From the Archives

Cuba Accelerates the Revolution

(The Inside Story: World Report v1:3, October 1994)

“Cuba is the biggest prison in the world. It has 10 million inmates.” So said one anonymous Cuban man, quoted by the Washington Post.1 Indeed, Fidel Castro’s takeover in 1959 transformed that once-prosperous nation into an impoverished prison, full of inmates so desperate to escape that they routinely brave ninety miles of shark-infested waters — a trip most do not survive.

These days, our news media would have us believe that the prison is about to open up, as seemingly evidenced by the growing waves of refugees. Castro bides his time as an aging warden, now isolated by the alleged “collapse” of his former Communist allies in Europe. We are being goaded to restore diplomatic relations and economic aid, reassured that the Havana regime will soon fall apart anyway.

This picture is a calculated deception by the Cuban Communists, designed to fool Americans. Castro’s current government will indeed “fall,” only to be replaced by a new, more vigorous Communist dictatorship in disguise. The reason: to soak Americans for enormous economic and technical aid, which will finance a new wave of terrorism around the world — and in our own country.

Epicenter of revolution

In 1961, Castro finally boasted of his long-time Communist membership to a startled world. But the Soviet Union had already begun using his newly captured nation as a base for spreading revolution and terror. During 1959 alone, Cuban Communist forces were dispatched to seize power in Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, as well as in the Middle Eastern nation of Algeria.2 Soon Cuban troops and “advisors” were appearing in dozens of nations throughout Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Cubans were invading North Yemen, propping up the Communist regime in Angola, and building airfields in Nicaragua.

The Soviets also selected Cuba as an ideal center for supporting the terrorist network. Thus in 1966 the country hosted the Tricontinental Conference, to which 83 Communist revolutionary groups from around the world sent over 500 representatives.3 At about the same time, the Soviet KGB took direct operational control of the Cuban secret police (DGI). Thousands of Soviet personnel arrived in Cuba, restructuring the DGI into a huge and sophisticated organization with operations around the world, all under the direction of KGB General Viktor Simenov.4

Taking its orders from the KGB/DGI structure, the Tricontinental became the agency through which the Soviets funneled orders, money, and weapons to terrorists ranging from the Quebec Liberation Front (FLQ) to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and from the African National Congress (ANC) to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Terrorist training camps sprang up inside Cuba, and soon Cuban instructors were running PLO camps in the Middle East.5

Naturally, such a huge enterprise requires burdensome funding. The Soviet Union has had to subsidize Cuba at a rate of several million dollars per day over the past thirty years.6 The Communists, desperately wishing to expand the world revolution, have long hoped that the United States would open diplomatic relations with Cuba and provide economic assistance. Why not let the victim pay for his own noose?

But first the Cuban regime must reform its image. Like any other Communist state, Cuba is notorious for its closed borders (to prevent escape), its frightening prisons for “crimes against the state,” its oppressive socialism, and its all-powerful police state. Taking a cue from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Cuba has decided to keep these totalitarian structures while creating the illusion that it is becoming a more open country — by temporarily faking the death of Cuban Communism.

This ambitious campaign of deception is unfolding in three steps: (1) stories leaked into the news media about economic hard times in Cuba, supposedly representing a new crisis, (2) disinformation about how certain carefully-selected “dissidents” are allegedly being jailed and persecuted, painting these agents as legitimate “anti-Communists” who could seize power after Castro resigns, and (3) a theatrical display of revolution, complete with protests, refugees, and the “overthrow” of Castro.

In reality, the economic collapse already took place in 1959, within months of Castro’s original takeover; the economy has remained in shambles ever since, without once destabilizing the Communist regime. And, as in all Communist countries, the 10 million citizens who do not belong to the Party continue to hate the dictatorship, awaiting the day they can avenge themselves on the Communists. So, to create a transition of power that appears believable to the outside world while keeping the situation from getting truly out of hand, the regime must paint the economic crisis as being “new” and confine the official “opposition” to a few hand-picked people.

Orchestrating chaos

The disinformation program already began during the 1980s, when Castro briefly “liberalized” his country. First came the Mariel boatlift of 1980, the mass exodus of refugees suddenly allowed to leave Cuba. By the mid-1980s, tiny pockets of free enterprise were given permission to exist, and some Communist-approved “intellectuals” could openly criticize the regime. Later the permission was revoked, and all signs of change disappeared.

