CUBA: The Strongman Speaks

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Castro ignored him. That night on TV, his favorite medium for lecturing the country, Castro said in a four-hour harangue that he had differences with Urrutia that were both "moral and civic." For a starter, Urrutia was drawing "exactly the same salary as Batista" ($10,000 a month), while all the Cabinet members had voluntarily taken a cut to $700. Urrutia was buying a $40,000 house, while "I have no house; I have bought no house."† Waving and tapping a yellow pencil, Castro stepped up the pace of the attack until his voice grew shrill and sweat darkened his open green army shirt.

"He is blackmailing us with Communism," Castro yelled. "Everything here which is promoting the ghost of Communism is promoting foreign aggression. The President is trying to draw up a plan exactly like Díaz Lanz. Maybe he can send for 15 North American agents and install them as ministers here."

Sobs at the Palace. As Castro's tirade roared on, now comprehensible, now incoherent, Urrutia watched a television set in his wife's sitting room at the palace. His face was ashen, and his right cheek twitched nervously as Castro's high-pitched voice filled the room. At one point, a female secretary yelled toward the TV screen: "That's a lie!" The President's wife retreated, red-eyed, to her bedroom. Finally, Urrutia rose, went into a small office, wrote out his resignation, sent it to the television studio, turned his head to the wall and sobbed. All that he asked in the note was an armed guard to see him and his wife and three children through the mob to the home of his brother-in-law. As the resignation was read over the air, Castro deadpanned: "Let him go if he wants to, like any other citizen."

The new President of Cuba had already been picked that afternoon at a secret meeting in Havana's Camp Liberty, with no civilian ministers present. Castro and the band of leftists and Communist-liners who hold down all of the top army jobs vetoed two leading choices as too pro-U.S., voted to hand the presidency to Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado, 40, an obscure country lawyer. In his old job as Minister of Revolutionary Laws, Dorticós had the humble job of drafting decrees. In his new job (he cut the salary to $2,500 a month), he will be the rubber stamp for Castro's one-man rule—or else.

Most Cubans were still convinced that Castro is not the Communist that his old friend, Díaz Lanz. says he is. But by outlawing anti-Communism in Cuba, he had proved that, willingly or not, he is the Reds' best tool in Latin America since Jacobo Arbenz fled Guatemala in 1954 and eventually fetched up in Prague, Czechoslovakia. And he is a strongman of terrifying power. No Cuban could feel safe when one man could, with mere words, so quickly reduce the President of his country to the status of a traitor.

*A glowing version of Castro's moves clacked out to other Latin American capitals over the teletypes of Prensa Latina, a new wire service that set up shop in Havana last month after Castro argued that "the international news mo nopolies [i.e., AP and UPI] soy lies and calum nies to weaken our revolution."

† Castro lives in a villa in suburban Cojimar, a suite at the Havana Hilton, and several apart ments scattered about town.

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