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Maximum whining from Cuba’s maximum leader

Colby Cosh: Maximum whining from Cuba's maximum leader
Posted: August 29, 2008, 11:30 AM by Kelly McParland
Full Comment, Coby Cosh

Fidel Castro, it seems, feels quite wronged. In the Aug. 26 edition of
the revolutionary organ Granma, the retired Cuban dictator complains
that the press of the world simply does not understand his support for
Angel Matos, the tae kwon do competitor who kicked a referee in the face
on the last weekend of the Beijing Olympics. In his original statement,
Castro proclaimed "total solidarity" for Matos and accused the Kazakh
opponent of sending representatives to offer Matos money to throw their
bronze medal match. Arbiter Chakir Chelbat, Castro said, had treated
Matos unjustly for disqualifying him after he took more than the maximum
time permitted to have an injured toe examined by his corner men.

"He [Matos] could not contain himself."

Well, the whole world saw what Matos did, and has received the obvious
explanations for why tae kwon do matches (like all combat sports) are
stopped if one competitor cannot continue. One struggles to recall a
more shocking outrage against the norms of fair play, which are
inherently somewhat flexible when it comes to doing dirt on the opponent
you are trying to beat, but which cannot make room for violence against
an umpire. If the person of the referee is not sacred to the athlete,
there can be no sport in any meaningful sense at all; any nine-year-old
who plays minor hockey can figure out that much for himself.

But in his latest editorial, the generalissimo does not back down from
his unqualified backing of Matos. Instead, he whines about how his
praise for Beijing's Olympic organizers was overlooked and blusters
about how well Cuba manages to do in international sporting competition
despite being so poor — a state of affairs for which he is never short
on elaborate excuses — and facing "European chauvinism, corrupt referees
… and a strong dose of racism."

"I was doomed," snivels Fidel, "the same as the Cuban boxers in the face
of bribed referees and judges, and I knew what would be publicized. As
was to be expected, not a word was published about hunger,
undernourishment, lack of medicines, sport gear and facilities suffered
by 80% of the countries competing there." Turns out Matos is actually a
hero — a Che in a gi who gathered the rage of the global poor into his
foot and lashed out against the white capitalist world, which, for the
moment, had assumed the improbable form of a Swedish national of Turkish
name and appearance. (Perhaps the tableau would have been more effective
if the judge had been some blond, blue-eyed giant peeled off of a Waffen
SS recruiting poster instead of a short, burly light-brown chap.)

It goes without saying that this is nothing but the voice of traditional
communist morality. We know that if an American fighter had kicked a
Cuban judge in the face after being disqualified according to the rules
of his sport, Castro would be scribbling frenzied tirades against the
perfidy of international capitalism until his writing hand fell off. But
when one who represents socialism commits what may seem like an obvious
wrong, truth and justice fly out the window as unscientific bourgeois
concepts.

Even in his latest editorial, Fidel does not flinch from praising the
Olympics as conveying a "message of peace," which, if it means anything,
must mean that one absolutely cannot use political considerations as an
excuse for violating the rules of peaceable competition. Still less
could he be expected to admit that making the Olympics a central part of
Cuban national hagiography, as his regime has done for decades, might
have been a little shortsighted if they have really become as corrupt
and racist as he claims.

What I wonder is, how will those who are part of the Castro personality
cult react to his defence of Matos? The Maximum Leader has often been
sold to us as someone whose dynamic charms — specifically his masculine,
even macho qualities — are irresistible even to those who do not share
his politics. Why, then, does his writing about Matos make him sound
like such a prissy little turd? In a roomful of ordinary men talking
about the Matos incident, one might hear just about any opinion
expressed, including, "You have to admit that was sort of hilarious,"
and, "Hey, we've all gotten the red mist — live and let live." But what
would you think of someone who piped up, "What we should really be
talking about is undernourishment and lack of medicines among Third
World Olympians"?

We've all known guys like that, and we've all stopped inviting them to
our barbecues for fear of estrogen contamination. I never thought
anything would come along to make our own national reaction to the Ben
Johnson scandal look relatively stoic and praiseworthy in retrospect,
but Cuba managed to prove me wrong.
National Post
colbycosh@gmail.com

http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2008/08/29/colby-cosh-maximum-whining-from-cuba-s-maximum-leader.aspx

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