CubaNews notes from Los Angeles

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Thu Aug 7 06:38:26 MDT 2003

CubaNews notes from Los Angeles
by Walter Lippmann, August 5, 2003

I'm back in Los Angeles now after thirteen
weeks in Cuba. The visit was very successful
and now I'm glad to be back here at home in
Los Angeles. Long trips are both tiring and
challenging. Moments like these always get
me to thinking about this work in a broader

Normally I spend hours each day going
through material on the internet, trying to
pick out informative, interesting or at least
significant material about Cuba. In recent
days I've taken some time just to ponder
what's been going on and what it means.

It's been nearly three years since Cuba
News list was started and we've provided
a useful service for a growing readership.

Here are some observations.

Getting out of Havana was time-consuming
and tedious this time, leaving from the small
Terminal 2 which was mobbed with people
for hours and hours. Passengers for my
flight were told to be there at 6 PM for a
10 PM departure. My flight left at 11 PM.
Getting into Los Angeles was mercifully
uneventful on this licensed flight.

Going through US Customs at 2 AM was
uneventful.Much waiting, but we got out in
an hour and a half. The only thing that I was
asked about was did I have any cigarets to
which I responded I had none. I gave up my
smoking habit on June 10, 1981. None of
my bags, filled mostly with books and a bit
of laundry, was opened. Much better than
the last time!

Traveling back and forth between these two
countries helps me to see things in perspective
in a way what living in only one cannot do. I'm
glad to be able to have the possibility to share
such a bi-national experience. If our countries
weren't artificially divided by Washington's
over four decades-long blockade, many more
could similarly see and learn from having this
kind of perspective.

In Cuba, with the exception of the ten days
when I rented a car and drove all the way to
Baracoa and back from Havana, a journey
of over 2600 kilometers, according to the
odometer, I never set my hands on the
steering wheel of a car. Now I find myself
oddly reluctant to drive my car here. I did,
after a few days, but I resisted doing so.

I have a wonderful car, in good condition
and easy to drive. But I'm very mindful of the
irrational "system" of public transportation
here in Los Angeles in which individually-
operated privately-owned automobiles

In Los Angeles, where most streets are well-
maintained, getting around by auto is easy.
In Havana the main streets are kept up but
many if not most of the smaller side streets
have lots of potholes which make driving a
challenge, especially for shock absorbers.

Since back I've gone for long morning walks.
Most of the houses in my neighborhood of
Los Angeles, called Silverlake, have either
been painted recently (say the last ten or
so years), or are in slight need of paint.
Most houses in Havana, and in many of
the Cuban cities I saw seem long overdue
for such simple maintenance as paint. I'm
told this is due to the island's proximity to
ocean and the cheap quality of the paint.

On the way home, not wanting to drive to
the market, I picked up various vegetables
at a small local market and carried them
home, similar to what Cubans do with their
local agro-pecuarios, which are normally
within walking distance as well. Here the
air is blessedly drier and the temperature
is definitely cooler than it is in Cuba.

Amazing: I'm now sleeping under blankets
here with the windows wide open. Indeed,
it's actually chilly in Los Angeles, at least
at night. Most people in Cuba use fans at
night to keep the air moving if it cannot be
cooled. Most don't have air conditioning

Before this trip I recall I never used sugar
in anything (except candy bars and ice
cream!). Now I find myself oddly putting
a little sugar in my coffee.

Newspapers here are so different, mostly
composed of commercial advertising which
is non-existent in Cuban newspapers. Cuba's
papers are tabloids. The dailies, Granma and
Juventud Rebelde, are eight pages mostly
and JR's weekend edition can be twelve or
sixteen pages. The weekly Trabajadores is
longer with 16 to 20 pages, but all sell for a
mere twenty Cuban centavos, which is less
than a penny each. The Los Angeles Times
is 50 cents plus tax. The Spanish-language
La Opinion is 25 cents plus tax. And there
is information in these newspapers, which
aren't filled 100@ with negative news and
propaganda. (Negativity predominates
when it comes to Cuba, for the most part.)

Here in Los Angeles we have the largest
circulation Spanish-language daily in the
United States, LA OPINION. Though it's
owned by the same corporation which
owns the LOS ANGELES TIMES, it's
political line is somewhat to the left and
it provides a very different coverage of
both Cuba and events in Latin America.

