[Marxism] CubaNews list begins its fifth year

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Aug 30 21:52:32 MDT 2004

(Since I post materials here on Marxmail about
Cuba, I hope that Marxmailistas will find this
reflection on the work of the CubaNews list of
interest. CubaNews is a completely different
kind of service than Marxmail, of course, but
it's been pleasing to see the growth of this
list and the interest in Cuba which I believe
it reflects. Here are some of my thoughts on
what's been done and what's coming up in the
weeks and months ahead.)

CubaNews list begins its fifth year this week.
by Walter Lippmann, August 30, 2004

>From time to time it's helpful to take some time out from the
regular flow of news gathering and commentary to look in a
broader way at the work and service this list is providing.

CubaNews began four years ago when a group of internet activists
who had worked together in the struggle for Elian Gonzalez' put
together an on-going resource for news and information about 
the island. The Elian struggle marked a great turning point in 
the US-Cuban relationship. For the first time, the majority of
the people of the United States got to see some of the reality
of the behavior encouraged by the wealthy rightist minority
of the Cuban exile community. And for the first time in years,
perhaps since the Bay of pigs, the Cuban exile rightists were
defeated in a key battle, and justice prevailed with Elian.

Some of us knew one another from other struggle, some of us
had never, and have never actually met, but we've learned 
to work together to share lots of useful information

Following the Elian Gonzelaz fight we decided that an ongoing 
mechanism was needed to share information among ourselves,
and to share it with others who wanted to follow the progress of
the Cuban Revolution. We wanted to inform ourselves and anyone 
interested about Cuban reality, on political, social, cultural 
and many other levels. 

Readership has grown steadily. When we began we had something like
125 or 150 subscribers. Now we've got over 600. The main items on
this list also are posted to a separate "best-of" list which goes
to another 120 subscribers. Many of those are also posted to some
other sites as well, so we're getting the information out to lots
of people. No money is charged, and all we ask is that people take
a careful look at the material. Readers who wish to participate in
this ongoing process are welcome to contribute their thoughts and
energies to the process as well. 

This list has posted over twenty-nine THOUSAND e-mails from, about
or related to Cuba in these past four years. This list draws from
the Cuban, US, international and left and alternative media to 
provide readers with a wide selection of information on Cuba.

The list not only collects and shares information on the island's
politics and the political links between Cuba and other countries
but also provides information on cultural reflections, from music
to theater, the movies and so forth. Things that are taking place 
on the island or in the Cuban diaspora are subjects of interest 
for the readers of this list.

For myself, this has been my full time, and more than full-time
work from the first days. I try to find as much material which
adds to our understanding as possible. It's daunting task and
one which can't ever be completed. I'm glad that we have others
also participating, and whose work brings us materials which no
one person could ever bring. I'd like to acknowledge the work of
Heikki Sipila who checks Radio Havana daily and sends us notes
in from there. New York Transfer News is a comprehensive service
on a full range of issues. They've been sharing material which
they glean from the Cuban and international media as well, as
has Dublin's Simon McGuinness. I'm grateful to each of them, 
and others for their active role in producing CubaNews.

My formal title in the Yahoo system is "moderator", and I'm 
more or less the editor in chief and am ultimately responsible
for what goes out to the lists. We need to know what's being
said both by Cuba's friends and its adversaries, and to see
how Cuba fits in and relates to the broader international
struggles for social justice and national self-determination.
That's why you'll find so many different kinds of articles
from so many different perspectives. You decide what's most
useful to you and save or else disregard the rest.

Sometimes I find that I am so involved in the day-to-day work
of finding and sharing that it's necessary to take some time
away, and to pull back and try to look at the broader picture.
Last week I took some time to visit friends and family up in
the Bay Area. I got to meet some other readers of these lists,
to see some new faces and places, and was able to find several
new books which you'll want to know about. It's amazing go me
how much literature is pouring out about Cuba these days and
quite a bit of it is valuable. Two new (to me) books are:

OPEN YOUR EYES AND SOAR: Cuban Women Writing Now, a collection
of short stories by Cuban women on the island telling about
life and its challenges and contradictions. Another one is
HAVANA: Two Faces of the Antillean Metropolis, revised edition,
a detailed look at the city's history, politics and development
projects. Readers who find books like these are encouraged to 
send in reviews so we can all learn more and more over time.

