Cuba Treats U.S. Visitors to Cigars and Prime Fidel

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Sep 28 06:41:19 MDT 2002


(Here is another example of the nasty tone
of New York Times writing on Cuba, which
reflects the paper's political hostility to the
island's revolutionary leadership. This is
paper is supposed to be a model of, uh,
journalistic rectitude, but it's hardly that.
It's dripping in venemous condescension.

(Consider: "prime Fidel" ("prime rib"?) and
"charm offensive" (Vicki Huddleston's term
of disparagement for for the island's efforts
to secure business with US corporations),
or the remark that the event was not open
to all Cubans (suggesting the island is a
repressive society - as if such fairs, which
happen all over the world and are only
open "to the trade" are somehow unique
to aCuba).

(The "reporter" publicly upbraids the visiting
business reps for not lecturing Cuba about
how it should follow the US constitutional
model - the one which gives us the current
administration. This is actually an opinion
piece placed wrongly in the news section.

(The Wall Street Journal, whose editorial
policy is well to the right of the NY Times,
at least puts its own views out by column
writers and gives much more objective
coverage in the news columns.

(Cuban journalism has its limitations, but
this is not a positive alternative, I think.)

Walter Lippmann
http://www.walterlippmann.com
================================

September 28, 2002
Cuba Treats U.S. Visitors to Cigars and Prime Fidel
By LIZETTE ALVAREZ

HAVANA, Sept. 27 - The Americans came bearing apples, cotton
and soy products for sale. But the hottest commodity Cuba
had to offer came, over cigars, after the American trade
exhibition here this week had shut down for the night.

The government rolled out Fidel Castro.

Or, more precisely, Mr. Castro took center stage himself,
orchestrating a series of marathon private meetings with
several delegations attending the United States Food and
Agribusiness Exhibition in Havana, the first agricultural
trade show between Cuba and the United States in 40 years.

Doling out Cohiba cigars and factoids about Cuba on Thursday
night at the event - which was not open to all Cubans - Mr.
Castro marveled at the United States' system of government
during a two-hour dinner with about 25 people from Kentucky.
Besides leading a civics discussion on the Constitution, and
federal and state governments, Mr. Castro peppered the
Kentuckians with questions about tobacco and wood.

"He was very amazed that we function with such a complicated
system," said John Cotten, director for value-added wood
products for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. "He
talked about how complex our country is and that we function
so incredibly well."

Did the visitors mention that Mr. Castro was free to follow
the United States' lead when it comes to forging a workable
constitution? No, the visitors said. It would have been too
forward.

Mr. Castro, who was given a customized Louisville Slugger
baseball bat from the group, also deemed the United States
tax code "ridiculous," a sentiment that did not draw a
single note of dissent from the invited Americans, said Orn
Gudmundsson, whose family owns Northland Corporation, a
hardwood lumber producer in Kentucky.

Kentucky hopes to export wood and meat to Cuba through the
limited cash-only trade program that the United States
allows.

Another delegation, from North Carolina, was treated on
Wednesday night to shrimp, fish, lamb, potatoes, bonbons and
mojitos, a traditional Cuban drink made with rum, sugar,
lime and mint. And, of course, more cigars - those typically
illicit, almost always coveted mementoes of Communist Cuba.

During the two-hour dinner, Mr. Castro talked about Cuba's
education system, tree planting, crop rotation and "his
having quit smoking 17 years ago," said Billy Carter,
executive vice president of the North Carolina Produce
Association.

"He did most of the talking," Mr. Carter said. Mr. Carter's
delegation gave Mr. Castro a set of baseballs (they were
unaware of the Kentuckians' gift).

No business was transacted at the dinner, but Mr. Carter
said he was optimistic that North Carolina would be sending
some cotton Cuba's way. One thing was clear, Mr. Carter
said: Mr. Castro is more than eager to do business with the
United States.

"He's on a mission," Mr. Carter said, alluding to the lavish
treatment bestowed on the group.

Mr. Castro asked a group of Virginians, who were treated to
a large lunch, about how their state was settled during the
colonial period. He also talked about soybeans and tobacco,
asking his guests where they thought the tobacco industry
was headed. "He very much cared about improving nutrition,
that was a very strong focus," said Thomas Sleight, who
works for the Virginia Department of Agriculture.

The Virginians, who presented Mr. Castro with an apothecary
jar from Colonial Williamsburg, hope to sell Cuba some soy.

The Cuban charm offensive also played out on Thursday
evening during a gala performance at the Karl Marx Theater
that featured the country's star performers. Chucho Valdes,
who recently won a Grammy, played the piano; Cuba's National
Ballet performed a scene from "Swan Lake" and Omara
Portuondo, Ibrahim Ferrer and Compay Segundo, of the Buena
Vista Social Club, belted out a few songs.

Richard Munoz, a Tampa native who represents several
well-known and emerging Cuban entertainers, attended the
event and said he was working to persuade major
corporations, like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, to
sponsor Cuban performers in the United States.

"They want to know how they can help the Cuban people," Mr.
Munoz said. "Help the artists. The door is wide open right
now."

Copyright The New York Times Company




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