By Shelby Horton
About 500 members of the conservative Tea Party movement gathered at Hutchinson’s Atrium Convention Center on March 3 to listen to Rafael Cruz speak about protecting our Constitution and saving our nation.
Cruz was born in Cuba, and fought against Batista’s regime as a teenager. After being imprisoned and tortured for a year, he came to the U.S., to Houston, on a student visa. Starting as a dishwasher in Houston, he learned English at a local college. He later found work in Canada, in the oil industry, for eight years.
Cruz’s son, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, is a potential candidate for president of the United States.
Among those listening to Cruz’s speech was Darryl Peterson, a Tea Party candidate for Hutchinson city council.
He said he found the talk “eye-opening.”
Others in the audience found the elder Cruz’s story compelling. To many, he was an example of the American Dream.
“He knows what it’s like to have his freedom yanked right from under him,” said Rick Woolley, a Tea Party member from Hutchinson. “Very insightful.”
Many topics were discussed, from the right to bear arms, to protecting the Constitution and what it represents. Cruz was critical about the Obama Administration, and many Tea Party members also voiced displeasure with the president’s policies.
“If Obama was a Christian, he’d be saying and doing things differently,” Peterson said. “I’ve looked at the fruit he’s brought forth, and it’s rotten.”
Cruz speculated that Obama is actually a Muslim pushing an Islamic agenda and helping Muslims infiltrate our government.
“I do believe it. The Justice Department, FBI, and the highest levels of our government are influenced by Islamic Muslims,” he said.
Obama also was criticized for how he has treated Israel, and he was accused of hating the tiny country and its people.
“Those who bless Israel are blessed themselves,” Peterson said.
“The issue I have is we should be taking care of Israel. Obama isn’t doing this. I am running for city council because I have a heart for the community. Obama doesn’t have that.”
Cruz, during his speech, recalled that when he heard in 1959 that Castro had seized power in Cuba, he was glad, and Cruz returned to his homeland, ready to enjoy the new regime and a free, prosperous life.
Then he saw that Castro had quickly taken control of all the newspapers and TV stations in the country and used them for propaganda, controlling what the people were allowed to read and hear.
Castro soon announced that Cuba would have a one-party, socialist government. Internal dissent was quickly suppressed.
Cruz realized he could not live in Cuba. He returned to Texas.
As he told of his experiences, the audience at the convention center listened closely, sometimes clapping and cheering some of his remarks.
During the question and answer session, after Cruz’s speech, an audience member, identified as a college journalism instructor, asked Cruz for his opinion on a proposed bill in the Kansas legislature.
The bill would target college professors who wrote political columns, by restricting what Kansans are allowed to see about the writers’ qualifications and credentials, in Kansas newspapers.
Cruz, suddenly frowning and visibly agitated, seemed to favor the bill.
He said he saw it as “a way to control the leftist propaganda flowing out of these colleges!”
The microphone by then had been taken away from the journalism instructor and handed to someone else.
That discussion ended.
Not all Tea Party members are in favor of such an oppressive, anti-First Amendment bill. Some find it unsettling.
“Though professors are usually liberal, I don’t believe there should be restrictions on the media or on journalists,” Woolley said.
“Viewpoints should be heard, and people should know where they’re coming from,” he said.
Cruz, earlier, said that in Cuba under Castro, the dictator described Cubans with money as “rich and evil” and declared that their money should be redistributed to the people.
Cruz compared that to Barack Obama’s “socialist” policies to tax the rich and redistribute it to people who “want to lie around all day and look at the idiot box.”
These kinds of policies will eventually destroy the United States, he said.
“I told my son, Ted, ‘When I fled Cuba, I had a place to go. When we lose America, there is no other place to go.
“America is worth saving,” he said.