company of women, was a jokester, and could dance the merengue like it was nobody’s business. Born to parents in the tailoring profession, who ran a small shop from their home to provide for the family, Cienfuegos – meaning a hundred fires – was enrolled in Art school of his own choice at fourteen. Soon he had to drop out from a lack of funds. Subsequently, he worked many odd jobs, and once, travelled to the United States on a month-long work visa, seeking to make a future for himself in the new country, through struggle. Long after his visa had expired, Camilo and the friend who had come along with him, continued to stay back in the US, with Cienfuegos once employed as a dishwasher at the Waldorf Astoria. This is mentioned in the book ‘A Hundred Fires In Cuba’ by John Thorndike. He made a further attempt at American citizenship, by marrying a Salvadorian nurse Isabel Blandon, who had become a legalized resident of that country. Months later, the marriage was over and so was Cienfuegos’ dream of a prolonged stay in the US, when the authorities deported him to Mexico. While there he had a chance encounter with members of the July twenty six movement. With only ten dollars in his pocket and freshly exiled from Los Angeles, directionless, when the rebels offered him the promise of food and shelter in pursuance of his efforts, Camilo readily agreed. Among the eighty people who were able to safely land when their boat, the GRANMA was attacked and sunk off the Cuban coast by Fulgencio Batista’s maritime guards, was Cienfuegos. 

Unlike his Marxist comrades, Camilo was not ideologically groomed. He had lacked a formal education due to a blue-collar background, and was thus not inclined to textbook Communism as the other rebels may have liked. Despite the senior Cienfuegos’ being borderline Marxists, Camilo was more of a Libertarian Anarchist, who had wished to make a fortune for himself in the United States. He stood out among the revolutionaries precisely because of his lack of pedagogy. At first Fidel had refused him entry into the army, even though he had been informally recruited by some others. But after witnessing how adept Camilo could be with machine guns, he relented and allowed him to formally join the anti-Batista forces. 

Author and childhood friend Jose Duarte and Cienfuegos biographer Carlos Franqui, have drawn attention to certain ominous events in the life of Camilo. Following the ouster of Batista, there had been a battle for succession within the rebel army’s top brass. Fidel picked Cienfuegos to assume the post of Commander of the Cuban army, by overlooking Che and his own brother Raul Castro. Soon though, Castro senior was regretting his decision. Consecutive reports of the army Commander not falling into line with Communist beliefs, was pouring in. The Christ of the Rhumba/Ghetto as Cienfuegos was referred to, was already hugely popular, trumping the others among the top brass with his natural charisma. Coupled with his non-conformism towards Communist doctrine, it made for a vexing combination; one, which Castro would have wanted out of his hair as soon as he could afford. Franqui recounts many instances of Camilo getting into heated arguments with Che and Raul. He was always concerned about the human angle of a problem, while his Marxist compatriots could care less, if it suited their purpose. Once, unaware that their argument was audible to Franqui standing outside the room, Raul and Che had expressed, that the best way to deal with the problem of the Constitutional forces abandoned by Batista, was to leave them to their own devices. That way they were likely to conspire amongst themselves, giving the new Cuban order the excuse to murder them. Camilo was vehemently against the idea suggesting instead, that such people be given jobs in the public projects of Cuba. After exiting the room and having sighted Franqui standing outside, Camilo had proceeded to state how his relationship with the Castro brothers and Che, was becoming complex. It was a frustrating experience for him to have two juniors, Raul and Guevara, disobey him resulting in issues of insubordination. 

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It is notable that as revolutionaries in the Sierra Maestra, Cienfuegos had opposed the murderous tactics of the Castro brothers and Che, who were in favour of executing political prisoners and deserters, without a fair trial. The trend had continued at the prison farms of La Cabana headed by Guevara, and Santiago De Cuba, overseen by the younger Castro. Humanism was a rare virtue among the bull-headed, blinkered rebel commanders. Camilo had been the exception. It was a quality, he would have to pay with his life for, in the end. 

