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A Tale of Two Transitions

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Posted on Aug 1, 2006
Fidel and Raul
AP / Dario Lopez-Mills

Cuban leader Fidel Castro is helped by his brother, Raul, to take his seat at Cuba’s National Assembly in 2004 after being injured in a fall earlier that year.

By Nicholas Shumaker

(Page 2)

Perhaps the best and most costly example of U.S. inefficiency in the fight for a democratic Cuba can be seen in Radio Marti and Television Marti.  Founded in 1985 and 1990, respectively, and with station headquarters in Miami, Radio and Television Marti have sought to broadcast shortwave radio and satellite television to the Cuban people.  The 150 full-time employees create crude news and original programming that vie to undermine Castro.  The problem, though, is that hardly anyone in Cuba is tuning in.

Around the same time as the programs began, Castro undertook measures to ensure that they would be received by as few Cubans as possible: He installed a shortwave station on the same channel to muddle Radio Marti?s reception and actively jammed the signal of Television Marti. Even one of Fidel?s seven-hour ramble sessions is preferable to the static-filled noise that remains.

Statistically, Castro?s preventive measures seem to have paid off.  In a 2001 study, the Board of Broadcast Governors surveyed a thousand Cubans to gauge the effectiveness of TV Marti.  Of those queried, 997 had not watched it in the previous week.  The same government organization performed a similar survey earlier that found that nine out of 10 Cubans had never even heard of TV Marti.  One might suppose that these statistics would catch the attention of the CAFC, which would recommend the abolition of the money pit.

The CAFC, though, advised a contrary course, recommending a huge increase in funding to break the Castro regime?s information blockade—including the purchase of a $10-million plane designed to boost Television Marti?s signal. In all, according to a report in The Panama News, the U.S. has sunk nearly $500 million into Radio and TV Marti since their inceptions. The figure bears repeating: $500 million. Enough to film and market two Superman movies.

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If, as is the case with network and cable television, budgeting and green-lighting for Radio and TV Marti were determined by Nielsen ratings, they would have been unceremoniously dumped quicker than the late Aaron Spelling?s one-off 1994 dud, ?Robin?s Hoods.?  But government bureaucrats and Miami-based lobbyists seem content to pour more and more money into a failed vehicle that they hope, one day, will discover an audience.

Equally baffling was the CAFC?s recommendation to raise the budgets of Cuban-American nonprofits that seek to incite political change on the island.  Its 2006 report specifies that $15 million should be given every two years to ?international efforts at strengthening civil society,? (i.e. U.S.-run nongovernmental organizations) and that $31 million should be allocated to the island to ?support independent civil society.? In total, it recommended spending just under $50 million over a two-year period to help dissidents raise their voices.

A number of problems immediately surface.  Like the Marti networks, dispensing money to Cuban-American-run NGOs has proved historically ineffective.  Washington-based groups like the Center for a Free Cuba receive around $400,000 annually from USAID alone, and often receive a similar amount from the loosely government-related National Endowment for Democracy.

A few months back, I had the opportunity to see how an anti-Castro NGO, Center for a Free Cuba, was spending its money.  One of the heads of the organization made a visit to a nonprofit I was working with in New York City after my return from Cuba. A Bay of Pigs veteran who had not seen his homeland since that failed endeavor, he asked me a series of probing questions about my three years in Cuba that demonstrated to me that he had only the vaguest idea of what life was really like in his native land. I asked him about his organization?s propaganda activities; he removed from his bag a number of pamphlets and books on topics that ranged from children?s stories of living beneath a democratic system to the writings of Vaclav Havel translated into Spanish.

His favorite—as, admittedly, was mine—was a crude flip book comprising freeze frames that sequentially exposed Fidel?s mortality as seen through his now famous collapse in Santa Clara in 2004.  I asked the man how many of these he had run off, and he said nearly 20,000.  The problem with his organization quickly became as clear: By meeting?s end, he was inquiring whether I could help him deliver the counterrevolutionary trinkets to Cuba. If you?re asking a 20-something-year-old documentary filmmaker for help in running blockades, your business model isn?t all that solid.

I knew from my time in Cuba that that man?s problem was not an isolated one. In fact, it was symptomatic of the difficulties that USAID has encountered in financing NGOs focused on Cuba since the program modestly began in the mid-1990s.  In its 2001 report to Congress on Cuba grant recipients, USAID reported that 13 of the 17 nonprofit NGOs encountered great difficulty in meeting their goals, thanks to the repressive environment in Cuba that prevents the dissemination of books like the one I was presented with last winter in New York.  Given Castro?s tunnel vision for preservation of Communism on Cuba, this should be no surprise.