Take a look at the very first messages which were posted to the
list when it began. You'll find familiar messages and posters in
the earliest messages which were sent out here:

Cuba's close relationship with the United States, mostly one of
antagonism since the triumph of the Revolution's triumph in 1959,
has meant we've had to both cover events on the island as well as
the discussions and debates over Cuba which occur in the US as is
the case from time to time. For the most part, the US media has
avoided saying anything good about Cuba over the years since the
Revolution's triumph. Occasionally some nice story about music 
gets through, but Cuba is normally ignored. When it's not ignored,
Cuban society is reviled or its problems are dwelled upon without
end. Reading about Cuba in the corporate media, for the most part,
though not entirely, has a dreary predictability, it's sad to say.

Washington's desire to overthrow the Cuban Revolution, and thus to
return the island to the barbaric regimes of the past, are themes
which have dominated US political discussion form the beginning. 
Both of the dominant candidates for the US presidency are fully
committed to the overthrow of the Revolution. They differ on the 
tactics best calculated to carry this goal out.

For example, in Miami last week, George W. Bush told a group of
Miami rightists, in his words, "We will not rest until the Cuban 
people enjoy the same freedom in Havana that they enjoy here."

John Kerry, the Democrat, sounds a similar note:
"I am committed to seeing the end to the Castro regime, which 
I have long condemned for its flagrant human rights abuse and 
political oppression. There is no excuse for the Castro regime 
to hold down over 11 million talented and hardworking citizens 
of the Americas, some of our closest neighbors. Let there be 
no mistake about my view: I will support effective and peaceful 
strategies that will hasten the end of the Castro regime as soon 
as possible, and enable the Cuban people to take their rightful 
place in the democratic community of the Americas.

Kerry, however, then adds, "But the policy of this Administration 
punishes and isolates the Cuban people while leaving Castro and 
his consorts unharmed, free to blame the United States for their 
own failures." Read Kerry's full policy statement on Cuba here:

The US media and most people in the United States receive little
or no information on Cuban life beyond its problems (both real
and imagined). For two countries who are so closely interlinked,
this is most unfortunate. In Cuba they pay a great deal of very
careful attention to politics in the United States. Here's an
interview done a few weeks ago with Ricardo Alarcon, President
of Cuba's National Assembly in which he pays the closest kind
of attention to the details of US politics. I'm sure you'll 
find his comments worth considering carefully:

The role of the Cuban exile rightists in US political life is
something quite few people in the United States really know 
about. The stolen US presidential election of 2000, where the
Democrat Gore received half a million votes more than Bush, 
and became President of the United States in a tainted Florida
vote, had national and ultimately international implications.

Particularly in light of the recent recall referendum held in
Venezuela, don't we wish we had such a procedure to recall a
president in the United States? Barring that, at least maybe
we could have some of those same international observers who
helped validate the Venezuelan election could, and certainly
they SHOULD, go to a much closer place and go to work quickly
in Florida. This is another area where Ricardo Alarcon has
made some thoughtful proposals which need wide circulation:

While Bush was telling Cubans in Miami that he wants to bring 
the Cuban people "the same freedom" as in the United States, a
group of three Cuban exiled terrorists, each one convicted of
terrorist activities including IN THE UNITED STATES ITSELF,
were welcomed into the United States by the US government:

The four men who were "pardoned" by the Panamanian regime
have a heavy and well-documented record of violent terrorist
activities. Take a look at what the Washington Post reported:

Here are their records, listed by the Cuban foreign ministry:

While these four terrorists have been released and three of them
made welcome by the United States government, just in time for a
Bush campaign event in Miami (and one even appeared on Miami TV
in a featured slot on Spanish-language TV there.) the five Cuban 
men who came to the United States to monitor terrorist groups and 
their activities, and who are known as the "Cuban Five", remain 
locked in prison facing decades long terms. They are being held 
in maximum security prisons though they were not convicted nor
even CHARGED, with a single violent act, or even of any intent 
to commit a single violent act.

CubaNews follows the case of the Cuban five closely, and you can 
obtain complete detailed information on their case here:
http://www.freethefive.org/ Please keep in mind that one of the
most persistent quotes we've heard from George W. Bush has been
his famous "Those who harbor a terrorist are as guilty as the 
terrorist himself." But the warm welcome which was given these
Cuban exile terrorists surely means they're now being harbored
in the United States, doesn't it? What else could it mean???

Since Bush has pledged to bring to Cuba "the same" freedoms we
have in the United States, CubaNews from time to time points 
out what some of those freedoms really are. While Cubans have
their problems, even a small, poor and blockaded country such
as Cuba has been able to provide cradle-to-the-grave medical
care for its entire population, because it's gotten rid of the
crime, violence and greed-based private profit social system.

