CubaNews notes from Los Angeles

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Fri Aug 22 19:28:33 MDT 2003

CubaNews notes from Los Angeles
by Walter Lippmann, August 22, 2003
Computer problems have caused me to
reduce productivity in recent days. I'm
hoping that this will be resolved quickly.

Powerful bombs exploded at the United Nations
headquarters in occupied Iraq, and a suicide
bomber killed dozens of Israelis this week.

The Cuban government quickly send in its
condolences since Cuba is a member of the
world body. These bombings cannot solve
problems on their own, but they certainly
show the cost of being an occupying power.

Efforts to increase United States trade with Cuba
continue regularly, despite all of the bizarre and
convoluted news coming out of the US media.

The state of Alabama has signed a $10 million
contract with Cuba and a big, cheerful ceremony
was held to mark the occasion. Hopefully, more
of these will come.

In recent weeks and months, there have been a
range of significant events which would, if their
logic were carried out to the end, move in the
direction of normalization of relations between
the US and Cuba, an urgent necessity for our
hemisphere. The US returned the latest group
of hijackers to the island after negotiating their
charges and sentencing with the authorities on
the island. The US also inquired of the Cuban
government regarding the jamming of a series
of broadcasts by Iranian exiles living in the US
which target their homeland. The Cubans then
looked into the matter, discovered that indeed
jamming was being undertaken in Havana at a
building occupied by Iranian embassy staff.

We haven't heard many details, but the US
has confirmed that the Cubans shut down the
jamming, another positive development in the
relations between our two countries.

These developments, especially the returning
of hijackers to the island have evoked a wild
paroxysm of rage among the wealthy rightwing
minority of the Cuban exile community in the
United States. They've been on the rampage
demanding that the US government escalate
tensions with the island. We've got a raft of
excellent commentaries on these matters,
primarily from the website of Francisco Aruca
and Radio Progreso in Miami.

Washington has responded to these noises by
the exiled rightists most dramatically yesterday
by the indictment of a Cuban general and two
Cuban air force pilots who had been involved
in the 1996 shoot-down of the Brothers to the
Rescue planes. They had repeatedly, and in
the face of public warnings from he Cubans,
continued to approach the island, a practice
they had engaged in for some time. These
indictments can't have an immediate effect
in a practical sense, because the general
and pilots live in Cuba and the US and Cuba
have no extradition treaty. There are, however,
other aspects of these indictments which we
need to think about and be aware of.

First, it brings about a raft of publicity against
Cuba, especially in Miami. It's got the rightists
like Basulto, the Foundation and others of their
ilk praising the Bush administration, if only in a
faint way. This is a switch from their attacks on
Bush and company the preceding weeks.

Second, the timing also seems calculated to
affect the upcoming appeals in the cases of
the Cuban Five, scheduled to take place in
the near future in Atlanta.

Third, it can possibly isolate those three
individuals should they attempt to travel to
countries which accept US demands to try
to extradite those men to the US for trials.

Fourth, these are steps on the road to the
indictment of Fidel Castro and Raul Castro
by the United States, which is the ultimate
demand/fantasy of the Cuban-American far
right exiles.

Fifth, you might want to take a look at the
actual indictment. It's fifteen pages long
and includes a raft of very specific charges
and penalties, including the death penalty.

Considering all the whoop-di-doo which the
US made not long about about Cuba's use
of the death penalty against armed and violent
hijackers, like to hope that some of the human
rightsers will be saying something about this.
Regrettably, I won't be holding my breathe.
The link to the indictment will follow shortly.

Washington has also announced new ways it
will attempt to penetrate the island's airwaves
by using new satellite technology in an effort
to get Radio and TV Marti into the island. It's
illegal and dangerous. My understanding of
the technical aspects is that it's not likely to
succeed, but it's one hell of a way to express
gratitude to Cuba for its recognized coopera-
tion in resolving the Iran jamming issue. Bad
faith would be the least of these issues.

Not quite no one, but nearly no one in Cuba
has satellite reception, which costs $60.00
per month for those who get it, at least those
who have legal dishes. (According to Miami's
Francisco Aruca, 10-15,000 people on the
island have satellite dishes. This seems a
rather high estimate.)

Two weeks to go and we still don't know if
the Cubans who have been nominated for
the Latin Grammys will get their visas. If
talent were the only consideration, artists
like Chucho Valdes, Ibrahim Ferrer and
Los Van Van would have no trouble at all.

But since this is Miami and these artists
are Cubans, the State Department will no
doubt engage in whatever manner of
political calculations as to whether or not
to grand the Cubans their visas.

Granma has a new report on the island's
militant struggle against drug trafficking,
abuse and addiction. One highlight of this:
"In its annual report of 2002, the UN Inter-
national Narcotic Control Board (INCB)
welcomed with pleasure the drug addiction
prevention programs executed in Cuba in
the context of its national integrated program
for the prevention of drug abuse, which
together with strict measures have contrib-
uted to the scant prevalence of a drug
problem in the country."


