Op-Ed

Sympathy for the devil? Rolling Stones’ Cuba concert a business deal with the Castros

You probably read about the item, but under a different headline over the weekend: the “Historic— even “Epochal!” — Rolling Stones concert in Havana Friday night.

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Hyperventilating reporters followed up by mentioning “historic changes” and “reforms” in Cuba, as proven by the very concert.

But the only historic changes in Cuba involve the Castro regime’s sources of income. When that income flowed from the Soviet Union, rock music was a potentially disruptive foreign influence that required no tolerance from the Stalinist authorities. In fact, these authorities felt obliged to round up and jail Cuban rock fans en masse.

Before last week, this tragic disconnect was not something Cuban authorities were keen to publicize. After all, it exposed Che T-shirt wearers as blithering and useful idiots.

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For some reason, all the reporters who (after thorough vetting by Castro’s secret police) were granted “journalist” visas by the regime were likewise unenthusiastic — and for several decades — about exposing this fascinating fact.

But things indeed have changed: The Castro regime briefly hooked up with the Rolling Stones for the simple expedient of filling its coffers with millions more in tourist money. Yes, it was billed as a “free concert,” like Woodstock and Altamonte. In fact, the AP estimated that half the fans in the front sections were foreigners.

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In the meantime, Castro’s subjects — while allowed to boogie a bit — essentially remain the impoverished and oppressed subjects of a totalitarian regime.

Indeed, repression has actually cranked up steadily in direct proportion to the Stalinist regime’s enrichment through tourism, especially owing to President Obama’s policies that recently swamped Cuba with more than half a million visitors last year from the United States and contributed an estimated $5.6 billion in remittances and travel expenditures to the regime’s coffers.

As a direct result, desperate Cubans are risking their lives to flee Cuba at a rate unseen in decades.

This Easter weekend, for instance, while the mainstream media dutifully promoted the Rolling Stones concert — or, rather, the Castro-regime/Rolling Stones business partnership — Cuban dissidents suffered a wave of arrests and beatings. Needless to add, this repression was dutifully ignored by the mainstream media.

But don’t take all this stuff from me. After all, I don’t live in Cuba. Take it from 25-year-old Cuban dissident Rosa Maria Payá, whose father was murdered by the regime’s KGB-trained secret police three years ago:

The Rolling Stones “should be aware that their performance is being used by a totalitarian regime as a symbol of an opening that isn’t really taking place.”

Cuba’s entire economic infrastructure is owned almost lock, stock and barrel—not only by the regime’s military and secret police sectors — the only people in Cuba with guns, in case you’d forgotten — but, more specifically, by the Castro family itself.

In a presentation a few years ago at a hearing by the House Foreign Affairs Committee debating travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, Lt. Col. Christopher Simmons, a recently retired Defense Intelligence Agency Cuba specialist, explained the issue in detail. He showed how through a corporation named GAESA, Raúl Castro’s military owns virtually every corporation involved in Cuba’s tourism industry, among the Stalinist regime’s top money-makers lately.

And as GAESA’s chief executive officer we find none other than Raú Castro’s son-in-law Maj. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas.

So when it comes to news from Cuba, keep your eye on the ball. In a nutshell that ball, income and power for the Castro Family crime syndicate — which means cash from whatever source. Submit everything you read and hear from the media about Cuba to that test — Will it further enrich and empower the Castro Family crime syndicate while keeping the bulk of the Cuban people poor, stupid, powerless and distracted?

Do this and everything in Cuba will make perfect sense.

Humberto Fontova is a Cuban-American author, blogger and political commentator.

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