[Marxism] USA TODAY: Exiles' vision for Cuba a mix of hope, 'fantasy'

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Aug 9 05:01:58 MDT 2006

Thoughtful and useful material from some of those self-declared
exiles who now know that Fidel and the Revolution have outlived
their plans to overthrow it. Some are beginning to consider some
other options, among which, accepting the revolution isn't one.
It's likely that MOST of the people quoted here haven't actually
BEEN to Cuba and seen it for themselves. Yet there are also likely
A FEW who have gone quietly to see it for themselves. If they would
be willing to work within the island's existing structures, rules,
regulations and policies, there's a place for them, too. After all,
it was just THIS YEAR, in January, that Cuban oil industry execs
met with U.S. oil industry execs in Mexico exploring the possible
ways they could cooperate. Unfortunately, Washington disrupted the
meeting by forcing the hotel to boot the meeting and confiscate the
money the Cubans paid for their rooms. Cuban-Americans are already
participating in those limited opportunities which exist today in
US-Cuba economic ties. I have met some of these at Cuban trading
fairs here in Havana. The main problem is is Washington's refusal
to normalize relations between the two countries. Cuba has many of
its own problems, but most of these can be attributed to being at
war - economically, politically and militarily, it seems to me.

Walter Lippmann, CubaNews

Exiles' vision for Cuba a mix of hope, 'fantasy'
Updated 8/8/2006 11:41 PM ET
By Laura Parker, USA TODAY


MIAMI — Sergio Pino, one of the largest home builders in South
Florida, has big plans for remaking Cuba after Fidel Castro dies.

Pino and another home builder here have given $500,000 to the Florida
International University School of Architecture to design the
"restoration" of Havana, which has fallen into disrepair in the 47
years since Castro's revolution ousted Fulgencio Batista's military
dictatorship. Architects at the university are creating their vision
of the Cuban capital, block by block, in a series of models that call
for renovating Havana's crumbling downtown and adding 250,000 badly
needed homes.

Whether Pino's dream will ever be realized is anyone's guess. But it
symbolizes how the illness that recently led Castro to cede power for
the first time has rekindled hopes among Cuban-Americans that a new
Cuba — one that will be warm to democracy, or at least to capitalism
— finally could be on the horizon.

For nearly a half-century, this has been the goal of thousands of
Cuban exiles and their families who have built new lives in Florida.
The idea of returning to Cuba has inspired exiles to conduct war
games in Florida's swamplands, draft new constitutions for a
democratic Cuba and pressure Washington to hold a hard line against

Now, amid hopes that Castro's successors could embrace economic
reform, the take-back-Cuba movement also has turned pragmatic: The
youngest exiles and children of those who fled Cuba say they don't
necessarily want to live on the island, but they are planning ways to
make money from its revitalization.

No guarantees

None of the schemes to rid the island of Castro appears to have had
any effect on the island, except to draw ridicule from the dictator.
With many exiles now in their twilight years, it's unclear how many
really would move back to such a poor country, even if it opened up.

Advisers to Castro, who will be 80 on Sunday, say he is recovering
from intestinal surgery. Even if he is fatally ill, Cuba's communist
dictatorship probably would continue under Castro's brother and
designated successor, Raul Castro, 75.

And when change finally comes after the Castro brothers are gone,
there is no assurance that the 11 million Cubans on the island — 60%
of whom were born under Castro's communist regime — will want to take
direction from their Americanized cousins in Florida.

Those who believe that Cuban-Americans will choreograph life in
post-Castro Cuba "live in a fantasy totally devoid of reality," says
Gonzalo Valdes-Fauli, an investment banker in a prominent
Cuban-American family in south Florida. "People don't realize things
function there. Badly, but they function. There are laws. They may be
arbitrary, (but) it's a country."

Cubans on the island may bemoan impoverishment and complain about a
lack of opportunities, but most don't view Castro through the same
harsh lens as Cuban-Americans, says Jorge Piñon, senior research
associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at
the University of Miami.

"People are jumping way, way ahead of themselves," Piñon says. "The
opening of that Ace Hardware franchise or the revitalizing of Old
Havana architecture — that's far away. Before any of this begins,
there has to be a diplomatic relationship between Cuba and the U.S."

Pino, the home builder, acknowledges that the opening of Cuba may
take many years.

However, he figures the country's government will need significant
help in rebuilding an economy whose cars, buildings, waterworks and
electrical grid have largely been stuck in the late 1950s, in part
because of the United States' embargo on trade with Cuba that was
imposed after Castro took power.

Pino says his goal is "to make sure that when we go back, we do it

"We are planning a city, how it should look, keeping the historic
monuments," he says. "Our goal is to have a plan so that we just
don't go back and build everywhere."

Eyes on Fidel

It says something about the Cuban-American community's obsession with
Castro that Piñon and his associates at the University of Miami spent
several hours last week on a "mapping exercise" to try to make sense
of what's happening in Havana.

They reviewed Castro's health history with doctors in Miami. They
also pored over photos and video of Castro's trip to Argentina in
July, and a pair of speeches he made in Cuba on July 26.

In Argentina, Castro walked with "long, clear strides," his posture
"typical Fidel," Piñon says. "And then all of a sudden, this

The exercise by academics, working without solid information about
what actually is going on in Cuba, underscores the significance of
Castro to exiles' lives and his intense hold on their emotions.

The dream of many here, nourished through decades of frustrated
waiting for Castro's demise, has been to return home and reclaim
property confiscated from their families in the name of the
revolution. Their determination to do so has spawned passionate
actions that have not always been realistic.

Veterans of the failed, U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961
still hold war games in Florida's Everglades decades later, training
on weekends even as they have grown paunchy over the years.