Commander of the Sierra Maestra rebel army and a former political prisoner Roberto Gonzalez had elaborated during an interview for a documentary on the life of Cienfuegos, that a fellow commander Felix Torres, who had turned out to be a Communist, had been expelled by him. Camilo had inquired upon the reason for the act, and once Gonzalez informed him that Torres’ Communist views had earned him his own expulsion, Cienfuegos had approved of the move. 

So when it was reported by the state radio and television stations of Cuba on the 8th of October 1959, that the hugely popular Fidelista’s (a loyal follower of Fidel’s) Cessna 310 had gone missing, the news had been received by the wider public in disbelief. Camilo had been the youngest and the most charismatic among the revolutionaries. He was only twenty seven when the tragedy supposedly occurred. A search and rescue effort was promptly put into action which ensued for an entire week, before Castro the elder, had sadly declared to his people, that Cienfuegos was dead. Every year, since that day, children in Cuba commemorate Commandante Camilo, El Heroe de Yaguajay, by throwing flowers into the sea. Those still able to miss his presence, await for him to return. 

Skipping over the official account of the Fidelista’s disappearance, let us consider some unvisited elements of the tragedy, which have never tied in. Conspiracy theories about the Commandante having faked his own death so as to set up home in Miami can be refuted with ease due to a lack of evidence. However, some others cannot be brushed aside. 

The flight route of Cienfuegos was between the Cuban cities of Camaguey and Havana. It was a daytime flight of around five hundred kilometres over land. No swamps, or undrained marshes were present along the flight path. Within hours of informing his people that the popular Fidelista had gone missing along with a handful of his men, Castro had declared him dead. Search missions tasked with locating the debris, never found any vestiges of the lost plane, or human remains. Most intriguing is the fact, that Castro would henceforth describe Cienfuegos’ disappearance as being ‘lost at sea’ – the reason Cuban children dedicate their floral tributes to the waters flanking their country – when maps of the flight path taken by the Commandante’s Cessna 310, clearly depict a short detour over land. This leaves us with the doozy: Was there a flight at all? Did the Cuban Revolution’s youngest and most charismatic Commander, a darling of his people, whose popularity was envied by the Castros, and Che, indeed get on a plane that fateful night? 

Camilo’s older brother Osmany, who later came to hold many positions within Fidel Castro’s government, and the elderly Cienfuegos parents, were lied to by their dictator, when he promised to go and look for their son. Camilo had become a thorn to the first family of post-revolution Cuba, a long time ago. Weeks before his disappearance, he had been relieved of his post as the Army Commander, with the Defence Forces undergoing an overhaul, that eventually came to have Raul and Guevara, as their new leaders. Reporters Guillermo Cabrera and Jessy Fernandez, who were covering the investigation over the missing Cessna and its occupants, later said, that after involving himself with the rescue efforts, each evening Fidel would Go to Turiguano island nearby, and entertain himself by shooting stray cattle, which was then prepared for the evening’s dinner that he and his friends would share. This is pretty odd behaviour from someone supposedly mourning the disappearance of a close friend! The following day, Castro the Elder would make a television appearance wearing a sombre face which announced to the public; Camilo would never be found. 

The most explosive account about the fate of Cienfuegos comes in the form of a testimony from none other than Jaime Costa Chavez. Costa had been a rebel in the Sierra Maestra along with the anti-Batista guerrillas. In the confession of Jaime Costa, he and Juan Almeida (a Black Cuban commander who remained with Fidel Castro’s government beginning with its anti-Batista days) were summoned on the 28th of October 1959, by Castro to Camaguey, where an idling Cessna 310 met their eye. Costa then inquired of Almeida as to the nature of the events. Almeida responded by saying that an anti-Castro conspiracy had been discovered. As instructed they had arrived at the local headquarters of Fidel, adjacent to which was a field with the resting Cessna. Approaching the large house, the two men could hear a heated argument in progress inside. It was Camilo Cienfuegos denying that he was part of any anti-Castro movement. Fidel though refused to believe him, demanding the names of his fellow conspirators, and shortly after, left the building, Raul in tow. It seems it was at that moment, that Cienfuegos asked Pancho, one of the insiders of the Castro circle, to shoot him in the testicles. Four or five shots then rang out, achieving their result. While relating this account, Jaime Costa had expressed regret that he was unable to intervene and save his friend, Camilo. Costa later migrated to Spain where he spent the remainder of his life. 

