Monday, September 10, 2007

Odds and ends

● The North Korean foreign ministry seems to expect that in exchange for supposedly acting to put their nuclear program on ice, the United States will remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. And the U.S. Interests Section spread the news as one of three items on its electronic billboard (obstructed view, right).

● At Western Hemisphere Policy Watch, the anonymous authors are worried about the photos I post. I’m worried that they’re worried!!!

Senator Mel Martinez, GOP chairman, point man for outreach to Latinos.

● The feast day of Cuba’s patron saint is celebrated with 90 processions in Cuba and a Miami ceremony too. From the AP Havana story: “The image of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre accompanied Cuban soldiers in their wars of independence against the Spanish crown in the 19th century. In 1915 the veterans of the last war (1895-98) asked Pope Benedict XV for the confirmation of the virgin as the patron saint of Cuba, which was granted in May 1916…”

● It is interesting to read the recent impressions of Cuba by Anastasio Blanco posted at Babalu. Also read his exchange with readers, where he says that Cuba’s dissidents are “rather unknown inside Cuba,” that “the only people who really know about folks like Dr. Biscet and Darsi Ferrer are those with access to the internet – i.e. hotel workers or those working with foreign firms operating on the island;” that Radio Marti “is a success and has become rather popular,” and that “TV Marti is a complete failure.”

● When the Fidel-is-dead rumors were flying two weeks ago, State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said there was no reason to believe that Castro had died. He then went on to float a rumor of his own, that maybe the Cuban government had started the whole frenzy. For all he knew, or for all he let on, it could as well have been the Chinese or the Jamaicans or the Turks. What Gallegos confirmed once again is that when the U.S. government talks about Cuba, all the usual standards go out the window.


afina said...

Yea, what is up with the dudes at the Western Hem. PW? Why would they be worried that's what I would like to know?

Anonymous said...

Good question, we are waiting for the answer.

Omar said...

I don´t know whether are they worried about photos at TCT in general, or the picture of ¨la novia¨ in particular. If it were a concern about the photos in general, you know how these conservatives dudes behave, they see a threat everywhere: Fidel, Chavez, Urban agriculture, Socialism, Peace, Godlessness, sincere believers, and pictures of everyday Cuba in a blog of an American citizen doing his part in ending the most stupid policy on earth. However, if the concern is about ¨la novia¨ picture, well... you know how these conservative dudes behave, they keep seeing a threat everywhere: hippies, gays, lesbians, abortion, free love, Phils' admiration of beautiful Cuban women...
Staying on pictures, the replies by the Cuban Government to the electronic board at the American Office in Havana and to former Cason ¨hiperactive approach¨ (to say the least) were really good and equilibrated!

Juan Cuellar said...

Western Hemisphere Policy Watch only points out one way to interpret such postings. One interpretations of thousands of way to also interpret what it is behind a picture. Perhaps Phil can give his view on the subject.

Juan Cuellar said...
El tema de la �ltima reflexi�n del Comandante no es sobre los Estados Unidos y su presidente. Aunque, para no perder la costumbre, comenz� con el viejo vaticinio de la eventual ca�da del imperio, producto de la esperada crisis que anunci� originalmente Marx y su carnal Engels.
Aunque sinceramente no creo que sea Fidel Castro quien escribe las llamadas Reflexiones, estas responden a una necesidad imperiosa del gobierno. Fidel Castro es como el Cid que cabalga otra vez. Una suerte de espantajo para reformistas no autorizados . El valladar para impacientes con un mensaje: Fidel no se ha ido; Ra�l no ha llegado a�n o no quiere llegar por el momento.

Anonymous said...


Just because the Castro monarchy (with nepotism, even) exports the idea of socialism doesn't mean that socialism actually exists in Cuba. Do you know anything about Marxism, or are you simply anti-U.S.?

The Castro monarchy is quite conservative itself. For example, many policies launched and decided by the King are reactionary and not progressive, the King places the country's identity in the position of "negative value"--it exists only in opposition to the Imperialists, therefore it doesn't really exist; the King & his court created concentration camps for prostitutes, homosexuals, and the opposition in the '60s was; their historical exclusion of minorities in positions of power is based on the patriarchal guerrillero of the Sierra Maestra.