"There are people as old as I am who put on their camouflage uniforms
and go out to practice in the Everglades to get prepared" for an
imagined battle for Cuba, says Alberto Beguiristain, 74, a
businessman and lawyer in Miami.

"A lot of people say, 'Come on, that's enough,' " he says. "They
realize they are old and they are not going to accomplish anything.
But they've still got the illusion that they will fight against

Meanwhile, aging Cuban-American lawyers run out of Havana by Castro,
including Valdes-Faudi's father, Raul, spent much of 1995 writing
potential laws and a new Cuban constitution.

The Cuban American National Foundation, which rose to prominence
among anti-Castro groups in the 1990s, also has taken the position
that Cuba's post-Castro future could be shaped by exiles in Miami —
especially as the Cuban economy teetered after losing a $4 billion
annual stipend when the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991.

The group's founder, Jorge Mas Canosa, who arrived in Miami penniless
and became a millionaire, was touted by supporters as Cuba's next
president, although he denied such ambitions.

If such efforts seemed slightly disconnected from reality, it didn't
make much difference here, where exiles' passion for Cuba endures.

"My parents never forgave Castro. They hated him," Piñon says. "Every
Christmas there was always a toast: 'Next year, we'll be back in
Cuba.' "

Piñon was 12 when he arrived in Miami with his parents in December
1960, not long after Castro confiscated property and nationalized
industry. He says the family walked away from a comfortable
middle-class life rather than educate its children in state-run

Piñon's father, who had worked for the railroad in Cuba, became a
dishwasher at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach.

Piñon says his parents did not get involved in exile politics but
spent the rest of their lives planning what they would do when they
returned home. He says his father died in 2000, his mother in 2001.

Many others are gone now as well. Jorge Mas Canosa died of lung
cancer in 1997.

Meanwhile, Castro hangs on. He brought Cuba through the 1990s, then
forged financial partnerships with Venezuela and China. He has not
been seen publicly since his surgery, but vowed in a letter read on
Cuban TV to retake the helm of the government when he is well.

"Those of us who started as teenagers, we are senior citizens now and
we are still waiting for him to die," says Frank Hernández-Trujillo,
who left Cuba in 1961 at age 19. "We are getting closer to death
ourselves. This is like a race. The last man standing wins."

Hernández-Trujillo is still at it. The retired Miami schoolteacher
organized a group in 1994 that supplies dissident groups in Havana
with shortwave radios, books, magazines, vitamins and other goods,
which is legal under U.S. and Cuban law. Last week, he shipped 17,000
pounds of goods to the island.

He also finds ways to get laptop computers, DVDs, CDs and players —
which Cubans are not allowed to bring into the country — into
dissidents' hands.

Making plans

Beguiristain says he lost two sugar mills, a distillery, his houses,
insurance business and farmland to Castro. He says he then helped the
CIA prepare for its Bay of Pigs invasion.

In October 1960, he says, he picked up a shipment of arms off the
coast of Cuba and delivered it to insurgents on the island for use in
the ill-fated operation. After arriving in Miami in 1964, he says, he
continued to work against Castro, ferrying operatives between Florida
and Cuba by boat.

Beguiristain says he gave up covert activities in 1970 and built a
successful insurance business in Miami.

Now he focuses on trying to regain what he lost in Cuba through legal
claims. He is president of the National Association of Sugar Mill
Owners of Cuba, a group that originated in Cuba and moved to Miami
when the mill owners left the island. It meets monthly for lunch to
work on plans to file lawsuits aimed at recovering their mills.

Such property claims could take years to sort out, if ever.

Cuban exiles whose property was confiscated by Castro have filed more
than 6,000 claims for compensation with the U.S. government. Under
the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, the government has been unwilling to press
them; doing so could alienate countries such as Spain that have large
investments in Cuba.

Older exiles continue to debate what a post-Castro constitution
should say. Beguiristain says the favored view is that Cuba ought to
return to its 1940 constitution, which called for an independent
judiciary and presidential elections every four years. The
constitution was suspended when Batista seized power in 1952.

Some older exiles' children, meanwhile, take a more pragmatic view
about the notion of returning to Cuba by focusing on the island's
economic potential.

Hugo Arza, 32, a Miami-born attorney whose parents fled Cuba in the
late 1960s, says he met with clients in the construction business two
days after hearing that Castro had transferred power to his brother.
The clients, whom Arza declined to name, are jockeying to be
well-positioned when the time comes to start reconstruction.

"Cuban infrastructure needs to be rebuilt," he says. "They were just
here in my office asking, 'What have you heard? Keep us aware. Let's
make sure we have ideas and access to the right people.' "

Pino, 49, says he has no desire to move back to the Cuba he left as a

His life is in Miami, where he parlayed a plumbing store he bought
when he was 20 into real estate investments that led to the
establishment of Century Homes, the largest home builder in
Miami-Dade County.

He says home building in Cuba will be "an incredible business." He
says the island will need 1 million new homes to accommodate its
growing population and replace structures that have fallen into
disrepair during Castro's regime.

Thus, the Havana project at Florida International University. The
goal is to complete it by the end of the year. Nicolas Quintana, an
architecture professor who is directing the project, says it will
include a 400-page book and 21 models featuring 25 projects in

Quintana says he left Cuba on Jan. 8, 1960, "exactly a year after
Fidel came to Havana. I was 35 years old. I am 81 right now."

He will post the plan on the Internet, for the current regime or its
successors to use. He says he is a realist. Real change, he says,
will have to come from within Cuba.

"The Castros will hate it," he says of the plan. "I am totally
convinced I will never see the final development of all this. But
I'll be watching from up there. I'm simply planting a seed for the

Find this article at:

More information about the Marxism mailing list