Osmany Cienfuegos, the missed Commandante’s older brother, is still alive and well. It would be interesting to find out what he believes privately, on the question of Camilo’s disappearance. 

CHE GUEVARA

Cuba revolution
Che Guevara in an image taken by Alberto Korda.

Ernesto Rafael ‘Che’ Guevara doesn’t require an introduction. He was an Argentine-born Marxist who had joined the July Twenty Six Movement in Mexico, and fought in the Sierra Maestra, alongside the anti-Batista rebels. With the success of the revolution, came the task of government formation, in which Guevara was given the post of Minister of Industries. It seems Che wasn’t very good at economic upliftment, because he tried to obtain a blueprint of the Soviet economy for Cubans and failed miserably after it was implemented. Sugar production fell victim to collectivization, and the offer of work-without-incentives was not very appealing to the common man and woman. Apart from being a trained doctor and holding a ministerial rank in Castro’s cabinet, Guevara is also well-known as an author. One of his books titled Guerrilla Warfare, has been an international bestseller. But life failed to imitate art in his case. Out of the three ambush campaigns he lead and participated in, in his short lifespan, he could triumph in only one; the Cuban one, and that too with the aid of the other rebel commanders who made sizeable contributions themselves. During his days as a fighter in the Belgian Congo, he was almost killed and had to exit the scene in a hurry. Two years later, his insurgency plan inside the sovereign state of Bolivia, would result in his capture and execution by CIA trained operatives. 

Before proceeding further, readers must be made aware of a woman who was among the Cuban insurgents fighting in Bolivia. She was Haydee Tamara Bunke Bider, better known by her nom de guerre Tania. Tania was a polyglot and a Marxist, who, after being smitten by the success of the Cuban Revolution and the cult of Che, decided to make the island nation her home. Once there, she was recognized for her many talents, and received training in armed combat from one of Guevara’s trusted companions, Colonel Dariel Alarcon Ramirez, otherwise referred to as ‘Benigno’. Upon completion of training, she was sent on many missions to Bolivia, where she had been tasked to gather intelligence as a spy. After Bolivian authorities discovered her true identity, she escaped her apartment and joined Che and his band of Cuban insurgents, deep in the forests of the country.

Cuba revolution
Marxist Mata Hari: Tania The Guerrilla.

Benigno has recounted an incident in his memoir Vie Et Mort de la Revolution, in which he says that Guerrilla Tania wished to be looked upon as an equal of the male fighters, refusing any special treatment due to her gender. Thus when Benigno told her that she should inform him when she was on her menstrual cycle, so that he could give her such days off, she had quipped acerbically “Why? Will the enemy spare me if they found out I was on my period?” The last favour he did for her was when Che divided up his team of guerrillas in the Bolivian interior, and placed the teacher (Benigno) and his student (Tania), in two different groups. Concerned about the lack of facilities, Benigno had shred his vest into strips so she could use them for sanitary protection during her monthlies. Instead of eyeing this bit of information as something dishy, the reader must estimate it with the maturity it requires. A comrade was helping out another, who for him, was just ‘one of the boys’ he had trained. It must have entailed a good deal of compassion to shred one’s own belonging and offer it up for use in order to meet the bodily need of a natural phenomenon, whose remedy was not available in the hostile thickets. Benigno also mentions how conscious Tania could be of her appearance, even as an insurgent alongside Che. She’d spent considerable time brushing her hair and examining her features, before turning around to ask her fellow mates, how she looked. 

On the 31st of August in 1967, one and a half months before Che would be captured, Tania and her team of fighters, were ambushed in a river by Bolivian security personnel, and killed in the ensuing gun battle. 

