Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Marc Frank's revelation


I’m glad to call him my friend.  But most people know Marc Frank, the best economics reporter in Cuba, as a Reuters guy who writes in his trade’s short, clipped style. 

The first thing he reveals in his new book, Cuba Revelations, is that he has another style at his disposal.  The book is beautifully written – with wire-service economy, abundant and interesting detail, affection for Cuba and its people, and the benefit of observations that stretch back 20 years and, frequently, to places as far away as Guantanamo, 600 miles from his Havana home. 

If the topics in this blog are remotely interesting to you, you should buy this book. 

Its central story has to do with the economic changes being wrought by the Raul Castro government, their impact on the society, their successes and failures, and the resistance they face from ideologues and the bureaucracy.  He writes about official documents and data that make their way to him – for example, outlining the 2008 balance of payments crunch that followed three hurricanes in that year of global financial crisis.  But it’s not a data-heavy economics book.  It’s more about the changes in society and the politics of the revolution that stem from a program that is remaking the economy, rewriting the social contract, and changing most everyone’s way of doing business.  Throughout, it benefits from quips, reflections, and anecdotes that come from provincial farm contacts that he developed as a commodity reporter 20 years ago, all the way to his daughter’s high school friends who crashed in his house. 

It’s a political leadership story that covers the Fidel-to-Raul succession.  It gives a cold-eyed assessment of the dissidents and U.S. policy under Presidents Bush and Obama.  It notes the importance of the Catholic church.  It explains what’s right and what’s lacking in Cuban health care and education.  It presents his explanation of why the Arab Spring is not coming to Cuba.  And lots more.

Marc returns time and again to the boat that the United States has missed, and often studiously avoided: the vast number of Cubans, many in positions of responsibility, that want change but don’t want regime change, that want their government fixed but not torn down and rebuilt, least of all by outsiders.  He calls this sector the “gray zone.”

He has insight into the Cuban character, but he also has the humility to stick with the century-old assessment of a writer whom he cites, which is that when it comes to figuring Cubans out, we often can’t even come close. 

A great read, available here on Amazon.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Marc Frank a reporter for the Daily Worker, the Amercian communist newspaper? Ah,no wonder you call him your friend.

Anita Snow said...

Looking forward to reading this book!

Antonio said...

Thanks for the review. You rarely post book reviews, I will be on the lookout for it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for teh suggestion. Placed a hold on it in my public library.

Cantaclaro

brianmack said...

Just ordered via Amazon. Thanks Phil!

brianmack said...

Received book via Amazon! Thanks Phil! Anything you recommend regarding Cuba I'll buy!
BMC

Anonymous said...

Mr. Peters,

Given your recommendation i finally bought two copies of the book, one for myself and another for a christmas gift for a finally member.

It was extremely interesting the author gives us the history of the reforms that Raul Castro has made since he took over power and evaluates their results very favorably.

Although i believe he is too optimistic, I strongly recommend that it be read for all those interested in the Cuban reforms.

I also recommend for all those who understand Spanish to watch this interesting youtube video which is a class given to members of the Ministry of Interior by a very knowledgeable Cuban economist Juan Triana.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KwHP88wXfE

Since he has first hand knowledge of the reforms, this gives you a good idea of the Cuban government's present day goals and the way that they intend to go about reaching them.

The fact that I recommend this class does not mean that I share Juan Triana's point of view.

I just think that they provide a panoramic view of the history of present day Cuban reforms and the general direction where they may be heading.

But let' not forget that "The best laid plans of men and mice oft go astray!"

Cantaclaro

Anonymous said...

I bought, read, and loved the book. Does Phil or anybody else know if Marc Frank has a blog, or other way to "follow" him? I searched and couldn't find anything. Any info would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Peters,

I read the book and it lives up to the expectations you raised with your excellent book review.

It was wonderful to receive an objective account of what is occurring in Cuba from a reporter without an ax to grind.

This is extremely rare and valuable given the polarized atmosphere of Cuban politics.

This guy is an incredibly valuable source of objective information about what is happening in Cuba!

I would like to continue to read his reporting.

In such a rapidly changing situation like present day Cuba, it would be extremely useful to get his fresh information without sny lags.

I would like to read his articles and newspaper reports without having to wait for the publication of his next book.

Does Marc Franc have a web site where I could keep up to date on whatever he writes?

If he doesn't, would you happen to have his email address so I could make try to find out directly from him how to follow his writings?

If his email address is private and you are not authorized to provide it to third parties, could you please forward this comment to him so that he could consider providing his readers through yout blog with a way to remain updated with his future reporting?

Cantaclaro

Arturo Lopez-Levy said...

Great book review of a wonderful well written and well documented book.
Arturo Lopez-Levy

Anonymous said...

Seems that the author himself belongs to the Grey Zone. He is broadly sympathetic to the regime in place, has thinly veiled contempt for dissidents, and take Raul's public declarations as building blocs for his analysis. This is an interesting and informative book but it is also very Raulista. If one thinks that La Revolucion has great achievements to its credit and its leaders are well-meaning advocates of nationalism and social justice, only they do lots of mistakes (which Raul tries to correct), you will love this book. If you don't buy these premises, you will still enjoy the book but will find the reviewers' praise of Frank's "objectivity" a bit irritating.