The Little Pioneer and the President

He was the first American president I shouted a slogan at. I don’t remember the precise words of the insult as almost thirty years have passed. However, I can remember the feeling of my clenched fists, my red and white uniform trembling with each scream that I launched at Jimmy Carter who — according to my kindergarten teacher — would destroy the island, the palms, the classroom desks, happiness.

And three decades later, here I am in Havana, talking with him and other familiar faces from our nascent civil society. I barely resemble that Little Pioneer buried in the hysteria of political slogans and this man I am speaking with doesn’t fit the role of the leader who was the target of my insults. Now he is a mediator, a man who doesn’t seem interested in wiping Cuba off the map, as they once assured me in primary school. So the girl who was supposed to be the “New Man” and the former commander of the armed of the forces of the United States, have met at a moment in their lives in which neither has the same position as before, in which the path of both has taken the direction of dialog; although once we could have killed each other, across some battle field.

I see him speak and wonder if he knows that I was trained to hate him. Will he be the villain of my childhood stories, the face of grotesque caricatures in the official newspapers, the man whom government propaganda blamed for all our ills? Of course he knows, and still he extends his hand to me, speaks to me, asks me a question. And so he, who was “the enemy,” offers me his kind words.

Outside the Hotel Santa Isabel where we have met, in some school in the area, another little girl repeats her slogans, squeezes her hands, shouts, focuses her mind on the face of a man whom she says she detests. Fortunately, she too will forget the words she screams at this moment, erase from her mind the slogans full of resentment they make her chant today.


P.S. I am attaching a message, accompanied by a gift, that we gave Mr. Jimmy Carter in the name of several bloggers and other Cubans.

Havana March 30, 2011

Mr. Jimmy Carter:

On behalf of several alternative bloggers and other members of Cuban civil society, we would like to give you this present. This is a small sample of the food that the self-employed are able to make from maní,  the word Cubans use for peanuts, that dried fruit that you know so well.

For over half a century the maní has been one of the few products that has escaped the control of State planning. Even in the hardest days of the so-called Special Period one of the the few things we could buy on the free market produced by independent people were these cones and peanut butters that we offer to you today. There were times when the traditional cry of “peanuts, the peanut seller is here…” had to go practically underground, becoming a phrase whispered into the ears of clients.

This popular “criminal” food, within the reach of every pocket, has become the symbol of public resistance before totalitarian pretensions, a stronghold of creativity and ingenuity in the face of centralism and control. Here is the maní, the conqueror of difficulties, stubborn disobedient, transformed now into a symbol of union, a meeting point between your people and ours.


86 thoughts on “The Little Pioneer and the President

  1. don’t be fooled by this joker…he is on fidel’s side ideologically…

  2. I want to thank all of you for your education on all things CUBA Humberto thanks for the youtube link SALSITA . It reminded me of my childhood growing up in New York listening to my gramdmother playing Beny More albums and tellng me the stories of our family . As for Jimmy Carter he has a truly great heart but he is misguided and allways has been. Like much in the US Government today they are so preoccupied with our commercial interest all over the world that they do not see the threat coming from there southern nieghbors. Our foriegn policies have failed time and again , instead of strenghtening the AMERICAS they have weakend it. All we can hope for is a time we can be true AMERICANS north and south as one.

  3. I just got home from Havana where I spent a week “touring.” I missed the mani, but I did visit both a CUC shop and a PESO shop.

  4. WALL STREET JOURNAL: Jimmy Carter Lobbies for Cuban Spies -Why lend legitimacy to the Castro brothers?-By MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY

    They say that Cuba is a place where time stands still and it certainly seemed that way last week when Jimmy Carter arrived in Havana to fraternize with the Castros. The image of the 86-year-old American ex-president wearing a wide smile as he disembarked from a jet to meet with the regime bigwigs was déjà vu all over again.

    For more than three and a half decades the world’s most famous peanut farmer has toiled to get the island’s repressive military dictatorship more respect from the U.S. This trip was no different. Agence France Press reported that it was undertaken at “Havana’s invitation” and “aimed at improving U.S.-Cuba relations.” Fidel praised Mr. Carter as “brave and serious.”

    It is obvious why the dictatorship sought out Mr. Carter. The list of individuals—no fair counting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il or Chris Dodd—who are willing to lend legitimacy to one of the 20th century’s most disastrous revolutionary experiments is shrinking fast. The former president is, as they say, useful.