More intractable than the problems encountered by groups like the CFC are the harsh repercussions directed at dissidents on the island who receive money and supplies from the U.S. government.  Although President Bush and Condoleezza Rice remain rhetorically resolute about their friendship with the Cuban people, especially the elusive ?civil society,? the kinship seems one-sided in its inability to listen to ?civil? friends like on-island dissident Miriam Leiva.  In a 2004 dispatch to Salon.com, she argued that the money allocated to stir up dissent only ?serve[s] as evidence for the Cuban government to crack down on those who receive it.?  In her opinion, accepting money from the U.S. government opens the door to accusations of mercenary acts, allowing Castro leeway for mass arrests.  Perhaps with greater punch, Leiva charged that ?the majority of the money will stay in Florida—and we will go to prison.?  After the most recent report was made public, she remained unmoved, reaffirming to the Chicago Tribune?s Gary Marx that ?the government is always looking for excuses to crack down on us.? 

Indeed, interim successor and head of the armed forces Raul Castro recently made it clear that he had no time for mercenaries and Miami-rooted rabble rousing.  On June 14, a month before the CAFC?s report landed on Bush?s desk and just under two months before Fidel Castro ?surprisingly? went under the knife, the younger Castro said in a speech that recent U.S. activities had confirmed in his mind that Cuba remained on Bush?s most-hungry-to-invade list. Raul?s proof? The United States?:

?increased backing of ultra-right groups of Cuban origin based in Miami? and ?the extended inciting of local mercenaries by the United States Interest Section [America’s quasi embassy] in Havana.? (link)



Next page: It has been widely rumored that Raul, given his uncharismatic nature and inability to sway public opinion like his older brother, will be forced to compromise on certain Communist policies to retain power; he may even need to court the assistance of the United States.


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By saul2006, August 9, 2006 at 11:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Castro is no great hero, but considering what Cuba was before he is an improvement.
As for the anti Us Raul- was it not America who was anti Castro and tried to bring the country to it’s knees? That would seem to a very good reason to be anti Castro.
Much of the anti Castro problem originates with the Catholic Church and given a choice between Catholicsm and Castro, I don’t see a big difference.
While many Cubans who had their property taken away have a beef, there are many who were Not Capitalists but pigs enriched by Baptista

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By Nicholas Shumaker, August 5, 2006 at 8:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Spinoza,
I don’t mean this as rhetorical device, but if you should really try out life as a Cuban in Cuba before you herald it as an unfettered success, and before you claim that Castro has done more for the world than any other living man.

If it’s of any consolation, a large number of foreign-Cuban joint ventures have been shut down over the last two years—possibly preparing for a transition.

As for the maintenance of the Embargo, if you feel that’s necessary for the preservation of Castro’s system, it makes pawns and victims out of the eleven million people who are forced to endure.

In response to the Free Press, if Americans are the most uninformed populace it’s by their own accord.  We, as a country, have access to internet, various news agencies (both national and world,) and sites like this that try to get to the bottom of it.

On the other hand, Cubans have three government run news channels, exceptionally limited access to the internet, a handful of state controlled newspapers, and the ability to alter and pirate CNN, adding in their own captions.  I would say the campaign to keep Cubans in the dark is there—and it has very little to do with the U S of A’s Embargo and passive-aggressive tactics.

Americans could be the laziest, but we can get access to things if we’re so riled.

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By Skip Wenz, August 4, 2006 at 9:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m glad to see Nicholas Shumaker actually responing to his readers and critics.  Many writers are above such interaction, which comes across as indifference.

One of the outstanding feelings I got from being in Cuba is that there is no poverty there.  (WHAT??!!)  There are plenty of poor people—in fact, almost everyone is poor. But there is no poverty in the sense that the “poor” feel themselves disenfranchised. Their lives are not just a daily struggle for subsistance as are those of the poor almost everywhere else, including, especially including,the US. To be “poor” is not shameful or depressing, engendering of anger, a dead end.

By law, everyone in Cuba has a place to live.  To my knowledge, there are no homeless there. While it’s true that a typical Cuban’s abode is far more humble than a middle class American home, it’s paradise compared to the box under a bridge in which millions of Americans find themselves spending the winter.

Every Cuban is guaranteed a minimal alotment of food, every day.  Every Cuban has free medical care, for life, and the Cuban medical system is excellent. Every Cuban has free education, from kindergarten through graduate school.  All this is guaranteed by law. 