I could give two hoots about the photos; they're simply not that interesting to this Cuban-American who has seen firsthand how her family in Oriente lives. In the totally neglected East, poor farmers (who were able to live better before Castro, and not because of Batista, mind you) are STILL without electricity and running water, this after the supposed Agrarian Reform.

Anonymous said...

Phil, maybe you should be worried that they're worried. After all, they say WHPW is published "from the banks of the Potomac!" If you find yourself in a dark alley with somebody who looks strikingly like George Washington, run like hell!

Omar said...

To 3:32 PM Anon:

- There is no monarchy in Cuba. Raul is not taking the power because of being Fidel´s brother. If that were the case: why was Raul and not Ramon the one who took the power? Monarchies have very strict succession rules. Should I call the US a monarchy because the incompetent George W. Bush replaced his father after the interregnum of Cardinal Clinton? Not to mention that Raul is not an incompetent. Mobilities in the political landscape of US and Cuba are not significantly different. Look at how many politically powerful Jrs. come from politically powerful Srs. Not a few. Competence, tradition, neopotism? I don´t know. You may think that free elections 4 years each is a safeguard against neopotism. I´m not that sure. The outcome of elections is strongly dependent on money and influences. Georges Bushes had both.
- Why do you say that Socialism doesn´t exits in Cuba? How should it be to deserve such a qualification? Like Sweden? Why do you suggest me to read Marxism as if it were a theism? What do you expect me to find there? Illumination? Come on! A otro con ese cuento. It is true that Fidel have been reactionary on certain occasions. The priority of Resistance combined with such an amazingly powerful personality have produced not a few mistakes.
- To be honest I have read far less Marxism than what I should. To keep being honest I very frequently react as anti-US, but that doesn´t run deep on me. I´m frequently anti-US government but never anti-US people. This is not just an slogan. To be sure, I don´t like the cowboyish approach to serious issues by, probably, an important part of the US population but that doesn´t mean I don´t like them. It is just a negative feature of the rich US culture. A negative feature that should be modify for the sake of the Humanity. How to be different if I know that the US government bombed Viet-Nam, is bombing Irak, have penetrated with the Market dystopia all Latinamerican countries, has been embargoing my Cuba, killing my people, etc., etc. ... but at the end all humans in earth are more or less the same? I like the Gettysburg Address and ´We, the people...´, I like Lincoln, Mark Twin, Martin Luther, nice people I have met in US, etc. US is such an incredibly vast and marvelous country with such an incredibly stupid policy!
- Your family in Oriente could belong to those that lived better under Batista than under Fidel. There are more people like your family to be sure. But there are plenty of people whose situation improved with the Revolution, mainly farmers. And if neither one group nor the other are in a better situation now it is mainly due to the hostility of a powerful country that could be a good and solid neighbor but prefers to be a humilliating and controlling Master. The later is what matter the most, at least that is what I have felt in the profile of The Cuban Triangle.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to believe that you can't see that when it was announced that Raul would take over, without elections, it does not remind you of, well, pretty much any monarchy.

"Why do you suggest me to read Marxism as if it were a theism? What do you expect me to find there? Illumination?"
I would hope that you would find out what Marxism is in order to COMPARE it to Cuba's system.

I come from a family of farmers, poor before Castro but able to provide for their families, even poorer since 1960. Many members abandoned their farms because the govt. did not deliver what C. promised (just read his speeches from 1960).

The only Master is the entity named Castro, the homophobic, racist Patriarch that followed in Batista's footsteps. I repeat: Cuba has lost its national identity, its independent identity, because of a dictator who insists on its negative value.

Cuba, n. anti-imperialist, anti-yanqui, anti-capitalista, anti-gusano, anti-.......

I happen to admire Marxist theory.
Marx believed that socialism would happen naturally in the course of history. To force a "fake socialism" on a people is not the way it's supposed to work.

Marx did not believe in repression of freedom of speech and other freedoms either. The whole point is that the worker is unchained from his/her slavery. In Cuba, the worker has few rights (and a leading Chilean Leftist who was imprisoned by Pinochet says the same). Ideologically, Cuba is not living socialism.

Economically, what exists in Cuba is a state capitalism; the state and its hierarchy (again, a facet of capitalism, not socialism) makes and takes the profits. The S.A. industries in Cuba (Intermar, S.A. for example) are owned by an elite few who share the profits amongst themselves. That is not socialism.