There were several women who entered the life of Guevara. Each impacted his mind significantly enough, so as to bring about a change in his course of action. Ranging from his first formal girlfriend Maria del Carmen Ferreira, to his wife Aleida March, and his mistress Tania the Guerrilla, Che’s life had navigational imprints from the women who stayed with him long enough. Even though he had left behind Aleida and his children in Havana, he found no dichotomy in embracing Tania as his new lover. Benigno Alarcon Ramirez has testified that the two shared alone time in their tents in the jungle, and were often found conversing with each-other at length. 

Ramirez figures as an important source of Castro’s Cuba, where he held many high posts after his escape from Bolivia, following Che’s assassination. Having emigrated to Paris when he became disillusioned with the excesses of the Castros, he was to pen books about the Latin American island’s prison system, where 60,000 prisoners could be held without trial at any point. In an interview to The Independent a few years prior to his death, Benigno said that he had witnessed a guard force a hosepipe down a prisoner’s throat. The powerful jet of water had torn apart the victim’s stomach. His accounts are quite credible, given that he distanced himself from the rabidly Right Wing, Capitalist and oppressive Cuban exiles that call Miami, home. 

Jose Antonio Zapata’s book on the relationship between Che and Tania, ‘Tania: The Woman Che Guevara Loved’, had a lawsuit thrown at it from none other than members of Tania the Guerrilla’s family, beginning with her mother. The book however, is not some scurrilous tome without materiality. It is a blow by blow account of the camaraderie and love that grew between its two lead characters over time. Another source for the secret relationship could – if allowed – have been the diaries of Che. But his version of the events – he was a pretty forthright man about all that he encountered, experienced and witnessed – will never be available to us. Guevara’s Bolivian Diary, was trimmed of all its significant, deeply personal jottings, before being sent to the publishing houses. Aleida March – his widow – wanted to make sure that the public received only a sanitized and cookie cut version of the events, depriving us all, an intimate view into his personal relationship with Tania. 

Female combatants of the Cuban Revolution – which was before the time Che and Tania met – were relegated to the sidelines. They often complained of not being taken seriously and being given domestic tasks such as washing, cooking, and mending the uniforms of the rebels. By contrast, Tania was a full-fledged insurgent in the jungles of Bolivia, where she partook in guerrilla incursions wholeheartedly. 

During the Bolivian campaign, the code word for Havana was ‘Manila’. However, Che was unable to make contact with the Castros no matter how hard he tried, writes Cuban journalist Alberto Muller. But surely, his long-time friend and dear Commander Fidel, would have rushed aid to his side, and would have been keeping an eye out for Che’s safety? Both men had been comrades-in-arm in the Sierra Maestra, with Che leading a major military victory with his assault over Batista’s troops during the Battle of Santa Clara. Both were devoted to Classical Marxism, and had ganged up on their common opponents inside the rebel army post 1959. Che had been made Minister of Industries and had toured the globe to establish diplomatic ties on behalf of the busy Fidel.

The two men though differed in their personalities with Castro the Elder seeming more of a realist. During his trip to the Soviet Union Guevara had thundered that the planet’s rich North, was in a conspiracy to collectively oppress its South. Helen Yaffe, the author of Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution, has elaborated on certain points that the Commandante had put into practice, that had alarmed his chief, Fidel. In favour of using technology that was bereft of capitalist venture, he had wanted to reject Soviet help in the economic development of Cuba. This was unthinkable to the Castros! Heavily dependent on Soviet donations for running their economy, they had no intention of alienating the leader of the Eastern Bloc. When Che returned from his trip to the USSR, he could barely face his chief. Video footage show the two men uncomfortably shaking each-other’s hand, without being able to make eye contact. Soon, Guevara was whisked off to a safe house in Havana, where he was kept in solitary confinement until Fidel had extracted a promise from him, that the former would henceforth refrain from attacking the Soviet Union in any manner. Had the Commandante had his way, it is plausible that a form of domestic and local Marxism would have emerged in the island nation. With the Castros around, this was not to be.

