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THE VIOLENT PAST IS PROLOGUE
"HISTORY WILL ABSOLVE ME." —Fidel Castro, 1953
CUBAN PITCHER TURNS DOWN OFFER OF $5,000 BONUS TO SIGN WITH THE NEW YORK GIANTS; WILL STUDY LAW AT THE UNIVERSITY OF HAVANA INSTEAD.
This might have been the slug of the Manhattan press on that fine summer day when Fidel Castro Ruz opted for a legal career over a baseball one. The native of Cuba was scouted by Joe Cambria of the Washington Senators, who told him he didn't have a major league arm. But a Pittsburgh Pirates bird dog was more impressed, remembering, "He could set 'em up with the curve, blow 'em down with the heater." Castro tried out for several major league clubs, including the Philadelphia Athletics, but it was the New York Giants that showed a definite interest. The $5,000 figure was not random. Baseball rules at the time dictated that any amount over $5,000 tendered to a rookie required that he be kept on the roster of the big league club for a season. So the man with the golden arm would have been eligible for assignment to a minor league team, with the Havana Sugar Kings of the International League coming to mind. What may have offended Castro's sensibilities was that the Sugar Kings were owned by an official in the Batista regime. Fulgencio Batista was the Cuban Caligula, a dictator too long in power. But Castro never lost his love for the American national pastime, devotedly following Cuba's national squad and acquiring a batting cage of his own, though he was not destined to see his face on a bubble-gum card.
There are those, of course, who devoutly wish Castro had stuck with baseball. They don't include the Giants immortal Carl Hubbell, who undoubtedly would not have welcomed the stiff competition. But Castro himself found the stiffest competition imaginable when he later set aside his law books and took to the political hustings to deliver action-packed speeches that were distinguished by their length. But he spoke from the heart as he pleaded for an end to poverty in his homeland of eleven million people. The roads of Cuba never run straight, goes an old folk song.
At the University of Havana, Castro lost no time in becoming politicized in its hothouse environment. He was dominated by Cuban nationalism but affiliated with the Ortodoxo Party, which, like most Cuban political structures, was polemically flexible. Fidel's dominant theme in his speeches was the plight of the poor and what to do about it. He harped on agrarian reform that he saw as at least a partial solution in a country without rural electrification. Fidel had issued a manifesto on the subject in 1957 while still in the mountains. The move drew a furious response from the American legislator Harold Cooley, leader of the sugar lobby in Congress, and in the pockets of the corporate landholders such as United Fruit Company. But agrarian reform was a buzzword for American conservatives who viewed it as confiscatory socialism. It was not at all; usually the distributed acreage was unsuitable for agriculture. The Castro version was more like the ejiido model adopted in Mexico after the revolution. It called for division of surplus land and land holdings within reasonable limits. Critics charged that United Fruit Company, a huge presence in tropical countries, was the prime target of Castro from day one because his father, an employee, had been mistreated.
Be that as it may, Fidel's matriculation at the Havana institution was marked by controversy that carried beyond the ivied walls. The Fidel who went to the University of Havana in October 1945 both attracted and repelled his fellow "students," some of whom even came to study, for this was a classic Latin American university system that was half devoted to learning and at least half devoted to fomenting political action.
Castro's ability to deliver fiery speeches, albeit long-winded, gained him an approving audience in greater Havana that, when the time was right, coalesced into a solid political base. As a candidate he would have been a natural. Physically, Fidel stood out. He was markedly tall in a country of generally short men.
He affected a somewhat rumpled look, perhaps the result of a conscious attempt to look unconventional. Yet he possessed the magnetic personality of a yacht salesman.
The conventional Cuban political scene was so turgid that it was perhaps preferable to be called a revolutionary. Consider the hapless Eduardo Chibás, a rotund little man who kept the political waters constantly roiled. "Every week on Sunday night, Chibás spoke," Hugh Thomas recorded in his landmark volume Cuba or the Pursuit of Freedom, and "crowds flocked to hotels or cafés to hear him." Like Castro, Chibás was an Ortodoxo. "He spoke with extraordinary passion and energy, denouncing the unbridled corruption of the regime and the gangsters associated with it." He believed that corruption was the most important problem Cuba faced. But Chibás had erred in identification. On August 5, 1951, he walked into radio station CMQ in Havana for his weekly radio broadcast. That day he had promised to furnish the evidence supporting his claim that education minister Aureliano Sanchez Arango was embezzling money. Instead, he talked about other topics, warned that Fulgencio Batista might attempt a military coup, and made a farewell statement. Chibás, who was also a senator, was supposed to present evidence from congressmen supporting his claim, who ultimately refused to do so. Chibás apparently believed that killing himself was the only way he could apologize for his inability to keep his promise, so he pulled out a pistol and shot himself in the head. Unfortunately, he had forgotten that his allotted radio time was only twenty-five minutes. The shot took place while the commercial ad with "Café Pilon" was running, thus eliminating the planned effect of "his grand finale." The corrupt regime, as Thomas put it, was the presidency of Carlos Prío Socarrás.
