Westward Ho! When Fidel Castro Punked the West

February 25, 1964-- Asked why the US trades with the Soviet Union but not with Cuba, Secretary of State Dean Rusk answers that the Soviet government is a "permanent" government, and the US views Castro as "temporary."
[Castro has buried six US presidents to date]

Watching an  RT News (channel 103 on comcast)  segment  recently on the hideous Cuban exile Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinenon  posted below this post  I was reminded of  this GREAT true story of how one little ol  revolutionary named Fidel Castro punked (and has pretty much been one big "punk") on the Great West. When I read about it some time ago  I could just visualize Castro rolling on the beach laughing as the  Mariel Boatlift sails off into the sunset headed for the Promised Land, into the benevolent  arms of the beckoning Americans.  The US policy to accept Cubans as refugees was meant to annoy Castro, make him look bad and to ovethrow Castro's government (the US never does something for nothing) they were given military training by CIA operatives in secret training camps located in Guatemala, South America. Castro cast reciprocal respect in 1980 via the Mariel boatlift.
 Joan, a pr representative for Phillip Morris Tobacco Company at the time tells the story:

I was there, along with my photographer, Nancy Kahn, as a pr representative for Phillip Morris Tobacco Company. Basically, I was there to hand out Marlboro Cigarettes to arriving Marielitos. Cubans are big smokers, and boy, was I popular.
Let me give you some background. In 1980, my pr firm served as "man (woman?) in Miami" for a major NY-based pr firm named Ruder & Finn. It was a cushy relationship, with the NY company sending us well paying jobs in the South Florida area for their big national clients. One morning in May I received a phone call from my contact at the company informing me that I needed to round up a photographer and fly down to Key West as fast as possible. We would be met at the airport by the Phillip Morris distributor in the area, who would supply us with cartons of the popular cigarettes and hand us impossible-to-get entry passes to the Truman Annex docks, the area where the Mariel boats were beginning to arrive on an hourly basis.

Our job: take publicity photos of Cuban refugees gratefully accepting free Marlboros courtesy of Phillip Morris, USA. Not exactly a task to be proud of, in retrospect, but those of you old enough to remember, President Jimmy Carter had sent out a call to major US corporations to help the escaping Cubans.(ROTFL)

A nice thought, except there was something very strange about these arriving refugees. As the first overloaded boat arrived at the dock where Nancy and I stood, there was not a single woman or child among the passengers. Nothing but 20 to 30ish men, all wearing the same cheap shiny rayon shirts in blue, red and green, with the creases showing that they were all brand new. As the first smallish boat pulled up to the dock, I graciously, and stupidly, extended my handful of cigarette packs. The men rushed to the boat's edge, almost overturning it. Believe me, I didn't do that again, opting to wait until they got off before allowing Nancy to get her photo ops.

After the arrival of the first two boats, I found myself standing next to a youngish man in civilian clothes who seemed to be mentally taking notes on the new arrivals. I got to talking to him and it turned out he was a Commander in the US Navy. I asked him why he wasn't in uniform and he told me because the men on these boats were afraid of uniforms, and after the first day he realized he was better off doing his job in civilian clothes. He then asked me if I felt there was something strange about the men on these boats and did I notice what they all did the moment they got off the boats?

I said yes, I noticed they all headed for a building next to the docks and emerged a few minutes later wearing different shirts. He nodded and told me the clothes in that building were donated by Cuban families already in Miami, who were hoping to see family members on the arriving boats. The shirts these arrivals were getting rid of, as fast as possible, marked them not as regular Cubans but as dangerous prisoners and mentally ill, released en masse by Castro from Cuban jails and asylums, and sent to the US as some horrible joke. For every one decent human being he let leave, 100 prisoners received passage.

Over the next six months, more than 125,000 refugees left from Mariel and arrived at the Key West docks. While in the end, many law abiding Cubans arrived to welcoming families, and 30 years later represent a true American success story, Miami's jail population also swelled with a new crime wave sweeping over South Florida. Ultimately, Castro agreed to take back 1,840 of the criminals and insane that he sent to our shores.
 [At least the arrival was not  pox infected blankets  but rather  Americans got "blessed" with the cult classic movie 'Scarface'--"Shay 'jello to my wittle vrend!]
Nancy and I flew back to Miami later that day. We had our photos and Phillip Morris was ultimately lauded for their good deeds. I sometimes wonder about the whereabouts of those men that I so blithely handed out cigarettes to. Not one of my prouder jobs, to be sure, but certainly one of the more interesting ones.

A word on Cuba:

We forgave the Germans and Japanese for WWII, The Chinese for Korea, Even the Vietnamese who whipped us. But we will NEVER forgive Castro for seizing OUR casinos, sugar fields and banana plantations.
But the hands-off policy (which some say was agreed upon by Kennedy and Khrushev as part of the solution to the missile crises in 1962) has helped Cuba.
Trust me. Five years after Americans are permitted to openly visit and do business with Cuba, we will own the island again and turn it back into the banana republic it was when we lost it in 1959.

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