In Rafael Cruz's new book, "A Time for Action: Empowering the Faithful to Reclaim America," he presents a simple underlying message: For Christians, Jesus Christ should be the foundation of the lives they build and they should be active in making a difference in the world around them.
In practical terms, that means Christians should strive for a free society that respects each of God's children; should embrace the Judeo-Christian values of love, joy, and peace; and should seek a relationship with the living God, the book suggests.
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His book outlines how people of faith should actively participate in the political process to combat the debilitating and deceptive progressive mantra that there should be a separation of church and state.
"A Time for Action: Empowering the Faithful to Reclaim America" is the story of one man's quest for refuge from Cuban persecution to realizing the American dream.
It is a story about one man finding true freedom that comes from faith in Jesus Christ. It is the story of this great nation that was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and how and why it has fallen from grace. It is a wake-up call to the faithful across the land to step up to the challenge of entering the public arena and taking on the forces at work to destroy the guiding principles that made this country great.
He teaches religious people must saddle up. They must vote and volunteer and campaign. They must get in the political game. The followers of Christ are, in His words, "the light of the world."
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But for a light to have its effect, it has to shine in the darkness. That's why, the book explains, Christians are to "declare," as St. Paul wrote, "the whole counsel of God."
It warns if Christians remain silent, they will answer to God for that.
Published by WND Books in early 2016, "A Time for Action: Empowering the Faithful to Reclaim America" includes a powerful foreword by Glenn Beck and an epilogue by Sen. Cruz himself.
Here, read Rafael's account of his time in revolutionary Cuba before he immigrated to America.
Batista, Castro and my fight for freedom
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By Rafael Cruz
If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us! – Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. – U.S. Declaration of Independence.
Lucy Ricardo: This whole thing is Ricky's fault.
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Ricky Ricardo: My fault?
Lucy Ricardo: Yeah, if you hadn't have left Cuba to come to America, we wouldn't have gotten married and we never would've come to Switzerland in the first place.
What most Americans know about 1950s pre-Castro Cuba comes from watching "I Love Lucy." The popular black-and-white television series, which ran from 1951 to 1957, starred Lucille Ball and Cuban-born Desi Arnaz. Together they played the husband-and-wife team Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. The Emmy Award-winning show featured Ball's comedic antics and Arnaz's musical skills.
Arnaz and his orchestra introduced the broader American audience to Cuba's rich musical stylings, which remain popular to this day. Incidentally, Arnaz's family immigrated to the United States after his father was jailed and their property confiscated during the Batista regime.
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Ricky Ricardo's 1950s Cuba enjoyed social and economic prosperity like few countries in the Latin American world. However, their infant mortality rate ranked first in Latin America and thirteenth in the world. Life expectancy in 1955 was 63 years, which may seem low, but compared to the rest of Latin America (52), Asia (43), and Africa (37), the Cuban people thrived. Their educational system and literacy rates compared favorably to industrialized countries. Pre-Castro Cuba boasted 58 different newspapers and ranked eighth in the number of radio stations (160), more than Austria (83), the United Kingdom (62), and France (50). And thanks in part to my father, they ranked first among Latin American countries in television sets per capita and fifth in the world.
About a third of Cuba's population in the 1950s were classified middle class. Akin to Americans, people in Cuba could achieve the "Cuban Dream." The bustling island featured American retailers, such as Woolworth's and Sears, and even hosted a Hilton Hotel. Three times a week, a ferry service operated between Key West and Havana with one-way fare costing $13.50 and round trip fare $26 ($213.00 in 2015 dollars). The peso was virtually interchangeable with the dollar. Movie theaters, skating rinks, and amusement parks abounded. Hot dogs and other American convenience foods were so readily available that traditional Cuban foods could be hard to find in the larger cities. The sun, around which the rest of Cuba revolved, was Havana, home to a sixth of the country's population. Energizing the city was its sizzling nightlife, exemplified by the Tropicana Club, frequented by American celebrities and notables such as Marlon Brando, Rita Hayworth, John F. Kennedy, and Ernest Hemingway. Nat King Cole, who performed there to sellout crowds, was one of the most popular performers in Cuba. The city's casinos, paired with the nightlife, drew the wealthy from around the world.
If New Orleans married Las Vegas and settled in Miami, you would get 1950s Havana.
The exact meaning of the name Cuba is unclear but most likely comes from the Taino words cubao, meaning "where fertile land is abundant," and coabana, meaning “great place."