    We may never know why Mr. Carter agreed to be used. But we do know how he was used: On Wednesday, before he left Havana he went on Cuban television to argue for the release of the five Cuban spies known as “the wasp network,” who are now serving time in U.S. prisons. This is a new low for Mr. Carter—and not only because it demonstrates complete disregard for the American criminal justice system. The dangers that Cuban agents operating inside the U.S. present to Americans are well established. Treating their crimes lightly will only increase the nation’s exposure to serious risk.

    Initially, hopes were high that Mr. Carter would be able to win the release of Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development contractor who was taken hostage by Cuba in December 2009. The 61-year-old American had apparently brought hardware to members of the island’s tiny Jewish community so that they could access the Internet. He has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

    Yet once Mr. Carter was on the ground in Havana, he announced that he was not there “to take [Mr. Gross] out of the country.” He did visit him and recommended that he be set free. That could still happen. Mr. Gross is in frail health and back home in Maryland both his mother and his daughter are fighting cancer. Rumors abound that he will be given a humanitarian pardon.

    Cuba no doubt will spin an early release of Mr. Gross as evidence of its goodwill toward the world. But for now it’s hoping to get more than international kudos. One objective seems to be the exchange of its American prisoner for the “wasps.”

    Gerardo Hernández, René González, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and Fernando González Llort were all arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Sept. 12, 1998. Five others in the network were arrested the same day but accepted plea bargains in exchange for acting as witnesses for the prosecution.

    The FBI had collected plenty of its own evidence. It had used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and court warrants to investigate the group over a period of three years. Mr. Hernández, who is serving two life sentences, was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the Cuban Air Force downing of two civilian aircraft flown by Cuban exiles from Florida in 1996. Four Americans died. The prosecution also showed that the “wasps” had sought to infiltrate U.S. military installations and to discover unprotected points along the Florida coast where arms and explosives could be brought into the country.

    Because Cuba is so poor, its American advocates like to say that it presents no threat to U.S. national security. But this ignores Cuban espionage. In 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Ana Belen Montes, the highest ranking U.S. intelligence operative ever to be charged with spying for Cuba, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Her arrest, 10 days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was rushed because she had the potential to pass sensitive information about the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to enemy agents.

    Americans still don’t know how much damage Walter Kendall Myers, an analyst working in intelligence and research at the State Department, and his wife, Gwendolyn Myers, also an employee at State, inflicted on the U.S. over the 30 years that they spied for Cuba. The couple was recruited by the Cuban Mission to the United Nations in New York, a notorious hothouse of Cuban espionage.

    Mr. Carter should stick to doing personal favors for his “personal friend”—those were his words for Fidel while in Havana, according to Europa Press. When a six-hour meeting with the old tyrant is followed by a Carter announcement expressing doubts about the trial that led to the conviction of spies and a promise to speak with President Obama about a pardon for them, its hard to see him as anything but a shill for Cuba’s military dictatorship.

  5. MIAMI HERALD:Cuba: Twilight of the regime-By CARLOS ALBERTO MONTANER

    Jimmy Carter went to visit Raúl Castro. The initiative was Raúl’s. He wanted to let President Obama know that everything is negotiable, including the release of Alan Gross, an American sentenced on the island to 15 years’ imprisonment for handing out computers and communications equipment so that uninformed Cubans might have access to the Internet. For the moment, he has not freed Gross, but that will happen. It’s a matter of time.

    It is not at all clear why Raúl Castro does not turn to the American diplomats who are accredited in Cuba to send his messages, but he probably doesn’t trust Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department. Accustomed as he is to making the important decisions as his brother did, he doesn’t understand the institutional functioning of the United States, nor does he realize that Cuban affairs are barely important to the White House tenant.

    What does Raúl Castro want in exchange for his hostage? Basically, his objectives are two: that the White House eliminate travel restrictions on Americans so the annual number of tourists who visit the island — about two million — doubles or triples swiftly; and that Washington permanently interrupt the economic aid and distribution of electronic equipment to the Cuban opposition. In any case, that aid remains detained today by legal obstacles raised by Democratic Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

    Does Raúl have anything else to offer, other than Gross’ freedom? He has little, and it’s hardly elegant: basically, it’s a change in the repressive strategy. In short, he mistreats his compatriots with less cruelty. By stages, he has freed the 75 democrats imprisoned during the so-called “black spring” of 2003, deporting most of them to Spain, and it is possible that he will continue to gradually liberate the hundred or so political prisoners who remain in prison.

