[Marxism] CubaNews Progress Report, updates and other stuff

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Oct 20 08:49:01 MDT 2005

Here in Cuba's capital city, Havana, preparations for Hurricane Wilma,
yesterday a Category Five, but as of an early National Public Radio
broadcast downgraded to a Category Four (with "maximum" winds of 150 
MPH!) are well underway. High school students who are normally away in 
boarding school during the week have been brought back to the capital 
to be with their parents. Lots of strong winds are already being felt,
particularly close by the water. Clouds built up late in the afternoon
yesterday and some people stayed home from work to prepare themselves 
and their homes for the arrival of Hurricane Wilma. It was the leading
story on the main daily newscast here last night, the "emision estellar"
or "star broadcast) where it opened the cast for close to ten minutes,
and a second segment came on later featuring Jose Rubiera, Cuba's top
meteorologist giving the precise weather details. We also saw some of
the top municipal leaders as they organized the weather response, such
as Pedro Saez (sp?), the Havana Communist Party chief, dressed in his
civil defense military uniform. 

The main political message of the broadcast was the imperative need for 
organization and discipline as the key to minimizing loss of human life
and damage to the country's economic resources. There are several news
reports which will go out to readers about this later. This morning the
theme of organization, discipline and universal participation continued
on the morning news, which included clips of residents from Pinar del
Rio in Eastern Cuba packing their belongings, including fans and even
a pig - anything very valuable! in the evacuation process. There are
also a series of public service announcements regularly shown which
remind people to clean things, secure their homes, protect electical
lines and so forth. The morning cast also featured music by a trio in
the traditional "son" style reminding everyone that, as they put it
"la disciplina es lo major medicina" - discipline is the best medicine.
Encapulated in moments like these are the ways the revolution here has
chosen to reach into the hearts and minds of everyone, drawing deeply
in the national culture, to educate and organize the population in the
face of these challenges. Here's one Cuban report on Hurricane Wilma:

I couldn't help but be struck by the contrast between the appeals to
responsibility and organization we see here, and the messages we got
on U.S. television after Hurricane Katrina: among them an incessant
series of fund-raising commercials for FEMA and the RED CROSS (the
latter featuring the mournful voice of Johnny Cash) pleading for 
money. Since then we've seen lots of scandals developing over funds
which were collected for disaster relief which were ripped of by 
some of the private agencies which the U.S. Red Cross used to build
up its fund-raising apparatus. Here in Cuba there are no commercials,
only simply public service announcements such as the ones described
here, and the occasional call to participate in mobilizations backing
the revolution. (These only occur a few times a year, actually.)

This will be a longer message and has some more personal reflections 
than is usually the case. Being back here for close to two weeks, I've
a few observations and reflections to share with readers. In addition,
it's a moment of some consequence, marking this list's 43 THOUSANDTH
message over a period now 5 1/2 years of activity. And from time to
time I like to stop for station identification, as it were, looking 
a bit more broadly than is my habit doing the daily work of sifting
and sharing news reports and comments by, about and from Cuba. With
that, here are some thoughts and impressions from the Editor-in-Chief. 

Your questions, comments and feedback will be welcome.


by Walter Lippmann,
CubaNews Editor-in-chief

CubaNews, a comprehensive, free-of-charge news service which provides
its subscribers with a wide-ranging selection of news and information
from, about and related to Cuba, is now in its sixth year. We've sent
out some 43,000 items and I'm very, very proud of the record we've
compiled this past period. The list has developed from the few dozen
of us who joined in the campaign to win Elian Gonzalez' return to his
father and family in Cuba in 2000 to now 730 subscribers on this
list. Hundreds more are receiving news directly from this list on
other lists to which we post important items. And some of our best
materials are widely reproduced by others, on the internet and in
print. Anything of pressing urgency is posted out immediately to
between two and three thousand readers.

Take a look at the first thirty messages and you'll see where we were
starting from, and you'll have a sense of how far we've come as well:

I was the main person posting then and am still the main person now.
But we've reached far more people since then and our subscriber base
continues to steadily grow. CubaNews provides a service to its
readers. It collects and shares information from, about and related
to Cuba on an extremely wide range of subjects, from politics to
athletics to personal interest, culture, movies, sex, and so on. We
send materials which are favorable and unfavorable because, whether
true or false, they're all part of the unfolding story of the Cuban
people, their revolution and the many consequences of that revolution
both within and beyond the shores of the island, the pearl of the
Caribbean. There have been some recent developments which reflect the
continued struggle between Cuba and the United States. Washington has
never forgiven Cuba for breaking the pattern of US domination in the
continent. The idea which has held US policy-makers captive since way
before the birth of Fidel Castro's FATHER, that Cuba basically belongs
to the United States, is one which obviously won't be given up anytime
soon. There are a few people in US policy circles who understand that 
US efforts to overthrow Cuba's revolution have failed, but they still
remain a minority in the US political leadership. This week we will 
see another vote to remove travel restrictions on US citizens who
want to see Cuba for themselves. If readers in the US haven't as yet
called their US Senator

