A Caribbean mob story

Book Review

Forget trying to remember all the characters played out in “The Mafia in Havana,” unless of course you have a photographic memory, but it’s not important because all names lead to the selling of a country — until the revolution in 1959, that is.

The author takes us on a journey from the U.S. to Cuba starting in the 1920s with the U.S. mafia running rum. The depth of corruption was profound, reaching up to the presidential palace itself. Vivid portraits of gangsters like “Lucky” Luciano and Meyer Lansky make for fascinating reading.

Throughout the 40 years of almost complete subjugation of the population by a corrupt ruling class, the Cuban people fought back. The ruling regime’s assassinations of left labor leaders, its buying of “loyalty,” and its appointment of corrupt union leaders were commonplace. It also waged a continuous campaign of defamation against the “old” Communist Party.

All this could not have taken place without the connivance of U.S. banking interests, the Office of Strategic Services — which in 1947 became the CIA, headed by Allen Dulles, brother of John Foster Dulles, the Secretary of State — and the U.S. and Cuban mafia. Stories about mafia operations in the U.S. seemed so fantastic that Estes Kefauver, the Tennessee senator who headed a committee investigating organized crime, proclaimed that “mafia activities are so tremendous and outrageous a conspiracy that a lot of people simply aren’t going to believe it.”

By 1952 demands for reform by the vast majority of Cubans led to the campaign of Edward R. Chibás. Chibás was a reform-minded, honest man who believed he could make changes beneficial to the vast population. Unfortunately, he was no match for the cunning and manipulating ruling class and its press. After being made to look the fool for fabricating information against the ruling party, he was subjected to a process of severe psychological harassment that led to his suicide.

In the film “The Godfather,” there is a scene where the executive representing a major telecommunications company gives Cuban President Fulgencio Batista a solid gold telephone. This actually took place; the executive represented the International Telephone & Telegraph Company.

Cirules has done his research. The information in this book should be required reading for all U.S. schools. It lays bare U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba for 50 years and has a lot to teach about capitalist ideology in general.

gfalsetta@pww.org