The right to criticize the government in Cuba is not as great as it is here, and it should be liberalized—guaranteed, in fact.  As I told one Cuban, if the Revolution is truly strong, it will survive criticism—in fact, thrive on it.

But we must also remember that Cuba has been under constant attack by Mega-Monster US of A since the very beginning of the Revolution—the very same Mega-Monster that should have supported the Revolution an welcomed Cuban independence from Batista and the Mafia. Is Fidel and Company a little paranoid?  Or are they just savvy?

We should also remember that freedom of the press only benefits he who owns one. The US populace, for all it’s vaunted First Ammendment rights, remains one of the worst informed publics in the world. 

Finally, Cuba is not all about Castro.  It’s not “Castro’s Cuba,” as the “free media” in the US calls it. Cuba is about the Triumph of the Revolution.  Ask a Cuban.

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By Spinoza, August 4, 2006 at 9:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks for your answers and I think I understand the comment you made about Venezuela.  Yes, I should imagine that you have captured the opinion of many doctors.  And you are right, I really think the tourism industry is absurd and that Cuba would be better off with the embargo continuing. I really don’t like capitalism and Cuba has moved to far in that direction.

As to public criticism of Castro and the regime I don’t know that much.  I do think Chomsky was interviewed by Granma and he was quoted correctly as being very critical of the imprisonment of the opposition even if they were taking money from the USA. So some criticism is allowed.  Not enough undoubtedly.

Nope unfortunately I haven’t been to Cuba.

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By Nicholas Shumaker, August 4, 2006 at 2:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One last thing Spinoza.
You mention “You were being unhelpful and defending Ameriscum Imperialism, only complaining that it was ineffective. That was my complaint with your article”
I was hardly trumpeting American imperialism.  I was simply stating America’s failings.  If they really want to have a positive effect on Cuba, they’d begin to drop the sanctions, which is what you’d likely call for.  Unfortunately for Fido, that move would undermine his authority, as he likely wouldn’t be able to harness angst that would inevitably develop from the already established two-tiered economy.  So to keep what you think is a paradise and unbelievable example as it is, you’d invariably need to keep the Embargo up—or else the evils of America would seap thru.  If you’ve spent any substantial amounts of time in Cuba, I think you’d understand the frustration that exists with tourism as the economic cash cow, and the economic apartheid that it has created.

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By Gonzalo Palenzuela, August 4, 2006 at 12:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Too many observations, some not accurate, and no solutions for real freedom. You do not know the real truth about the cuban people.

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By Nicholas Shumaker, August 4, 2006 at 11:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I simply mean, Spinoza, that there’s no point in deifying or villifying Castro.  He is a world leader.  Given what that actually has come to mean, I’m not sure if I’m familiar with one deserves a moral pedestal.

In terms of alienating the products of his educational system, I’d encourage you to speak to some of the doctors who I know who feel (a) trapped in the sense that for them to leave the country is a whole lot harder than the average citizen (which is difficult to begin with,) and (b) alienated because they feel they’re being overworked, underpaid, and have to give priority to foreigners involved with medical tourism.

In terms of a stall intellectually, I’d encourage you to visit some book stores in Cuba and tell me whether there’s a promotion of uniform ideology that conforms with the Revolution.  Visit ICAIC and ask them if you can do a film that explicitly critiques the regime.  Visit the Writers Union and say you’d like to write a piece in the Granma that calls for multi-party elections.

I read the link.  What do you want me to say?  Alacron is an interesting person, and he’s the mouthpiece for the Castro Administration.  There’s nothing surprising in my mind there.

Just out of curiosity, have you visited Cuba?

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By long bow, August 4, 2006 at 10:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

40 years of stupidity on thepart of the USA. We are a terrorist nation dipped in a pool of irony, lies and ignorance.

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By Spinoza, August 3, 2006 at 9:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Can you please explain what you mean here:

I would never villify the man, but I’ve seen, and spoken to enough products of Castro’s system on the island who’ve advantaged themselves to the educational benefits and medical advancements (which are, actually, hindered now thanks to Venezuela) to conclude that the negatives outweigh the positives, particularly in Havana.  From an intellectual perspective, the country has got a long ways to go—and it certainly doesn’t look like it’s making any strides forward.

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By Spinoza, August 3, 2006 at 4:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr Shumaker, I would be interested in your comments on this Alarcon interview.


http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/08/02/1434239

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By Spinoza, August 3, 2006 at 4:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am one of those people who have engaged in some hyperbole in favor of Castro and I am—I think—the only person who called you a right winger.