I've taken to reading it daily, though it's
hardly the same as the Cuban papers
which I was also reading daily. Those who
wish to follow GRANMA, the Cuban daily,
you can get a daily news summary with
working links to each of the articles in one
single e-mail message using this link:

There's a good deal more in the Cuban
media, Granma, Juventud Rebelde and
the others than we get to see in what's
posted to the English-language website,
so for those who read Spanish, or who
are learning it, regularly looking at these
sites can add a lot to what you know.

Juventud Rebelde doesn't have a similar
letter (unfortunately!), so to see what the
other major Cuban daily includes might
want to bookmark this address and check
it regularly. It publishes six days a week:

Television news in the two countries is
radically different. No commercial appears
in Cuban TV. Nothing other than public
service announcements about activities,
conservation, and the danger of drugs.
Here the emphasis is on crime, violence,
and scandals about sex. In Cuba there
are three channels. Here hundreds are
broadcast. I don't have cable or the dish,
but I don't watch much of it anyway.

The occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan by
Washington and its allies continues. A few
small countries have signed up along with the
US in the occupation. The editorialists in the
Wall Street Journal are delighted, but it's an
area Cuba-watchers need to take note of.

US soldiers continue to be targeted by the
resistance forces within Iraq, and so US
soldiers continue to die in a war which was
supposedly ended months ago. These big
problems are covered regularly in the Cuban
media, primarily using footage from the CNN
en Espanol, which is also different from what
people get in the English CNN services.

The Friendshipment Caravan organized by the
Pastors for Peace returned to the US without
any difficulty. Likewise the Venceremos Brigade
experienced no difficulties in returning, according
to news reports and a call I got from one of the
participants. It seems that Washington doesn't
want to take on those who publicly challenge
the travel ban in the ways these groups have
long done. They must calculate that, even in
today's courts, which are so often compliant
with government requests of all sorts, that the
travel ban might not be upheld. Thus, their
decision not to bother the current groups.

Recent moves of what one might call a
"normalizing" nature (returning hijackers to
Cuba, etc.), are very important and should
be recognized and appreciated. They have
caused considerable dismay and disarray
among the extreme right exile politicians in
Miami, who've been falling over backwards
attacking one another and the Bush
administration for its alleged "collaboration
with the Cuban government." It would be
laughable if it weren't so pitiful and tragic
that these forces are so bitter when the
US government complies, to this extent,
with its own legal responsibilities under
the migration accords. We can of course
speculate as to the motives which have
Washington doing the right thing in these
cases, but they are doing the right thing
and there's no reason not to acknowledge
that is the case. With one small caveat...

They shouldn't be confused with the complete
normalization which is really needed between
the two countries. That would require the
full dismantlement of the blockade and its
complete legislative apparatus. But they are
important and positive steps for which we can
be very appreciative. Indeed, it's steps like
these which point in the right direction and
thus should be encouraged.

The US media hasn't had much to say about
these steps. An editorial in the Denver Post
properly endorsed the return of hijackers to
face legal accountability. When we see such
editorials it would be good for readers to take
the time to write in and encourage them.

The extreme right wing propaganda offensive
against Cuba, spearheaded by rightist exiles
and such voices as the Wall Street Journal
and others continues unabated, so there is
going to be no lack of opportunities for the
work of the CubaNews list. The State Dept.
has just come out with a series of four so-
called "fact sheets" on Cuba which might
well have been written by the extremist
right-wing. They cover familiar ground and
are worth looking at. I cannot take up and
respond to each of them, but readers will
want to take a look at them. I've combined
them all into a single e-mail.

One remarkable thing about these "fact
sheets", which both includes and leaves
out important facts, is that they basically
are political argumentation against ending
the US blockade of Cuba. If you look at
them carefully, you can see they basically
defend existing US policy in many respects.

Except one. None of the "facts" advance in
any way back up the claim that Cuba is a
state sponsor of terrorism. None of these
"facts" in any way back up the claims that
Cuba has a bioweapons capacity, and so
on. You would think that providing what
appear to be carefully-assembled files to
back up past claims such would appear,
but nothing does.

The Center for International Policy, the great
think tank with which Wayne Smith works has
done wonderful work in the past providing very
detailed critiques of US policy statements on
Cuba, such as the post 9-11 claims that Cuba
was a state sponsor of terrorism. No group on
the political left has provided as complete and
comprehensive a response as they have and
so I'm hopeful they'll respond to the current
"fact sheet". Their website is:

Though I'm not a close follower of organized
sports, the Pan American Games, currently
under way in the Dominican Republic are of
some note. Cuba is doing very, very well at
the games. This is being widely reported in
the Cuban media as you'd expect. Here in
the Los Angeles Times, a militantly anti-Cuba
voice, ran a story yesterday declaring the Pan
American games unimportant and giving no
mention of the Cuban performances at all.

