Why Did Fidel Castro Recklessly Blame the Ukraine?

For the tragedy of Flight MH 17

Carlos Cabrera Perez  (Café Fuerte)

Fidel Castro and Vladimir Putin during a recent meeting at Castro’s home in Havana. At the center, Alejandro Castro Soto del Valle. Photo: Alex Castro
Fidel Castro and Vladimir Putin during a recent meeting at Castro’s home in Havana. At the center, Alejandro Castro Soto del Valle. Photo: Alex Castro

HAVANA TIMES — In a show of gross political indecency, Fidel Castro accused the government of the Ukraine of having downed a Malaysia Airlines plane – without the slightest shred of proof.

Raul Castro must have once again been petrified on hearing, in Brasilia, that his brother – one doesn’t choose one’s relatives – had dished out a note directly accusing Kiev of the incident and referring to President Petro Proshenko derisively (calling him the “chocolate king”), despite the fact that Cuba maintains diplomatic relations with the Ukraine.

Whoever wrote the note gave it the categorical tone of Cuba’s former leader and colored it with his absurd mania for dividing the world into good guys (permanent or circumstantial allies) and bad guys (the United States and their allies). In the text, he calls the Ukrainian government an “anti-Russian, anti-Ukrainian and pro-imperialist government.”

In his juicy diatribe, dated July 17 (11:14 pm), the impetuous Comandante mixes the downing of the airliner with Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip and throws Barack Obama into the mix. The US president is one of his most recurrent obsessions, along with the end of the world and experimental forms of food production.

An Unforgivable Ommission

Fidel Castro makes a point of expressing his support for the Palestinians and showing a degree of pain over the young Israeli soldiers who may perish in the war, but he neglects something essential: expressing sympathy for the 298 victims of the downed plane and their relatives, which includes a significant part of the world’s scientific vanguard currently engaged in the struggle against AIDS.

The note is particularly indecent because all of the evidence implicates the pro-Moscow rebels in the killing, as suggested by a recording of a conversation between an intelligence officer and a rebel leader that took place 20 minutes after the plane’s downing, divulged this Friday by the BBC:

The route of flight MH 17. Wikipedia.org

Separatist: “We’ve just downed a plane.”
Russian officer: “Where are the pilots?”
Separatist: “They’ve gone in search of the remains. A lot of smoke is coming out.”
Russian officer: “When did it happen?”
Separatist: “Thirty minutes ago.”
Russian officer: “What have you got there­?”
Separatist: “It’s 100 percent commercial.”
Russian officer: “How many passengers?”
Separatist: “A lot of people.”
Russian officer: “Are there missile remains?”
Separatist: “No.”

Despite being something of a Chinese antiquity – former presidents are like such antiquities, everyone praises them but no one knows exactly what to do with them – Fidel Castro continues to enjoy unrestricted access to Cuba’s media, including Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party (PCC), of which he is now a mere activist.

Anything Goes

As we know, anything goes when it comes to the bigwigs in a dictatorship. But keeping appearances is important and other PCC members may not entirely agree with the derisive tone of the former party leader, but they don’t have access to Granma.

Some time ago, foreign ministries must have received a discrete message from Havana asking countries not to react to what Fidel Castro says. This is the approach apparently taken by government officials from former Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos to Brazilian President Luis Ignacio Lula Da Silva, who completely ignored all reproaches related to transgenic crops and other shots taken by Cuba’s former leader.

If there is something that characterizes Raul Castro’s government, it is the extreme care with which it has re-adjusted Cuba’s foreign policy to the real world, avoiding trouble of the kind Snowden represents and trying to mend, wherever possible, the immense damage his predecessor caused in the international arena.

Incidentally, if Fidel Castro is interested in food-producing plants (as his long conversations with Vladimir Putin about plant research suggest), he should ask Israel for the formula that has allowed it to be a small desert country that is self-sufficient in terms of food, that is to say, the exact opposite of what the Castro government has accomplished on the island, still dependent on costly food imports.

In fact, it is now somewhat difficult to find Castro’s note, allotted a prominent spot on the front page of the newspaper early on Friday, on the Granma website, which now focuses on Raul Castro’s talks with other heads of State and government in Brasilia. If you click on “Fidel Castro’s Reflections,” the most recent one is a piece titled La mentira tarifada (“Paid Lies”), published in August of 2013.

Recurrent Nonsense

Even though later in the day Juventud Rebelde gave the note a lower profile by placing it as a “reflection”, it kept it in its digital edition, having copied Friday’s Granma front page (something that prompted ridicule and scathing remarks on the Internet about the up-to-datedness of the Cuban press.

Granma insists on blaming the Ukraine, but in its international pages. It attributes the position to “international observers,” the card they usually play in order not to publicly acknowledge that the world thinks just the opposite of what Fidel Castro says.

Notwithstanding what the investigations underway reveal about who downed the plane, the Russian officer’s concerns about whether any remains of the weapon used were left behind and Fidel Castro’s recurrent nonsense, the Cuban government is duty-bound to avoid such disrespectful notes by the aging leader, not only because he is retired, but also because it can undermine the country’s diplomatic efforts.

This is particularly true for an incident in which nearly 300 people were killed and considering the fact Cuba was once the victim of a terrorist attack against a commercial airliner, which claimed the lives of 73 people, 57 of them Cuban, a crime that shook Cuba in the fall of 1976.

Fidel Castro’s attempt to please Russia strikes as a thing of the past. Russia is neither back nor expected on the island, whatever the official discourse may lead us to believe. Moscow’s priorities have been elsewhere since 1979, and, if anyone has any doubts about this, they need only ask Raul Castro about “Operation Pandora.” At the time, the Soviets told the Castros that, should they run into problems with the Americans, Moscow would not intervene. When Raul Castro told his brother this, Fidel kept everyone else in the Politburo in the dark and opted to ask Vietnam for help, create the Territorial Troop Militias and begin collaborating with the United States in different areas.

Fidel Castro’s impetuous remarks, reminding the Ukraine that Cuba aided the country during the Chernobyl “incident”, is the worst show of political indecency and lack of loyalty towards Cuba. It is the senile and thoughtless statement of an arrogant and frail old man who insists on portraying the world as he imagines it, in the likeness of what his exquisite Falangist education taught him.

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