Speaking to an audience recently at the “Free the People” conference put on by the industry-financed tea party group FreedomWorks, the father of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) explained how his ultra conservative worldview helped shape his son’s outlook on President Barack Obama’s policies, which the elder Cruz said are “just like the dictator Fidel Castro.”
Cruz likes to mention that his father fled Cuba for the United States, but typically doesn’t mention that Rafael Cruz was actually a pro-Castro revolutionary during the rule of the U.S.-supported, right-wing military dictator Fulgencio Batista. However, he did mention it in a 2006 interview with The Austin American-Statesman, when he called his dad “a guerrilla” who busied himself during those days by “throwing Molotov cocktails and blowing up buildings.”
Cruz’s father left Cuba before Castro came to power, traveling to Texas on a student visa issued by the Batista regime. He mentioned that in his speech to the FreedomWorks crowd, telling them that he was once energized by a bold new leader who spoke of “hope and change,” but his opinion shifted when that leader turned out to be yet another dictator.
“I was shocked again when I saw a government started in this country instituting socialist policies, which I very easily recognized because of my experience in Cuba,” the elder Cruz said of President Jimmy Carter’s (D) administration, explaining that he join a religious conservative group with the intent of helping President Ronald Reagan get elected.
“When my son was 8-9 years old, our conversations around the dinner table centered around politics every day,” the elder Cruz said. “I remember, over and over, I would ask him, ‘You know Ted, when I face oppression in Cuba, I had a place to come to. If we lose our freedoms here, where are we going to go?’ There is no place to go, this is the bastion of freedom in the world. This is why we have to fight to protect the freedom we have.”
Cruz added that “the most ominous words I have ever heard” were uttered by President Obama during his last two State of the Union speeches, “when our president said if Congress does not act, I will act unilaterally. Not much different than that… friend that I left behind in Cuba. Governing by decree, by executive order, just like a dictator, like Fidel Castro.”
Cruz went on to compare the Obama administration’s push to expand America’s privately-run health insurance system to Cuba’s government-run, single payer system. He also suggested that attacks on the wealthy and the religious were among the Castro regime’s worst offenses, implying an ideological link to the Obama administration’s tax policies and position on access to birth control, which many Republicans call an affront to religious freedom.
However, he did not mention that unlike Obama, Castro seized all American and church-owned lands in the country as one of his first major “land reforms.” He followed that up by raising brutal pro-revolution militias and gangs (PDF), and neighborhood informant groups bent on crushing all dissident organizations.
Despite Rafael Cruz’s intimations, there is simply no analogue of these acts in American politics today. Not even Obama’s executive actions on gun control and climate change come close, with the president openly declaring that the broadest measures he supports must be left up to a completely deadlocked Congress.
It was Castro’s brutal rise and swift seizure of private lands that caused the U.S. cut all diplomatic ties with Cuba and begin supporting rebel groups. That shift in relations gave Castro’s government cause to reach out to the Soviet Union for support, eventually leading to the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961 and a nuclear standoff that brought the world to the brink of apocalypse.
Even though Castro’s niece said she would vote for Obama, and despite the defection of the Cuban vice president’s daughter last August, the Obama administration has doggedly upheld America’s Cold War-era policy of excluding Cubans from trade, travel and important regional meetings.
That policy continues in the face of Republican support for ending the embargo against Cuba, and the country’s recent loosening of travel restrictions. A U.S. State Department assessment published in 2012 firmly planted the island nation on America’s list of states that sponsor terrorism, charging that the regime harbors members of South American militia groups and American fugitives, among other offenses.
This video was published to YouTube on July 6, 2013.