In recent months we of course were preoccupied with the aftermath of
Hurricane Kristina, probably the worst so-called "natural disaster"
to hit the United States in its history. Given the closeness of the
two countries, the story of Hurricane Kristina naturally occupied a
giant space in the Cuban media, both print and electronic. With so
many Cubans on the island having relatives in the United States, and
with the thousand and one other ways in which the two nations are
linked together (or better "bound", or as Wayne Smith describes them
in his memoir "The Closest of Enemies", the consequences of Kristina
are of unusual importance on the island.

Cuba, you'll recall offered to send nearly sixteen-hundred doctors
immediately to the disaster area, in a powerful demonstration of
practical solidarity with the people of the United States at a time
when all sorts of medical and other problems are crying out
desperately for a solution. Washington never seriously responded to
the Cuban offer. Indeed, it's been barely mentioned officially, and
mixed signals have been sent about Cuba's offer. In one US State
Department Briefing where it was mentioned briefly:

Read the details of the Cuban offer here:
http://www.walterlippmann.com/fc-09-02-2005.html The Cuban medical
aid teams are now engaged elsewhere in places where the assistance
is welcome and political pride doesn't prevent the local government
from accepting aid from the government of Cuba.

There's been a great deal of coverage, day after day, in the Cuban
media, some of it focusing on the obvious socio-economic and racial
disparities among the people of New Orleans and how that affected the
people who lost their lives in the hurricane. Mostly these are Black,
of course. And we know even less about the various Latinos, including
the undocumented immigrants among those whose lives were lost. 

Here's one long analytical piece from the Cuban media on Katrina's
aftermath. We can't know now what's going to happen with Wilma, but
this material is of general value, so take the time to review it:

Cuba has a vast amount of experience in this field, both because of
its own problems with hurricanes and other natural disasters, but
also as Cuba's made it a big point in its internationalist outlook to
provide medical aid to people in need when a crisis cries out for it.
Back in 1971, when a massive earthquate hit Nicaragua, Cuban doctors
were sent to help out. Nicaragua then was ruled by the Somoza family
dictatorship. There were no diplomatic relations between the
countries at that time. Yet the Cuban doctors provided assistance
when it was needed. In Haiti today, both before and after the
US-orchestrated coup which overthrew the democratically-elected
Aristide government, where other countries sent soldiers, Cuba sent
and maintains a brigade of over five hundred doctors. They remain in
Cuba today and are probably providing the only consistent medical
care which the people of that nation receive.

By the way, Cuba hasn't always had the system it has now. In 1963,
another hurricane, Flora, caused over 1,100 deaths and prompted a
complete restructuring of Cuba's emergency preparedness systems,
which now rank among the best in the developing world.3 Over 1.5
million Cubans were evacuated in advance of the storm, along with
nearly 17,000 tourists (Reuters, 11 July 2005). DETAILS about that:

One pleasing aspect of the Katrina aftermath was that several US
journalists and elected officials are calling for acceptance of the
Cuban offer. The most startling of these is Senator Mel Martinez, the
Florida Republican senator and former Secretary of Housing in the
Bush administration. The highest-level Cuban exile politician in the
United States, Martinez' position was extremely signficant politically
Given his long and consistent record of opposition to the Cuban Revolution, 
and to the Cuban government led by Fidel Castro, this marked a political 
milestone which shouldn't be underestimated. Should Wilma or some other 
hurricane or other natural disaster hit the US again, Martinez and the 
others who have written in favor of accepting the Cuban aid offer after 
Katrina may need support and encouragement to keep up along this highly 
positive line. Let's hope that if needed again, they'll respond similarly.


MEL MARTINEZ WEBSITE: http://martinez.senate.gov/public/

The President of Mali, Amadou Toumani Touré has been visiting Cuba this
week. He's one of a steady stream of African leaders who visit Cuba all
the time. Cuba and Mali established diplomatic relations in 1960 and have
had warm and cordial relations ever since. An early cooperation agreement
between the two countries was signed by Che Guevara in 1964 during one of
his visits to the continent. Some more on the Malian president's visit:

Havana has also been the site of two very concerts, both enthusiastically-
attended by large crowds to hear 73-year-old Miriam Makeba, Mama Africa as
she is sometimes known, in the early parts of what she has described as her
farewell international tour. Lots of loving and detailed commentary on her
life, work, music and staunch opposition to the South African apartheid
system has been featured in the Cuban media during and after her visit.

Cuba's National Assembly President, Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada sent a 
message which was read to the MILLIONS MORE MARCH in Washington, D.C. 
The Nation of Islam and its principal leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan
have made important changes in their public stands in recent years. Some
of the best material in the Black media of the United States about Cuba,
and about Assata Shakur, for example, can be found in the newspaper of the
Nation of Islam, THE FINAL CALL. This march, about which I've so far only
seen a few shorter reports, represents a deepening of Minister Farrakhan's
efforts to link up with broader and less conservative segments of the Black
community. Remarkably, there was even a gay speaker at the event.

There has been several reports in the Miami media in recent days about the
Cuban government's approval of permission for Sgt. Carlos Lazo's two teen-
aged sons to visit him in the United States. We don't know exactly what
the details are, or if they were required to pay what's now become the
customary $200.00 non-refundable interview fee for Cubans who wish to 
visit their families in the United States. This is considered significant
because the boys, at least the older one, is of military age. I wouldn't 
be surprised to see efforts made to encourage the boys to try to stay in
the United States, which the Miami exile militants would be thrilled to
have happen. From what I hear, Lazo doesn't want that. He's made a major
effort to publicize the consequences of the Bush administration's deeper
restrictions on the rights of Cuban Americans to visit their families here
on the island, because he's a decorated Iraq war veteran who was denied the
right to come to Cuba by the Bush administration. We'll be following this
story as it unfolds.  There's been a raft of written material on this topic,
of uneven quality, in recent days. An inquiry about a report by the group
Human Rights Watch has come on from one reader, which will be sent out to
the list later on. The Human Rights Watch report includes some valuable
material. It suffers, in my opinion, from a blindness when it comes to
seeing any consequences from the fact that Washington has been working
vigorously for going on five DECADES to overthrow the revolutionary 
Cuban government. This blockade, which was imposed unilaterally by the
United States, and is maintained and sustained by it, causes a raft of
tragic consequences which can never been left out of any assessment of
the limitations on family visits which are imposed by both governments,
though for rather different reasons. Were relations between the countries
to be simply normalized, many of the problems cited, from hijacking to
illegal emigration to the smuggling of illegal immigrants and supposedly
political defections by inviduals who simply want to work and make more
money in the United States would, in my view, disappear completely. Here
is the address for the press release on the Human Rights Watch report:

Interestingly, Human Rights Watch, which is based in Washington, DC,
came to Miami to present its report on the limitations on Cuban family
rights. There's a good discussion of this on today's web-broadast by
Francisco Aruca and Alvaro Fernandez on Progreso Weekly. You can hear
that by going to this address for the date of October 20, 2005 for a
nuanced discussion of the whole issue. Well worth listening to as well
as reading the Human Rights Watch report.

Before returning I received news of the death of a friend in Cuba, Rosa
Maria Coro Antich, the mother of Arnaldo Coro who operates the DXers
Unlimited program at Radio Havana Cuba, of Rosie Coro and of two
other adult children as well as numerous grandchildren. Rosita, as
everyone invariably called her, was in her mid-eighties and had been
ill for a long time. She was one of a surprising number of Cubans
from the former upper classes of Cuban society who found themselves
drawn up into the revolutionary process and found her life transformed. 

In Adrienne Hunter and Marjorie Moore's wonderful book SEVEN WOMEN
AND THE CUBAN REVOLUTION, the lives of seven such individuals were
profiled. Rosita was a person of such background herself. She lived
just a few blocks from my home in the Vedado area of Havana, and I
always enjoyed dropping in to visit with her. Though she never joined
the Communist Party, probably since she was too plain-spoken a
personality to belong to organizations of that kind, she was an
uncompromising supporter of the Cuban Revolution. Rosita spoke
excellent English and had worked for many ears as a professor of
English at the University of Havana. She wrote textbooks and was an
actively-practicing teacher of English, she's one person I'll miss
very, very, very much now that I'm back here. She was always someone
I could learn from. We often argued and didn't always agree, but she
was someone I could and did always learn from every time we met. One
of the last things we did was to watch the movie GOOD-BYE LENIN which
I brought on my laptop and showed for Rosita and her daughter Rosie
to watch together. (They both liked the movie a great deal.)

Remarkably, Amy Goodman conducted a long interview with Rosita in
1998 or 1999, on the eve of Pope John Paul's visit to Cuba. You can
listen to that interview on Democracy NOW's website:

One of the innumerable differences between Cuba and the United States
is the incredible feeling of safety, and indeed entitelement to safety
which Cubans feel and which people in the United States cannot feel at
all. Perhaps the first sight I saw here just coming out of the airport
was the sight of young girls, high-school students, hitch-hiking in
complete safety. You see people, here, mostly woman, hitch-hiking due
to the weaknesses of the public transportation system everywhere. And
while I assume there's some advantages to being a pretty young girl,
this is all good-natured and there's nothing sexual involved, as I am
sure I'd have read or heard about, so widespread is this practice. In
recent years the government has taken to actually organizing the Cuban
practice of hitch-hiking. Here in the capital you see official hitch-
hike organizers, workers in blue vests at officially-designated stops,
with clip-boards, who call out to state-owned motor vehicles to pick
riders up. Out in the countryside these workers wear yellow uniforms.

Can anyone from the United States today imagine what would happen if
the government tried to organize hitch-hiking, and more, to make it
mandatory for government vehicles? I last remember hitchhiking in 
the sixties, specifically in 1967 when a girfriend and I hitched to
Montreal, Canada to see the Cuban pavillion at Expo 67. Today no one
would imagine cross-country hitch-hiking as there is so much fear of
predatory characters trolling the highways of the United States.

You never know how valuable what you have is until you try to live or
work without it. While I never forget the many advantages I have as a
writer and activist in the United States, returning to Cuba provides
a swift reminder. While at home in Los Angeles I have both a high-
speed (broadband or DSL) connection, and even have a wireless network
in my own home which cost something like $50 for the router, here in
Cuba I'm back on a dialup connection again. While in the US my power
is nearly always on without difficulty, here in Cuba power outages 
are a regular fact of life. I've been lucky in the last two weeks 
that these outages have been brief, but in the event that Wilma or
another hurricane comes, I'll all power can potentially be cut off,
along with gas to heat water and cook food will also be cut off as
long as there's any danger. In the United States, as I can fondly
remember, I love to take a bath in hot water. Here in Cuba I take
showers, usually using a bucket and a cup with water heated on the
stove. I'm use to it and hardly think about it exept when writing
the occasional commentary like this one. By the way, Cuba's first
wireless network has recently been set up in one hotel, according to
an article I read in Juventud Rebelde newspaper Sunday before last.

While electical outages are a frequent occurance here, cooking gas 
outages do happen though infrequently from what I'm told. When the
electricity is cut off deliberatly during hurricane preparations,
the gas is also cut off and people here have to prepare for those
moments by boiling water and cooking food in advance.

In the United States, my main news source is the internet and also a
subscription to the print edition of the Los Angeles TIMES, which 
find both enfuriating - since it's so heavily slanted and is mostly
composed of commercial advertising. How many innocent trees, I ask
myself, are sacrificed to this advertizing onslaught? Here in Cuba
on most days the newspaper is an eight-page tabloid, composed of two
two-sided sheets, with more on Sunday with the weekend edition of
JUVENTUD REBELDE, and on Mondays, with the weekly TRABAJADORES, 
which have quite a few more pages, but not a single advertisement.

You learn things here on Cuban television which you would never see 
on a U.S. screen. After last night's weather news we had a report on
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' current visit to France where he's
been meeting with the French President, Jacques Chirac. Images of his
talk with Chirac were shown, but images of, and clips from the event
in solidarity with Venezuela which Chavez attended and addressed were
also shown. Chavez ended his talk to those friends with the famous
words, "Patria o muerto! Venceremos"

In recent months, following the regular evening news cast viewers get
a one-hour compilation, sometimes politics, sometimes cultural, from the
new Venezuelan-initiated continental alternative television network of
TELESUR. Sometimes the stories are similar - during my first days here
the beating by New Orleans cops of that 74-year old Black man Robert 
Davis, were the lead stories on the Cuban and the TELESUR broadcasts.
The TELESUR shows I've seen have also very heavily emphasized struggles
by indiginous peoples across the continent, from Venezuela where there
are constitutional provisions guaranteeing the rights of the indiginous,
to Bolivia where Evo Morales and his Movement for Socialism (MAS) party
are actively campaigning for the presidency there. 

Because of the sharply reduced speed of my internet access, and further
because it adds yet another step to the work I do, I regret that it's
not always going to be possible for me to include web addresses or urls
to the materials sent here. It's just another step which, when repeated
over and over adds substantially to my workload. When there are graphics
or other things particularly necessary, I'll endeavor to include them,
but this is an apology in advance to those readers who like to have the
URLs included. 

Readers who appreciate the service we provide can help out by sending
in reports and news articles to the list. I've held up some of the items
received in order to complete this longer report, but all submissions
are appreciated, though not all of them are in fact used. We would be
particularly grateful to get someone who would listen to Francisco 
Aruca's commentaries and prepare short summaries of them. He can be
heard at http://www.progresoweekly.com and his programs, which usually
are posted four or five days a week, are 5-15 minutes in length. 

Even though I haven't completed reading both of these books, I want to
recommend two recent books for those interested in following Cuba. I'm
enjoying both books greatly. 

Those of you who have had the pleasure of reading Tom Miller's book
TRADING WITH THE ENEMY: A Yankee Travels Through Castro's Cuba will be
pleased to read AN INNOCENT IN CUBA by David McFadden, a Canadian author
which has just been published by McLelland and Steward, a Canadian house.
While Miller met with various prominent individuals as well as people who
were unknown before reading the book, McFadden doesn't give the names of
his people, who are all ordinary people he met during the course of a
three-week journey. (Miller spent six months in Cuba at an extremely bad
time known as the Special Period, in 1990-1991.) While I didn't agree
with every opinion he gave, I found his to be honest reporting of what
he saw and said and what was said to him, so I'm enjoying each chapter
as I go through it slowly.

On first thought, you wouldn't think that a book on suicide would be one
you would enjoy or look forward to. After all, suicide is about despair,
isn't it? And then after you read all those news reports about suicide
bombers among the Iraqi resistance, what could get worse? And yet the
new book by Louis A. Perez, Jr., TO DIE IN CUBA, Suicide and Society,
University of North Caroling Press, Chapel Hill (2005) is one of the
best-written books I've read at any time. The final words of Cuba's
National Anthem, LA BAYAMESA, are "Morir por la patria es vivir", 
which means, "To die for the country is to live". During the first
Cuban independence war which began in 1868, residents of the Eastern
Cuban city of Bayamo literally burned their city down to the ground to
prevent it from being recaputured by the Spanish colonialists. Perez,
a Venezuelan-American scholar who has written many books about Cuba,
looks through Cuban history and literature, from the very first of the
Spanish colonialists and the Indians who resisted their domination - 
in part by killing themselves to deny the Spanish their labor as
chattel slaves, suicide has been a singular part of the Cuban national
culture, before the revolution, and one which has continued since.
Perez traces this through literary, personal, cultural and graphic
sources - for example a startling number of cartoons referring to the
practice of suicide - sometimes he calls is "voluntary death" to give
us a picture of an entirely new dimension of Cuban life. Not only is
the book well-written, not at all filled with academicy jargon as you
might expect, it's oddly the kind of book which, while not in any way
celebrating suicide, is giving this reader something to savor and to
ponder on each and every one of its nearly five hundred pages. I am
recommending this to all of you with considerable enthusiasm.

Apart from Cuba, I want to also recommend the new book by Richard Gott,
which is an update of his 2000 book IN THE SHADOW OF THE LIBERATOR, a
study of the life and thought of Hugo Chavez. In the new book, just put
out by Verso in Paperback, he brings the story of the Bolivarian Revo-
lution up to date through the recall referendum of August 2005, and is
one of the very, very best books I've seen explaining the Venezuelan
revolutionary process. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Readers who appreciate these reports and the work of the CubaNews list
to provide a wide-range of news, information and commentary about this
endlessly-fascinating country can help us to continue the work through
making a tax-deductible contribution - if you're a U.S. resident - to
help us pay the bills. This is for the various expenses including the
phone bills, transportation, printing and other things done as part of
the list's work which is performed in the United States. 

It's recently become possible for anyone who wishes to send support 
via a tax-deductible contribution through the DISARM EDUCATION FUND, a
wonderful institution whose work has helped provide vital medical
assistance to Cuba over many years. Readers can and should support the
work of DISARM, detailed at its website. It is also possible to earmark
help specifically for the CubaNews list through DISARM as well.

Contributions, earmarked "CubaNews" may be sent to:
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You can also go directly to the DISARM website and make an quick
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