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Columbus landed on the northeast coast of Cuba on October 28, 1492, a little over two weeks after stepping foot in the New World.
Cuba was one of the earliest colonies established by Spain, and served as the launching point for the conquistadors' expeditions into Central and South America. Havana quickly became an important port for shipping gold from Mexico and Peru to Spain, which meant it also attracted pirates seeking to prey on ships sailing the route on the high seas.
The Spaniards who joined Christopher Columbus on his four journeys and settled in Cuba were unscrupulous and practically decimated the entire native population. In fact, Matanzas, the city of my birth, literally means "massacre," because the Spaniards killed everyone in the original native village. Legend has it that it wasn't until Columbus's fourth trip home that he decided to bring one of the few remaining Cuban natives to Spain. Queen Isabella then decreed they were human beings and should be converted to Catholicism, which stopped the killing. Unfortunately, they had practically been wiped out!
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In contrast, when the Spaniards landed in Mexico and expanded their expeditions to Central and South America, they encountered a very large indigenous population. To a substantial degree, they assimilated their two cultures, creating the rich culture common across Latin America today.
As the Spaniards began settling in Cuba, they faced a dilemma.
Because the native population was virtually nonexistent, they could no longer find anyone to work their sugarcane fields, which required a substantial number of laborers. Not wanting to do the work themselves, they began forcibly importing slaves from Africa.
On October 10, 1868, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, a sugar mill owner, issued a manifesto similar to the U.S. Declaration of Independence, stating a series of grievances against the government of Spain. He freed his slaves and asked them to join him in the war of independence from their mother country. Máximo Gómez, a former Spanish officer in the Dominican Republic, joined Céspedes, and together they led the people in a long war against Spain, lasting ten years (1868–1878), followed by a much shorter war (1879–1880), both of which failed.
After the Ten Years' War, the Spanish government made it illegal for any Cuban to own a weapon. Only Spanish soldiers could carry weapons, which forced the Cuban rebels to pilfer or plunder anything they could from the Spanish army. They adopted a battle strategy similar to ancient armies with horses and swords, except they used machetes (two-foot-long blades used for cutting sugarcane). At the cry of "Al machete," they would ambush the Spanish army against their gunfire. It is worthwhile to point out that every totalitarian regime throughout history has tried to disarm its population, removing their inhabitants' ability to defend themselves. History offers us a grim lesson in the dangers of gun control:
In 1911, the Ottoman Empire (in present-day Turkey) implemented full gun control. From 1915 to 1917, the government killed 1.5 million defenseless Armenians in what is now known as the Armenian Holocaust.
In 1929, the Soviet Union abolished gun ownership among its citizens. This empowered Joseph Stalin to arrest and exterminate anyone who opposed, disagreed with, or even irritated him. Between 1929 and his death in 1953, 40 million people were murdered. In 1938 Adolf Hitler reinforced the already-restrictive German gun control laws established by the Weimar government. Jews could no longer own firearms and were barred from businesses involving them. Without the means to defend themselves, 6 million Jews perished, as well as countless gypsies, homosexuals, and the mentally ill. According to Trevor-Roper and Weinberg's book "Hitler's Table Talk,1941–1944: Secret Conversations," Hitler reportedly said:
The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty. So let's not have any native militia or native police.
In 1935, China established gun control laws rendering political dissidents powerless to defend themselves. Between 1948 and 1952, 20 million people were exterminated. Later, during Chairman Mao Zedong's 1966-1971 Cultural Revolution, as many as 3 million more lives were taken.
Guatemala (1960–1981), Uganda (1971–1979), and Cambodia (1975–1979) also serve as examples of how gun control laws cost lives. Some estimates indicate that as many as 70 million people were killed in the twentieth century because they couldn't defend themselves against totalitarian governments.
The Obama administration's push to integrate data from health care professionals and the Social Security Administration in order to arbitrarily decide who can own a gun evokes these tragic efforts at citizen disarmament found throughout history. Our Founding Fathers established the Second Amendment to enable their citizens to arm and defend themselves against totalitarian governments from within and without.
In 1891, Cuban poet José Martí immigrated to the United States and began soliciting America and other Latin American countries for support to free Cuba from Spain. In early 1895, Martí returned to his homeland, just as the war of independence began. He was killed fewer than three months after the first shot was fired.
