Friday, December 21, 2007

A Dispatch from Havana

An eyewitness report on the Castro regime and his people

Cuba has been resting on the nose bridge of Uncle Sam a carcinogenic wart for over four decades since Fidel Castro overthrew the corrupt regime of the former army sergeant named Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

For the every President of the United States, Fidel has been an irritating eyesore sitting on their nose and a blatant revolutionary that impedes and obstruct the interests of the American Empire in the western hemisphere where the Monroe Doctrine and the Manifest Destiny have been two major pillars of the US foreign policy.

Historically, the United States has been biding its time from early 1800 on to subdue, seize, and annex Cuba by any means…Uncle Sam offered Spain to buy Cuba with $100million in 1848, $120million in 1954, and President William McKinley tried to resolve the explosion of the USS battleship Maine by offering to purchase Cuba for $300million, all the propositions were rejected by the Spaniards.

When all the tactics failed to acquire Cuba with money, Uncle Sam finally resorted to the military intervention by provoking the Spanish-American War, annexing Puerto Rico, Guam, and Philippines while Cuba was placed under US military occupation.

After Cuba became an independent republic in 1902, a revolt broke out against the corrupt regime that led to a US military intervention in 1906, and Uncle Sam again in 1912 and 1917, invaded Cuba to ensure the steady flow of sugar during WWI.

During this period, Cuba was forced to accept the Platt Amendment that guaranteed the US occupation of Guantanamo Bay where the infamous detention camp for the Muslim terrorists have been built in order to avoid the judicial boundary of the US constitution.

The last US military intervention in the Bay of Pigs in 1961 was a total fiasco for the Kennedy Administration, but Uncle Sam never desists up until now to try to overthrow the Castro regime for one minute, applying vigorously “the Trading with the Enemy Act” and “the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992” that prohibit US companies or their overseas subsidiaries from providing services to Cuban individuals or companies.

Cubans call these measures “a blockade” rather than the economic “embargo”, because the US limits Cuban trade with other countries besides the US.
In recent incidence, when the Cuban officials met with the representatives of the US oil companies at the Sheraton Hotel in Mexico City last week, the US Treasury Department warned the company that owns the Sheraton that they were violating federal laws against trading with Cuba by allowing the meeting to take place in their hotel.

In response to the warning, the Hotel told the Cuban delegates to leave and the meeting was moved to a hotel not owned by an American company.In other words, the US embargo goes beyond against the sovereignty of other country, Mexico in this case, regulating and penalizing economic activities of other countries to the detriment of the jurisdiction of other sovereign states.

In addition, the US citizens are prohibited to spend their money in the Cuban soil, instantly unable them to travel to Cuba unless they have permission from the Treasury Department.

On top of these oppressions and economic blockade, the unremitting US propaganda against the Castro regime has made the ordinary people impossible to understand the Cuban society objectively.

As I have educated myself through the “immersion journalism” touring Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macao, and Manila a few years ago, I have decided to travel to Cuba in order to observe them with my own eyes and contact with the Cuban Joe Blows mano-a-mano to feel their minds and hearts.

Day 1: The Pep Rally in the seaside boulevard Malecon

When I arrived in the Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport in the small hours late January, it was bustling with travelers from various Latin countries carrying heavy baggage seeking for transport to the inner City.

You might be a little bit nervous about entering Cuba if you are a US citizen …due to the travel restriction imposed by the US Treasury.By entering the cubicle for the Immigration and Custom inspection, you would be relieved of tension when you realized that the official does not stamp the entry permit on the page of your passport but on the two pieces of the tourist cards, one for official and other for yours to keep until your departure.

The US citizens face very awkward position if he or she needs a consular help, like to fix the problem of lost passport or ID cards, especially when you don’t have an official permit…that is, the US Mission is not there to protect the US citizens, but to propagate anti-Castro theme to Cubans.

The US government maintains not the embassy but the “US Interests Section”, which overlooks Havana’s picturesque seaside boulevard, Malecon, where most of the mass rally against the American Imperialism frequently occur with tens of thousands of flag-waving Cubans.

I was somewhat fortuitous to observe one of these pep demonstrations and joined with uniformed Cuban students walking along the six-mile-long boulevard toward the US Mission, that was surrounded by huge billboard: it reads “Anyone who harbors a terrorist is a terrorist” quoting George W Bush, the US President.

