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Happy Birthday - or else
Wednesday, August 17, 2005   By: Juan Paxety

fidel's birthday

Kathleen Parker takes fidel to task in a Houston Chronicle editorial headlined "In Castro's Cuba, it's happy birthday - or else." After pointing out that in Cuba, children danced and hung banners celebrating fidel,  showered him with terms of endearment, and writing that no one in the US even knows when George Bush's birthday is, she compares Cuba to a free society:

It is useful sometimes to be reminded of the freedoms we take for granted, and Castro's birthday seems as good a time as any. What, for instance, does one suppose would happen to Cindy Sheehan's equivalent in Cuba if she staked out Castro's home to protest the arrest of her son? Not that Sheehan's son, who died in Iraq, was taken by the government.

And not, by the way, that Sheehan or anyone else could camp outside Castro's house. He doesn't have one. At least he doesn't have one in which he regularly sleeps. He moves around a lot. When you hold a nation of people prisoner on an island, you are not, in fact, wildly popular. You are, in fact, despised. Quietly. During a visit to Cuba a few years ago, I got a glimpse of that hatred from Cubans who felt comfortable speaking openly with an American journalist. I also got a glimpse of the way official Cuba regards those who prefer freedom.

We were meeting with Ricardo Alarcon, president of the National Assembly of People's Power, in a small, air-conditioned office, sipping sweet coffee and pretending not to notice Alarcon's navel, which was peeking through a gap between the buttons of his guayabera.

Alarcon is charming and well educated, a doctor of philosophy and letters who also served for several years as Cuba's ambassador to the United Nations.

He is also one of the founders of Cuba's Communist Party and is often mentioned as a possible successor to Castro. Alarcon sat facing us, a group of eight or nine reporters, one of whom bravely asked: "What is your policy toward dissidents?"

Alarcon paused a moment and then chuckled. "Well, of course," he said, "our policy is to sometimes arrest them."

Parker points out that castro takes full advantage of said policy. Then she ends the piece with a home run.

That's the nice thing about being a totalitarian ruler. Everyone agrees with you no matter what you say, and everyone celebrates your birthday. Unless they don't, of course, in which case, well, sometimes you get arrested.


(c)1968- today j.e. simmons or michael warren