[Marxism] Walter Lippmann: Winding down of an extended visit to Cuba

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Mar 4 05:46:30 MST 2005

by Walter Lippmann, Moderator, CubaNews

This will be my last extended report on Cuba during this visit.
I've been here in Cuba for five months and am leaving to go 
back to the United States tomorrow. I'm grateful for having
had the opportunity to work and learn more about Cuban life
during this period. I'm now glad as well to be returning to
the United States. I feel that this bi-national perspective
which I'm able to have helps me to better understand the
strengths and challenges of both societies. I'm also more
convinced than ever that normalization of relations between
our two countries is the indispensable first step toward 
progress for the peoples of both countries. 

A few final thoughts...

Truly amazing to see the impending end of my current visit
to Cuba, the longest yet. I've been here, with the exception of
two days in Cancun in January, since early October. It's been a
remarkable learning experience. I've tried to write reports on
many of the things I've done and places I've seen, but it hasn't
been possible to write it all up. Still my intention remains to
get more reports out to you. Here in Cuba my goals are to learn
how the Cuban people are striving to build a new society under
conditions of extreme adversity. Forty-five years of Washington's
blockade, an alliance with the Soviet Union, followed by the
collapse of that alliance and the need to re-orient its world
relationships have caused a raft of dramatic changes in the
island. I've been reporting on these since starting to come
here in 1999. 

Sometimes as I try to explain this country to friends I say
the more time I spend here, the more I know how little I know 
about this rich and complex a society it is. People who come
from the United States have been bombarded, in some cases for
their entire lives, with a propaganda barrage describing Cuba
as something akin to hell on earth. It's inevitable, of course
that this barrage affects our thinking in one way or another.

Even those who support Cuba sometimes have a simplistic idea
of what Cuba is really like. I strive to learn more about the
island's reality and complexities, and share them with readers
of these reports. Cuba's international stance, as the voice
for those peoples and even for more than a few governments 
who cannot speak out on their own, give the island a weight
in international diplomacy which no other small country has.

Cuba's medical aid programs, which we see all over the world
today, helps bring goodwill to the island and helps explain
why the United Nation's General Assembly continues to vote
by overwhelming votes against the US blockade. The fact that
the Wall Street Journal saw fit to publish a full-length and
broad-based attack on Cuba's medical aid program in Honduras
not long ago is testimony to the effectiveness of the Cuban
program. If you haven't read that report, take the time to
look at it. Even the conservative Wall Street Journal finds
itself compelled to admit that through the Cuban program,
poor people in the region who have never seen a doctor are
able to receive treatment and they receive no medical bills:

Another feature most striking here in Cuba is the absence of
commercialism in Cuban life. Newspapers, television and the
movies are completely devoid of any commercial advertising
for any product whatsoever. An hour-long television news cast
in Cuba means you get about 55 minutes of news and infor-
mation, minus a few moments for opening music and the closing
credits. And the information is presented from an unabashedly
revolutionary point of view. Fighters against oppression,
from the Iraqi resistance to US occupation, to protests of
the Washington's wars everywhere, to the anti-globalization
struggle everywhere play a central role in these broadcasts.

At the same time, the island's efforts to make progress in
its domestic economic and political fronts, from education,
to health care, housing and food productions, are documented.

These daily broadcasts are among the most important parts of
the daily news diet presented here. I try to catch these as
often as I can. The print media is more limited, with most
daily papers being but eight pages long during the week and
longer over the weekends. There are also many more newspapers
in Cuba than Granma and Juventud Rebelde, the main national
dailies. And we're not even considering the numerous and very
professional magazines produced here.

The island's carnival has been moved up in the calendar from
November to February-March. It was supposed to have started
on Friday, but was rained out. Saturday night the streets of
Havana near the Malecon were blocked off and thousands came
out to party and enjoy a spectacular fireworks demonstration.
Sunday. Carnival is a week-long event, but last night it was
also chilly and rainy, so little activity took place. 

When I got here in October, things were looking really bleak
as we watched Kerry try hard not to become president of the
United States, and Washington's hostility toward Cuba didn't
change. The island had just survived yet another round of 
natural troubles from the hurricanes which now seem to have
been forgotten. No one lost their lives here in Cuba during
the hurricanes. The government took full responsibility for
saving lives and property here, but emphasis was always put
on lives first. This caused the US media to go apoplectic in
complaining about the steps Cuba took to successfully prevent
lost of life. Here's a bit of documentation about that:

It will not surprise me one bit if we start to see articles 
of a similar sort about Cuba's water conservation steps if
more drastic ones become necessary in the period ahead. No
stone is left unthrown at Cuba in the Miami Herald and other
media of that ilk when it comes to Cuba.

The water shortage which first affected the eastern parts of
the island which I visited last year, has begun to affect the
western parts, including this capital city, Havana. You even
find social relations affected by the shortage of water.

I even know of one case where a Cuban mother who didn't like
her son's girlfriend said that, due to the water shortagage,
the girfiend, who'd been spending the night there from time
to time for years, was told she could no longer take a shower
due to the problems with water.

The deepening process of Latin American integration, further
advanced this week in the inauguration of the Frente Amplio
government of Uruguay, and the Bolivarian Alternative for the
Americas (ALBA) initiated by Cuba and Venezuela in December,
are providing more stability and less isolation for Cuba on
the world stage. The deepening links with China also provide
further steps to stabilize the island's economic relations.

As I return to the US, I'm going to most watch how these new
and important steps can contribute to an improvement of the
economic situation facing the masses of the Cuban people who
remain in very, very difficult economic straits. Of course 
such macro steps as ALBA and the Venezuela and China links
will take time, but improving the basic economic situation 
Cubans face on a daily level is the biggest challenge which
faces the island. The election of a new layer of activists
to local government here, a process which has just begun
can contribute to the resolution of such problems if they
are accompanied by in improvement in economic conditions.

In the long run, of course, normalization of relations and
an end to the blockade are indispensable steps which are 
needed to see even greater progress on the island. 

In the next weeks we'll want to be particularly alert to the
propaganda offensive Washington is running against Cuba on
the "human rights" issues in the runup to the UN Human Rights
Commission meetings in Geneva. We'll have as much of that
information as we can for our readers. Weeks ago the United
States supreme court ordered hundreds of Cuban exiles freed
from US prisons where they'd been jailed, in some cases for
DECADES, WITHOUT ANY CHARGE. Except for some good coverage
in the local media in New Orleans, there's been precious
little coverage of this in the US media. Imagine how the
US government would be howling if those convicted of being
paid supporters of the US inside Cuba had been ordered to
be released by the Cuban courts, but somehow they weren't
actually released? It seems lots of money is being made
keeping these individuals behind bars even when the US
Supreme Court says they should be released! Read this:

CubaNews works hard to try to provide you with translations of
some materials from the Cuban media, in addition to the many
shorter reports from the Cuban English-language news services
such as Prensa Latina (PL) and the National Information Agency
(AIN) We trust you're finding them useful and we encourage any
of you who are fluent in Spanish to help out by volunteering
your time and skills to bring us more of this material. Drop
us a note about your interests and abilities. Thanks.

Walter Lippmann, CubaNews

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