The lecture below was given as part of an event organized by The Heritage Foundation and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation on May 18, 2012. Please click here for a video of the event.
The latest installment in political warfare by the Communist regime in Cuba features an all out political offensive, including a suave propaganda campaign. Its primary aims are to: 1) disintegrate the Cuban exile community, particularly in the United States; 2) recruit assets for Cuban intelligence; and 3) secure economic assistance for Havana via the émigrés and sympathetic leftists. We should view the latest moves by the Havana Boys chiefly through this lens. Aside from fresh intelligence, which is still classified, and anecdotal evidence, we have also been able to deduce the regime's intentions through analogies with the modus operandi of its erstwhile "fraternal" regimes in Central and Eastern Europe. In fact, the latest public relations campaign to promote "national reconciliation" and "economic reforms", while discrediting genuine exiles and dissidents on the island is not unique to the Cuban experience. The availability of Communist-era state security archives in Europe provides us with valuable insight into the machinations of these regimes. If there was anyone who had ever doubted that Communists did not possess any capability for creativity, the archives put that question to rest for good. Their modus operandi has been, is, and always will be the same wherever they are present. Of particular interest in the files is the detailed collaboration of clergy, exiles, journalists and Western university professors who worked diligently to make anti-Communism seem unfashionable and ridiculous.
It was in early Soviet Russia the official policy of discrediting exiles and sowing discord among them was first launched. Not much has changed since. Over the past several decades certain pollsters and publications have desperately attempted to prove that Cuban Americans, particularly the younger generations, are softer on Communism. Unsurprisingly those who make these spurious claims rarely, if ever, address the disappearances, beatings, arrests and other repressive acts of the regime. The mention of dissidents is dismissed and often condemned as politicizing United States relations with Cuba while reconciling and engaging are marketed as sensible approaches. None of this is a coincidence. This is a highly managed operation.
Communist regimes have long taken advantage of the utility of certain types of questionable exiles in part to pit them against authentic exiles. During the Communist era of Central and Eastern Europe some exiles and their self-proclaimed leaders sought to tone down criticism of Communist regimes because they enjoyed the VIP treatment they received when they visited their homelands. Others (from both exile and earlier immigrant communities) who had traveled on cultural and educational exchanges became either willing regime collaborators or involuntarily compromised and thus attempted to make their Communist homelands seem normal and similar to Western democracies. The archives also delineate for us how regime plants abroad accused the anti-Communist exiles of being crazy. Today authentic Cuban exiles are disparaged as hysterical and immature by former exiles who work to promote so-called national reconciliation and alleged economic reforms in their efforts to launder Communist oppressors into respectability. There is nothing original about this. After all, the former-hardline-exile-turned-softie-on-Communism is not a persona invented by a Cuban American in Miami. Some of those who claimed to have fled Communist regimes in Europe also played the role of suddenly enlightened former anti-Communists. In Poland alone, state security archives contain trunk loads of documents describing GRU operations to take advantage of what was known as "Polonian business". The GRU used Poles, people of Polish origin and former Polish citizens of various ethnicities from around the world to: 1) communicate the benefits of and reforms in the old country; 2) set up illegals and their handlers; 3) obtain funding for investments in Poland; and 4) take care of them and their families after Communism "collapsed."
Exiles such as these and those around the world who participate in the public relations campaign not only disgrace the honor and memory of those who were beaten, imprisoned, tortured and executed, but also quash the hopes of today's faces of democracy by ignoring and discrediting them while reaching out to their oppressors. Americans must not allow themselves to be duped into drinking Cuban Kool Aid. Just as it ought to be humiliating that a bankrupt Caribbean dictatorship can infiltrate the United States government at its highest security levels, it too should be embarrassing that anyone in a free society like ours can be fooled and manipulated by Friends of Fidel and Raúl. If Americans allow this to happen to them then the possibility for average Cubans to one day enjoy our same freedoms will likely be quashed. We must not allow well-heeled interests continue to convert Cuba into an island made up of exclusive, gated enclaves for foreigners and morally malleable exiles; a destination where genuine members of the opposition are shoved into the periphery and beyond; and the average Cuban is denied opportunities and rights in his own country that are enjoyed by those indifferent to his plight.
Tania C. Mastrapa, Ph.D.
The Institute of World Politics
Research Professor in Cuban and Latin American Studies
May 18, 2012