    He no longer sentences the dissidents to long terms. He infiltrates their ranks to learn their movements, beats them, intimidates them and detains them for brief periods. When they gather or go out on the street, he launches against them mobs directed by the political police, in what are called “acts of repudiation.” Raúl has learned that to keep society scared and in his grasp, to prevent power from slipping through his hands, those coercive measures are enough. It is not necessary to jail his adversaries. Terrifying them is enough. Fidel was exaggeratedly punitive.

    But that’s not all. It is also possible that Raúl will open his economic hand a little more at the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party that will be held in April. He knows that the huge majority of Cubans wish to be able to buy and sell their homes and that there’s no reason to keep the absurd rules that prevent that.

    Nor is he unaware that the wish of Cubans to freely leave or enter Cuba transcends the ideological issue: communists, anticommunists and those who are indifferent agree that the government has no right to prohibit the free movement of people. To eliminate that exit and entry permit would be extraordinarily welcome by the entire population, and he would be acclaimed without the need to make any transcendental change. Sotto voce, Cubans usually point out that Raúl Castro has no moral standing to complain that the U.S. president doesn’t allow Americans to travel to the neighboring island when he himself keeps his own people hostage.

    Will there be a substantial change in U.S. policy toward Cuba after Carter’s visit? I don’t believe so. The general perception in Washington, judging from the WikiLeaks, is that the Cuban regime is in a final phase of demoralization and erosion, and it makes no sense to do anything that halts or reverses that trend. Corruption is rampant, the children of many leaders are leaving the country discreetly and the state of mind that prevails among the mid-level cadres is that of an end-of-regime. Raúl is not unaware of this but has no way to prevent it, as long as he insists in maintaining a one-party collectivist regime that demands total obedience.

    On to defeat always, general

    Carlos Alberto Montaner is an exiled Cuban author and journalist known for his criticism of Fidel Castro. He has been published widely in Latin American newspapers, and published fiction and non-fiction books on Latin America. Since 2004 he has had a weekly column in the Miami Herald.


    Words cannot express the courage Iman showed in speaking out — and we can only imagine the terror she must be facing right now in the hands of Qaddafi’s infamous thugs. Her life is in danger, but we can help, if we act fast.

    Qaddafi will ignore most international outrage, but he listened to the Turkish government when they asked him to release foreign journalists. Let’s urgently raise a massive global call to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to help save Iman — sign the petition and forward this email to everyone – it will be hand-delivered to the Turkish consulate in Benghazi, and through ads in Turkey, as soon as we reach 500,000 signatures:

  7. @#46
    Cold: involvement is a perception unless there is a form of valuation agreed upon before judgements are passed. While I belive in democracy, the version w/checks & balances nevertheless reality is that even w/checks & balances in existence abuses of power & office happen; the participation in the process at times proves the level of acceptance or disgust towards the elected individuals. Yes, while voting that representative is the right of the voter it is ture also that the “buying” of votes is more pervasive than not when voter selfishness replaces the comun good of nation.I belive tha voting is an obligation of great responsibility & value which deserves study, consideration & understanding of the issues affecting our country.
    Personally I participate however participation is a matter of perception …
    All been said I do very much enjoy & at time learn from you very insightful coments …

  8. Humberto, the “Echale Salsa” jam was good. I enjoyed it. Thanks for the link.

  9. Love Cuba: Point well take regarding Moynihan’s law. I think in the past this process has been rampant in Latin America, smothering democratic societies at every turn. I watch Argentina very closely, because it is a vast country full of possibilities and natural wealth and educated people. But nevertheless, it falters every ten to twenty years or so. On a visit I made there years ago, there were picketers slowing traffic on one of the main boulevards, I asked the cab driver why they were creating the disturbance and he suggested that that group did not really want to work and spent the time doing this. He suggested they all wanted to work in an office in a highrise somewhere and produce very little.

    At first thought, one might think he was only a cab driver. But I happen to respect and give credit to the depth of the comments cab drivers make anywhere you go in the world.