While actively putting out material claiming
that convicts in Cuban jails are mistreated,
the Cuban Five continue to be denied some
of the most simple rights, including visits by
their families. The prisoners in Cuban jails
have had family visits, as we know from the
bitter complaints they've put out about how
they are supposedly treated. Considering the

Given length of the struggle and the protests
that it took to win Elian Gonzalez' repatriation
to Cuba, I'm sure most readers here are clear
that it will take a good deal more to win a new
trial outside of Miami for the five Cubans in jail
for their activities against terrorism, not to speak
of winning their freedom.

Some great material has come out on this in
the form of a report on their case by the
Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) and
it's one of the best single resources on the
case. I highly recommend it as an item you
can give to legislators, news people and to
others who don't support the Revolution in
Cuba, but which can help them understand
what happened and why the case is one
everyone should be concerned about. The
COHA website is down right now, but the
document can be read either at this list's
website or in the FILES section of the list:


It's hard to believe, but the CubaNews list is
about to begin its fourth year. This list was
started in August 2000 by a group of us who
were active in the struggle to win freedom for
Elian Gonzalez to return to his father and family
in Cuba. Since then this list has send out over
nineteen THOUSAND messages, mostly about
Cuba. Here you can take a look at the first of
this list's messages to get a sense of the work
we've done. When we started there were some
100-150 members. Now we have over 500, so
we've found a good audience.

This list is conceived primarily as a news service
with some discussion, but mainly as service and
so any of you who wish to participate in a more
active way are welcome to do so. Finally, I hope
some of you will, from time to time, take copies
of these messages and post them out to other
lists on which you participate. This can help us
to obtain new subscribers.

Readership continues to grow slowly and steadily,
which is very pleasing. This list can be very high
volume, as regular readers know. For those who
don't need everything, but who would like a more
selective set of materials, I've been operating a
smaller list as well, with far fewer messages than
the regular CubaNews list gets. Please write if you
are interested, or send suggestions if you know of
people who would like the shorter list, or who don't
need the bigger one. Thanks.

In recent months several readers have been
very helpful in sharing and expanding this work.
Letters of encouragement and support come in
regularly and they are an definitely an inspiration.
Some readers participate actively in the work of
the list and here are a few acknowledgements.

Walter Teague of the No War On Cuba Coalition
in Washington, DC has taken the massive FILES
section and put it into a much more useful working
order. It had just continued to grow and grow until
a point where it was difficult to use. Now things are
more findable. If only my own desk at home was as
well-organized as this. Check it out.

Jim Hitchie continues to post his Cuban Daily News
Digest daily reports from his Canadian listening post.

Whenever things don't get posted by one of the
regular people here, it may well get posted to us
by Jim Hitchie. Indeed, things are posted there
which may not get into the regular postings so it's
a good thing to scan his mailings as well which are
often the only place you'll see some items.

Heikki continues to quietly and consistently go to
the Radio Havana Cuba English website and take
down materials there to post to our list. Heikki also
follows Vietnam-Cuba developments and posts any
news available about that as well. Don't miss these
reports and summaries.

Robert Sandels has been taking down and sending
out articles from the English-language edition of
Granma International, making helpful comments to
put the materials into perspective. He also writes
his own commentaries for other services which
we're able to share and learn from.

We're still waiting for the complete translation to
English of the Cuban National Assembly's reply,
in November of last year, to the Varela Project
petition. As soon as that translation is available
we'll send it out to the list. The Spanish original
is available at the CubaNews FILES section:

I'm pleased to report that an edited version of my
report on the July 26th celebrations in Santiago is
coming out in print this week in Green Left Weekly,
the largest left paper in Australia. The internet is a
powerful organizing and educating medium and we
were able to use it to get in touch and iron out the
various details in preparing an article for publication
on another continent. Thanks to Norm Dixon of the
GLW for a positive editorial experience.

Earlier this year, Fidel Castro made a visit to the
city of Hiroshima at the time of the Non-Aligned
summit. You can read about his visit and see a
gallery of photos from Granma at this location:


More information about the Marxism mailing list