However, the context is in light of the article and in light of the fact that I live in beautiful NY State.  I know that Castro is not a liberal and is not a Saint and I know there are very many problems in CUBA.

However, to my mind the over riding issue is USA Imperialism and how to defeat it.  You yourself have pointed out that in the last 10 years there has been a lessening of an authoritarian strain in Cuba. I argued that, that is what Progressives should be promoting—-rather than attacking Cuba like right wingers do —-which is what you did in your article.  You were being unhelpful and defending Ameriscum Imperialism, only complaining that it was ineffective. That was my complaint with your article.


Mr Shumaker, This is what I see as the alternative to Castro, am I wrong?


http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3573.htm

Everywhere in Central America except Costa Rica I am told, the situation for the poor is abysmal. So as I said at the beginning, VIVA CASTRO

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By Nicholas Shumaker, August 3, 2006 at 2:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

R.A. Earl,

I don’t think Bush is in a position to run for a third term, thankfully, do you?

But again, this was an analysis on the failed policies of the United States and how they relate to the transfer of power in Cuba.  But I will nitpick a bit.  You mentioned….

“Lemme see. A “despot” is defined by Webster as “... a person exercising power abusively, oppressively, or tyrannically.” I might be wrong but the vast majority of the PEOPLE OF CUBA seem to support Castro in spite of the lack of democracy allowed in government.”

When was the last poll in Cuba that suggested this?  I can’t seem to recall one… ever.  Additionally, to come out publicly and denounce Castro is a move that requires rather large cajones.  Has there ever been a poll without recrimination where people feel free to voice what they want for their future?  I suppose Mariel might have been a bold example, as were the balsero issues of the early nineties.

Additionally, the early years of the Revolution, as well as his treatment of homosexuals until the last decade, would fit your definition of despot.

But again, it’s easier to talk about Bush being one.. a sentiment that most thinking men and women would agree with.

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By been there, August 3, 2006 at 10:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hey John Chalus we understand you want to see Castro dead as you much prefer a country with multi billionaires and abject poverty that also happens to spend more on arms than all the other countries on earth combined.  Yes siree Castro bad, Bush good!!

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By Amicusbriefs, August 3, 2006 at 10:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

America’s filtered view of Cubans is identical to its perceptions of the former Soviet Union. Those persons who actually visited Russia found a different story. Our information is skewed by a compliant press to parrot the government’s story, so those who have discarded books for Fox News have no standing to voice an authoritative opinion on conditions inside Cuba. Fidel Castro has successfully fended off American imperialism for fifty years. Nothing could infuriate conservatives more than this accomplishment. Cuba’s modest successes despite American sanctions is a tribute to Castro’s perseverance. There is a statue of Elian tossing Superman into the dust. Bush would enjoy a staged photo-op of U.S. troops pulling it down surrounded by a cheering crowd of paid actors.

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By zeke, August 3, 2006 at 9:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“HOWEVER, you have not answered what has stumped me for at least 40 years: Why is a Goliath like America—- so paranoid about Cuba?”

Look back to last fall, when Katrina hit poor people in the south.  Cuba’s Medical Brigades, which has a long history of helping its’ neighbors in Latin America after hurricanes, bringing healthcare and training to areas where there was none, offered to send nurses and doctors to Louisiana and Mississippi as early as August 30, 2005.  They even suggested that they would not issue publicity about the offer if that would make it easier for the US to accept.  There was never a response.  Three days later, Cuba made its’ offer public and identified the 1,100 doctors who were on standby with 25 tons of medical aid.  How many lives were lost because our government couldn’t look after its’ own people?  Maybe the lack of response was because people would have questioned their government’s private health care system or why Cuba was so prepared to deal with the health needs of the poor, free of charge.  Is it too cynical to think that our government chose to sacrifice the lives of its’ own people rather than allow them to think that there is a humanitarian alternative to its’ capitalist doctrine of profit over lives?

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By R. A. Earl, August 3, 2006 at 9:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“The United States’ government unfettered zeal to unseat Castro… began in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis when the CIA undertook nearly 27 assassination attempts that ranged from an exploding cigar to a poisoned wet suit all the way to hitting the despot with the most potent LSD that Haight-Ashbury could manufacture.”

Lemme see. A “despot” is defined by Webster as “... a person exercising power abusively, oppressively, or tyrannically.” I might be wrong but the vast majority of the PEOPLE OF CUBA seem to support Castro in spite of the lack of democracy allowed in government.

