Saint Ralph Meets Fidel

Ralph Nader was all smiles and deference last week in Havana. Gone was the scowl he reserves for greedy capitalists (yet he was hosted by one worth $1.4 billion according to Forbes magazine, with 32 mansions and 3 yachts.) Gone was his concern for labor rights (yet his host jails and murders union leaders.) No mention by Nader of exploitation by fiendish multinational corporations either (yet his host solicits them shamelessly, then pockets 90 percent of all wages they pay his Cuban serfs)

And nary a word by Nader about his favorite theme: "doing business as if people really mattered." (Yet his host’s firing-squads killed more people in one week than every Corvair ever produced)

Instead Nader treated his charming Cuban hosts to a rant against President Bush as an "irresponsible corporatist" and denounced the country that crowned him a multi-millionaire and allows him to spew his imbecilities unmolested as one "racked with child poverty, and run by transnational corporations."

He also added-- surprise!–a plea for President Bush to lift the embargo (though Nader’s Green Party platform actually uses Fidel’s own term of "Blockade")

You’d think this might excite his hosts. Problem was: that famous Nader delivery. Huey Long he’s not. Wire reports said "President" Castro looked "distracted" during Ralph Nader’s speech last week at the University of Havana. They say Fidel kept looking at his watch, then around distractedly, sucking on menthol lozenges the whole time.

This time it’s for real, folks. Fidel’s on the ropes. Anyone who sits through two hours of a Ralph Nader speech is TRULY desperate. And right on the heels of Jimmy Carter! I never dreamed I’d ever feel sorry for Fidel Castro. But who can blame him? He’s not used to this.

Jackasses like Nader–both foreign and domestic--have been very useful to the Maximum Leader over the years. During his 43 years in the catbird seat, Fidel’s cultivation and employment of "useful idiots"can only be described as an art. Lenin coined the term but Castro became the virtuoso.

From domestic marionettes like Manuel Urrutia, Pardo Llada and Felipe Pazos to foreigners like Herbert Matthews, Jean Paul Sartre, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Dan Rather, George Mc Govern, Oliver Stone, Jimmy Carter and now Ralph Nader, no puppeteer ever had such mastery over his puppets.

These geeks make excellent window-dressing. But this time the tables were turned. Fidel has never had to sit through their gibberish before. "Now back in the good ole days" he must have been reminiscing fondly while sucking on his mint and suffering through Nader’s twaddle, "I’d make these saps sit through MY speeches. Duping Beltway opinion was easy then. I’d instruct Urrutia or Llada to tell the NY Times and the U.S. ambassador that I was a lifelong worshiper of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, a sincere "anti-communist" and an impeccable democrat. If they vacillated I’d have them shot.... now those were the days! "

Let’s give Nader a break.. First off, as a Presidential candidate he stripped off the Mao-Guevara wing of Democratic voters, 90,000 in Florida alone. Gore only needed 538 of these. Ironically, had Nader restrained himself form his kamikaze run in 2000, that "Blockade" probably would be gone by now. Thank you, Ralph.

Also, like Cuba’s Kerenskys Nader would be scrambling into exile for his very life if the Commie deal ever came down. He’s no Commie–but he’s damn close. He’s a classic case of what they called in the early years of the Cuban Revolution, a "Fidelista sin Fidel."–in brief, a Menshevik.

The socialism’s fine. It’s the totalitarian personality cult that offends. After their bit parts expired Cuba’s Mensheviks were shot, jailed or they scurried into exile. These last lucky ones landed cushy government jobs among their kindred spirits in JFK’s New Frontier.

For civilian employment by Camelot any Cuban exile had to first document-- and thoroughly-- that he was a fool. For God’s sake don’t let it slip that you had Castro’s number in 57-58! Only Fascists and gangsters thought that! You were much better off landing a job with Camelot if you had actually worked for Castro. If you’d also helped put him in power you were a shoo-in. Amazing but true. Ask around.

As New Frontiersmen the Cuban Mensheviks felt right at home. The private sector had always spooked them. They looked at business the way little girls look at the deep-end of the swimming pool. So they leaped into the kiddie pool squealing with glee and lent an eager hand. As luck would have it, Camelot was then busy grabbing U.S. taxpayer money with both hands and shoving it down a rathole called the "Alliance For Progress." This was JFK’s "Marshall Plan for Latin America," to ameliorate –what else?–the "root causes" of Communism.

Poof ! $20 billion thus vanished. Two Skyhawk jets over the heroes slugging it out with Stalin tanks on Playa Giron April of 1961 would have been MUCH cheaper, and effective, and honorable. My father-in-law used to choke up when recounting how the skies finally cleared over The Bulge in late 44 and the Thunderbolts and Mustangs roared in. He and his GI buddies whooped and cheered till hoarse. They loaded up, slammed the bolts and were soon blasting Hitler’s Panzers back towards the Rhine.

