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Thursday, March 24, 2005

The CNN mindset at Harvard 

My good friend from Boston sent me an e-mail about a conversation he had with a girl at Harvard who was handing out Anti-Cuba propaganda on campus. He shared some of her claims, and I share with you my rebuttals:

I am very glad that you e-mailed me this girl's comments. As it gives me a lovely opportunity to rebuttal in an educated manner. As I'm sure the more and more I teach, the more and more this kind of silliness will come up. I'm disappointed that this girl is attending Harvard and is still thinking in the CNN context though. Very disappointing. Okay, here we go:

Leafleting for a "pro-democracy" thing: Interesting way of campaigning for the World’s Super Power to meddle and fuck with the on-goings of an independent republic. Certainly this pro-democracy rhetoric looses a lot of ground after the Iraq war. Let’s not forget other pro-democracy events for Cuba like bombing their airplanes and tourist hotels. Broadcasting (illegally) radio signals that tell people to overthrow their government. An interminable blockade and a tightening of a blockade with food and medicine. And the every lingering threat of war. All of this orchestrated in Miami and Washington.

Grandparents were executed during the revolution because they tried to leave Cuba: Cuba, like the U.S., does allow capital punishment in extenuating circumstances for such crimes as war crimes, terrorism, and murder. In 2003 Cuba executed 4 people for hi-jacking a Havana Bay ferry, holding people at knife point, threatening their lives, and taking a dangerously over-loaded boat out into the Florida Straits. Before then, Cuba has not executed anyone since the mid 1960s. Also, unlike every other Latin American nation at this time, Cuba did not "disappear" anyone, or torture anyone. I'll let Galeano take it from here,” [in 1959] the worst [of Batista’s] torturers go up against a wall. The aptly named “Bonebreaker” faints each time the firing squad takes aim. They have to bind him to a post.” (Galeano, 1988). While I do not support capital punishment in any context, I regret to say that, if in fact this girl’s grandparents were executed, it is likely in retribution for crimes that go well beyond leaving the island.

Cubans can't leave the country without special permission: Yes! This is true. They do need special permission, just as every citizen of every country needs permission to leave their country. It is called a passport. (Amazing how words and ideas can sound scarier than they are) The international departures terminal in Havana is chalked full of Cubans coming and going freely. Cuba has more embassies in the world than the U.K.; they also have more foreign embassies on their soil than any other Latin American nation. This is a grand statement of internationalism. Why so many embassies overseas? Because there are Cuban citizens and residents overseas. To invite a Cuban citizen to visit a wealthy nation some extra regulations are put in place to ensure that the Cuban travelling abroad will be financially secure. For example a Cuban who visits the U.S. must show that they will have accommodation, travel, and expenditure costs covered because most people make under $30 a month, and they could blow a month’s wage on a taxi ride from the airport. Within the country $30 is almost enough to cover costs, it goes nowhere in any other country, and as such Cuba does not want its citizens living like poppers in guest countries, so proving that a host will cover costs is sometimes necessary.

There’s no popular vote at all: This year is an election year in Cuba. People have a vote at the local, provincial and national level. Candidates do not campaign through advertisements – they meet with citizens on an individual basis and discuss issues. See Arnold August “Democracy in Cuba and the 1997 – 1998 Elections” And also see the attached photo.

Foreigners are carefully prevented from seeing or visiting most of the country: That’s complete horseshit. I’ve been to every single province in Cuba – every single one. You can go anywhere. Meet anybody. Do what you wish. I know foreigners who retire there, work there, live there, marry there, and have children there. There is only one place in Cuba where movement is closely restricted. Where foreigners are excluded and military rule prevails: The U.S. Naval Base on Guantanamo Bay. Let’s not forget the detained group of Haitians in 1995 who tried to escape Gauntanamo to make a better life in Cuba. This was in 1995 with 18 hour rolling blackouts and a food shortage, and people deciding, “hey its better there than here!”

Media is restricted to pro-Fidel propaganda: Considering the work of Fox News and CNN, this is another case of the pot calling the kettle black. Radio, newspaper, and television are state run. It brings with it state bias, just as corporate media brings corporate bias. It is, however, very critical of the system when it wants to be. One of the most critical outputs in Cuba is the film industry which makes scathing critiques about the disorganized and chaotic life on the island. Check it out, if you can. Oh wait, the U.S. restricts the importation of creative arts, (as well as science and medical journals) from Cuba. Maybe next time.

The public health stats are total lies: The health stats are checked and double checked by the U.N. Mark Twain said that all statistics are damned lies, but I think that the WHO has some credibility. I’m not convinced that they are a pack of liars. As far as I’ve seen, everyone is fed, everyone can see a doctor, and everyone has a place to live. Resources are pinched tightly, thanks to Jesse Helms and his band of thugs, so sometimes the allocation of wares is difficult. Check it out:

Also, Fidel, not the CIA, had Che killed: Some charge Cuba for Che’s demise, because they did not contribute resources to his fight. Cuba was happy keeping the revolution in Cuba, and spreading influence by other means, Che wanted one, two, three, many Vietnams. Different approach. The decision to execute Che came from the CIA, and was done by Bolivian forces who were CIA trained. Che did not want to take over power in Cuba; he saw the revolution as a hemispheric struggle, while Castro saw it as a national one. During a time of nuclear readiness between USA and USSR, Cuba would not be fingered as the one turning a cold war hot and hence stayed out of Che’s plans. See John Lee Anderson’s book for a definitive account of Che’s life and times.

Well Tom, I hope that helps. You really have to dig deep to find this kind of stuff out. And once you do find it out, the popular media will dismiss it all as lies anyway. Chomsky’s Hegemony and Survival talks about this. What is sad is the amount of mis-information that this girl has received before she decided to hand out leaflets

"Cuba has more embassies in the world than the U.K."

According to this website, which apparently has the approval of the Cuban Ministry of Tourism, there are less than 100 Cuban Embassies abroad. If you look carefully you will see that from their list of "101" a number of the references are to a Cuban Embassy in a third country and there is not actual Cuban Embassy in the country liste.

According to the FCO website, there are 107 UK embassies abroad, this is of course not counting the 46 High Commissions.

I'm still in two minds whether your whole piece was a bit of satire.

its always cracked me up when (as in the case of cuba and iraq) the US bemoans how poor the pouplace is when that is mainly because of US led trade sanctions in the first place.

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