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Cuba Libra

As hurricane Ivan was approaching the island of Cuba, an American television reporter was interviewing people who had relatives living in Cuba.
As hurricane Ivan was approaching the island of Cuba, an American television reporter was interviewing people who had relatives living in Cuba. One lady was expressing her concern over the safety of her cousins in Havana but when she said her biggest worry was that she could do nothing to help them if they had to rebuild or repair their home. The reporter looked non-pulsed until she said, “It is against the law to send anything to Cuba.” The Helms-Burton light went on and the reporter moved on without comment.

I am anything but a fan of the current US administration, but one thing that has always stuck in my craw is the way the Americans have treated Cuba since the Revolution. Sure, the Cubans were a problem when they had close ties with the Russians during the cold war, but no more so than any other Soviet Bloc countries. But the Americans had much of that discord due them from the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the attempted assassination of Fidel Castro.

The Bay of Pigs failed in part due to bad intelligence from the CIA – the same group who botched the current fiasco in Iraq. This treatment of Cuba has nothing to do with George Bush (senior) who was at one time head of the CIA, and certainly nothing to with his wanting revenge on Castro (and then Saddam).

Is there any logical reason for the US embargo on Cuba, other than pleasing the ex-Cuban voters in Florida? There is no military threat from the small nation. The US military easily kicked the butts of those 130 Cuban workers in Grenada! Cuba produces few world market products that would compete with American interests, other than really fine cigars. They do have some excellent tourist facilities that might compete with Florida, but European and Canadian tourists have those booked.

Surely the US administration is not worrying about trading with one of the only Communists countries that still practises older-style communism. They have no problem trading with China or Vietnam or Mother Russia, so what is it about little Cuba that bothers them so?

Perhaps it is the fact that they don’t have the same kind of elections as the US. In the present election campaign the Americans have two choices – Bush or Kerry. Cubans get to vote for one leader, Fidel Castro. I ask you, who has the better option? A two-party system versus a one-party system seems better to us, but as we are finding out in the Middle East, not everyone looks at democracy they way we do. Some people are quite comfortable with a benevolent dictator. When they become non-benevolent, you get rid of them, one way or another.

We visited Cuba three times during the late seventies and early 1980’s. We had travelled extensively throughout the Caribbean and were getting uncomfortably used to the abject poverty outside resort grounds. It wasn’t so much that people were living in homes that we thought little more than huts, but that the people seemed accustomed to dirt and filth in their struggle for existence. They had little education and one could only guess at their health.

Cuba turned out to be entirely different. Homes were neat and tidy, if still little more than huts, clothing, although not much better than elsewhere, was clean and neatly repaired as necessary. The children were all in school and the adults had obviously been educated beyond the ‘norm’ of their neighbouring islands. There was a pervasive military presence, especially on the first trip, but there was absolutely no fear of anyone stealing from you or harming you in any way. No doubt Fidel’s strict regime had a lot to do with this, but the people still seemed to be enjoying life.

While American colonization through capitalism was promoting the unreachable American Dream to the poor in Central America (and elsewhere), Fidel was using communism to bring health and education to his masses, albeit at the expense of the Soviets. At its time, this seemed to be the answer of how to bring a poor, unskilled, uneducated people into the new economic age.

Cubans are now moving more towards a capitalistic system, but are being held back by the US embargo. (Helms-Burton says the US can remove trading rights in the US from any company trading with Cuba. A number of Canadian companies who have historical trading relations with Cuba continue to trade with the island.)

Times, have of course, changed. With the collapse of the USSR style communism, the world view of the Reagan era has altered. No doubt Cuba is due for a change in its policies and government philosophy and it will change when Fidel dies. But why is the US still punishing this island for getting rid of its American-backed dictator, Batista? Surely those who lost property in the 1958 Revolution cannot expect to go back to Cuba and reclaim it after 46 years.

It is time that the US administration came to its senses and allowed their citizens to send aid to anyone in the world – even their next door neighbours, the Cubans.

After the election (Bush will win as Americans elect him to show the rest of the world that they are right and did not make a stupid mistake 4 years ago) George Dubyah should sit down with a nice tall cool Cuba Libra and watch the movie, The Buena Vista Social Club some evening. After a couple of Libras, he might realize that Cubans are okay, even forget his father’s grudge and his brother’s ex-Cuban voters, and open a dialogue with Fidel.

On second thought, that would be unfair to Fidel.



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Bill Walton

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