Magazine article Insight on the News

Calzon Says Knowledge Is Key to a Free Cuba

Magazine article Insight on the News

Calzon Says Knowledge Is Key to a Free Cuba

Article excerpt

Frank Calzon has taken to publishing newsletters and speeches by the pope and giving history lessons on how to defeat communism to liberate the island nation from Castro's tight grip.

Frank Calzon is executive director of the Washington-based Center for a Free Cuba, established in 1997 to gather and disseminate information about Fidel Castro's Cuba. The center has grants from the National Endowment for Democracy and the Agency for International Development.

"What we try to do is to do everything we can to help the victims of oppression within Cuba," Calzon tells Insight. The center publishes tiny editions of anticommunist classics such as George Orwell's Animal Farm ("100 can fit easily in a suitcase," Calzon says) that are smuggled into Cuba. The center also sends books to the island containing the speeches made by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Cuba and about the transition from dictatorship to democracy experienced in countries such as Spain and Chile and about the role of the labor movement in undermining Communist Poland.

The foundation publishes a glossy quarterly, Cuba Brief, which carries articles by leading experts on the island nation and includes such newsletters as Special Report and FYI. A second organization, Of Human Rights, which Calzon founded years ago, works out of the center's offices to provide "humanitarian assistance to families of political prisoners in Cuba."

Insight: What's happening in Cuba fight now?

Frank Calzon: Cuba is going through an economic crisis that really began in the 1960s but became worse in 1989 when Soviet subsidies ended. Some people blame the U.S. embargo for the shortages, but they have to answer a very basic question: Why is it that a tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea has shortages of mangoes or tomatoes or vegetables of any kind?

Of course the answer is that the shortages are due to the same reason that there were huge shortages in the Soviet Union, Poland, the Czech Republic. It is the idea that a command economy and the government can control all of society, including all economic activities.

Cuba, by the way, received more assistance from the Soviet Union than some European countries received after World War II under the Marshall Plan, and yet Cuba has nothing to show for any of that. During those 30 years, the Soviets paid a high price for Cuban sugar and sold Cuban oil at a huge discount-- so much so that Castro, by saving oil and reselling it, was making more money from the sale of oil in some years than from sugar.

Insight: We also hear a lot about embargo-caused shortages of vital medicines in Cuba.

FC: Castro goes around saying there's a shortage of medicine in Cuba, a shortage, for example, of vitamin C. Well, if the farmers were allowed to grow and sell as many oranges as they could, there would be no need for Castro to be asking the world for vitamin C!

Castro continues to say that Cuban children lack medicine because of the embargo. Yet the Cuban government has an organization called Servimed. You can see what that is if you go to the Cuban government Website. You'll see that they have lists of their hospitals and at most of them there are 22 rooms or 18 rooms or whatever that have been set aside for health tourism.

Now in these rooms there are no shortages. When a European or a South American goes to Cuba and pays dollars for an operation, he has air-conditioning and all the medicine and food that is required. Castro wants

the dollars.

But if you go onto the next floor where Cuban patients are treated, you'll find that they're sometimes required to bring lightbulbs or sheets or pillowcases and that there is no medicine.

It is true that Castro has built clinics and hospitals. But [Fulgenico] Batista also built many hospitals -- yet no one justifies the Batista dictatorship on that basis.

Insight: What else should we know about Cuba that we perhaps don't know? …

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