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CubaNews Notes from Los Angeles - May 4, 2004

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  • Walter Lippmann
    CUBANEWS NOTES FROM LOS ANGELES by Walter Lippman, May 4, 2004 =============================== PERSONAL NOTE After Fidel s May Day speech on Saturday, I ve
    Message 1 of 1 , May 4, 2004
      by Walter Lippman, May 4, 2004

      After Fidel's May Day speech on Saturday, I've taken a bit of
      time off. I strongly urge any readers who may not have read it
      to take the time to read or re-read Fidel's May Day speech if
      you haven't already done so. You can find it at this location:

      Through the CubaNews Notes I speak in more of a personal voice,
      reflecting on some of the key events going on in relation to
      Cuba. I sometimes discuss other topics of interest to me as an
      activist and moderator of the CubaNews list.

      There's been a tremendous amount of activity since Saturday when
      Fidel Castro gave his traditional May Day speech, and the speech
      itself has had considerable repercussions. I went back and read
      it again and found there were important points I'd missed when
      first reading it. Since Fidel's speech on Saturday the reaction
      has been swift: Mexico and Peru have recalled their ambassadors.
      Mexico says it is lowering diplomatic relations with the island
      to charge d'affaires level, but not cutting off relations. As of
      yet I have no details on Peru. The US State Department gloated
      over this in its daily briefing this morning. I'll be sending
      that out to the CubaNews list separately.

      It's quite remarkable to observe the difference between how a
      story of this magnitude is carried in the English-language vs.
      the Spanish-language media. One of the less obvious aspects of
      Washington's blockade of Cuba is the simply non-reporting of
      events related to Cuba, or reporting them in such small ways
      it's easy to miss them. In the last couple of days the events
      surrounding the expulsion of the Cuban ambassador to Mexico
      has been buried in the US media. In the Los Angeles times it
      merited nothing more than a few paragraphs hidden inside the
      paper. In LA OPINION, the main Spanish-language paper it was
      the main story on the front page yesterday, running all the
      way across the entire top of the front page in two-inch high
      print. Today's demonstrations are both featured on the front
      page of both of the L.A. Spanish-language dailies, with the
      story in HOY being the main cover story with a photo of the
      demonstration in support of Cuba held yesterday and which
      was attended by two thousand people, as the Cuban media
      reported. Nothing in today's L.A. Times about the protest
      in Mexico City. Their article was headlined Cuba-Mexican
      relations unravel" which is the State Dept gloating opinion.

      Fifty years ago at this time, Vietnam succeeded in finally
      kicking the French colonialists out of half of the country.
      It would take another nineteen years for the rest of Vietnam
      to be freed of foreign intervention, by the United States.
      I've got several news articles about Vietnam which I will be
      sharing with you because of the close relations between Cuba
      and Vietnam.

      Today, of course, Vietnam has won and maintained its
      independence. Today the US maintains formally friendly
      diplomatic and active economic relations with Vietnam.
      Using the carrot instead of the stick, in a way similar
      to the US approach to China, Washington hopes that using
      market forces it can reimpose the rule of foreign capital.

      If you've seen Tony Bui's eloquent movie THREE SEASONS,
      you can get a sense of the contending forces of tradition
      and capitalism at work in that country. Vietnam and Cuba
      have long maintained extremely warm and cordial relations.
      Vietnam and Cuba, despite the distance, retain an active
      economic relationship. Lots of the rice Cubans eat comes
      from Vietnam, which sells it to the island on favorable
      and long term credits. Cuba sells sugar to Vietnam and
      I'm not sure what else.

      Not long ago a group of Vietnamese-American exiles who are
      living in the Southern California Communities of Orange
      County have passed local ordinances to either prevent any
      visits to their communities by representatives of the
      Vietnamese government. The Bush administration gave this
      smaller but no less virulent group encouragement by its
      recent decision to prevent a visit to that community by
      Vietnamese government officials. It's a kind of monkey-
      see, monkey-do kind of thing. The Los Angeles TIMES
      wagged its finger at the local Vietnamese officials for
      their adoption of such resolutions. But the Los Angeles
      TIMES fully supports Washington's blockade of Cuba and so
      it's no wonder the local counterparts of the rightist
      Cuban minority which dominates Miami's politics should
      try to impose its views as is done in Miami. They have
      terrorized the local community here, and back in the
      1970s they even assassinated one local activist, Prof.
      Edward Cooperman. On the other hand a recent surprise
      was to learn that one of the worse of these zealots,
      Nguyen Cao Ky, one of the last of the US-installed puppet
      dictators in Vietnam has spoken up for open and friendly
      ties with his homeland.

      As we look at any human experience, and try to understand
      it, it's natural to look at it in the light of what we now
      know and remember. Many people are looking at it as similar
      to Washington's experience in Vietnam. I felt this way, too
      at first. But after seeing THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS again after
      well over thirty-five years, Fidel's preference for Algeria
      as the historical reference point is a better one. It shows
      the process of the formation of a nationalist consciousness,
      and the ways ordinary people are transformed by events and
      their participation into extraordinary people.