Having tested Western gullibility, Havana began resurrecting signs of change in the 1990s. Stories of economic troubles and dissenting intellectuals began to appear, leading to the recent news headlines on Cuban refugees. To plant stories in our news media, Cuba selected a few American journalists for the special privilege of being allowed inside the country, and to receive exclusive information unavailable to other reporters. Among the journalists to take the bait was Andres Oppenheimer, Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for the Miami Herald. So entranced was Oppenheimer of the unfolding drama that he wrote his 1992 book, Castro’s Final Hour, to persuade Americans that Cuban Communism would soon collapse spontaneously.7

Nevertheless, a picture is emerging from the reports by Oppenheimer and others, showing that the Cuban Communist Party and DGI have infiltrated and even created their own opposition, paving the way for a controlled transition to pseudo-democracy.

Officials of the Communist Party have themselves initiated the regime’s apparent disintegration. As one dissident put it, “The people who want democratic change in Cuba are a majority, and this includes people in the Communist Party.”8 Division General José Abrantes, chief of the dreaded Interior Ministry (MININT) that carries out internal repression, gave a 1989 speech announcing that intellectuals could now speak out openly, or even critically. This directive was supported by Abel Prieto, member of the Communist Party Central Committee and president of the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC), which controls all intellectuals.9 Interviewed in Cuba’s Communist Youth newspaper, Juventud Rebelde, president Julio García Luis of the Journalists’ Union echoed the call for openness.10 Armando Hart, Cuba’s Minister of Culture and a member of the elite Politburo, has also authorized and even promoted dissent, while his Vice Minister Omar Gonzales told the Washington Post “We need to open up the debate more.”11

Meanwhile, the University of Havana has reflected these controlled changes. In early 1991, its Department of Scientific Communism was renamed the “Scientific Socialism Department,” and several months later faced yet another renaming to “Political Sociology” or “Political Science.” Regardless of shifting names, the program is still based on Marxist strategies for revolution.12

At Cuban think tanks, such leading Communists as Pedro Monreal and Juan Antonio Blanco have been propagandizing for reform.13 With the publicity machine in motion, officials at the highest levels have been carefully laying the groundwork for the transition. Reform proposals have been submitted by such powerful figures as economic coordinator Carlos Lage, director of ideology and foreign affairs Carlos Aldana, Communist Youth head Roberto Robaina, president of the National Assembly Juan Escalona, and Cuban Vice President Carlos Rafael Rodriguez — all close advisors to Fidel Castro. Prieto, Aldana, and Robaina have since been promoted to the country’s ruling Politburo. Even Fidel’s brother Raúl Castro has publicly called for similar restructuring.14

Controlled opposition

To disguise the transition as a genuine and spontaneous response to pressure from below, the Communists must create an apparent “dissident” movement to “force” the changes. After the “collapse” of the Communist government, such dissidents can easily be placed in top government posts, thereby disguising the ongoing Communist control. But these dissidents have disturbing ties to the regime.

Rock music protest particularly helps capture the American imagination. Carlos Varela, a prominent Cuban rock star, sings songs of criticism against the regime. Yet he is given the prestigious Karl Marx theater in Havana for his performances, his songs are played on Radio Havana, he enjoys luxuries unknown to most Cubans, and he freely admits supporting the Communist revolution. Another dissident rock singer, Canek Sanchez Guevara, is a grandson of Communist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. He enjoys a comfortable apartment, and writes his songs in English — making the lyrics more accessible to Americans than Cubans.15

The Cuban regime has begun allowing the dissidents to organize two major movements and gain further publicity. In 1991, six groups fused to form the Cuban Democratic Coalition, which promptly held a protest in front of the secret police headquarters. For this normally unthinkable act, Coalition members received little more than a slap on the wrist.16

Eleven other groups simultaneously merged into the Cuban Democratic Convergence, the other main opposition movement. Although the Convergence denies being Communist, it is avowedly socialist and includes many “former” Communists. It was founded at the home of Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz, whose Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) belongs to the Convergence. Sanchez was a long-time Communist and a professor of Marxism at the University of Havana; his group has been allowed to hold press conferences, and Sanchez himself favors a gradual democratization, with Castro retaining power.17

Another pillar of the Convergence is Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, who runs the Cuban Human Rights Committee (CCDH). Arcos was one of Castro’s original Communist revolutionaries who took Cuba, and for years was the new regime’s ambassador to Belgium. He explained to one reporter that “change would come from within the Communist Party,” rather than by overthrow of the government.18

The Convergence also includes such organizations as the Alternative Criterion, a group of dissenting but government-approved intellectuals led by poet Maria Elena Cruz Varela, who also opposes an overthrow of the government by Cuban anti-Communists. The Third Option stands openly as a group of “former” Communist Party members. The Harmony Movement is led by journalist Yndamiro Restano; in Communist countries, journalists must usually be members of the Communist Party or the secret police, possibly explaining why Harmony is also allowed to function.