    Bottom line is, whether in Argentina, Cuba, or anywhere else, people have to roll up their sleeves and really work and make use of their time. As the cliche says, time is gold and the longer one sits around doing little or nothing, the exponentially less the individual or the society has. Conversely, keeping busy, as Ben Franklin said, is the mother of good luck. You’ll find opportunities you never even thought of. Thats why countries if we compare their aggregate economies, are either significantly wealthier or conversely, extremely poor with wide disparities among them. There are relatively few countries in between, unless they happen to be lucky enough to have oil or some other extremely valuable mineral asset.

    Right now, the Castro dynasty is making Cuba progressively poorer and poorer the more time that goes by and the missed opportunities and production that gets wasted. To the point where one could think of Cuba as a mother, with multiple children sitting on the sidewalk waiting for passersby to drop her and her children a coin in the jar. Meantime countries like South Korea, Malaysia, etc. are getting progressively wealthier having a peaceful and stable environment and respected institutions.

    Sorry for the lecture, can’t help myself this early in the morning.



  11. all uniting we must fortify the civil society. .cubana. .cuba soon must be democratic and… please. to.enviar to Cuba. .todo what flah.disco.dvd helps to inform to the .periodico.revistas town of Cuba. .libros.memorias. .ecetera.

  12. OH YEAH! THIS IS A WINNER (excuse the pun)!SPEECH:”I WANT TO THANK ALL THE LITTLE PEOPLE (there are very few shorter than he) WHO MADE THIS “NOBEL PEACE PRIZE” (that’s what he and the Mummy want) POSSIBLE!

    COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS: Hugo Chávez, free expression prize winner-By Laureano Márquez/CPJ Guest Blogger

    Just as the awardee himself anticipated (in his subconscious, after all, he is no idiot), this “freedom of expression award” stirred up disapproval and indignation across the board. Notwithstanding, no one should question the decision of Argentina’s University of La Plata. If anyone has freedom of expression in Venezuela, it’s the prize-winner: He talks and talks without limits, his discourse immune to any attempts to be reined in.

    In fact, on receiving the honor, the above-mentioned even dared to say: “I haven’t closed any media outlet in Venezuela.” When one hears things like that, language becomes noise and words lose their meaning: What do “to close,” “media outlet,” and “Venezuela” mean to him? Someone that goes this far truly deserves to be recognized, if not for “freedom of expression,” then at least for “expressive audacity.”
    For those who are tearing their hair out over this prize, keep in mind that there are many more to come. So that you won’t be surprised, here’s a preview:

    The “International Human Rights Award” given by the University of Havana. One can expect that there he will say: “In Venezuela there is not a single political prisoner … or other political things since I am the only politician.”
    The “International Award for Political Tolerance” given by the University of Tripoli … because in Venezuela “we enjoy, as never before, a climate of respect and tolerance for all political opinions, including those that are incorrect.”
    The “International Prize for Citizen Security” given by the University of Northern Mexico … “for efficiency in insecurity policies and for having managed to solve a murder committed in 1830.”
    The “International Award for the Promotion of Food Security” given by the University of the Congo for … “promoting agricultural activity and the production of food in general, especially in the deprived regions of Valle del Turbio and Valles de Aragua.”


    YOUTUBE: Wael Ghonim: Inside the Egyptian revolution

    Wael Ghonim is the Google executive who helped jumpstart Egypt’s democratic revolution … with a Facebook page memorializing a victim of the regime’s violence. Speaking at TEDxCairo, he tells the inside story of the past two months, when everyday Egyptians showed that “the power of the people is stronger than the people in power.”

  14. Love Cuba: No I’m not an academic, but I’ll share that you are not altogether far. Like you, I feel more useful if I have the ability to travel and help materially and educate the people I know by telling them the truth, this way, they can inform and educate others. You’d be surprised how people who normally have no real news, or worse, the wrong or adulterated version of what is happening, really open up their eyes and for the first time show signs of doing some thinking.

  15. YOUTUBE: Niños en Escuelas de Cuba Aprenden a Usar Armas. Children en schools in Cuba learn to use weapons. WHY? So when the BIG BAD U.S.A. comes to INVADE!! The Castrofacists are all about Mind Control, but this is SICK!

  16. Not until we loose fear of the regime is when you are really free.
    Fear is what they have use to control us.
    Loos fear then it follows they will loose control!

