Guillen, of course, is free to say or think anything he likes about Fidel Castro's murderous regime. (The Venezuelan native is evidently an outspoken fan of Castro wannabe Hugo Chavez, too.) This is America, after all.Wait. Murderous?
Don't get me wrong. I don't come here to praise Fidel or Raul Castro. As I noted in my part of the column: "Fidel Castro is a bad man." He certainly oppressive of his people's rights, and as Ben noted to me offline, there are a lot of people who have tried getting off the island using little more than an innertube. Cuba may be a lot of things, but it's not a socialist paradise.
Here's what Human Rights Watch has to say about Cuba: "Cuba remains the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent. The government enforces political conformity using harassment, invasive surveillance, threats of imprisonment, and travel restrictions."
And here is what Amnesty International said in its 2011 report on the country: "Prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on 23 February following a prolonged hunger strike. He was one of 75 people arrested during a crackdown by the authorities in March 2003, and was serving a 36-year prison term at the time of his death. A few months later, between July and December, the Cuban government released 41 prisoners of conscience following an agreement with the Spanish government and dialogue with the Catholic Church. All of those released, except one, left Cuba with their relatives."
Strikingly absent from both accounts is any real mention of executions or mass graves. Recent reports out of Cuba suggest, in fact, that when political prisoners die...it's usually the result of a hunger strike. One can respect their choice of conscience while also recognizing that it's their choice.
This doesn't mean that Fidel is to be loved, clearly. Cuba is not a democracy. Basic rights are trampled. But there's a difference between a tinpot dictator and a genocidal dictator, and the Castro regime appears to fall in the former category.
I'm long past expecting policy toward Cuba to be rational, or for conservatives to use any but the most inflammatory language about Castro. And it's easy to accept the shorthand. We don't like dictators. Dictators are often murderous. Thus, Castro must be murderous.
It's at this point I expect to hear about Castro's actions in the 1960s and 1970s, about assassinations and the like. And, fair enough. But that was then. And using "murderous" to describe a government that appears to pose little threat obscures the actual choices and options that could be available to us.