Greatly outnumbering the rebels, the Spanish troops rounded up the rural population into reconcentrados, which later served as a model or Hitler's concentration camps. Between two hundred thousand and four hundred thousand civilians died from starvation and disease in those camps.
Finally, at the beginning of 1898, the United States government sent a battleship, the USS Maine, to the port of Havana in an attempt to protect the lives of Americans living in that city. Two weeks later an explosion sank the Maine, killing all crew members on board. Under pressure from the U.S. media to respond to the unprovoked attack, President William McKinley, with the approval of the U.S. Congress, declared war against Spain in support of the rebels. Americans landed near Santiago, on the southeastern end of the island, and made Guantánamo Bay their base of operations.
Teddy Roosevelt, who was later elected U.S. president, joined the war effort and led his voluntary cavalry of "Rough Riders" to victory, capturing San Juan Hill. This war was short-lived, and on December 10, 1898, the United States and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris, granting Cuba its independence.
From 1899 until 1902 a U.S. provisional military government ruled Cuba. During that period, many American entrepreneurs invested in Cuban sugar mills, tobacco plantations, and mines, and established a multitude of other businesses. Protestant denominations, such as the Baptists, the Congregationalists, and the Methodists, sent missionaries to build their flocks and provide an array of social services and educational programs.
Finally, in mid-1902, Tomás Estrada Palma was elected the first president of the Republic of Cuba. A 1903 treaty gave the United States permanent use of Guantánamo Bay.
During Gerardo Machado's presidency in the 1920s, tourism began to flourish. Hotels, nightclubs, golf clubs, restaurants, and casinos began appearing in Havana, catering to wealthy American jetsetters. Baseball, which was introduced to the country in the 1860s, became a national obsession. Dolf Luque – "the Pride of Havana" – whose career spanned twenty years, was one of seventeen Cubans to play in the American big leagues between 1911 and 1929.
Cuban music became a driving force during this time. Combining elements from Spain and Africa, the rumba and other Cuban musical styles kept Americans dancing.
The country established a constitution and selected a series of democratically elected presidents until 1933, when army sergeant Fulgencio Batista led a military coup, overthrowing President Machado. Batista then named himself the Army Chief of Staff, with the rank of colonel, essentially giving himself power over the presidency. He ruled through a series of puppet presidents until 1940, when he was elected president. In 1944 Batista's handpicked candidate lost to Ramón Grau. Concerned for his safety, Batista left the island and went into self-exile in the United States.
In 1952 Batista successfully staged another military coup and ruled Cuba with a combination of control and fear. He bolstered his defense against his opposition by raising the salaries of the military and giving them great power. The people suffered under the backhand of the military's strong arm as Batista and his henchmen imposed the kind of "protectionism" reminiscent of the Prohibition-era mobs in Chicago, extracting money from businesses, both large and small, by extortion, with dire consequences for anyone who dared to resist. A reign of terror prevailed, with dissidents being shot, beaten, or imprisoned.
Batista embraced mobsters from Chicago and Las Vegas, who exported prostitution, drugs, racetracks, and casinos into the country. Marijuana and cocaine were so plentiful that an American magazine remarked, "Narcotics are hardly more difficult to obtain in Cuba than a shot of rum. And only slightly more expensive."
Of course, the dictator demanded a piece of the action.
Through his partnership with American mobsters Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano, Batista amassed a personal fortune of several hundred million dollars. His cut from some of the casinos was reportedly 30 percent.
The corruption at the top trickled down to his ministers and even his ministers' secretaries, who enriched themselves at every opportunity. Police officers killed as they pleased. Every day, stories circulated about people being tortured and killed, with their bodies thrown in the sea so the sharks would dispose of them. People began avoiding the clubs and movie theaters for fear of being harmed, brutalized, even kidnapped. By intimidating the citizens with open displays of cruelty, Batista maintained control. In seven years as Cuba's dictator, he was reportedly responsible for the murder of twenty thousand people.
Under the heavy hand of oppression, resistance surfaced. Despite the threat of police brutality, students began organizing anti-Batista demonstrations. Then on July 26, 1953, a young lawyer named Fidel Castro and his brother Raul led a contingent of 135 armed men, who stormed the Moncada army garrison in Santiago. Plagued with miscommunication, disorganization, and a lack of weapons, and outnumbered ten to one, the insurgency failed miserably. Nine rebels were killed in combat, and Castro and a handful of men were imprisoned.