  17. Honestly I do still have far relatives and friends in Cuba and I am not concern that the regime will make them responsible for what I say here or in other forums. I used to use SilentVoice and Voz Silente before using my name in postings here and other places but I decide to follow the example of Yoani and many other people that do post their opinions with their real name attached to it.
    I think if we all did it that way it will be better.
    Freedom is also having the valor to be associated with what you really think.
    How could we contribute to the freedom of Cuba without that?

  18. Humberto, again, you are doing a great job here, keep it up! I think we need to hire Stallone to bust Gross out of prison!

  19. coldinchicago
    I agree

    “To me that looks like a humiliating insult if I was offered to leave the island as the only option. Cubans should not be kicking out cubans not matter what.”

    They should have never done this. The thing is that the Castro brothers seem to treat Cuba as their personal farm and Cubans as the slaves in the plantation.

    That will make us the cimarrones! :-)

  20. Love Cuba, dont do it! You have a good point! In my case I have been to Cuba seen my relatives and took my cousins and their family all over the island. I think putting my name here sends the CASTROFACISTS a message that I am willing to wait till their sorry A** are out of there while making a difference outside. And FYI I dont get paid by the CIA or anyone to do this, POR LA PATRIA ONLY!

  21. Julio asked:
    “Love Cuba what is stopping you from publishing your name here or saying what you like?”

    I have to admit I’m being very paranoid, whether for good reason or not. I won’t risk not being let into Cuba, no matter how slight the chance. We’re the only lifeline for some Cuban friends, and the stakes are too high. And we have other friends that we could get into trouble or embarrass. So my fear, multiplied by millions, illustrates the success of totalitarianism.

  22. coldinchicago, please feel free not to answer if this question is too personal, but do you work at the university in Chicago? With your mention of nuclear power, Einstein, and Sagan, I figure you might be an academic?

  23. coldinchicago, I’d rather wave the white flag :) But if you’re interested in history, you can read about the US arms embargo against Israel in the 1948 war and beyond. It was only in the 1970s that the US started selling any significant amounts of arms to Israel, and only because of cold-war politics, and you’ll find that even with inflation, it’s nowhere close to the figures you think.

    Which brings up the patterns of history you mentioned before. In general, the more closed the society, the less they are criticized, and the more people think everything is rosy. The more open the government the more it is criticized and the more it is seen as the devil. It’s Moynihan’s Law.
    People were relatively free to criticize Machado and Batista, this allowed dissidents to organize and get him overthrown by Castro, who doesn’t allow any criticism, so is criticized much less and has a much better reputation. Allowing dissent is much more important for human progress than any other factor I think, whether we’re talking about a company, industry or country. The thing I like best about capitalism, when it works and when monopolies are not protected by the state, is not the wealth it creates, but that it allows me to dissent and vote every day. I certainly have done more for fair trade and workers rights with my dollars than Castro has done with his speeches. You won’t hear him asking about workers rights when he buys buses from China. And Cubans tell me the only charity they’ve ever received originates outside the country.

  24. MIAMI HERALD OUR OPINION: Cuba’s dissidents are not alone-Carter’s visit brings hope and recognition

    When former President Jimmy Carter last visited Cuba, in 2002, he delivered a remarkable speech via the state-run media that criticized the Castro dictatorship and exposed listeners to the truly revolutionary idea that it’s up to the Cuban people, not the one-party regime nor any foreign government, to determine Cuba’s future.

    Naturally, his visit raised hopes that this might represent an ever-so-small but significant breakthrough for democracy. Within months, Fidel Castro dashed those hopes. The Cuban “black spring” of March 2003 saw the round-up and imprisonment of 75 dissidents on flimsy, capricious charges designed to stifle any hint of political freedom or accommodation. It was a vicious blow to the aspirations of millions of Cubans and a testament to the enduringly repressive and capricious nature of the hard-line Castro regime.

    Mr. Carter’s trip made sense back then, and so does his latest journey. Neither visits by a former U.S. president nor even by the pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church can change Cuba, but the visits are worthwhile.

    Although he was unable to secure the release of detained American Alan Gross, which was never in the cards, Mr. Carter was able to meet with this imprisoned victim of Cuban state security and raise the issue with Cuban officials.

    His meetings with Cuba’s brave band of democracy advocates also deserve commendation.