The billboard was built around the US Mission in return compliment by the Castro government…the US Mission displays a five-foot high electronic ticker that is spread across windows of the mission’s fifth floor, constantly broadcasting a stream of quotes from human rights and anti-communist leaders.

Fidel Castro said in the address: the Bush Administration is protecting former CIA agents, Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles who have been accused of terrorist acts, including the 1976 bombing of a Cuban plane off the Barbados coast, in which all 73 aboard were killed.

Bosch lives in Miami comfortably and Carriles recently has been held on a minor violation of immigration charge since entering the US illegally last year.

Another feature on the billboard shows GW Bush and Posada Carriles with bloody vampire teeth.

Day 2:In Old Havana

I took a walking tour with a private tour guide through the cobble-stone paved streets of Old Havana, striking conversation with the residents and peeking through the open windows inside of the apartment buildings.

And on my way to the hotel, I visited the private dwellings that housed the families of ordinary Cubans who served me with a cup of tea.

Cubans call themselves socialists, meaning that most businesses were nationalized and state-owned, and the production was not for profit but rather to meet the demand of people on equal and fair basis.

Frankly speaking, I was dismayed by the prevailing façade of poverty in most sectors of society where no one seems to have any money to spend for individual pleasures.

For example, I don’t see any store or supermarket that sell the wares for daily necessities like soap, toothpaste, bolt and knot, flashlight, pot, pan, paper, etc.(I was told these items are rationed by the state.)

One of benefits that poverty brings to the Cuban society: I rarely encountered with obese or fat people…by observing the march of students in front of monument that celebrated the birth of the national father, Jose Marti, there were no chubby, plump, and double-chinned kids in the ranks.

They were fit, healthy-looking, and ready-to-combat soldiers to quash any threat against the homeland.
Their uniforms were hard-pressed white and yellow combination with red scarf around the neck and they displayed a clear and rosy complexion with no signs of depression, hunger, or agony that the US propaganda makes hullabaloo to the world.

Curiously, I have never run into a panhandler who bothers me for a change…and you were as free as a bird to fly anywhere and everywhere in the town, street, or park.

No one seems to pay much attention about you unless you gesture them with eye to eye recognition, even though you would be instantly differentiated from other people as a wandering tourist.

A majority of dwellings were decrepit and slowly collapsing from surface to foundation due to the lack of maintenance.
However, when I was invited to their living quarters in the house, I was bit surprised to find their furniture and surrounding decoration immaculately clean and hygienically spotless.

And people were extremely cordial, kind, debonair, and sprightly, in dealing with me without any malice, suspicion, or haughtiness as we, capitalists, display in a casual rendezvous with strangers in the big city.

Cubans were proud of their life under the Castro regime no matter how badly they suffer from poverty…they seemed to value most on their chutzpah: “it’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knee.”

They know that Cubans would never enjoy more affluent life under the US imperialism: they rather were ready to suffer from poverty under the Castro regime, because they witness the surrounding Caribbean countries like Jamaica, Haiti, Dominica, and Barbados are still in poverty and degradation under the so-called Free Trade with USA.

Day 3: A hitch-hiking is a way to go

I joined a group tour to the tobacco farm where a vast stretch of sugar cane fields and tobacco tracts were fielded with a band of companeros, cutting weeds, tilling the fallow land, and fixing their tools.

On the bus traveling in the main highway toward the central Cuba, there were dozens of people standing at the bus stop, the junction, or the exit to other highway who raised their both hands asking to be picked up, without much success…they were workers, students, uniformed militias, housewives with kids hitch-hiking in the major highway.

In the city center or an exit to the highway, there was a bunch of people standing and waving furiously in order to getting attention from driver, any driver whether its auto bike, truck, van, or tractor-trailer, to be picked up.

You, a man from the western civilization, immediately ponder about the safety of a hitchhiking…the horror stories of robbery, rape, abduction, or homicide frequently reminding hitchhikers on the California Highway.

No problem here in Cuba.

I found out later that Havana City is the one of the safest city around the world.As I observed in the city of Havana, one of the major problem Cubans face was the lack of public transport system…simply, there were no adequate and enough mass transit system, bus, taxi, or train, to accommodate the demand of the public to travel around the city or toward the countryside.

Cubans heavily rely on the humongous bus called “Camel” that carries over 300 passengers at any time without running schedule, and it is always overcrowded and spewing black smoke from its exhaustion pipe high on the roof of the bus.