There may be regimes MORE abusive, oppressive and tyrannical than the one presently in power in the USA but I don’t think the Cuban government is one of them. Castro’s Cuba may have its drawbacks and weaknesses, but anyone who can’t or won’t realize that the GWB administration is doing it’s utmost to BECOME JUST AS AUTOCRACTIC is either feeble-minded or as despotic-minded as GWB.

Which government claims FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY as humanity’s highest ideals then openly admits it has attempted to MURDER, several times, another country’s leader? Only one comes to mind… the same one that gets my vote as ONE OF THE MOST DANGEROUS AND UNTRUSTWORTHY GOVERNMENTS ON THE PLANET.

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By John Chalus, August 3, 2006 at 7:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Castro did away religious freedom and freedom of the press.He does not tolerate dissent. If the people didn’t want Castro they’d throw him out. That is bull. Castro has control of the military, the police and the General Directorate of State Security (DGSE). The DGSE is not unlike the KGB. He also outlawed private firearms ownership.He did this on the second day he was in power How could the Cuban people throw Castro out if they didn’t want him? They can’t vote him out. The Cuban people live under a totalitarian regime. If Cuba is so wonderful why don’t all of you who are so supportive of the regime go and live there. You know if you don’t like it you can always leave. The Cubans can’t. John Chalus

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By Ruth Petit, August 3, 2006 at 6:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I have worried for a long time what will happen to the Cuban people after Castro. One thing seems to be sure, the US and Cuban expatriates will try to regain influence and will be in there like the proverbial flies. One way this may still be avoided is, if the current regime develops its own brand of democracy by allowing another party to develop and run for elections by the people of Cuba for the people of Cuba.
In my opinion, that this was not done in the last 50 years, is the only mistake Fidel Castro made. He should have trusted the people of Cuba more. I also think, had the US reached out with a helping hand after the revolution, Castro would never have turned to the (then) Soviet Union. He is and was a socialist first and foremost, with the interest of his impoverished people at heart, the people, who were exploited by the criminal gangs from the US, with the aid and support of the US government.I wish a happy birthday to Fidel and a full recovery.
Long live Cuba libre.

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By William, August 2, 2006 at 7:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Viva Fidel C.  may he live many more years.
His work has done more for his nation than any other prsident in recent years.

Let’s hope those Chicago gangster will never have a chance to reclaime their bounty.

If there is one man I admire it’s Castro.

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By Esteban, August 2, 2006 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am saddened @ Fidel’s illness.  Despite the shortcommings of the revolution, the Cuban people can at least call themselves free of colonialism.  There may not be TRUE democracy in Cuba, yet we haven’t that either

The future for Cuba is still long, but as long as the people keep from being ruled by foreign influences as they are now, true progress will come to them all.

Some call the Revolution an educated failure…if this is so. I’d rather see an educated attempt and failure, than an ignorant success that elevates the few and tricks the many.

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By Nicholas Shumaker, August 2, 2006 at 5:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

While I’m amused that some categorize me as a right winger, I hate to deflate that accusation to suggest that I’m much more akin in politic to someone like Reinaldo Arenas.

That in mind, I do feel that some of the ill will that the essay might have generated is a product of the fact that both camps—supporters of Fidel and those who are opposed to him—can’t recognize that there exists an area between these two absurd poles that vies a progressive transition, or, placed more mildly, a change.  This change, without making the baseless, purely rhetorical comparison to the United States, could constitute liberalizing speech and press.  To compare the situation of closed speech and closed press to the United States is baseless and laughable.  While the US is far from perfect in both of these regards, they are intensely more open to diverse opinions than Cuba.

But again that’s to qualify the comparison as worthy and dignified.  Loving Fidel for an image of what you think he’s accomplished, whilst ignoring his indiscretions is equally as undignified.  I would never villify the man, but I’ve seen, and spoken to enough products of Castro’s system on the island who’ve advantaged themselves to the educational benefits and medical advancements (which are, actually, hindered now thanks to Venezuela) to conclude that the negatives outweigh the positives, particularly in Havana.  From an intellectual perspective, the country has got a long ways to go—and it certainly doesn’t look like it’s making any strides forward.

As far as Fidel being the most altruistic leader, I’d suggest a read of Brian Lattel’s (sp) “After Fidel.”  The list of counterpoints to that stance is lengthy, and compiled nicely.

None of this is to say that he is the devil.  No world leader is perfect.

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By Becky, August 2, 2006 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The part about killing Castro with the ‘best LSD Haight-Ashbury could make’ made a little giggle for me.

