Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mary McCarthy Gomez Cueto

From the topical obituary of Mary McCarthy Gomez Cueto:
"Mary McCarthy Gomez Cueto, the Newfoundland-born widow of a wealthy Cuban businessman, had one fortune confiscated in the 1959 Cuban revolution and a second cache impounded by the 1962 U.S. trade ban on Cuba.

She forgave the former but never the latter, and her one-woman plight became an international campaign that finally, in 2007, caused the American stand to soften just enough for her to withdraw $96 (U.S.) every month from a First National Bank account in Boston. The money was released for medical reasons."

"In 1950, Mr. Gomez Cueto was diagnosed with leukemia and died. They had no children, and she inherited his fortune, about $4-million. Some was invested in Cuba and some banked in Boston. Mr. Gomez Cueto appeared to be a far-seeing businessman who wanted to maximize his wife's financial options. Her comfortable life continued in Havana; she gave no thought to returning to St. John's or remarrying.

On New Year's Day, 1959, president Fulgencio Batista was informed that Fidel Castro was in Havana, and fled. The Cuban revolution was at hand.

Ms. McCarthy's Cuban assets were seized, and she was allotted a monthly pension of 200 pesos - about $12.

It was a time of upheaval and flight, but Ms. McCarthy never considered leaving her adopted home. "I wasn't a bit frightened," she said. Castro had promised the Cuban people that they would not lose their homes, and she believed him. She remained in her mansion, which decayed around her.

She could see that the revolution had drained much of the fun, and certainly all the frivolity, from Havana. Yet she admired Mr. Castro and was resigned to her vanished riches. "He's a great friend of the poor, you know," she said. "Everything I lost was properly used. There was better education, more housing, and no more children in the street begging or anything like that."

(Mr. Castro himself used to greet her at the annual Canadian embassy party by saying: "I know your face, I know your face - but I don't remember who you are.")

The American freeze on her assets in Boston was another story as far as Ms. McCarthy was concerned. The U.S. government was wrong to take what was hers, she felt, because it did it only as part of an over-emotional response to Mr. Castro. To the end of her life, she hoped to see the embargo lifted. "That way we'd get on our feet.""

Note how the lyin' Telegraph manages the opposite spin!
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