According to Oppenheimer, the Convergence is entirely dominated by Communists: “Virtually all at some point had supported the revolution.”19

Another odd branch of dissent can be found in Santería, a pagan witchcraft-style religion promoted by the government. Many Communist Party members wear Santería regalia or belong to its various cults, and its Babalaos (priests) are given enormous freedom to operate. According to a former officer of the MININT secret police, “About half of Cuba’s Babalaos have been recruited by the counterintelligence service.… I’ve personally seen thousands of dossiers of Babalaos and Santeros who were collaborators.” Some of these Babalaos are signing on with the dissidents; Lázaro Corp Lleras, for example, is a leader of the Harmony Movement.20

Vladimiro Roca, another major dissident, portrays himself as a “former” Communist who advocates socialism. He was trained by the Soviets as a pilot and spent ten years in the Cuban air force, after which he supervised aid from the Soviet Bloc. His father belonged to the Communist Party Central Committee and worked closely with Castro. Yet another prominent Communist to lead the opposition movement is Omar Perez, a son of “Che” Guevara.21

For the record, of course, most of these dissidents claim to have been persecuted or imprisoned. But no independent sources can confirm these stories, and life for these outspoken critics is considerably better than for the silent 10 million Cubans, who truly are persecuted and are often sent to prisons or concentration camps to provide slave labor.

To portray a nation on the verge of disintegration, Cuba has added riots and refugees to the show. This last August 5, Havana saw its first riot in thirty years, precisely the sort of event the secret police is well-equipped to have prevented — yet somehow the controls failed.22 And, in 1990, when dozens of Cubans suddenly jumped fences into foreign embassies to seek asylum, the diplomatic staff soon discovered that the refugees had been sent by the secret police. “At least half of the Cubans who have sought refuge in foreign embassies… have been government agents deliberately planted,” as one news story from Havana put it.23

Even anti-Communist movements among the Cuban exiles in Florida have been compromised. Most Cubans, including those in America, favor outright invasion of their home country and a complete overthrow of the Communist regime. But a few exiles, released by Castro since 1980, have instead called for negotiations with Havana and for a gradual transition to some form of socialism, and have even defended Castro as not being part of the problem.

Speaking for the uncompromising anti-Communists is the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), run by Jorge Mas Canosa. Indirectly, Canosa and the CANF exert heavy control over Radio Martí, which broadcasts anti-Communist programming into Cuba. However, Canosa has met with Russian dictator Boris Yeltsin, a long-time Communist, and the CANF has established an office near the Kremlin in Moscow. The CANF has even hired Soviet journalists as representatives, although the KGB, which has always controlled all Soviet reporters, remains fully operational in the “former” Soviet Union.24

More disturbingly, an anonymous memo released in 1993 by whistle-blowers at Radio Martí has revealed pro-Castro influences at the supposedly anti-Communist station. The memo named several leading officials at the station as coming from pro-Communist, pro-Castro groups in America, and pointed to one of the editors as a possible agent of the Cuban secret police. Key departments at Radio Martí, according to the memo, consistently favor “former” Communists over other anti-Castro forces, and pro-Castro singers over anti-Communist exiles whose songs are more popular.25 If the CANF and Radio Martí have indeed been compromised, they may persuade exiles not to invade Cuba — by reinforcing the myth of Communism’s collapse.

An escalation of terrorism

The orchestrated deception is already beginning to pay off. Various nations have entered over 100 joint ventures with Cuba, bringing the Cuban government some $500 million in foreign currency. Many of the projects are developing Cuba’s mining and manufacturing industries, both important for military production.26 The United States has also quietly expanded its contacts with the Communist regime, supposedly as a cooperative relationship to help fight drug trafficking.27 The irony is that the Cuban DGI has long participated in smuggling cocaine into the United States.

Hiding behind the illusion of disintegration, Cuba is already stepping up its terrorist war throughout the Western Hemisphere. In addition to the Tricontinental, Cuba has created a new organization to coordinate terrorist movements, as well as to unite the Communist Parties in a revolutionary offensive.