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By Spinoza, August 2, 2006 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

>>>The question is: why does a candidate not appeal to the moderate Cuban Americans

That is a good question, when the USA has a choice between a moderate right winger and a rabid right winger to back, it backs the rabid right winger.  During the Cold war in the Middle East the USA backed extreme Islamists over any leftist or even moderate modernizer.  When having a choice on foreign policy the USA always prefered the big stick method even though in the long run it increased the number of our enemies. This attitude C Wright Mills called “crackpot realism”.  Americans always used the argument that they were realists.  That the only thing the “enemy” understood was force. That the USA always also had a lot of enemies—-was part of the realist mantra.

Maybe the American people are more militarist than most people?  I doubt that but I don’t know the answer.

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By Skip Wenz, August 2, 2006 at 2:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It seems that this gentleman John Chalus will “never be convinced” of what the Cuban people might choose, “if they had a choice.” A trip to Cuba might do him good. Everywhere, the Cubans I spoke with told me, “If we didn’t want Castro, we’d kick him out. That’s what we did with Batista, and he had the direct military support of the US.”

Perhaps Mr. Chalus doesn’t understand that the revolution was not originally Marxist.  It’s intent was to get rid of Batista and set up a democratic government. Because achieving that aim necessitated getting rid of the Mafia and the US corporations that controlled Cuba’s sugar industry, Castro was rejected by the US and ultimately embraced communism. Before he turned communist, he came to visit our country, where he was educated, and our government refused to meet with him.


Then came the Bay of Pigs, when we tried to invade Cuba and reverse the Revolution.  But the Revolution wasn’t a palace coup on Castro’s part.  It was the work of the Cuban people as a whole, fighting together. Most Americans don’t understand that.  Cubans do.

I doubt if Mr. Chulas is capable of opening his mind to the processes of history. He sounds like a sound bite from a right-wing talk show. If he is sincerely interested in the welfare of the Cubans, however, he should travel to that country, and speak with its people. Perhaps he’s right.  They would not choose Communism and Castro again. But I can guarantee you that they would not choose George Bush and the “re-Americanization” of their homeland.

The Bush administration has a plan to bring “democracy” to Cuba.  Aren’t we already doing that in Iraq?

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By Delaney, August 2, 2006 at 1:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This was a very informative article. Perhaps I am a bit cynical but, I truly do not believe that the United States is honestly concerned with Cuba’s welfare one bit, nor has been since after the Cuban missle crisis.

Without debating whether the Cuban experiment has been a success or failure, which would depend on ones point of view and values, I think most importantly from the U.S. perspective, Cuba’s Fidel Castro has become nothing more than a visible and tangible personification of the political limits of U.S. power and global influence…Thus cementing our nations resolve to destroy him and his experiment.

As a nation the United States has taken great pride in it’s role as a superpower, and now the sole remaining global superpower. As such we have never liked nor been tolerant to those nations or individuals who have successfully defied our wishes, and acted contrary to our economic or political interests.

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By jeri rasmussen, August 2, 2006 at 1:00 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One of the highlights of my life has been the visit to Cuba right after the revolution.  I love Castro to this day and regret that my country was so myopic as to dismiss him. The Miami crowd are the ones that stole the public trust and money and attempted to sell the shore rights which constitutional were declared to belong to the Cuban people forever and ever. Our country traded decency and a budding democracy for thugs. What a testament to Castro that he did the best he could for his people and didn’t jump ship for Miami.  Viva Castro

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By CapitalCat, August 2, 2006 at 12:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The folks in Little Havana remind me of General Chang-Kai Shek and his crew who were always about to liberate mainland China. Nowadays China makes goods for WalMart and we have no idea what happened to the millions of dollars that were funneled to the Nationalists on Taiwan.

The Miami Cubans have been good foot soldiers for the GOP. Remember four of the five Watergate burglars were Cuban exiles and the Elian Gonzales situation helped Bush find enough allies to stuff the ballot boxes in 2000.

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By Jaded Prole, August 2, 2006 at 12:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I personally hope to see Fidel Castro live for many more years. History will show him to be a selfless leader who did more good for his people and for the world then any leader in the last century.

The U.S has no right to criticise Cuba’s democracy. Our pretense of a “multi-party system” is a joke. Cubans have far more access to their system and far more of a say within it than we can dream of. The much recounted difficulties in that country, both economic and political, can not be honestly seperated from the reality of U.S. policy. Cuba has been under daily seige since its revolution. We in the US have seen our liberties taken under far less threat.

Fidel’s lifetime of resistance to US hegemoney and for Socialism is bearing fruit throughout South America. That is the future. We are the past.

Viva Fidel!
Viva la Revolucion!