    Such meetings give the dissidents the imprimatur of recognition by an individual who won the Nobel Peace Prize. It means they are not alone, that their struggle has the support of all who fight for peaceful change on behalf of political and human rights around the world. It gives the dissidents hope, something always in short supply in Cuba. It means their sacrifices are honored. It puts the government on notice that the world is watching and will condemn any punishment that comes their way from the repressive security apparatus.

    This is especially important at a time when the Cuban people show signs of growing impatience with the gerontocracy that rules the island and, in particular, with Fidel Castro’s long good-bye. Change in Cuba will come at its own pace and will be determined by the will and circumstances of its own people, but it will assuredly come. Until then, those who aspire for a better Cuba deserve encouragement and support. To that end, visits like Mr. Carter’s are helpful.

    What is decidedly not helpful, though, are comments by Mr. Carter favoring the release of five Cuban spies held in American prisons. The implicit quid pro quo is their release in exchange for the freedom of Mr. Gross. This would be an unqualified mistake. There is no equivalency whatsoever in these two cases. None can be acknowledged nor implied.

    The Cuban spies were convicted of charges related to spying in an open trial, with their case reviewed (twice) by a federal appellate court. They had the benefit of lawyers committed to giving them the best defense possible. Contrast this with Mr. Gross, who is no one’s idea of a spy. His “crime” was to bring unregistered communications equipment onto the island for the use of marginalized groups.

    For this, he was tried, convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison by a judicial authority that works hand-in-gloved fist with the totalitarian government. That’s justice, Castro-style.

    The Obama administration has made overtures to the Cuban government. But as long as Mr. Gross remains in prison, all moves toward better relations will be frozen. Only by Cuba’s actions can there be a thaw in relations.

  25. A MULTI NATION TASK FORCE is ready to help the CUBANS help themselves, IF NEEDED. Lo que se va FORMAR.

  26. Love Cuba: I respect your affinity for factual information. Also, in order to prevent any misunderstanding or usage of my words by racist elements, let me just say that some of the people I admire most are men like Karl Sagan, Albert Einstein and Marc Chagall, all Jewish. Two things though:

    First, if you add up all the tanks, jet fighters, F15’s, F16’s, tanks, rocket launchers, army equipment, including anti-missile missiles, etc. etc. since the 1950’s when the U.S. started supporting Israel, I’m pretty sure the number of dollars approaches or surpasses one trillion, I’m talking 2011 dollars. One 1950’s or 60’s U.S. dollar is worth several of todays dollars. Must be consistent with figures.

    Secondly, I don’t know what you mean by Israeli taxpayers. Six or seven million people could never underwrite such an uncanny amount of money.

    I don’t want to be drawn into this so I’ll wave the white flag.

  27. Julio: I was going to ask you about that regarding the small brother – i.e. why the regime insisted that the prisoners leave the island. To me that looks like a humiliating insult if I was offered to leave the island as the only option. Cubans should not be kicking out cubans not matter what.

    Also, another thing that bothers me about him is the insane and criminal repudiation squads. This is something out of a medieval witch hunt story. This is the 21st century.

  28. Humberto

    “You forgot to mentioned that all except 12 of the political prisoners were kicked out of Cuba”

    No I have not forgotten that. I think if all of them had express their desire to stay they would have stay just as those 12 that refused to abandon their country.

    I agree that the Cuban regime should have not ask them to go in the first place or to make it appear like almost the only choice to be free was to go into exile.
    If you noticed some (the 12) stayed strong in their position. They actually choose to stay in prison in Cuba rather than free and exile!
    That tells you a lot about them.
    I wonder how the Cuban regime will match this up with their propaganda?

  29. Love Cuba what is stopping you from publishing your name here or saying what you like?

  30. coldinchicago, you’re right, this blog is about Cuba, but I’m a stickler for the truth, no matter how minor it might seem (your last remark should read “billions” and “Israeli taxpayer” :) I will try to control myself :)

    That’s the reason for my “no lies here” post, just explaining my situation. I find it frustrating and embarrassing not to sign my name here and tell the world the whole truth about Cuba. In fact, I would love to write a series of articles about Cuba, but I simply can’t write anything that could possibly identify my Cuban friends, no matter how much they want me to and are willing to put themselves at risk. For example, I have stories about their hospitals that are unbelievable (although after Mazorra some people might believe them), yet I can’t publish the details, neither here nor anywhere else. Very frustrating.