Cubans consider this the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. While in prison, Castro penned a now-famous speech, "History Will Absolve Me," which he smuggled out of his cell page by page. In memory of the attack, he renamed his group the "26th of July Movement." Imprisonment afforded Castro the time to read the works of Marx, Lenin, and Martí and formulate his communist philosophy and strategy for moving forward. Believing that he was no longer a threat, Batista released Castro and his comrades in 1955.
But Castro was indeed a threat. He returned to Havana and began conducting radio interviews and press conferences. With Castro's fiery rhetoric fueling the ever-increasing resistance and escalating violence, Batista decided to throw Fidel and Raul back into prison. Before they could be arrested, the brothers fled to Mexico.
While in Mexico City, the brothers befriended a Marxist doctor from Argentina named Ernesto "Che" Guevara. After an extended conversation with Fidel the first time they met, Guevara decided to join the 26th of July Movement. Che and Fidel formed a synergistic friendship that planted the seeds of revolution in countries for years to come. While Guevara underwent military training with other members of the movement, Castro headed to the United States in search of wealthy sympathizers. While stateside, Batista's agents allegedly failed an assassination attempt on his life.
With Castro out of the country, it was up to high school and university students to form the major opposition to the Batista regime. Two student organizations led this effort: the FEU, or Federación Estudiantil Universitaria (University Student Federation), and the DR, or Directorio Revolucionario (Revolutionary Directorate). This took the form of an underground movement, not dissimilar to the French resistance during World War II, carrying out sabotage, propaganda, recruiting, training, acquisition and movement of weapons, and other related activities. Into this landscape, I decided to join the rebellion . . .
I was just fourteen when Fidel Castro attacked the Moncada army garrison. Shortly thereafter, high school and university students began demonstrating all over the island. Batista's army typically broke up the demonstrations by beating the demonstrators with billy clubs. As a result, seeing students with head bandages was quite common. Initially the student council-led demonstrations were spontaneous. But as the military began killing the protestors and destroying local businesses, they began coordinating their efforts. This led to the formation of the FEU and the DR. After Castro went into exile, the third group, the 26th of July Movement, was formed.
The FEU operated primarily in Havana and was led by José Antonio Echevarría, the president of the student council at the University of Havana. They concentrated their efforts on attacking political leaders until Echevarría was killed while leading a group trying to storm the presidential palace.
The two groups worked in close collaboration with one another, pursuing the same ultimate goal of putting an end to the Batista regime. The other group's approach was more systematic and long-term, and began by establishing an underground resistance movement.
As a leader in my high school student council, I was invited to join the underground movement. Seeing the corruption in Batista's administration and horrified by the manner in which they killed any dissidents, I was easily convinced. The underground was composed of a series of units operating in a semi-independent manner one from another.
In the evening hours we met in the high school (I can't remember how we were able to get in). We removed the guns we had hidden under a platform in a classroom and were taught how to use them. Our leaders also trained us in propaganda, logistics for recruitment, and how to identify and monitor spies. Because Batista had issued a 10:00 p.m. curfew for the city, we did our best to end our meetings on time.
After an initial period of training, I began recruiting and forming my first unit. For security reasons, the members of my unit did not know the identity of my superior. My unit concentrated on propaganda, weapons movement and acquisition, and some acts of sabotage within the city.
In September 1956, I enrolled at the University of Santiago and met Frank País, the urban coordinator of the 26th of July Movement. Five years older than me, Frank was the son of a Baptist pastor. His small band of insurgents prepared for Castro's return from Mexico on the sixty-foot cabin cruiser the Granma. Accompanying Castro were his brother Raul, Che Guevara, and seventy-nine other rebels. Castro chose the disembarkment location to mirror José Martí, who had sixty-one years earlier landed in the same area during the war of independence from Spain.
On November 29, the night before Castro's expected arrival, País divided us into two groups and gave us our final instructions. He led the first group, which planned to attack the police headquarters. I participated in the second group, which prepared to join Castro and his men in attacking the Moncada army barracks in the morning at the same time.
The next morning, we gathered near the barracks but didn't carry guns, to avoid suspicion. Just before our attack, a truckful of weapons was scheduled to pull in front of us so we could grab our guns and begin our assault. As we waited for the Granma's arrival, one of our men arrived yelling, "Abort! Abort!" We scattered immediately. Later, we were informed that the boat had encountered some problems and our plans were thwarted.