The bus “Camel” got its name because it looks like a camel with two humps on the roof that stretches from its rig to the back longer than the length of a tandem tractor-trailer.

When it rolls around the crowded street of Havana, it scares every other car drivers and pedestrians because the "camel" driver hardly sees what is following behind his vehicle.

One of nagging questions would be: how the drive collects the fare?

No problem!

Cubans are quite honest customers…. when they get on the bus through middle or back door, they simply hand over their fare to a person next to him or her and the fare is relayed toward the driver in front without missing one centavo.

But every Cuban seems to love to ride the “Camel”, because it’s dirty cheap: 10 centavos for one ride and it criss-cross all over the city of Havana.

Day 4: Race matters here too

A few years ago, Fidel emphatically urged Cubans to hold the principle of racial equality:We are all equal no matter whether your color of skin is black, brown, yellow, or white.

However, reality told me otherwise here in Cuba.
Cuba has approximately 11million inhabitants, and the native Indians were almost entirely wiped out first half century of Spanish rule.
The Spanish imported almost one million slaves from the West Africa and early 1900 they imported a quarter million black slave from Jamaica and Haiti to work on the sugar plantation.

Officially, the racial classification is as follows: 60 % whites, 12% blacks, and 22% mulattos. However, other sources informed me quite different figures: 40% whites, 40% mulattos, and 20% blacks.

Mixed marriages between whites and blacks here have become more commonplace than the US or Canada and the proportion of mulattos and blacks is increasing rapidly due to the fecundity of child birth among colored people and introduction of the universal health service after the revolution.

At present, however, the white Cubans hold sway the state power and positioned in every nook and corner of establishments unproportionately with the absolute support of mulatto Cubans who hold the key positions of the Cuban society as policemen, security agents, school teachers, community leaders, cadre members of the Cuban Communist Party.

As in the US and Canada, most blacks lack the education background to join the qualified personnel group and stay in the lowest rung of the social ladder working as nannies, garbage collectors, street sweepers, farmers in the tobacco and sugar cane field.

In the Old Havana where most of foreign travelers gather around the public park, you have no difficulty to locate a cigar-chomping black pimp wearing an eye-catching colorful suits and shoes.

I have traced through the schoolyard and classrooms from the grade school to the university in Havana and I found Negro faces were visibly absent in the higher echelon of the educational institutions.

The more I traveled to the outer circle of Havana, the more people of color manifested en mass in the street as vendors, wanderers, and hawkers.

As far as race matter is concerned, it seems that there is no difference between the socialist state of Cuba and the capitalist states of the western civilization.

Day 5: In search of nouveau riche

On the fifth day in Havana City, I decided to get away from the decrepit streets of the Old Havana region and to explore the downtown and the district where most of foreign embassies congregate cheek by jowl.

For people from the society where high consumption is equated with modern civilization and gaudy commodities are measure as the barometer of social values and virtues, Cuba totally lacks the Western paradigm of such affluence.

During my stay in Cuba, I failed to locate the so-called nouveau riches who display ostensibly and gaudily their wealth in public as we, the capitalists, see frequently in the Fifth Avenue in New York City and on the TV screen.

When I walked into the small shopping mall adjacent the Tourist Hotel in the Miramar region where a dozen of razzle-dazzle boutique displays some fancy imported women’s clothing, I found not a single Cuban but a swarm of European tourists who buy Che’s T-shirts, key-chain and post-cards.

For the Cubans, the commodities the boutiques display were rather useless than affordable in their daily life, because they do not have a place or occasion to brag about his or her affluence.

They almost all were on the same boat of poverty!

On my way back to the Old Havana City, I dropped by the beautiful public park and enjoyed the pleasant autumn weather.

A buxom young chick approached me introducing her Monica, a dental hygienist…we have had a lengthy discussion about the Cuban politics and life under the oppressive economic blockade by Uncle Sam over the ensuing dinner at the small bistro.

She expressed a strong desire to be able to travel to the USA, one of her dream countries, and wished that she might be able to settle down in her dreamland.

Over my caveat emptor, she appeared ready to abandon her parent and Fidel immediately if an opportunity to ride a boat to her dreamland arrives.

I found the sad reality that the Castro regime has failed miserably to raise the standard of living for Cubans after the four decades of socialistic revolution.