We also have another series of reports of the
activities of these rightists and their friends and
allies in other parts of Latin America. In Vene-
zuela, the right has turned in signatures for the
referendum they hope to use to overturn the
Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez.

A local court there has ordered that the Cuban
doctors stop practicing medicine in the poor
neighborhoods of the country. The court says
the Cubans must be replaced by Venezuelan
doctors, and any foreign practitioners must
take proficiency exams. The proficiency exam
issue may have some validity, but my guess is
the Cuban doctors would pass such exams
with flying colors. But replacing them with
Venezuelan doctors? Give me a break! The
whole reason these Cuban doctors are there
in the barrios of Venezuela is precisely due to
the fact that so few Venezuelan doctors have
been willing to practice among the poor.

Shafik Handal, the FMLN's candidate for the
presidency of El Salvador has been saying in
his campaign platform that if elected, he would
restore diplomatic ties with Cuba and China.
This is hardly a radical or revolutionary demand.
Indeed, El Salvador is, I think, the only country
on the continent other than the US which does
not have relations, indeed FRIENDLY relations,
with Cuba. Even Colombia's relations with Cuba
are at least normal. But the rightwing has started
a bit campaign against Handal over this issue.
They're also dragging Venezuela in, claiming
that Venezuela is funding Handal's campaign.
Here's a nice portrait of Shafik Handal I took:

Andres Oppenheimer is up in arms at Mexico's
decision to junk it's so-called human rights office.
Sounds like a good budget-saving measure to
me considering the waste of money represented
in Mexico's foolish anti-Cuba posture during the
days Castaneda was their foreign minister.
Oppy is calling this a pro-Cuba measure, and it
may well signify something just like that. Good.

The United States government, which behaves
as if it's the judge, jury and would-be executioner
of the Cuban Revolution, continues to compare
itself in one way or another to conditions on the
island. The condition is invariably negative in all
respects. Facts, however, are stubborn things.

And because Miami is the place where the ultra-
right Cuban exiles have the most influence in the
politics of the US, it's always useful to look at the
living conditions in South Florida. We can get an
idea of what kind of Cuba these elements would
create if they could get their hands on it. They
model it where they're in power now.

According to the Miami Herald of August 21st:

"Miami-Dade County is home to at least 539,328
people under age 65 who don't have medical
insurance -- a nearly 20 percent increase in the
past four years that signals a ''substantial
worsening'' in an already pressing healthcare
crisis, a new survey shows.

"Countywide, 26.7 percent of Miami-Dade
residents under 65 are not insured, ranking
the county among America's dozen worst
metropolitan areas and far outweighing the
national average of about 16 percent,
according to the new and earlier findings."

The story of Elizardo Sanchez and his "outing" as
a person who has collaborated with Cuban state
security services continues. It's more and more
like a novel. I have no special insight to offer to
you, just things to consider as you think about
them. As I say, it's more and more like a novel.
Those who read Spanish may wish to download
and read the booklet published Monday in the
Cuban capital. The best place to do that is at
the website of the Cuban Foreign Ministry:

Thursday's edition of Francisco Aruca's show
BABEL'S GUIDE for today, August 21, 2003
presents the talk-show host's ideas on what's
going on in Miami these days. Take the time to
go to his website and listen to the program as
it's already available in archived format. The
URL: He discusses the
Elizardo Sanchez case, the Iraq war and
other matters, and takes listener call-ins.

As usual, much useful analytical material can
be found on the pages of Radio Progreso's site.
And the Spanish equivalent can be found also
on  as well.

Given the seriousness of the issues, I find it
pleasing that the Cuban government shows it
has a bit of a sense of humor about some of
these challenges. If you look at the new Cuban
website against what they call "media terrorism"
you'll see a cute graphic of George W. Bush
with his nose expanding from normal to three-
foot-long, like the Pinocchio of children's books.
Check it out:

Cuba might have a little fun, and make some
points too, if they'd think about making a movie
about these issues. But it would have to be a
COMEDY, like Canadian Bacon, to show up
some of the absurdity of the ways which the
US and its friends are trying to intervene in
Cuba's internal political life. Sometimes they
inadvertently find themselves funding Cuba's
state security forces.

On the other hand, some of the Cuban humor
goes a bit over the top. One of the articles has
this headline: "Revelan que Elizardo Sánchez se
llama Juana (y no está loca)" This translates as

"Revealed that Elizardo Sanchez is called Juana
and isn't crazy" You'll recall that the code name
he had in his state security files was "Juana".

But the word "loca" also means gay in Cuban
and Latin American Spanish slang. So you get
the double entendre here, which strikes me as
an little unnecessary ad hominem attack on the
guy. What he's said to have done is bad enough
without attacking the guy on a personal level.


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