Cuba scholars win vs. CNN media hacks

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Wed Dec 11 15:45:13 MST 2002

(Great interviews with Julia Sweig of the
Council on Foreign Relations whose book
the spring, and whose US AND CUBA: A
CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY is one of the most
useful tools we have for solidarity with
Cuba were interviewed on CNN last week.

(These slick media professionals tried to
use these scholars in their perennial
Cuba-bashing, but the scholars didn't let
them get away with it. Viva Jane y Julia!)

Subject: Connie Chung transcript
Date:  08-Dec-02 at 20:18
From:  Jane Franklin,

CHUNG: . . . Saddam is hardly the first dictator to outlast a U.S. president.
The champion in that regard is Cuba's Fidel Castro, which is why we've chosen
him as part of our weeklong series, "The Iron Fist," looking at other rulers
who have clashed with the U.S. How has Castro outlasted 10 presidents?

CNN's Garrick Utley explains.


GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He might have become a
successful lawyer, which is what the young Fidel Castro had trained for when
he strolled through Central Park in 1955. Instead, he became a young
revolutionary and then an aging dictator. Of all Castro's accomplishments, one
of the most successful has been to challenge, irritate and defy the American
giant to the north.

JULIA SWEIG, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: He has stuck his fingers in the
eye, repeatedly, of the great superpower. And that hurts.

UTLEY: What do we know about the private man behind one of the most public
faces in the world? Not much, except that he has been married twice and has
had a female companion for 30 years. He's believed to have seven children. But
perhaps the greatest love in his life has been the revolution that began in
the jungle of Cuba and then swept into Havana in 1959 to overthrow a corrupt
tyrant who had been supported by the United States.

>From the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and the nuclear missile crisis 40 years
ago, through the passions raised by the struggle over Elian Gonzalez, Cuba and
the United States have remained the closest of enemies, or perhaps enemy is no
longer the right word.

SWEIG: So, what's happened is, the Cuban economy has begun to open to the
United States. There is the beginning of trade. They're paying cash for
American agricultural goods. American tourists are beginning to go.

UTLEY: What they will see is that Castro has built schools and hospitals with
the same determination he has used to prevent private enterprise and jail

It may be too much to expect the 76-year-old leader to change his ways. Those
who hold absolute power tend to believe in themselves absolutely. And few
dictators have survived as long as has Fidel Castro. His place in history, for
better or worse, is assured. How will it end and when?

SWEIG: He may live for another 10 to 15, 20 years. He doesn't smoke. He
doesn't eat meat. He exercises every day.

UTLEY: That's one way for a dictator to survive. In the nearly 44 years since
Fidel Castro seized power, there have been 10 American presidents and one
ruler of Cuba.

Garrick Utley, CNN, New York.


CHUNG: And joining me now to help us understand how Castro has kept his
control of Cuba for more than four decades is Jane Franklin, author of "Cuba
and the United States."

Thank you so much for being with us.


CHUNG: Jane, how has he survived and outlasted 10 presidents?

FRANKLIN: Well, Connie, first of all, the United States turned Cuba into a
neo-colony in 1902, as I'm sure you know. And so there was constant resistance
to that U.S. control of Cuba.

Castro himself was born while there was the worst of the dictatorships,
perhaps, the Machado dictatorship. He was born in '26. And he grew up in that
resistance of U.S. neo-colonialism. In 1952, he was running for Congress.

CHUNG: Right.

FRANKLIN: There were elections every four years. People hoped that there would
be sort of a peaceful transition to some kind of democracy. Batista came in,
supported by the CIA, and overthrew the government.

CHUNG: Right.

FRANKLIN: Canceled the election.

CHUNG: So let's fast-forward.


CHUNG: Fast-forward for us, Jane. How is it possible that this man has been
able to sustain his leadership there?

FRANKLIN: Well, he immediately -- he and the revolution that he was part of
the leadership of and became the primary leader of established a program of
basic human rights: free medical care, free education, jobs for everybody. And
the people -- it was a popular revolution, in the first place, against the
dictatorship of Batista. And the programs that they instituted kept the
people's support and still keep the people's support.

CHUNG: Now, here's a man who did execute his opposition in those early years.
How do the people view him today?

FRANKLIN: Well, most Cubans are very proud of the fact that he does keep Cuba
independent of the United States. And, internationally, whenever he goes
abroad, he's welcomed as a hero in Third World countries.

For instance, most people around the globe, in the Third World country,
anyway, especially in Africa, know that Cuba's troops in Africa were
responsible for defeating apartheid at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1988,
when white South Africans went home for the first time in body bags. And that
led to the independent (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the freedom of Nelson Mandela.
CHUNG: Mandela.



FRANKLIN: So, people appreciate that and look to Cuba as a beacon. And, also,
the health and education systems in Cuba are a model for the rest of the

CHUNG: OK, we're running out of time.

So, this last question, I think, is probably the most important one. And that
is that the Bay of Pigs was such a miscalculation on the part of the United
States. Now, there was the hope, on the United States' part, that there would
be an insurrection. However, of course, it was a disaster.

Now, as we look at Iraq -- the United States, there have been several reports
that the United States is hoping that there might be some sort of
insurrection. Is the United States overestimating the opposition groups in
Iraq, do you think?

FRANKLIN: Well, like in Cuba, they may not have any idea what is coming. They
thought that, in Cuba, there would be an uprising in favor of the exiles led
by the CIA. Instead, the uprising was in favor of the Cuban government and the

The same kind of law of unintentional consequences could pertain in Iraq now,
if they were to invade. There are many groups and many differences among those
groups. And, also, as you know, Iraq is not even just one unified country.
There's the autonomous region in the north of Kurds. And there are the Shiites
in the south.

And Saddam himself is a Sunni. So, there are these divisions. Some people
think that the United States might stay there as an occupying army. Some of
the exiles want that. Others don't want that. And who knows what will happen
if the United States invades.

CHUNG: Jane Franklin, I wish we could talk to you longer, because it's very
educational and enlightening as well.

But thank you.

We have to go.

FRANKLIN: Thank you.


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