* * *
Cuba wasn't mighty militarily, but with the possessions of Guantanamo it was strategically on the map. It was rich in natural resources such as nickel and copper, and a major player in world sugar markets. Behold the Cuban cigars, their labels second to none. It was the pearl of the Antilles, playground to the sophisticated traveler who bends an elbow at the Floridita bar, or the Bodeguita del Medio, where mojitos are the politically correct drink. The packing-crate United States Interest Section building forlornly faces the Malecon waterfront. Outside Havana, the white-sand beaches defy surpassing beauty, and the highland lakes abound with bass.
In the 1950s it was golden to be president of Cuba. Batista presided over the growing number of gambling casinos and spent many an hour clinking glasses with visiting notables. One such was Richard Nixon, who showed up with his constant companion, Charles "Bebe" Rebozo, at his elbow. For Batista, the slots clanking in the background must have been music to his ears, as were the sounds of the roulette wheels spinning and the dice rolling.
One of Batista's most useful partisans was Rolando "El Tigre" Masferrer, who can best be described as a man for all political seasons. In his youth, the powerfully built Masferrer was a militant communist, fighting on the Loyalist side in the Spanish Civil War, losing a leg but gaining a reputation as an enforcer. It is safe to say that Masferrer was a Renaissance man, affecting silk scarves while scribing poetry, and painting landscapes while patronizing classical music. Speeding down the Malecon in a Cadillac convertible, he justified the acceptance of gangsterism to a German passenger, "Remember, chico, we're all gangsters. What did you expect? Thi
Excerpted from THE CUBAN CONNECTION by WILLIAM WEYAND TURNER. Copyright © 2013 by William Weyand. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books.
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Chapter One—The Violent Past Is Prologue.................... 29
Chapter Two—The Eagle Has Landed.................... 37
Chapter Three—Havana Syndicated.................... 49
Chapter Four—Sidebar: Jack Ruby.................... 65
Chapter Five—The Nixon Nobody Knew.................... 75
Chapter Six—The Alliance Nobody Knew.................... 83
Chapter Seven—Nixon's Red-Baiting Boomerangs into Castro Epiphany.......... 91
Chapter Eight—Setting Up the Bay of Pigs and Other Disasters............... 95
Chapter Nine—Major Morgan's Triple Play.................... 105
Chapter Ten—The Beast of the Caribbean.................... 119
Chapter Eleven—La Batalla de Girón.................... 127
Chapter Twelve—Kennedy Gets His Irish Up.................... 145
Chapter Thirteen—The Hits That Missed.................... 153
Chapter Fourteen—Decisions, Decisions: Invasion No. 2.................... 165
Chapter Fifteen—The Flying Tiger and the Phony Rescue.................... 173
Chapter Sixteen—The Navy That Nobody Knew.................... 177
Chapter Seventeen—The CIA's Unruly Stepchild.................... 183
Chapter Eighteen—Nixon's Vendetta.................... 193
Chapter Nineteen—The Coup That Nobody Knew.................... 199
Epilogue—Havana Redux.................... 209
Appendix: Document—CIA Plots to Kill Castro.................... 213
Posted February 6, 2014
Okay....this is really weird. I imagined that maybe the Shadow Breakers are going to investigate the Anemos ruins...seems like a logical place to search for an Animus, right? I am just going to pretend like it's a shared universe....anyway, the Golden Sun crew is also there....you know about Ivan's crazy long backstory? Well, he and Sheba are going to look there for clues about this group...and maybe an idea of where Sheba is from. There has been a lot of fan speculation that Sheba fell from the Anemos city, which was lifted up and is basically now Weyard's moon...anyway, both groups have yet to meet when- ENTER THE ANIMUS! It is a failed attempt at a ruin guardian, sealed into an ancient book (not unlike in HP book 2) and does not realize the place it was meant to protect is long gone. When it discovers this it will be very angry...with me so far? Post more in a minute, brb.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.