The Cuban President was quick to realize, that having Guevara around would result in more embarrassment for him and his country. It could even frighten away the Russians from aiding Cuba any further. So he devised a plan – interestingly with the support of Guevara – that would accomplish two tasks at once. Guevara would no longer be required to remain in his adopted homeland and bring bad luck to his friend; simultaneously, he would be able to indulge in guerrilla warfare elsewhere, something that was very close to his heart. In reality, all Fidel wanted, was to keep his troublesome, uber-idealistic amigo, as far away as possible from the theatre of Cuban politics. 

Following his defeat in the Belgian Congo, from where he barely escaped with his life, Che remained for about two months in Tanzania and then Prague, preparing for his incursions into Bolivia. It would be the fatal mistake of his life.

The group of Cuban Marxist rebels – including long time aide Benigno – who accompanied Guevara to the jungles of Bolivia, were meant to receive updated intelligence from back home. They were also promised full support from the Castros, who had packed them off with weapons, money, and food rations, aside from adequate training. 

Most historians place the blame on Che’s faulty handling of his Bolivian campaign, while summing up his capture and death. The truth of such assertions cannot be denied. When Tania the Guerrilla abandoned her car to join Che deep in the forests, Bolivian secret service agents following her, discovered her forgotten diary in the vehicle, which bore the names of her fellow conspirators. When the group of insurgents decided to conceal themselves higher up in the rugged terrain of the Bolivian landscape, they erroneously left behind photos they had taken at the base camp, which was to become the starting point of their undoing. By breaking up the group into divisions and sending each party away on a different mission, the Argentine-born Commandante further weakened his chances of combat. One of those divisions led by Tania, was ambushed and killed in the Rio Grande river on the 31st of August that year (1967). 

All given, where was the help that was meant to arrive from Havana at the hour of need? Why was every effort made at contacting Cuban officials fruitless? Why did Cuba’s secret service not inform Che and his team, that Bolivia had already undergone significant reforms in earlier years, which had redistributed land to its peasants? When the guerrillas tried to enrol the local campesinos in their plans for an internal uprising, none joined. They had already received their fair share of land from their rulers in recent years and were indifferent to the preaching of the Cuban mercenaries. On the contrary, some locals were angered enough to enlist in the security forces of Bolivia in order to help flush out the Cuban Communist insurgents on their sovereign land. Che’s foco theory had fallen flat on its face. 

But it was not till Che and his men made the discovery, that their walkie talkies, meant to be used for secret communication with their supreme commander in Havana, were not working; that they understood the conspiracy that was afoot. It was only then that they realized that they had been abandoned, and left to their fate, in a hostile nation. Fidel had played his cards right. He had known full well, that his friend and his team, stood no chance in a US controlled state, with its CIA trained agents, and content peasantry. Walkie Talkies that were redundant were all that were needed to seal the fate of the guerrillas. Now all he needed to do, was wait for news of his friend’s capture and execution. He had got his martyr.

Thus when Felix Rodriguez – who stole Che’s prized watches after his execution – the CIA trained operative and Che-hunter asked the bound and cornered Commandante what his message to Havana would be, Guevara had replied with a sardonic smile “Tell Fidel…that the struggle shall continue…with or without his support”.

HUBER MATOS

Cuba revolution
Matos being taken away for his incarceration.

Huber Matos decided to partake of the Cuban Revolution, when he witnessed Fulgencio Batista overthrow President Carlos Socarras, in a military coup. The rebels of the Sierra Maestra had enlisted him as a fellow compadre in their armed insurrection against the ruling dictator. One of the tasks Matos had to undertake, was to procure weapons for the rebel fighters, something which brought him to Costa Rica. According to a Los Angeles Times report published in 2014, Matos had stated that he was initially among Castro’s inner circle, which the latter had demonstrated, by placing him third in the pecking order, after himself and his younger brother, Raul. This had occurred, despite the many differences in outlook the two men had.

The same report revealed Matos as saying, that Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, had been placed fifth in the line of succession, as drawn up by the future ruler. Black and White photography of the rebels making their triumphant entry into Havana, on the first of January 1959, has the presence of Huber Matos Benitez, either beside Fidel, or in the vicinity. He was made a local governor for his contribution to the struggle for democracy. Disappointment had filled the hopeful fighter later, when he realized that Castro was steering toward a one-man rule, and was in no mood to hold free and fair elections. 