Day 6: Revolution thrives on forever

In the Santa Clara city far east of Havana, the massive statue of Ernesto Che Guevara stands in the center of the Plaza de la Revolucion.

Ernesto was not a Cuban but born in Argentina and was given the Cuban citizenship in 1959 after the Revolution, becoming the President of the National Bank of Cuba and the Minister of Industry.

However, after a short stint to Congo, Africa, he gave up the assured government position and arrived in Bolivia in 1966, declaring that poverty he had witnessed throughout the Latin America could only be corrected by a continental revolution.

On October 1967, Ernesto and his small band of guerrilla was captured by the Bolivian army with the US military advisors and murdered by summary execution before the eyes of US advisors.

In his writings in 1961, he expressed the difficulty of the social change…”Revolution rarely, if ever, emerge fully ripe, and not all their details are scientifically foreseen. They are products of passion, of improvisation by human beings in their struggle for social change, and are never perfect. Our revolution was no exception.”

Ernesto left an indelible mark on both the Latin American struggle against the US imperialism in particular and the guerrilla movements against the oligarchic governments around the world in general.

Jose Marti wrote to his friend in Mexico, acutely aware of how the US has seized half of Mexico’s national territory (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas,): “US will extend its power over the Antilles and fall with that much more weight on our land of America. I lived inside the monster (US), and I know its entrails; and my sling is the sling of David.”

For Cubans, with Jose Marti, Ernesto Che Guevara was the symbol of the struggle against the US imperialism.
And Fidel Castro, unbeknownst to us, was not idolized by Cubans like Kim Jong-il, North Korean leader, as Uncle Sam harangued constantly through the megaphone of the news media.

Fidel was a mere leader and messenger to tell and advance the ideologies of two national heroes, Jose and Ernesto to the Cubans.
And I have come to believe that the ideologies were heartily accepted by a majority of Cubans even though they have been suffering from the widespread poverty and economic deprivation.

Curiously, the Cubans decline to speculate who will fill the void when Fidel were gone…he was too charismatic to be a target of speculative betting by his people: “A void no one can fill.”

Day 7: The Axis of Evils or Angels?

Uncle Sam has a pair of eagle eyes, typically and sharply able to locate better the axis of evils than angels…Germany, Italy, and Japan during the WWII, Iran, Iraq, and North Korea in the 1990s, and now GW Bush would solemnly about to announce to the American people and the world that he happened to find another axis of evils lying low in his backyard: Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia in conjunction with petty or emerging evils: Argentine, Brazil and Uruguay.

As I mentioned earlier, the Manifest Destiny, one of the two pillars of the US foreign policy, was the doctrine held chiefly by the latter part of 19th century, that it was the destiny of the US to expand its territory over the whole of North America and to extend and enhance its political, social and economic hegemonies.

And the historical records show, the US expanded from a thin strip along the Atlantic to a huge continental power on the shores of the Pacific ocean between American revolution and Civil War, by pressuring, purchasing, cheating, invading, and fighting against Spaniards, Frenchmen, Indians, and Mexicans.

After end of 19th century toward the early 20th century, Uncle Sam moved out into the Caribbean islands and Pacific Ocean, as far as the coastal waters of China, Japan and Korea, annexing Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Philippines, and establishing Cuba as a protectorate and creating a Republic of Panama extracted from the territory of Colombia.

The US has dispatched the waves of Marines into the Caribbean and Central American countries, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Mexico, while engaging, at the same time, judicious use of gunboat, dollars and diplomacy on Far East nations.

During WWI and WWII, Uncle Sam became a world banker and financier, and dispatched a contingent of soldiers around world building the military bases onto every land mass and every ocean, intervened, openly or stealthily in Greece, Lebanon, Guatemala, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Vietnam, Congo, etc.

As of today, Uncle Sam is too busy to mind his own backyard because he was bogged down in the sand storm on the Arabic desert and in the upcoming invasion of Iran as an agent of Zionist.

While an 800-pound Gorilla is away from the field, Fidel seems to have a field day with the help of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and newly elected President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, establishing close trades with China, Spain and other Latin American countries.

I think that the sustainability of socialistic revolution in Cuba gives a lot of hope and desire to the Latin Americans and the underclass people around the world.

In this perspective, I hope Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia become an axis of angels, becoming a trio beacon of hope for oppressed people around the world.

No comments: