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Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant

1 rating: 1.0
A book by Humberto Fontova

The author serves up an excoriating expose on Cuba's dictator, taking American liberals to task for supporting Fidel since he came to power 45 years ago, focusing particular attention on his treatment of homosexuals and Jews since taking power.

Author: Humberto Fontova
Genre: Political Science, Social Science
Publisher: Perseus Distribution Services
Date Published: March 30, 2005
1 review about Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant

Fidel Castro Wants You Dead

  • Feb 8, 2009
Pros: Fact-filled and breezier than a Cuban wind

Cons: Aggressive tone is preaching to a choir and can't be taken seriously

The Bottom Line: Vive Cuba Libre!

One of the great golden geese of today's American left is the issue of universal health care. There's nothing wrong with promoting your political beliefs in the United States - it's guaranteed by the Constitution, and I can definitely see how the idea of universal health care is appealing. What disturbs me is that when universal health care supporters talk about the virtues of free health care for everyone, Cuba always works its way into the conversation as the poster child for a universal health care system which works. Not the standard-setting European Union or next-door Canada, but Cuba. Perhaps they don't know about Cuba's sanatoriums. Cuba's free health care for AIDS victims consists of putting them in prisons where they are left alone to die. 

More disturbing than the existence of these sanatoriums is the fact that since people are left alone there, they are allowed to say, read, and listen to whatever they want. Knowing this, over 100 Cubans injected themselves with HIV in order to receive the amount of freedom a prisoner in a US federal prison would receive. You might want to bring that up the next time a communist tries to tell you that communism is the answer and that Cuba is a model of freedom. 100 Cubans would actually choose a willing and slow death in a US federal jail to freedom in Cuba. They're not the only ones, either; Fontova mentions a former Black Panther who hijacked a plane to Cuba in 1968 to make his flight to freedom. After 12 years of freedom in Cuba, this person, knowing he faced lengthy jail time in the US, returned and told the judge it was great to be back!

Humberto Fontova's book Fidel breezily let me know something I've long suspected: That far from being a bastion of freedom, equity, and high living standards, communist Cuba is in bad shape. Fidel Castro is viewed by many as the supreme saint of revolutionary liberation, who overthrew the great tyrant Bastista in a country which was harvesting dirt and treated its citizens like something even lower. The truth is that Fidel Castro, along with his brother Raul and his pal Che Guevara wrecked the country, stole everything its people had, and tried many times to attack the United States. Castro isn't looked at as a hero because he's a heaven-sent Cuban angel; he's seen as a hero because he has mastered the PR game. Cuban refugees agree. Fontova received testimonials from many of them, including fighters in the ongoing anti-communist war.

The statistic I mentioned earlier is one of only many very nasty truths about communist Cuba Fontova presents in Fidel. Any of the statistics presented in Fidel will rattle those who believe in a virtuous Cuba, but among the most interesting I read were that Cuban slaves in 1842 received considerably more food rations than regular Cubans have since 1962; that Cuba during the Batista era had the highest immigration rate in the world, even higher than the United States in the Ellis Island years, and that for middle-aged Cuban women, suicide is currently the number one form of death. (Fidel recently started locking away the statistics because he was embarrassed by them.) There are many statistics which are like this in Fidel.

Fidel is a bit more than just a breezy statistic pamphlet, though. Fontova also gives out a lot of details about the Bay of Pigs invasion, one of the most shameful episodes in US history. He goes deep explanations of just what happened during the invasion and blames President John Kennedy for its failure; the President had apparently promised backup which he didn't deliver. Kennedy is ripped throughout Fidel, but Fontova also tells the stories of how the Cuban anti-communist forces managed to hold their own. Fontova also shoots a number of venom darts at Bill Clinton for the Elian Gonzalez fiasco back in 2000 and explains that Elian's real father had asked his Miami father to watch Elian while he made his way to America himself.

Fidel moves along swiftly using episodes and attacks, filled in the the occasional statistic or Fidel quote. Among the unexpected things Fontova mentions are that 9-11 would have first happened in the sixties had it not been for the quick work of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. He also mentions an incident in which Castro's patrol boats attacked a tugboat full of refugees and sank it, killing many of the people on board. In the middle of it all there is the enigmatic Che Guevara, whom Fontova covers in a whole separate book called Exposing the Real Che Guevara and who gets a chapter all to himself here. (I've read and reviewed that book.) 

The most interesting parts of Fidel are the ones which talk most about life under Batista and why he was hated. The mentions of Batista are almost wistful, but Fontova doesn't let him off the hook. According to Fontova, what people hated about Batista is mainly his regime was simply full of corruption. But Batista doesn't really come off as a bad guy. In fact, judging by today's politicians, Batista reached a level of corruption comparable with now-former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich or now-former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. Fontova goes into a very small bit of detail about Cuban history which may get some people curious (myself included) but he is by no means writing the complete history of Cuba here. He basically makes the main points then is kind enough to give you a book recommendation in case you want to read about it yourself.

Fontova's arguments in Fidel are far more airtight than his arguments in his book about Che Guevara. There's no jumping to conclusions, and when Fontova picks a target, he runs it to the end of its course. Adding to the effectiveness of Fidel are many first-person testimonies from regular, everyday Cuban refugees who fought Castro's army and many US Military strategists who helped train and lead the anti-communist forces during the Bay of Pigs fiasco. The testimonies help to add drama and color so you can get a better understanding of what communist Cuba is really like. 

Fidel may be a breezy and easy but fact-filled read, but it unfortunately makes a couple of very bad mistakes. Fontova uses the first-person perspective a couple of times, and not even in the context of telling about his own experiences in Cuba. He also spends way too much time going after Cuba's celebrity defenders. He conjures up the images of the margarita-sipping liberal on the Cuban beach too many times. But I do have to admit, sometimes his criticisms of liberal affection toward Castro are very fitting - he writes about the kindness Castro showed toward a popular American ballplayer who had written him to ask permission for his folks to leave Cuba and watch him play. Fontova rightfully asks "Doesn't it seem odd to you that someone would have to ask for permission Castro to leave Cuba?" 

The big mistake which hacked off my final score for Fidel is that Fontova isn't writing so much as he is ranting. I'm not going to argue with his facts because there's little doubt in my mind they're true. But he holds tight to his favorite conspiracy theory, which is the one about the liberal media stifling all dissent. He resorts to furious and emotional insults which seem geared toward little kids. About halfway through the book, Fontova switches his anti-liberal attack mode on and it stays that way for the duration. When the end comes, it's almost a relief. He gets busy attacking anyone and everyone who dares look at him with crossed eyes. The subtitle of the book is "Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant." If that's not simply letting off steam, I don't know what is. It certainly won't attract the people whose minds Fontova wants to change.

I said in my review of Exposing the Real Che Guevara that no canonizing done by the left for Cuba changes the fact that Cubans are always trying to secretly leave the island on literally anything - innertubes and styrofoam pieces included - that can float. Indeed, (childish insult of my own coming up) Cuban refugees appear to be the only minority group whose gripes fall deaf on liberal ears. For its angry tone, Fidel has plenty of stories and statistics for those looking for for an education on the real Cuba. It's gives you plenty to start out with and even includes a few recommendations for those who are curious enough to continue reading about Cuba once they finish Fidel. It's worth a read if you can stand the ranting and insults.


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