    I hope one day you and I and Humberto and Alberto and trudeau and everyone else here, can meet up and make a pilgrimage to see Capablanca in a freer Havana.

  31. Love Cuba: I wasn’t questioning your accounting of your visit to Capa’s tomb, I just didn’t know he was buried in Havana and his tomb was so accesible. The Northwest side of Chicago is a long way from the island, lots things about Cuba seems so remote and seemingly unreachable.

  32. I admire Israel for its organizational skills, discipine and ability to stand up to 150 million worth of chaotic squabbling arab countries. Nevertheless, in the 21st century, one cannot unashamedly and forcefully take other people’s land no matter how much “abracadabra pata de cabra” you manage to conjure up from the incredibly distant and irrelevant past. And to do so with what amounts to trillions worth of equipment paid for courtesy of the American taxpayer.

    I’ll say no more on the subject. This blog is about the Cuban debacle.

  33. THE EPOCH TIMES: Canada’s Dilemma With Cuba-By Nelson Taylor Sol

    This month Dr. Oscar Biscet was released from a Cuban jail, a move that could mark a turning point in the country.

    Detained during the “Black Spring” of March 2003, Dr. Biscet and 74 other members of the opposition movement were considered prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, drawing international condemnation, including a common European Union stance against Castro’s regime.

    Carefully planned to decapitate Cuba’s growing opposition movement at a time when the world’s attention was focused on the outset of the Iraq war, the now infamous crackdown saw dozens of journalists, librarians, and human rights activists rounded up, summarily tried, and sentenced for up to 28 years in jail.

    In Cuba, as is always the case in communist countries, the flow of information is totally controlled by the government. That is more or less the case for locally based foreign media, aware that whatever is reported to their home countries, is closely scrutinized by Cuban censors. However, this time around, the charges of “agents of the USA” on which Dr. Biscet and the rest of the activists were sentenced, somehow didn’t find the usual indifference that the cause of freedom in Cuba normally faces.

    Dr. Biscet, a 49-year-old medical doctor, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Prime Minister of Hungary, members of the United States Congress, members of the European Parliament, members of the British House of Lords, and members of the Parliament of Canada. Their open letters to the Norwegian Committee (Canadian MPs requested that their identities not be publicized) outlined the importance of honouring Dr. Biscet, a human rights defender of universal stature, as a way of recognizing his selfless struggle for human dignity

    Dr. Biscet’s story of opposition started earlier in the 80s, but it wasn’t until 1997 that he really irked the government (see for further reference) by conducting a clandestine ten-month research study at the Hijas de Galicia Hospital documenting unofficial statistical data on abortion techniques.

    During this study, many Cuban mothers testified that their newborn babies were killed right after birth, a common practice in hospitals throughout the island. The research study, “Rivanol: A Method to Destroy Life,” was officially delivered to the Cuban government in June 9, 1998, along with a letter addressed to Fidel Castro accusing the Cuban National Health System of genocide. Needless to say, that was the end not only of Dr. Biscet’s medical career but also his wife’s career as a nurse.

    Dr. Biscet’s mere nomination [for the Nobel prize] helps to lessen the degree of ostracism the regime uses to stifle Cuban dissidents. In addition to the regular beatings and subhuman conditions suffered by Cuban prisoners of conscience, the psychological tortures inflicted upon these men and women include prolonged periods of solitary confinement, the prohibition of literature, and forced separation from their families. The main goal of this is to break their spirits. A frequent script used by interrogators and jailers is: “While you rot in here, life continues outside, and the fact is that in the so-called free world, nobody cares whether you live or die.”

    By recognizing Dr. Biscet’s struggle, the opposition movement gains the legitimacy that most in the free world have exclusively granted to the regime. Through Dr. Biscet, we see a solidarity that up to now was accustomed to a world seemingly mesmerized by the charms of a despot.

    Canada’s Role
    Canada has consistently been a major facilitator of the Cuban regime’s survival ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. When it comes to liquidity contribution via trade, investment, and tourism, Canada leads the world by providing the cash that the Castro family desperately needs to stay in power. This occurs regardless of which party has the most seats in Parliament.