While our unit successfully avoided the police, the other unit didn't fare so well. Apparently Frank and his men never received word about the delay. After four days of fighting, several men were killed. Frank País escaped, but seven months later, the police shot him in the back of the head, killing him. In response to his death, workers throughout Santiago declared a strike, which was the biggest demonstration in that city up to that point.
With army troops everywhere, four of us from Matanzas decided to leave Santiago by car and return home. As we departed the city, an army patrol captured us and escorted us to the Moncada army garrison. When we stepped off the army truck, soldiers began screaming, “"Al paredón, al paredón!" ("To the firing squad, to the firing squad!"). Just when we thought this was the end, a fellow student from the university and son of an army major walked by. "Erasmo, Erasmo!" we cried out. The army had picked him up by mistake and had just released him. "What are you doing here?" he asked us. "We don't know," a voice from our group answered. "We were just driving out of town and these men stopped us. Please help us and tell them that we aren't revolutionaries!" He wasn’t aware that we were part of the underground.
"Señores," he told the soldiers. "I give you my word that these men are not rebels. I know them well. We attend the university together. Let them go. Please."
And with that, the soldiers released us. Although my faith was minimal at that time, I'm reminded today of God's promise: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).
Castro and his men finally landed on December 2. Because the army was on high alert, the men immediately escaped to the mountains – but not without casualties. Sixty-three men were either captured or killed.
When I returned to Matanzas, I resumed control of the first unit and formed a second unit, focusing on sabotage throughout the province and disrupting communications and transportation. Again, to protect the identity of the members of the underground, the members of one unit did not know the members of the other.
Perhaps the most difficult task of all was pretending to be a different person. Considering that government informants were everywhere, to avoid suspicion I acted in public as if I did not care at all about politics, never expressing any opinions unless I absolutely knew who the other person was, and even then it was not wise to do so. I also warned my unit members to be careful whom they talked to.
Unfortunately, I did not follow my own advice and trusted a young man who expressed a desire to be involved in the revolution. I recruited him, and he turned out to be a government informant. Soon Batista's henchmen arrested me and brought me to the army garrison in Matanzas.
Four soldiers entered my interrogation room and pummeled me with an instrument similar to a billy club. When I fell to the ground under the barrage of hits, they kicked me and stomped on me. As the beating continued, a soldier kicked me on the back of my head, driving my face into the concrete floor, breaking my nose, and crushing my four front teeth. Then they picked me up and threw me into a seven-by-seven foot cell. With no bed, I stretched my shaky body on the hard concrete floor. Blood gushed from several cuts on my face, but I was so numb from the beating that I felt no pain. My body was in shock.
After about four hours, every bone in my body hurt. Then the soldiers entered my cell and escorted me to the interrogation room again, where they subjected me to good cop/bad cop questioning, followed by another brutal beating. This procedure was repeated multiple times for several days.
My father knew I was involved in the underground and grew concerned when he hadn't heard from me for days. So he began searching for me, jail by jail, until he finally found me in the Matanzas army garrison.
Before my arrest, I had heard that several other members of the underground had been captured. After the soldiers had broken their wills, the rebels confessed their involvement in the revolution and shared the names of other collaborators. A few days later the informants were found dead on the streets. The authorities claimed they were shot while trying to attack an army patrol. Not wanting to suffer a similar fate gave me the strength to endure and refuse to compromise the names of other members of the underground.
One morning a soldier entered my cell. "The colonel wants to see you. Follow me."
Walking down the corridor, I wondered what would happen next. A firing squad? A hanging? Another beating? My hands and legs were already numb, so I doubted the pain could get much worse.
I entered the colonel's office. "Please have a seat."
Up to that point, I had resisted every command from the opposition – but this time I complied.
"I am going to release you," he said. "But if a bomb explodes in this city, I'm coming to get you."
"How can you hold me responsible for what other people do?" I asked.
"I don't care," he answered. "If a bomb explodes in this city, I'm coming to get you."
My father picked me up at the army garrison and drove me home.
An hour after I arrived home, a lady from the underground came to my house.
"Two people from the army have been assigned to follow you twenty- four hours a day in shifts of eight hours," she informed me. "They want to use you to find your superiors; that's why they released you. The underground recommends that you get out of the country as soon as possible."
"I need to get to the mountains and try to join the rebels," I said. "Can you help me?"
"Batista's army has secured every route. I doubt you can get past them."