A Marxist agenda was quite unpalatable to this particular Cuban rebel leader. But instead of keeping his ideas to himself, he openly expressed discontent over the Communization of his homeland. As expected, Prime Minister Castro accused him of sedition and had him arrested. 

Matos was one of the Cuban exiles living abroad, who had alleged that Celia Sanchez and Fidel Castro had been lovers. A BBC Radio 3 episode on Cuba, broadcast in the December of 2011 and available on the website of the news company, confirms this. There have been others who have corroborated Matos’ revelations about the two. One of them has been a researcher into Latin American Affairs at the University of Miami, Dr. Andy Gomez, who believes, that Sanchez was a Fidelista to a point, where she was unwilling to have any other man share power with him, or supersede him. 

So what happened to Huber Matos Benitez? How indeed, did he escape Castro’s wrath, when his other compadres – Pais, Cienfuegos, and Guevara – had been made to bite the dust in the most undeserving manner? 

“Divide And Rule” had been a much favoured idiom by the Castro clan’s powerful members. In their minds, potential rivals were best dealt with by finagling. Bringing forth false charges against them, and driving them against each-other, were the preferred methods. 

It needs to be mentioned, that Huber Matos was quite close to Camilo Cienfuegos. The two had remained good friends even after the success of the revolution, and the allocating of ministries and duties to the top brass among the rebels. The elder Castro was experiencing dissent from both these men in his new government. He was aware that both were strangers to Marxism and quite hostile to its mode of implementation. Huber Matos was even more so, as he was educated, and had been a school-teacher before he joined the revolution against Batista. Now, this former instructor, was openly expressing his unhappiness with the way Fidel was governing Cuba. Something needed to be done. Killing two birds with a single stone must have seemed befitting, given the circumstances. 

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In various interviews down the years, Commander Matos has related how he had handed over his resignation to Castro the Elder, and how the latter had inferred it to be an act of treason against him, the ruler of the island state. But it is here, that the reader discovers the proverbial ‘twist in the tale’. If Matos was required to be arrested for betraying Fidel, why was not Raul sent instead? Or for that matter, Guevara, or even Juan Almeida Bosque? Why involve Camilo Cienfuegos, who Fidel had come to be suspicious of? Was there a larger plan?

Castro knew, that Matos was guarded by a band of faithful soldiers whose circle needed to be penetrated before one could reach their target. It was an open secret, that whoever succeeded in reaching Commander Huber Matos in order to arrest him, would face certain death, due to the safety net he was ensconced in. There could not have been a better opportunity for disposing off two political opponents simultaneously. Cienfuegos would most certainly have been murdered by the bodyguards and loyalists of Huber Matos; while the events would give the Castros a chance to indict Matos over murder charges, declaring him to be an enemy of the state. 

Fortunately, the affable relationship shared by the two men – Castro’s targets of Cienfuegos and Matos – prevented any calamity from resulting on the scene. Cienfuegos went in to have a word with his friend and informed him that he had been instructed to arrest him. It was perhaps the most difficult thing Cienfuegos was forced to undertake, as a government servant. The matter was sorted out, amicably. On his part, Matos assured Camilo that he would ease his dilemma, by surrendering on his own. Fidel Castro’s plan had bombed. He would have to find a new way of taking care of Camilo Cienfuegos. Unsurprisingly enough, Cienfuegos ‘disappeared’ a month later. 

After his farcical trial, Commander Huber Matos was sentenced to solitary confinement, a state in which he remained for the next 20 years, while Human Rights Organizations rallied for his release. Eventually, the Castro regime relented and he was allowed to leave Cuba. As a political asylum seeker living abroad, Huber Matos teamed up with the former spy Dr. J Anthony D’Marmol, for forming their own organization – CID – with the intention of returning true democracy to Cuba. 

Over the decades, few other anti-Castro political activists such as Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, have managed to escape Cuba and live elsewhere, where they highlight the muzzling of democratic norms that have been a regular feature of life back home. 