Last week all the major US media reported that those lacking
health care in this model country have risen to all-time 
record heights. As of this year, 45 MILLION people in the US
are without health insurance while 100% of the entire Cuban
population is covered, from the cradle to the grave. And so
if what the US has is what Washington wants to impose on the
Cuban people, reports like these, which are covered in the
Cuban media regularly, can help disabuse Cubans of whatever
illusions some of them have about life in the United States.

We've sent out materials comparing the educational options
open to Cubans with those in the United States. Whenever I
go to a movie here and pay up to nine or ten DOLLARS a seat,
I keep in mind that movies in Cuba cost but two Cuban pesos
to get in. Arts in general are available to Cubans for what
people in the United States would consider a pittance. While
housing is difficult in Cuba and moving is very difficult,
there are no homeless people and no one is starving though
food is expensive and not always available. We like to look
at these differences and try to understand them as we watch
the United States trying to impose the "American way of life"
on the people of Cuba.

As I said, Cubans have many challenges, difficulties and
problems, but they also have open public governmental dis-
cussions of racism, women's empowerment and homophobia. The
lists here are endless, but you get the general idea.

Another story which does get reported, but not as prominently
as it should, is the expanding business links between the US
and Cuba. It constantly amazes me when I tell people that 
the United States has become a leading supplier of food and
other agricultural commodities to Cuba. Cuba is indeed the
best customer US businesses have, since under US policies,
Cuba, unlike other countries, cannot use conventional 
financing, but must pay for everything in cash. And while
this is a cumbersome and expensive process, a growing 
section of the US business community is seeing opportunity
in Cuba. 

Earlier this summer a San Diego biotechnology company
signed an amazing $35 MILLION DOLLAR contract to work on
a cancer cure with a Cuban biotech firm. And while the US
prevents Cuba from receiving these payments directly in
the form of money, Cuba can use these funds to pay for
its food purchases from the United States. If only Cuba
could freely sell its goods and services in the United
States, and if only restrictions on travel to Cuba were
lifted, US companies could do a lot more business. These
are fascinating stories as they develop and we will be
continuing to follow up on them as much as we can.

Though we cannot predict the future in more than general
ways, we can, I think, draw hope and optimism from the
growth of a culture of resistance, both in the United
States and beyond. The exposure of the tortures which
Washington and its allies in Iraq have carried out have
helped the public learn what Washington's methods and
goal are. They're not new, but to millions of people,
learning about them is new. The incredible success of
such anti-war phenomena as Michael Moore's wonderful
FAHRENHEIT 9/11 demonstrates that there is a public out
there anxious to learn and rightfully distrustful of the
dominant corporate media. This is why our work getting
out genuine news about Cuba is both timely and practical,
though it may not always seem that way from day to day.

Another special feature of this list is our goal of providing
translations of news and analysis from the Cuban media which
wouldn't otherwise be made available to the English-speaking
public. To this end we've found lots of materials one a wide
range of subjects, from movies to sexuality, from the history
of the world socialist movement through tattooing and they've
been made available, largely through the work of people who
have these abilities and can help us. If your Spanish is up
to this task and you'd like to help, we could definitely use
more assistance in this area. We've got plenty of materials
ready and needing translation, so please volunteer!

CubaNews comes to you free of charge and is powered by the
commitment of its readers and active participants. Well,
this isn't completely true. We all pay in that Yahoo which
provides this service to us, makes money through the sales
of the advertising we see embedded in the mail. But we do
not have to pay our own money directly out of pocket.

Please take the time now, to write in a note to CubaNews
telling us how the information you get from this list helps
you follow and improve your understanding of Cuban life,
how it helps further the defense of Cuba's right to self-
determination, and any suggestions you might have to make
the list serve these purposes better. I'd like to see them
and other readers would as well. Subscribers to CubaNews
can send their comments to CubaNews at yahoogroups.com  

Others should please send your comments directly to me at
walterlx at earthlink.net and know your comments will be both
listened to and appreciated. I promise to share some of the
most interesting and useful of these. And please tell us a
bit about yourselves and your interest in Cuba, if you wish.

CubaNews is a completely free service. It depends on the
active participation of posters and readers. Please pass
this message on to anyone you know who would be interested
in Cuba and US-Cuban relations. Public interest in Cuba
is growing, and the atmosphere in the United States and
elsewhere is more open now. Hundreds of thousand came out
to protest against the Bush administration and the war in
Iraq over the weekend. We know there's an audience out 
there who needs to know more about Cuba. That's what this
list is all about.

Thanks very much for your time and interest reading this
lengthy message, and for your interest in Cuba.

Walter Lippmann, Moderator, CubaNews

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