"Then I'll just figure out how to get out of the country." Since I was a straight-A student, I decided the best way out of Cuba was with a student visa. So I applied to three American universities: the University of Miami, the University of Texas, and Louisiana State University. The University of Texas accepted me first – and that is how I became a Texan! With my passport and acceptance letter, I was able to acquire a student visa from the U.S. embassy in Havana. Only one hurdle remained between me and freedom: an exit permit from the Batista regime. With help from a lawyer friend, a Cuban government official was convinced to stamp my passport with the permit.
My father scrounged whatever cash he could find, and my mother, afraid that someone would rob me while I slept on the bus, sewed a pocket in my underwear to hold my money. In my pocket I kept a few dollars for the bus fare from Key West, Florida, to Austin, Texas, and to buy a couple of hamburgers along the way.
One early morning in August 1957, I lay on the backseat of my father's car inside the garage. My father pulled the car out of the garage and drove to Havana, to the docks in the harbor. There I caught the ferry from Havana to Key West.
When it came time to say our good-byes, my mother and sister embraced me and cried while my father tried to encourage me and give me strength. At the same time feelings of exhilaration overwhelmed me about going to "the land of the free and the home of the brave." After reading so much about the United States of America, its great heritage, the land of opportunity, a place where anyone, with hard work and perseverance, could achieve their dreams, I was determined to make the best of it. Finally boarding the ferry, I felt apprehensive about leaving my family. Would I ever see them again? Would I ever come back? What did the future hold for me?
Editor's Note: In a later chapter, Rafael Cruz talks about his return to Cuba post-revolution
In August 1959, I returned to Cuba. Saving money from my dishwashing job afforded me enough funds to carpool with some friends to Miami and then catch a flight to Havana. A few weeks later I would fly back to Miami and carpool back to Austin.
My visit gave me the shock of my life. In many ways it looked as if history had repeated itself. The Castro regime had begun to curtail freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Newspapers that dared to speak against the revolution were shut down or their offices were destroyed. Radio and television stations suffered the same fate.
Revolutionary tribunals were set up, and anyone who had been involved in the Batista government was brought before the court and declared guilty without a right to trial. Then they were executed before a firing squad. Castro stated that trials were unnecessary because justice was on their side.
After I departed, the government confiscated businesses, factories, and farms and persecuted the wealthy. A mass exodus of medical doctors, engineers, industrialists, and businesspeople – "oppressors of the people" – emigrated to America. The government awarded their replacements to people on the basis of "revolutionary merit," without even considering their competence to run these enterprises. As a result, productivity dropped dramatically, causing a severe economic crisis.
Because many of the sugarcane cutters now served in the army, the government began forcing the general population, a good number of them in their sixties, to work the fields as "volunteers" to cut sugarcane.
The majority of these people had never used a machete, and as a result could not cut the cane efficiently, causing a great deal of waste. And, of course, due to their limited experience and strength, they labored at a slow pace. Consequently, sugar production declined precipitously, and Cuba went from being the largest sugar producer in the world to supplying a small percentage of the total demand.
Castro confiscated all private clinics and hospitals and instituted socialized medicine. Without competent staff and proper hygiene, infections became common occurrences in these hospitals. Shortages of medical supplies have continued to worsen, and even everyday drugs, such as aspirin, are scarce today.
Although not declared openly, the signs of Communism were becoming obvious. I left Cuba after three weeks, disillusioned and feeling betrayed, never to return again. Unfortunately, I again left my parents and sister behind.
When Castro ordered all teachers to teach Marxism in the public schools, my mother faced a dilemma: would she obey the government and violate her core values or refuse to teach this horrible worldview and surely be arrested? In good conscience she could not teach Marxism, but she also didn't want to be imprisoned.
So what did she do? After careful consideration, she staged an attack of insanity in front of her sixth grade students. One day in the middle of class, she started running up and down the classroom aisles, screaming, pulling her hair, and throwing a huge fit, making a fool of herself in front of her students and other teachers. Then, with the help of an empathetic doctor's evaluation, she received a dismissal as a teacher for mental illness reasons.
Later she told me, "I would rather suffer public humiliation than poison the minds of children with Communist indoctrination."
After I returned to Austin, I contacted every Rotary Club where I had spoken before my trip. I felt a moral obligation to go back and set the record straight. At each Rotary Club, I apologized for misleading them.
At one club, someone asked me, "Why did you change your mind?"
"I was deceived," I replied, "as were many other people in Cuba. I believed the rhetoric, but now I see that the actions do not match the rhetoric."