    The apparent secret bond between Canada and the regime, which is common knowledge among human rights activists in Cuba, has also damaged Canada’s reputation internationally. A Toronto Star article published on December 17, 2010, states: “Canada is one of several countries that has stopped pressuring Cuba on human rights to gain business favours from Havana, according to confidential U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.”

    With critical events unfolding sooner rather than later, perhaps it is about time to realize that turning our backs on the people of Cuba and failing to openly denounce the ongoing human tragedy in that country will eventually backfire. Canadians should question the risks of dealing with the worst tyranny ever to take hold on the western hemisphere for two reasons: First, its practicality if the explosive socio-economic context is considered, and second, the long-term moral consequences of propping up a criminal regime in the heart of the Americas.

    Nelson Taylor Sol is the Ottawa representative director of the Cuban Canadian Foundation and a Cuban expatriot.


    Radio Cadena Agramonet (from Cuba)

    Havana, Cuba, Mar 31.- Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon reasserted on Wednesday that US President Barack Obama should drop false charges against the Cuban Five and release them.

    During the Round Table aired by Cuban radio and television, Alarcon, also a Politburo member, informed about the procedures currently used in favor of the antiterrorists, imprisoned for over 12 years now for crimes they didn’t commit.

    Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labañino, Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez were arrested on September 12, 1998, and subjected to a politicized trial in Miami, which concluded in 2001 with unjustified sentences.

    MIAMI HERALD: Carter aide: Gross didn’t know he was taking US-financed equipment to Cuba- An aide to former President Jimmy Carter said Alan Gross, the U.S. contractor jailed in Cuba, did not know he was carrying equipment financed by the United States.-By Frances Robles And Juan O. Tamayo
    NEW YORK — The U.S. government contractor jailed in Cuba for bringing satellite phones to Jewish groups claims he was unaware that he was carrying equipment financed by the United States, a former top aide to President Jimmy Carter said Thursday.

    Former National Security Adviser Robert Pastor, who served as the White House’s point man on Cuba, accompanied Carter on his trip to Havana this week. The former president met with both the Castro brothers as well as Alan Gross, an American development worker who was sentenced to 15 years in prison after getting caught smuggling sat phones, which he claimed were to provide Internet to Jewish groups.

    “We did meet with Gross. He claims not to know he was bringing equipment from the U.S. government,” Pastor told a Cuban conference audience at the Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies at the City University of New York. “The facts are simply not all that clear, and this is coming from someone who has spoken to all sides of this, often.”

    Carter also met with Jewish group leaders, who claimed they knew nothing about Gross or his phones, said Pastor, now a professor at American University in Washington.

    Gross’ trial was closed to the media, and Pastor’s comments marked the first time anyone indicated that the long-time development worker — considered a “mercenary” by the Cuban government — was unaware of the nature of his work. Pressed for details after his speech, Pastor said he regretted “getting into that level of detail.”

    “I did not speak to him. I do not feel authorized to say what he said,” Pastor said in an interview.

    Gross, Pastor said, hopefully will not serve as long a term in prison as the “Cuban Five” intelligence agents imprisoned in the United States — 13 years.

    “A case could be made that a humanitarian gesture after 13 years in prison should be seriously considered” by the Obama administration, he said. He added that both Havana and Washington made it clear they were not interested in a prisoner swap.

    Havana is worried about “future Alan Grosses” as the Obama administration has not scrapped the U.S. Agency for International Development program that funded his trip.

    Gross’ wife Judy and the company that sent him, Development Alternatives Inc., could not be reached for comment late Thursday.

    Carter, his wife Rosalynn and his retinue spent nearly six hours — including dinner — with the 79-year-old Raúl Castro, who replaced brother Fidel, at first temporarily and then officially, after Fidel suffered a nearly fatal health crisis in 2006.

    “He is secure in his position and aware of his age and limited time to undertake reforms that he’s now convinced are needed to improve the economy,’’ Pastor said.

    The reforms include a significant expansion of private businesses, profound cuts in government subsidies and other measures expected to be taken up at a congress of the ruling Communist Party that starts April 16.

    Pastor is too optimistic because Castro will never surrender his political controls or his anti-Washington bent, said Jaime Suchlicki, head of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami.

    “Yes he’s undertaking limited reforms, but he’s not going to dismantle communism or create a capitalist society,’’ Suchlicki said. “There will be no political opening and his government will remain repressive and anti-American.”

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