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By John Chalus, August 2, 2006 at 12:40 pm Link to this comment
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Cuba is doing so well since the demise of the USSR it has now turned to Hugo Chavez (another jackass like Castro) of Venezuela for help. I’m sure that the Revolution values human beings. Only the ones who agree with Castro and his minions. Don’t the lock up dissenters in Cuba? Why do boatloads of Cubans risk everything to come to the USA. I don’t know of anybody going the other way at great risk. Castro and his crew are hardcore communists.Just like the communists in any country the rulers do very well for themselves. The military does well. The majority of the people suffer. You’ll never convince me that the people of Cuba would chose Communism and Castro if they had a choice. John Chalus

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By Skip Wenz, August 2, 2006 at 11:33 am Link to this comment
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I visited Cuba, legally, on a tour of that country’s sustainable development.  On that one issue, sustainable development, I can assure anyone interested that Cuba is way, way ahead of the US and virtually all other countries. Part of Cuba’s response to the demise of the Soviet Union was to embrace sustainable agriculture and development, and it has served the country well. (See my article at the above URL.) 

The US fears Cuba because the Revolution values human beings, in contrast to our system which values materail success. All the prattle about a Cuban “transition to democracy” ignores the fact that the Cuban people are already by far the best educated and, in many ways, the best off people in Latin America.  This despite 45 years of the US embargo and medling. The revolution may be due for a transition, though bringing US dominated capitalism to the island under the guise of “democratization,” will benefit no one but the US capitalists. 

All in all, the Revolution can be judged a great success, and an inspiring story. We have a lot more to gain from adopting Cuba’s ways than they have from adopting ours.

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By Bill Blackolive, August 2, 2006 at 11:31 am Link to this comment
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Ours is the most indoctrinated nation in known history. We reign less susceptible to fear than to arrogance of thinking we are comfortable.

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By Sebastian Doggart, August 2, 2006 at 11:17 am Link to this comment
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A very enlightening piece, if only those such as John Chalus, the first respondent to this piece, would read the honest testimonies of those who have actually spent time on the island. I am familiar with Nick Shumaker’s work, and of the enormous hardships he went through to reach an understanding of the labyrinthine workings of Cuba. He has no axe to grind. To dismiss him as a right-winger is laughably ignorant.

In response to the question of why the US is concerned with Cuba—Cuba is not a foreign policy issue at all; it’s a DOMESTIC policy issue. Florida is a key electoral state (as 2000 proved) and the Cuban American community is a key to the White House.

The question is: why does a candidate not appeal to the moderate Cuban Americans, most of whom now recognize that the embargo is the best way to keep the Castro dynasty in power, and that the best way to undermine it is to flood the country with Yanquis?

Vamos, Hillary—hasta la victoria siempre!

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By Frank, August 2, 2006 at 11:00 am Link to this comment
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Why don’t we have American refugees risking their lives to flee to Cuba?  You socialist Castro supporters on the board should think about why so many Cubans are so eager to get out of that country and come to the United States.

I find it ironice that one poster said “the only good fascist is a dead fascist” and “VIVA CASTRO” in the same post. Oh, the irony.

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By Mighty_Mezz, August 2, 2006 at 10:35 am Link to this comment
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The us gov’t gives Communist China favored nation status, so we know it’s not because Cuba is Communist.

Why won’t us gov’t back off on Cuba?

Simple.

The CIA and the Mafia want it back.

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By robert, August 2, 2006 at 10:23 am Link to this comment
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There are extremists on both sides of this discussion (wit. Spinoza and John Chalas). The important thing to remember, especially for people in the US, is that people everywhere want to clothe and feed their children. They care about those things far more than democracy or free speech, and likely they should because from almost any viewpoint it is better to keep your children alive and healthy in the hopes that things will improve in the future, rather than have them all die today.

In 1991, I was a guest of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and despite perestroika and glasnost, people couldn’t buy food or other essentials except on the black market. The government taloney, or food coupons, were useless, because the stores were completely empty. One of the other Americans in our group kept asking the Russians how much they liked this newfound freedom, and without exception their reply was that first it was more important to take care of their families and that democracy and freedom meant nothing without those essentials. 

This is obviously one of the big problems with Iraq. People are righteously pissed that even the security, food and electricity they had under Saddam are now absent. How can one care for one’s family under the current US-caused situation?

It is really important when our politicians talk fancy words about freedom and democracy that most people in the world will never give a shit about either if their basic needs aren’t met. That is why the most important help that we as a country can provide are BASIC NEEDS, like medicine, food, and clothing…politics can come later.

