Cuban leader Raul Castro is a figure right out of the world of George Orwell’s political epic 1984. In that novel, Big Brother declared, through the propaganda subjected to the citizens of the future society of Oceania, that “freedom was slavery” and “war is peace.”

Castro has engaged in Orwellian rhetoric in his response to mounting criticism over the government’s treatment of dissidents who have gone on hunger strikes to protest their imprisonment. He denied that there was merit to the criticisms leveled regarding the treatment of political prisoners or the merits of their detainment, deeming such criticism as “a ferocious campaign” to bring the Cuban government into disrepute.

One dissident, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died February 23 after being incarcerated following a 2003 crackdown on dissidents, and another, Guillermo Fariñas, is now in a hospital. Castro has defended the treatment of Fariñas by saying that the government is “doing what we can to save his life,” while warning ominously that “if [Fariñas] does not change his own self-destructive stance, he will be responsible, along with those who back him, for an outcome which we too do not wish to happen.” Castro’s chilling warning reminds one of characters from gangster movies that warn those they are blackmailing that it would be awful bad if violence were to be inflicted on them or their loved ones.

Just as Castro blackmails both Fariñas and critics by threatening some form of violence, he is quite incredibly claiming that it is actually the Cuban government that is being blackmailed by countries pressuring them for their actions, such as the United States. “We will never give in to blackmail, from any country or group of countries, no matter how powerful,” he said during a speech that was broadcast nationally. Castro’s doublespeak is a clear reminder that, while not quite as bad Stalin or Pol Pot, Cuba’s “lesser but omnipresent tyranny” (as Heritage scholar Ray Walser put it) is the most brutal destroyer of freedom in our hemisphere.

Michael Orion Powell is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: