[Marxism] Eurene Robinson: Hard Day's Night in Havana

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Aug 4 08:51:57 MDT 2006

Eugene Robinson works for the Washington Post. He could easily
WALK over to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC and
file his application for a journalists visa, just like anyone
else who wants to go to Cuba practicing this profession. And he
should know this more than others having been here to Cuba and
written about how lousy a place it is and how the Revolution is
already over. You can read this in his book LAST DANCE IN HAVANA.
He should now get a bottle of beer and sit down and enjoy a nice
re-reading of his crappy book. He wasn't deported, by the way.
He simply wasn't admitted. That's no the same thing. No one has
the automatic right to enter any country just because they show
up at the country's doorstep. Robinson should be grateful that
he didn't lose the $200 fee which Cubans who wish to visit the
United States have to file with their application to visit the
United States. A non-refundable fee, by the way, whether you
are admitted or not, you lose your $200 application fee. And he
makes reference to the wonderful Tom Hanks movie THE TERMINAL.
Well, that wonderful movie was shown here a few night ago on
Cuban television. And there were no commercial interruptions.

Cuban sovereignty is a precious thing, which this country guards
with all its strength. Eugene Robinson got a good taste of that
this week. When I come to Cuba, I come with a journalist visa
which I receive from the Cuban Interests Section in Washington,
following an established and normal procedure. I am committed 
to reporting from here, during good or bad times, it doesn't
matter. There are plenty of foreign whiners who receive their
permission from the U.S. government to live and whine from this
country. Cuba has no need, and is in no hurry, nor should it be,
to make it easier for anyone who just want to show up and stir
the trouble pot. Now he can sit at home, on the pity-pot instead.

Walter Lippmann
Havana, Cuba

Hard Day's Night in Havana

By Eugene Robinson 
Friday, August 4, 2006; A17

HAVANA -- I get to use this sexy dateline, barely, because I began
sketching out this column in the departure lounge of Havana's
international airport, which is as far as I got into Cuba this week
before being kicked out.

I shared that magic moment -- my first deportation! -- with a
photographer from the Sun-Sentinel newspaper in Florida, two
photographers from Getty Images, a radio reporter from Madrid, a
correspondent for a group of Dutch newspapers and a television crew
from Panama. There's no smiling group photo. None of us was quite in
a smiley-face mood.

We were just a few of the journalists who've been turned away since
the announcement Monday night of Fidel Castro's health crisis and the
unprecedented handover of power to his brother Raul. Cuban officials
have tried to reassure the world that basically nothing has changed.
At the same time, the government has taken extraordinary measures to
keep the world's journalists from being able to make an independent

I've been able to go in and out of Cuba for years with little
attention paid to formalities, but suddenly it's strictly by the book
-- and in Cuba, believe me, there's a book for every damn thing.

Journalists are supposed to have a special visa to work in Cuba, but
this week the officials who approve those visas declined to answer
their phones. In some cases those officials seemed to have just
vanished. On prior occasions I've been able to come into the country
on a tourist visa and work out the details later. When my flight from
Cancun landed on Wednesday, though, uniformed officers were actively
scanning the immigration lines, looking for suspicious types laden
with camera equipment or telltale laptop computers.

I'm sure a few colleagues slipped through. Me, I never stood a
chance. I wasn't about to volunteer my profession, but I also wasn't
going to flat-out lie. As soon as the guy at the window scanned my
passport and saw how often I'd been to Cuba, he asked the magic
question -- "Are you a journalist, sir?"


I began dropping the names of all my friends in the government
department that handles the foreign press, and I thought I was making
some progress. But the game ended abruptly when an officer summoned
me to follow him into a claustrophobic little office. There, sitting
at a desk, was one of those very important press-handlers who, I had
boasted, would surely champion my cause. He smiled unctuously as he
shook his head no.

This process took just long enough for the last flight back to Cancun
to depart. That meant I and my fellow deportees would have to spend
the night at the airport and leave the next morning. The one genuine
amenity -- a 24-hour cafe where the barista-cum-bartender made a
decent mojito -- didn't make the prospect any more inviting.

The Cubans kept possession of our passports and plane tickets. I felt
like a stateless person, or like Tom Hanks in that movie about the
guy who lived in an airport terminal.

I can disclose that Cuban scientists apparently have developed an
adamantine metal, 10 times harder than steel, which is being used to
make airport seating. The marble floor was a softer place to try to

Our bivouac was near a children's play area, and inside were a couple
of soft mats where kids could take naps. There were no children
around. But an airport worker we came to know as the Mat Nazi chased
us away and eventually locked one of the precious mats in a closet.
At that moment I considered her the essence of pure evil.

As promised, or decreed, we were put on the morning's first flight to
Cancun, which is where this column was finished.

In the end, it's too much of a stretch to draw conclusions about
what's really happening in Cuba from my unpleasant experience at Jose
Marti International Airport the other night. For the first time in
nearly a half-century, someone other than Fidel Castro is running
Cuba. Are ordinary Cubans unsettled? Is Fidel's condition more dire
than we've been told? Was this just a test run for an eventual
transition? If it is a test, then why did Fidel's decree surrendering
power have such a will-and-testament feel about it?

I'm sorry to report that so far I've failed to answer any of those
questions. All I can say for sure is that whatever is happening, the
Cuban government sure doesn't want the international media around to
tell you about it.

eugenerobinson at washpost.com

More information about the Marxism mailing list