-the doc-

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By Ted Tripp, August 2, 2006 at 9:56 am Link to this comment
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As Noam Chomsky remarks, Uncle Fidel committed the unforgiveable sin of dismissing the capitalist system from his native land. Simply so, the Goliath hates him and punishes Cuba, thus hoping to disuade other peoples from throwing off exploitation and oppression.
The fact that Cuba held out in its resistance to Uncle Sam and is doing well now because of China and Venezuela, not to speak of possible oil discoveries, is cause for great hope for the peoples of the world, and cause for celebration of Fidel’s birthday. I honor Fidel Castro and pray for his health.

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By John Chalus, August 2, 2006 at 9:15 am Link to this comment
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What a load of crap. Cuba has suffered far too long under Communism. I hope Castro dies ASAP. The Cuba you speak of is pure fantasy. What are you the Walter Duranty of the 2000’s? In case you don’t know who he was he was the journalist who sang the praises of Stalin while he starved 6 million Ukranians and killed and jailed millions more. Castro is a sadistic dictator and his brother is no better. You should know better. Communism is a corrupt and failed system. Any country that is still living under that type of totalitarian regime is in need of real liberation. Castro and Kim Jun Il are cut from the same cloth. I pray that you wake up from your dream world and face the reality of the suffering that the Cuban people are living with daily. John Chalus

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By sns, August 2, 2006 at 9:08 am Link to this comment
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Why is a Goliath like America—- so paranoid about Cuba? 

Because Cuba represents successful defiance over time (read simplistic ideologues crawling out of their skins over this), and, in many respects and upon closer examination, has great potential of becoming a well functioning state and IS a model for meaningful social values. 

(e.g. US companies are clamoring to work with Castro’s biomedical industry, which is a great success, despite the embargo.)

Cuban freedom fighters are ignorant bums seeking easy government handouts in order to disseminate pamphlets paid for a government/people who will not tolerate a state unwilling to be exploited, a state that defies the will of Big American Business… 

“...perhaps only an outright revolt would usher in true democratic reform…”  Yeah, like the “true democracy” in Mexico where the voting process is rigged?  Just like it is here… 

Perhaps the revolt should encompass deceptive and perverted political catch-phrases, misleading lingo, and distracting words devoid of true meaning?  Concepts and words shaped and twisted to only resemble on the utmost surface the original intent as written in the Constitution; used cynically with a wink and a smirk.  Quality Time in a Democracy.

Do YOU Support Our Troops?  How could you not?  Right?

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By Ethan Boger, August 2, 2006 at 8:29 am Link to this comment
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Isn’t it amazing that we know so little about Cuba. What we can say with some certainty is that the life of ordinary Cubans is better than most other people in Central America, including more economic security, better healthcare and better education. This is the correct way to measure the success or failure of the Castro regime. And by the way, what does “democracy” mean to a Mayan villager in Guatamala whose fate is in the hands of local “law enforcement” brandishing Israeli-made Galil rifles, or the subsistance farmer in Mexico driven off his farm because of NAFTA?

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By badri raina, August 2, 2006 at 8:13 am Link to this comment
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the article seems to imply that cuba is not a ‘democracy’ because it has a one-party ‘dictatorship’, and no freedom of the press;

are we to think—especially in the light of recent history—that the U.S has effectively more than a one-party system?  Or that its free press (if fox news, washington post, wall street journal and such like can be called free) has ensured that the administration turns away from fascist practices, or that its ‘democracy’ visibly raises the poor and contains the rich?

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By Spinoza750, August 2, 2006 at 1:31 am Link to this comment
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That is one stupid article typical of all right wingers.  Why no analysis of how the voting system works in Cuba?  Why no analysis of how the economy recovered from the special period?  Why no analysis of how the economy can be improved to make every ones life better.  Why no analysis of methods to avoid the retrograde capitalist system and to improve democracy in Cuba, (NOTE THE WORD DEMOCRACY, which means rule by the people , not rule by the rich as capitalist scum want it defined).

Down with capitalist democracy

Up with the rule of the people

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By Firefly, August 2, 2006 at 1:09 am Link to this comment
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Very illuminating. Thank you for confirming what I have suspected all along regarding those Cuban freedom fighters in Florida who get so much support from the Republicans.

HOWEVER, you have not answered what has stumped me for at least 40 years: Why is a Goliath like America—- so paranoid about Cuba?

Firefly

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By Spinoza, August 2, 2006 at 1:05 am Link to this comment
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VIVA CASTRO

The best fascist is a dead fascist.

Castro has done more for the world and poor people in particular than any other living man. He deserves the honor of all of mankind.

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