Fidel is reactionary!! Wow, to a Cuban-American anarchist lesbian like me, that's putting it mildly. Does UMAP ring a bell? Castro institutionalized the incarcelation of people like me, and you call it simply, reactionary. No venga Usted con cuentos.

leftside said...

Anon, what makes you think the profits of state companies are pocketed by an elite few who "own"(?) the company? I have heard such allegations from other anarchists, but never from a reliable source who had proof (no disrespect). It seems clear to me that all profits are driven back into the company, industry or larger system. Phil??

As for Cuba's supposed lost identity, I would seriously question that idea. Say the word Cuba, and images flood to one's mind - anywhere in the world. Sure, some of it is defined by its principled opposition to Imperialism and the US - but also to its positive humanitarianism around the world, its committment to health and education at home, its treasure trove of culture and sport - as unblemished and pure as anywhere in the world. In 1959 Cuba was like Puerto Rico - an appendage of the US. Today it is 100% independent and free from foreign influence. I would argue that Cuban culture has never has so much space to express and experiment with it's identity.

I wonder what you think of the "racist patriarchs" allowing their progressive, lesbian neice/daughter Mariela ("the rebel in the family," one who danced topless - according to N. Fuentes) to take on machismo and homophobic attitudes within the Cuban cultural space? Fidel has said the UMAPs were a mistake that lasted only a couple of years. At that time the policy to not allow gays in the national military was common (and many places still today).

Anonymous said...

Since Mariela is part of the elite (the rebel in the royal family, right?), I do not consider her attempt to propagandize gay rights (to the world arena, and not within Cuba) within her privilege as any sort of progressive action. Perhaps if she pushed for freedom of assembly, so that gays, blacks, and "others" can form coalitions, can be free to have a Gay Pride March, then we'll see a progressive stance.

There's absolutely no apologizing for the UMAP camps. Sorry. Statists will always defend their beloved State and gloss over the atrocities, I guess.

I disagree with your argument about Cuba's identity. The State controls the information about the reality of Cuba's health care, education, and everything else, so how can anyone separate the propaganda from the experience of the people? I certainly distrust the American government's "facts" , so I look for it elsewhere. In the U.S., however, the dialectical process is not illegal; in Cuba it is. That's why feminist discourse, while met with antagonism (that's part of the dialectic process), has been the catalyst for women's rights here in the U.S.

What would constitute as proof of Cuba's capitalism? I don't have at hand my resources, but I have found independent scholarship on the matter, which I can get for you. If you're looking for proof from a Cuban State document, that is highly unlikely.

leftside said...

Mariela is supposedly responsible for the recent popular soap opera featuring a realistic potrayal of the difficulties a gay person encouters in Cuba. It sparked many conversations in the press and in society. Sha has said Raul and Fidel support her mission, which of course, also faces challenges. While gays seemed quite free and open to me in Havana, I am sure things are not the same in the countryside. And even in Havana, a cab driver called a groups partying on the Malecon the M word. But compared to other Latin and Carribean countries, to see a place where hundreds of gays could congregate and party into the night without problem is progress.

I never apologized for including gays in UMAP camps, nor did Fidel. But there are other facts that are relevant when trying to figure out how bad were they and what relevance do they have 40 years later...

The Cuban people have made it quite clear in independent polling that they their regard health care and education to be very good. It was rated by the people to be higher than any other country in the region.

I think most Cuban women would argue that "dialectics" over women's issues have been occuring since the triumph of the revolution. Exactly what rights are women lacking in Cuba? Did you know there is a Family Code that says men should even equally share the housework...

If you find proof that Cuban enterprises are actually capitalist and enrich the "owners" let me know...

Anonymous said...

From Communist Voice, in an essay titled "The Imperialist Helms Burton Law and the Myth of Cuban Socialism", the author writes,
"Parallel with the opening to outside market capitalism has been the adoption of ever-more market reforms within the domestic economic set-up. The Cuban rulers have not only offered up ownership of state property to foreign capitalists but to small groups of the Cuban bureaucratic elite. The so-called sociedades anonimas are state companies turned over to private ownership of big shot managers and party officials. These companies operate outside even the pretense of a central government plan. They run on their own income and keep whatever profits they generate. There isn't much to distinguish them from "normal" capitalist businesses. These enterprises are not merely small businesses either. For example, these firms are big players in the tourist industry. Some of these enterprises increase their power through interlocking ownership/management with similar companies, and not only offer shares of their businesses to the Cuban elite but to foreign investors. These firms may also branch into different fields of services and production.