But on April 1961, my cousins and their comrades, facing worse odds at the Bay Of Pigs, looked skyward in vain. Sorry, I know, we’ve already been through this

"Root causes"? A few strafing runs over his tank columns, a rocket or two up his pilot’s tailpipes and within a week we’d seen the the "root cause" of Latin Communism hanging by his heels like Mussolini.

Not that the Alliance For Progress went unappreciated. Mercedes dealerships from Tijuana to Buenos Aires were smitten by it. Swiss Bank officers swooned with delight. A shrewder bunch than these New Frontiersmen you never met. They actually wanted to include Castro’s Cuba in the Alliance for Progress giveaway. This after the mass looting of $2 billion in U.S. property a year earlier, after firing-squads murdered dozens of U.S. citizens, after the Missile Crisis. The "Best and The Brightest" indeed!

Saint Ralph (The New Republic’s term back in 65) finally got a few nods from his Cuban hosts last week when he said: "The U.S. should give Cubans a chance to determine their own future without outside intervention."

Well? Haven’t we been doing the very thing since the Missile crisis?

Back in the 50's the U.S. traded with Cuba. According to the pinks and reds that caused humiliation, abuse and impoverishment. "Economic enslavement" was Che’s term.... "Yankee imperialism! Capitalist Exploitation! Bloodsucking vampires stealing our resources! Dumping junk on us!.....blah...blah...blah."( In fact these Yankee factories, refineries and showrooms are so vile and corrupting we think we’ll steal them.)

Okay fine, Ike finally said in late 1960. In that case we’ll close down shop down there. You’re on your own.

"Yankee Blockade! Capitalist strangulation! Starving our children! Denying them medicine!....blah...blah....blah."

Turns out leaving them alone ALSO causes humiliation, abuse and impoverishment. We can’t win. It’s like little kids throwing a tantrum where nothing satisfies them. Yet pink politicians and academics takes these brats and their infantile tantrums seriously.

Nader especially. Remember he wants the "Blockade" lifted post haste and a generally "be nice" policy towards Castro. Never mind that Cuba is perfectly free to buy anything they want from any country in the world-- plus food and medicine from the U.S. for cash. Some "Blockade."

The problem nowadays is finding a sucker to sell Cuba on credit. From France to Japan, from his chums in South Africa to his chums in Venezuela–everybody’s been burned by Castro. Foreign investment in Cuba went from $500 million two years ago to barely $30 million this year. They’re running out of saps. Their last hope are the Yankee imperialists. Hence the recent parade of U.S. politicians and personages to Havana and their caterwauling about the beastly "embargo."

They say Nader’s intellect soars. They say he’s scrupulously honest in his personal life and in everything he says. I sure hope not. That means we had a serious mental case running for U.S. president in 2000–I mean a raving schizophrenic. How else to explain his previous utterances? To wit:

"The first stage for our immigration policy will be to stop supporting dictatorships that drive people to leave their native lands out of economic desperation or political repression."

This came-- word for word-- right off his Green Party platform. I guess the regime responsible for the biggest political exodus in the history of the hemisphere doesn’t apply. But it get’s better:

"No trade agreements with nations that dictatorially repress business costs, where workers can’t organize and there’s no market-determined cost....our government must stop supporting dictatorships and avaricious oligarchies with our tax monies. We must end export-assistance. It’s corporate welfare. "

The only thing he left out was "read my lips." This guy is unreal. What does he think will happen when the "embargo’s" lifted? I repeat. Castro can buy for cash now.

I’d never bothered to look at Ralph Nader’s platform seriously before. Like most people I practice guilt by association(come on, why do companies hire outside salespeople who look like Hugh Grant rather than Ratzo Rizzo.) So those "Nader’s Raiders" chicks did it for me. Frizzy hair, wire-rims, no make-up, reeking of incense, lifting an arm and revealing European forms of underarm hygiene–that was enough for me. A taste for Whiskey and a sense of humor kept Janis Joplin tolerable. These "Nader Raider" chicks always had Janis’ looks but Hillary’s personality. Yikes!

Best I can make out from Nader’s campaign speeches and interviews, selling to a third world country is fine. Problem is, these companies turn right around and invoice them too! How greedy can you get. That’s how you get foreign debt, you greedy capitalists.

Nader’s almost 70 years old for Pete’s sake. It’s about time he learn what normal kids learn at 10 while running a lemonade stand. And it’s about time his "Raiders" put away the lava lamps.


Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in history from Tulane University. He's the author of "Helldiver's Rodeo," described as "Highly entertaining!" by Publisher's Weekly, "A must-read!" by Booklist, and "Just what the doctor ordered!" by Ted Nugent.

You may reach Mr. Fontova by e-mail at

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