The first meeting was held in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1990. Some 48 Communist groups met with their host, the Workers Party of Brazil. By the second meeting in Mexico in 1991, the organization was known as the “São Paulo Forum,” and featured 80 groups. Communist Parties from all of Latin America showed up, as did the terrorist FMLN of El Salvador, the M19 and CGSB of Colombia, the URNG of Guatemala, Aristide’s Lavalas of Haiti, and other Cuban-supported groups. Attendance swelled to 107 groups in the 1992 meeting in Managua, Nicaragua, and included organizations from Europe, Asia, and Africa. The fourth meeting, held directly in Havana, Cuba, hosted 180 terrorist and Communist groups, including the ANC of South Africa and the PLO.28

The meetings have openly declared solidarity with wars of “national liberation” in Latin America, calling for stepped-up revolutionary violence. Participants also agreed to work to end the US embargo against Cuba, so as to gain American aid for the revolution. Further, the meetings have begun to unify the revolutionary groups, Communist Parties, and even some newly-radicalized Social Democratic parties into a cohesive front.

The São Paulo Forum undoubtedly represents a new front organization through which the Cuban DGI coordinates the revival of terrorism — which is already breaking out in dozens of nations. Yet its activities have received little attention in the American news media, drowned out by stories of Communism’s alleged collapse in Eastern Europe and the apparent disintegration of Cuban Communism.

Some time during the next several months, Cuba can be expected to act out a transition from Communism to “democracy,” potentially involving Fidel Castro’s removal from power, as well as street demonstrations, riots, and other spectacular stunts. But the new government will be dominated by “former” Communists and phony dissidents. The DGI may be renamed, but it will not be abolished. Socialism and the police state infrastructure will not be dismantled. And despite any official declarations to the contrary, the borders will not truly be opened for Cubans to leave, nor will the military be downsized.

Our news media will, however, give breathless coverage to “collapse” of another Communist regime, and the Clinton administration will rush in to provide economic and technological aid. With this help, Cuban-coordinated terrorism will escalate in dozens of nations.

On the other hand, Congress could at any time override the President, cutting of tens of billions of dollars in annual aid to the “former” Soviet Union, Communist China, and other governments currently sending aid to Cuba. Then a genuine collapse of the Havana regime would be inevitable, with all Communists being driven completely out of power — and probably executed by an angry Cuban people.


1. Podesta, D., “As Castro grays, so does revolution,” Washington Post, 4-14-91, p. A18.

2. Sterling, C., The Terror Network, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1981, p. 248.

3. Ibid., pp. 14-15.

4. Ibid., pp. 250-253; Barron, J., KGB, Bantam Books, New York, 1974, pp. 205-208.

5. Barron, Op cit., pp. 207-208; Sterling, Op cit., pp. 14-16, 247-257.

6. Sterling, Op cit., p. 250.

7. Oppenheimer, A., Castro’s Final Hour, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1992.

8. Boudreaux, R., “Cuba strikes democracy movement repression,” Los Angeles Times, 1-19-92, p. A1.

9. Oppenheimer, Op cit., pp. 61, 311, 379.

10. Reuters, “Cuban journalists ask more freedom,” LA Times, 10-23-90, p. A1.

11. Oppenheimer, Op cit., pp. 311, 381; Podesta, Op cit.

12. Oppenheimer, Op cit., pp. 260, 376.

13. Ibid., p. 302; Jacobs, S., “Battered Cuba seeks renewal, change,” Boston Globe, 2-27-94, p. 1.

14. Oppenheimer, Op cit., pp. 300, 379-386, 395.

15. Ibid., pp. 263-270.

16. Ibid., p. 377.

17. Ibid., pp. 335, 378; Husarska, A., “My three friends in Cuba,” Washington Post, 1-24-92, p. A23; Jacobs, Op cit.

18. Oppenheimer, Op cit., pp. 318-319, 335.

19. Ibid., pp. 328, 335.

20. Ibid., pp. 338-355.

21. Farah, D., “Dissident children of Cuba’s revolution,” Washington Post, 8-2-92, p. A29.

22. Kempster, N., “Castro may be seeking deal to end exodus policy,” LA Times, 8-28-94, p. A13.

23. Schanche, D.A., “Cuba using spies to foil refugee exits asylum,” LA Times, 7-24-90, p. A4.

24. Oppenheimer, Op cit., pp. 365-368.

25. Gugliotta, G., “Competing signals generate static at post-Cold War Radio Marti,” Washington Post, 3-23-94, p. A12; Gugliotta, G., “La Revolucion at USIA,” Washington Post, 6-1-93, p. A15.

26. Jacobs, S., “Some US businesses join call to end Cuba embargo,” Boston Globe, 3-1-94, p. 1.

27. Gerstenzang, J., “Cuba, US join forces to catch drug suspects,” LA Times, 9-19-93, p. A1.

28. West, J., “The Havana meeting of the São Paulo Forum,” Political Affairs, Sep./Oct. 1993, pp. 28-30; “Uniting the Latin Left,” The African Communist, 2nd Quarter, 1991, pp. 59-60.