One cannot help but wonder, what shape and form, post-Batista politics in Cuba, would have assumed, had Frank Pais, Camilo Cienfuegos and Huber Matos, survived and thrived on the island. Conversely, it excites the imagination to think of Cuban Leftist politics, removed from the totalitarianism of the Castro Gang of Three: Fidel, Raul, and Vilma Espin, to be driven by the more nationalistic idealism of Che. 

Whatever the lost alternatives may have produced, it remains a hard fact, that within a few decades, Fidel Castro had become Cuba’s most powerful individual; amassing a fortune on the side which has often been objected upon. While we must applaud that the world’s top crime organization, the CIA, attempted to assassinate Fidel Castro 638 times, more or less, and made a fool of themselves in the process; we must not turn away from the uncomfortable truths of Cuban internal matters. Any impartial analysis of that is hampered by the general goodwill the two countries of India and Cuba share. Tons of Indian bread had been shipped to Havana in the early nineties, to mitigate the hunger of that island nation, after an economic embargo had caused its people to starve. Of late, a post-Castro Cuba, has been willingly outsourcing to us; inviting Indian construction outfits to help its tourism industry, through varied projects. Indian workers are admired for their professionalism and tend to earn more than their Cuban counterparts in this matter. 

Initially the anti-Batista movement had followed the ideals epitomized by the country’s national poet, Jose Marti. But power play and inveigling by members of one family, was to derail the goal of a true people’s movement, as Marti had envisioned. 

Also Read- Occidental Heroes, Oriental Lands. (Part Two).

All said and done, the question still remains: How different would a Cuba influenced by the enlightened democratic blueprints of Pais, Cienfuegos, and Matos, have turned up to be?

[ Disclaimer: The pictures used in the article are supplied by the author, NewsGram has no intention of infringing copyrights. ]

 

 

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Know About the Concern Over Fluctuating Oil Prices due to Coronavirus Outbreak

Global Stock Markets Plummet on Oil Price Drop, Coronavirus Fears

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Oil prices
Stock markets plummeted across the world, plunging on dual concerns over oil prices and the economic effects of the coronavirus. Pixabay

By Ken Bredemeier

Stock markets plummeted across the world Monday, plunging on dual concerns over oil prices and the economic effects of the coronavirus that has spread to more than 100 countries. This is a breaking news.

Key exchanges in New York fell more than 7% Monday, following a 5% drop in some Asian markets, while European markets closed down about 8%.

The widely watched Dow Jones Industrial Average of 30 key U.S. stocks closed down more than 2,000 points Monday for a loss of 7.9% while the S&P 500 fell 7.6%.

The steep decline at the New York Stock Exchange triggered an automatic 15-minute halt in trading to temporarily limit losses to 7%, a provision last employed in December 2008 in the depths of the recession.

Investors were spooked by plunging oil prices, with Brent crude, the world benchmark, falling more than 24% to $34.36 a barrel, on top of the coronavirus fears sweeping the globe. U.S. oil prices for West Texas Intermediate, a Texas light sweet crude, dropped nearly 25% to $31.13 a barrel.

The world prices of oil fell on fears that Saudi Arabia, launching a price war with one-time ally Russia, would flood the world market with oil in a bid to regain market share.

The plunge in oil prices was the worst since the Gulf War in 1991. Strategists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. warned oil prices could fall into the $20s.

Oil prices
U.S. oil prices for West Texas Intermediate, a Texas light sweet crude, dropped nearly 25% to $31.13 a barrel. Pixabay

Volatility has consumed markets around the world amid the coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 108,000 people and killed more than 3,800 people. At least 10 billion shares have traded on U.S. exchanges each day for two weeks.

U.S. stocks are now down 19% from a peak they reached last month.

U.S. President Donald Trump offered his rosy assessment of the stock market plunge and dropping oil prices, saying on Twitter, “Good for the consumer, gasoline prices coming down!”

Also Read- Team Lioness Aims to Fight Poachers in Amboseli National Park in Kenya

More broadly, he laid the blame for falling stock prices: “Saudi Arabia and Russia are arguing over the price and flow of oil. That, and the Fake News, is the reason for the market drop!” (VOA)