Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Truth Behind Castro's Potemkin Village

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Truth Behind Castro's Potemkin Village

Article excerpt

LET the games begin," exclaimed Fidel Castro, inviting tourists from across the world to visit his private island and spend their valuable dollars to prop up his bankrupt government and support his oppressive regime. But the sad irony is that the Cuban dictator has already been playing terrible games for more than 30 years with the people of Cuba.

The games which Castro referred to are, of course, the Pan American Games, a world class sporting event that began Aug. 2. Like the Olympic Games, the Pan American Games are designed to foster international goodwill through the spirit of free and fair athletic competition. Why Havana, capital of the only communist country in the Western Hemisphere, was selected to host these games is a mystery.

The international tourists arriving in Havana have been treated like royalty. Every luxury has been available to them as long as they pay in dollars - no matter that there is a shortage of nearly every commodity on the island for the Cuban people. Tourists watch the competition in brand new stadiums and relax in equally new first-class hotels built by the sweat and toil of Cuban workers, workers who are not allowed to enter the very buildings they created. A fleet of taxis and buses, commandeered from every city and town in Cuba, take tourists on "approved" tours of Havana. And while Pan Am Game spectators enjoy gourmet meals at "tourist only" restaurants, Cubans stand in long lines for meat and flour that seldom arrive.

Castro has put on his best uniform and white gloves for the 1991 Pan American Games. But visitors to the island may be a little confused, as Havana these days looks more like Berlin in 1936, when Hitler used the Olympic Games to gain credibility for his infamous Third Reich. Not even Castro is confident of his charade. In his usual ruthless fashion, the dictator has deployed hundreds of secret-police squads and terror brigades disguised as civilians to maintain "order" and quickly put down any signs or demonstrations of dissatisfaction with the communist regime. …

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