The Cuban tourist operation, Cubanacan, is an example of these large businesses. It not only built hotels and conducted other tourism business but branched into the import business, promoting products from 27 different foreign companies and became the sole exporter of certain medicines among other products it exported. Cubanacan even set up some medical clinics in other countries. Another large enterprise of this type is Cimex, with 48 subsidiaries and a dozen associated companies in seventeen countries. (7) Among other things, Cimex has its own merchant fleet, sugar refineries and export businesses. It uses part of its income to speculate in international stock and commodity markets. The sociedades anonimas compete against each other for foreign investment and hard currency. For instance, rivalries developed between the Cubanacan and Gaviota enterprises and the national airline for dominance over air travel."

Please see Eckstein, Susan Eva; Back from the future: Cuba under Castro, p.103; Princeton University Press; 1994.

for references from the article.

As well, Regis Debray, who ran with Che Guevara in Bolivia in 1967 and was a student of marxist theorist Louis Althusser, says some interesting things about the dictator. From the New Republic:

"Fidel was a monomaniac of his own revolution. He was a latifundista, ruling his island nation like his own hacienda, attending to the tiniest details. Here was a premodern politician. He was a condottiero from out of the Middle Ages, with a strictly medieval sense of himself--an autocrat who, like all true autocrats, never laughed in public, or even in private. Fidel was the champion of the spoken word, instead of the written word, and in this way, he stood in the tradition of the European fascists, and not of the Communists. Debray recalled a visit to Cuba by Alberto Moravia, the Italian novelist. Moravia listened spellbound to Fidel's orations, and concluded that attending a mass rally in Havana afforded the pleasures of Communism and of fascism at the same time--the satisfaction of applauding for Communism's social goals, while savoring the extravagances of fascist oratory, Mussolini-style. But Debray, in those days, looked on Fidel and on Cuban Communism with no such feeling of irony."

leftside said...

Cubans themselves like to describe Cubanacan and Cimex as capitalist as a way of saying they are good stable places for foreign investment. But I don't think you'd find many US economists who would tell you they are capitalist. Sure they may be taking some things out of the capitalist playbook but it is state owned and exists solely to contribute to the development of the country - not enrich anyone. There are profits back to foreign investors, but any state profits are put back in the system - or split between al employees as fat bonusses. Though the No Cuban is getting rich off Cubanacan. If they were they were sacked or cracked down on years ago...

And saying Fidel is fascist because speaks well is a bit much...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Leftside, but it seems like you are a Castroist, not really a leftist. Or, perhaps, a leftist is different from a marxist?

You don't seem to recognize that some of your theorists have exposed the STATE-CAPITALISM of the Soviet Union and other so-called socialist countries, like Cuba.

Please prove that the profits are put back in the system. Which system? The tourist system? The food distribution system? Are you privvy to such info when you travel as a tourist to Cuba?

Castro is more fascist because of dictator qualities, not because he can speak well. Hence the terms latifundista, rule, monomaniac.

But the bottom line is that Cubans live under the repressive state apparatus and unfortunately are used to it. They merit the same freedoms you have living in the U.S., don't they?

leftside said...

If you want to argue that Cuba should be more socialist, I will not stop you. No system is perfect, but I stand in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution.

The onus is not on me to prove that profits from State owned businesses go back to the State. This seems implicit and obvious to me - as well most critics of the regime.

Cubans certainly deserve more freedom. But I do not share the viewpoint that Cubans are repressed or can not express difficult or different point of views and have them heard. The actions of the US have done nothing but retard further political openings.

Americans deserve the social and cultural rights Cubans enjoy - free health care, free higher education, freedom to be an artist and work for humanity, freedom from crime and segregation...

leftside said...

That first sentance did not come out right. I know you are not arguing Cuba should be more socialist, but somehow that leftists like me are being misled into thinking Cuba is socialist when it is really state capitalist.