During 1960, while the world was focusing attention on events in the Congo, a far more serious development was taking place just 90 miles from the shore of the United States. In just a few months Fidel Castro had destroyed his image as the ‘George Washington of Cuba’ only to triumphantly portray himself in his true role as a hard-core Communist conspirator. Everything Lumumba would have done in the Congo, Castro actually accomplished in Cuba: drumhead justice, mass executions, confiscation of industry, collectivization of the land, suspension of civil rights, suspension of democratic processes, and alliances with the Iron Curtain. All the while millions of disappointed Americans read Herbert Matthews’ pro-Castro articles in the New York Times and watched prominent TV personalities portray Castro as the savior of Cuba. As will the police records of Havana and Bogota verify, Castro was certainly no pillar of hope for Cuba. Even before he graduated from law school, his checkerboard career included such crimes as assault with a deadly weapon, arson, insurrection, and murder. He was a perfect candidate to become a Communist dictator.
What was life like for Castro before he became a Cuban tyrant? He was one of five illegitimate children born to a servant woman on the sugar plantation of his wealthy father, Angel Castro. (Red Star Over Cuba, by ex-Communist Nathaniel Weyl, Devin-Adair, 1960). His upbringing was not of the type to promote the best qualities in a human personality. In secondary school he turned out to be a mediocre student with an aggressive, ambitious, and rebellious nature. He was not well liked. To impress students, one day he mounted a bicycle and rode it full tilt into a high stone wall. It left him unconscious for days and some authorities wondered if he ever really recovered. At 16 he obtained a gun and tried to kill his teacher because of an argument over poor grades. At 19 he decided to become a lawyer. To achieve this his father sent him to the University of Havana. There he joined a group of ‘beatniks’ who prided themselves in being unshaven and unclean. There he earned the nickname “Bola de Churre” — Ball of Dirty Grease. He told everybody that he intended to become the student body president and used his ‘prestige’ to agitate the students into a revolutionary force. His jealous ambition did not make him student body president, but it did lead him to engineer his first attempt at murder in 1947. The victim, Leonel Gomez, the popular student body president at Havana High School #1. He shot him through the chest and fully expected him to die. Castro fled the city and joined a Communist-directed expedition which was training to invade the Dominican Republic and overthrow Trujillo. However, he heard that Gomez recovered and therefore returned to the University.
By 1948, Castro had gained considerable confidence in his own political prospects. He had made himself the head of a university terrorist organization and on February 22, 1948, he used a machine gun to kill the ex-President of the University Student Federation and a friend named Carlos Puncho Samper. Two others were wounded. Castro was arrested for this murder, but the investigation had not been thorough, and he was able to be released. It was also suspected that the judge in the case was influenced by the fact that one of Castro’s confederates was the nephew of the Cuban President. Castro’s student activities brought him to the attention of Soviet agents who were looking for someone to lead a subversion of Latin American countries. Castro was ordered to go to Bogota and take Rafael del Pino with him.
In April 1948, the eyes of the world were watching Bogota, Columbia, where the Ninth Inter-American Conference was to be held. It was under the direction of US Secretary of State George C. Marshall. It was an occasion that the Soviet strategists used to stage a Communist directed insurrection to unseat the conservative government of Columbia and break up the Inter-American Conference. (Alberto Nino, Antecentes y Secretos del 9 de Abril, Editorial Pax, Bogota, 1949, p.77). The insurrection was triggered by having Communist agents kill Dr. Jorge Gaitan, the most popular political leader in Columbia. Castro and del Pino were the ones who were assigned to arrange this murder; however, the murder was blamed on the government and Communist handbills printed prior to the murder, urged the people to avenge themselves by sacking the city. Within hours, Bogota was converted into a holocaust of violence and flaming devastation. Soviet lead crews moved through the city smashing off locks and opening stores and warehouses for mobs to loot and set on fire. (Similar events happened right here in the US…being called peaceful demonstrations.) When it was all over, the destruction of the civic center was complete. The Palace of Justice which contained most of the civil and criminal records was demolished to its foundations. Colleges, churches, stores, and other public buildings were burned. After the battles between the police and the mobs had subsided, more than 1,000 corpses were left lying in the streets. (Nathaniel Weyl, Red Star Over Cuba, p.33). Their activities, though, became so completely exposed that Columbian President Perez went on a nationwide broadcast to denounce the two Cubans as ‘Communist leaders in the insurrection.’ When it became obvious that the insurrection had failed, Castro and del Pino left quickly for Cuba.
Shortly after Castro had returned to Cuba, he learned that Sgt. Fernandez Caral of the Havana Police had been carefully investigating the machine gun murders and had positive evidence that Castro was responsible. Castro immediately rounded up his associates and when they saw an opportunity, they killed Caral on July 4, 1948. Police started a massive search all over the city, and that same day Castro was arrested and charged with murder. Police, however, soon came to see just what kind of influence Castro possessed. Witnesses to the murder were so intimidated by fear of reprisal from Castro’s terrorist organization that none of them would testify. The authorities were forced to release Castro who promptly scurried away into hiding.
By 1948, the sensational disclosures of Whittaker Chambers, Elizabeth Bentley, and a host of defected American Communists had exposed Russia’s worldwide conspiracy to Sovietize all humanity. At this point of my research, I began to question how such a political theology could gain ground if the churches had been doing their responsibility in warning the people not only about ‘sin’, but about the sin of politics that was encompassing the world. Had the Church so ignored politics that it gave Satan an opportunity to infiltrate society? Of course, this is nothing new. As I addressed last week, the church of the Roman Empire is a perfect example of a failed church. Once the Roman Empire began to crumble, the social order of Rome collapsed quickly. The Christian church in Rome had become so feeble and apostate that Pope Innocent I permitted Christians to offer sacrifices to pagan idols in the hope that the false Roman gods might protect them from invaders. (Zosimus, New History, Book 5, [London: Green & Chaplin, 1814] http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/zosimus05_book5.htm). Imagine the head of the Christian church officially sanctioning idolatry! The reasons for the sudden final collapse of the empire were a decline in morality, the breakdown of the family, and the crumbling influence of religion…Christianity.
America’s first president was able to tie the fall of Rome to the United States if it failed to follow the nation’s founding principles. George Washington, in his farewell address said:
‘Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens…And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion…Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.’ (George Washington, “Farewell Address” , Yale Law School] http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp).
George Washington was convinced that the foundation for a strong society is neither a dominant military force nor a strong economy, but rather a citizenry with strong moral fiber, strong religious faith, and strong God-centered families. This puts a great deal of responsibility on our pastors and ministers to not only lead the congregations in the Word of God, but to educate that congregation on the worldly challenges…politics…that would like to tear down the impact and influence of God’s church.
Next week we will continue to track the challenge of Communism that was taking place just 90 miles from our nation. If it succeeded, you could conclude that the United States would be among the next targets.
“A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country” Texas Guinan, 19th century American businessman