Last week’s 60 Minutes featured another entry in the show’s long line of joint CBS-Castro productions. This time Anderson Cooper and his production crew partnered with the Stalinist regime’s Centro de Investigaciones Marinas for a propaganda piece on the marvels of Cuban coral reef conservation. The co-host of the CBS show and conduit for this fruitful Communist infomercial was Dr. David Guggenheim, senior fellow at the Ocean Foundation in Washington, D.C., who chairs its Cuba Marine Research and Conservation Program. Dr. Guggenheim toasts himself as a “Cubaphile” and toasts Castro’s fiefdom (which he has visited over 40 times in recent years) as a “magical place!”
Needless to remind (or perhaps not given that the cold war supposedly ended over 20 years ago), such a goldplated visa is not handed-out haphazardly by Stalinist regimes. And such a welcome mat and red carpet are not rolled out randomly.
“Cultural exchanges with foreign countries are our most effective propaganda,” reads a declassified KGB document from May, 20, 1981.
“We cannot for a second abandon propaganda,” wrote Fidel Castro in a letter to revolutionary colleague Melba Hernandez in 1954. “Propaganda is vital — propaganda is the heart of our struggle.”
“Foreign reporters, preferably American, were much more valuable to us than any military victory. Much more valuable than rural recruits for our guerrilla force, were American media recruits to export our propaganda,” wrote Che Guevara in his diaries.
It’s a long shot of speculation here, but just maybe the sentiments mentioned above had something to do with Cooper’s and Guggenheim’s instant Cuban visas and VIP pampering?
Dr Guggenheim’s “magical place,” by the way, just decreed three days of mourning for Kim Jong Il. When Fidel Castro visited North Korea in 1986, his paeans to his hosts sounded much like Cooper’s and Guggenheim’s to theirs last week. “I was astounded by the magnificent achievements of the heroic Korean people!” wrote Castro. “There wasn’t a single topic I could not discuss with my illustrious host [Kim Il Sung].”
Che Guevara’s worldwide diplomatic tour in 1960 included North Korea, which stole his heart. “North Korea is a model to which revolutionary Cuba should aspire,” he proclaimed upon returning to Havana. Then he promptly put his aspiration into action by setting up a huge prison camp at Guanahacabibes in western-most Cuba. This barbed-wire enclosure cornered with machine gun towers and featuring forced-labor in the broiling sun supervised by Soviet bayonets was set up specifically–and instantly crammed to suffocation with– “lazy youths” and “delinquents.” But no “Occupy Guanahacabibes ” or “Occupy Havana” demonstrations have been recently reported, that I know of.
After surfacing from their scuba dive at Jardines de la Reina reef off southern Cuba, Cooper and Guggenheim rhapsodized for the CBS cameras thusly:
Guggenheim: “The corals are healthy. The fish are healthy and abundant. There are predators here, large sharks. It’s the way these ecosystems really should look.”
Anderson Cooper: “You’re saying this is like a time capsule, almost?”
Guggenheim: “It’s a living time machine. And it’s a really incredible opportunity to learn from.”
Cooper: “So something here holds the key to figuring out how to save other reefs and bring them back.”
Guggenheim: “It’s because this ecosystem is being protected, it’s got a leg up on other ecosystems around the world that are being heavily fished.”
Yes, amazing how that works when you convert free citizens of a nation with a higher per-capita income and car-ownership than half of Europeans, who enjoyed the 3rd highest protein consumption in Latin American, into penurious half-starved serfs. “One feature of the Cuban social structure is a large middle class,” documented a report by the UN’s International Labor Organization in 1957.
In Pre-Castro Cuba the abundant lobster, grouper and snapper that so enchanted Cooper and Guggenheim on their scuba dive served as dietary mainstays of the humblest Cuban, who owned boats, fishing gear and were perfectly free to use them at every whim and then consume their catch. For Cuban landlubbers, pre-Castro groceries stocked seafood in abundance. Now these delicacies are reserved mostly for tourists, regime apparatchiks and valued foreign propagandists. Catching and eating a lobster can land a Castro subject in jail. And owning even a dinghy is the stuff of dreams, of escape.
“In 1996, the government of Fidel Castro, a diver himself, made this area one of the largest marine preserves in the Caribbean. Almost all commercial fishing was banned,” explains a smug Cooper to his 60 Minutes audience.
Yes, amazing how that works in Stalinist Cuba: “Ah! Think I’ll decree my favorite diving and fishing site a preserve that prohibits my subjects from doing there what I do,” brainstorms the Lider Maximo (translates into German almost precisely as Fuhrer) one fine afternoon, then presents it to his “parliament.” “Now, do I hear any objections?…No?.. No?!–OK, going once, going twice…The motion passes!”
There’s just something about running a KGB-tutored Stalinist regime that jailed political prisoners at a higher rate than Stalin’s, murdered more of them than pre-war Hitler’s, and outlaws dissent that encourages this type of instant and gung-ho team-playing. Many among the tens of thousands of Castro’s prison, torture and firing squad victims were his former comrades, onetime regime officials. Unlike food, clothing, shelter, feminine napkins and toilet paper, one thing there’s never any shortage of in Stalinist Cuba is rubber stamps.
Apartheid South Africa, by the way, did a bang-up job of wildlife conservation. The segregationist governments set up many national parks and nature preserves where vigilant police kept poaching to a minimum. Came the end of apartheid and the enfranchisement of South Africa’s black population, and poaching is rampant with the populations of many endangered species (rhinos in particular) plummeting.
But I search the media records in utter vain for, say, a National Geographic (which has run multiple specials extolling Castroite conservation) that extolled Apartheid South Africa’s conservation consciousness. Apparently, in the view of enlightened opinion worldwide, the vileness of that government’s segregationist policies negated the virtue of its conservation policies. If only Stalinist policies were regarded similarly by enlightened opinion worldwide. If only a totalitarian Cuban regime that jailed and murdered political prisoners at ten times the rate of an authoritarian South African regime provoked a tiny fraction of the revulsion as the latter among the “enlightened” worldwide.
On his site Dr. Guggenheim also hails Stalinist Cuba’s protection of sea turtles: “The (Cuban) project also includes a comprehensive sea turtle research and conservation component focused at Cuba’s westernmost point, Guanahacabibes. Through strong community involvement and education, it has dramatically reduced turtle poaching.”
I bet! And “education” INDEED, Dr. Guggenhiem. Just ask the former inmates of the area’s Che Guevara-imposed forced-labor camps. That sort of incentive program will get you “community involvement” every trip of the train.