A comment piece in today's Guardian included a link to the delightfully titled blog, killcastro.com – a site which advocates and salivates for the death of the old dictator. There are plenty of sites like this around. Many are run by Cuban emigrés (or refugees) who – often for the right reasons – tirelessly campaign for an end to the island nation's 40 year communist regime. Nothing new there then, you might think… and you'd be closer to the mark than you might expect.
A link on killcastro.com pointed to a Spanish website called Solidaridad Española con Cuba (Spanish Solidarity with Cuba), which the blogger had found linked to from the site of the right-wing Spanish daily ABC (which the author describes as 'a great paper'). Solidaridad has the appearance of an ONG site… full of campaign information and advice for tourists who want to visit the families of political prisoners in Cuba. Obviously, the name of the site is beguiling. The left do not own the term 'solidarity'… but it is fair to state that it's usually used in socialist rhetoric. A right-wing site using solidarity as its name ensures that it achieves a high ranking on Google, whoever decides to search for it.
So, Solidaridad Española calls for democracy and freedom for Cuban people. I decided to find out a little more about who runs the organisation, just out of interest you see. The association's president is one Ricardo Carreras Lario. A quick Google search on Sr. Lario finds that he is employed by a firm called The Rendon Group (TRG).
TRG defines itself as 'an international strategic communications consultancy' based in Boston, MA. This intrigued me. Just what does an 'international strategic communications consultancy' actually do? The description struck me as the sort of euphemism that lobbying firms and gun-runners use when they describe themselves as 'corporate advocacy groups' and 'contingency security specialists'. And it doesn't look like I was far off the mark. Looking into TRG's abridged list of clients, several US government agencies feature prominently (including the Dept. of Defense, the US Air Force's Air Intelligence Agency, the US Army, US Strategic Command… you get the picture). So some dude who runs an organisation which describes itself as a NGO also works for a company who work closely with the US military? So what?
So what is when you look further into the sort of things that TRG have done for the US government in the past. The Rendon Group is described in an award-winning piece of journalism as being run by 'the man who sold the war'. That is to say, TRG played a significant role in 'selling' the Iraq war to the American public. So that's what international strategic communications consultancy involves!
TRG's founder, John Rendon is the guy who was given millions of dollars by the US government to try to install that notorious ass, Chalabi, as Iraqi president. He is directly implicated in the story of how a proven liar's false claims were sold to the public as 'reliable and significant'. He takes money from the CIA to get us to believe the right version of events… and sometimes, to make those events happen.
Now I'm no fan of Castro. Beyond the faint respect I have for a man who has successfully survived decades of attempted assassinations, invasions, blockades and universal hatred outside (and, if we trust Solidaridad, inside) his own country, I strongly disapprove of his attitude toward a free press, free speech, homosexuality and numerous other issues. At the same time, I recognise that things might have been different in Cuba if they'd been allowed to trade with their neighbours over the last few decades.
I also know enough of US-Cuba history to know that a pro-democracy 'ONG' run by a man who works for a firm who get huge contracts from the CIA for propaganda and regime-change operations might not be as trustworthy as it seems. As always, this issue is clouded by the number of people on either side with an interest in a certain state of affairs. I wouldn't trust Castro to protect my freedom of speech… just as much as I wouldn't trust a future Cuba that's been brought about by people like Solidaridad and The Rendon Group.