      Another analogy which has been suggested is that of Hitler's
      march into the Soviet Union and the battle of Stalingrad, a
      further option which makes sense. And one other which has
      been also suggested is to the Soviet Union and its war in
      Afghanistan. Now that Washington has obviously suffered a
      profound defeat in Falloujah, the prospect of this being
      seen as analogous to the Soviet experience in Afghanistan
      is quite the compelling one. As is well-known, Zbigniev
      Brezinski, Jimmy Carter's National Security advisor openly
      bragged of his success in setting up the USSR to be drawn
      into Afghanistan, a war which played a key role in the later
      unraveling of the USSR. This is a debatable point, but it
      does seem quite plausible to me. Imagine, therefore, if the
      idea that Washington's invasion and occupation of Iraq may
      turn out to be analogous to the Soviet involvement in the
      Afghan war? Here's the transcript of Brezinski's interview:

      CubaNews list focuses on Cuba as its main focus. This doesn't
      mean that the list only posts material about Cuba and Cuba's
      relations with the United States. Anything which appears in
      the Cuban media should be of interest to CubaNews readers and
      the Cuban media publishes lots and of materials about Iraq,
      and Cuba is so obviously related to Iraq, having experienced
      a United States occupation for many years at the start of the
      last century.

      Australian writer Julie Webb-Pullman has written a great essay
      on the relationship between Cuba and Iraq in light of 9-11,
      which I cannot recommend to readers more highly:

      A few nights ago I was fortunate to see the movie by
      Oliver Stone COMANDANTE, which he shot for Home Box Office
      and which they pulled from broadcast at the last minute.
      Oliver Stone's film-making techniques are uniquely his own,
      so you may or not like the visual language he chooses to
      use, but a few observations about the film.

      The film was scheduled for broadcast last spring just after
      the trials and executions in Cuba. It's not widely known and
      less-widely discussed that the film, which didn't deal with
      the trials and executions, was shot the previous year, 2002.
      In my opinion, it's a fine film, and the two movies stand as
      completely separate items. I hope that the movies gets out as
      it's one of the rare films about the Cuban leader with such
      a favorable slant. Estela Bravo's FIDEL is one of the very
      few others who view Fidel Castro sympathetically.

      Those of you who are living here in Los Angeles and would be
      interested in seeing COMANDANTE, please write to me off-list
      with your phone number. I'm working on another private
      screening, but cannot send out any public announcements.

      Not long ago I saw the German film GOODBYE, LENIN! for the
      second time and I'd like to recommend it to everyone with
      complete enthusiasm. There is a small LITERAL connection to
      Cuba in the film, though it's not actually about Cuba, but
      about East Germany on the eve of, and just after it had been
      swallowed up by West Germany. It's a precious movie and I'd
      strongly recommend everyone see it if at all possible. For
      those who support the Cuban Revolution but don't live on the
      island, it's all to impose our wishes and hopes on the island
      itself. There's a great temptation to avoid seeing any of the
      darker and less savory sides of Cuban life. In my work as an
      activist in solidarity with Cuba, I frequently defend Cuba
      against the many factually false and politically disingenuous
      things said against it. But not to acknowledge that Cuba is a
      country with significant social problems of its own is to miss
      much of the reality. This movie is very multi-faceted and I'm
      not going to make further comment about it beyond telling you
      that, no matter how much the dominant corporate media tries to
      tell you the movie is anti-Communist, it's not.

      Read Louis Proyect's review at the GREEN LEFT WEEKLY which
      presents a comprehensive, detailed discussion of the movie:

      Thinking about the German Democratic Republic, and thinking
      about Cuba, one must always keep in mind, of course, that no
      genuine revolution brought an end to capitalism in Eastern
      Germany. Its revolution was a bureaucratic process which was
      accomplished in the aftermath of the defeat of Nazi Germany
      at the end of the Second World War. By contrast, the Cuban
      Revolution was and remains a genuine indigenous project with
      all the nationalism and legitimacy which flows from those.

      Cuba's media isn't very critical or self-critical, but Cuba's
      media does discuss significantly more of the island's various
      social problems than you might think, and certainly not if the
      only source you had was the dominant corporate media. Most of
      these more critical or reflective discussions are available in
      the Spanish-language Cuban media and aren't often translated to
      English. I've been getting a few translated into English to
      share with you.

      In connection with this, you'll find some extended discussion
      of life in East Germany before the collapse of the country in
      the book written by Ernesto Bravo, an Argentine physician who
      has lived in Cuba for over forty years. He's the husband of
      filmmaker Estela Bravo and his book is called: "Development
      within underdevelopment? New trends in Cuban medicine", and
      it was published in Cuba in 1998.

      Some readers have been helping out with translations for
      CubaNews list and I'm deeply grateful for these many of
      the important stories in the Cuban media, and sometimes in
      other Spanish-language media never get into the dominant
      US media at all. I'm grateful to those readers who have
      been volunteering to assist our work with translations.

      In recent weeks the Bush administration has been revving up its
      propaganda drive against Cuba. It's a multi-faceted operation.
      May 1 was the deadline for the report requested by the so-called
      commission headed by Colin Powell. We've been reading the various
      leaks about this for awhile now. A formal date for the publication
      of what the advance publicity tells us will be a FIVE HUNDRED WORD
      report isn't set, but the next few weeks should provide much more
      in the way of a build-up. If it really does turn out to be five
      hundred pages, that will be so that it can offer something for
      each and every one of its hangers-on in the far right wing of
      the Cuban-American exile community, to which it pitches its
      fervent yet flatulent appeals for support. It will be more or
      less a laundry list for fantasy island.

      MAY 20th will be used by Bush and his administration to issue a
      major attack on Cuba. Without knowing anything specific about the
      announcements Bush will make, the choice of May 20th by politicians
      from the United States. As is well-known, May 20th is the date when
      Cuba's severely limited independence was finally recognized by the
      United States Government. The Spanish had nearly been defeated by
      Cuban independence fighters when the US intervened militarily to
      prevent Cuban independence. On May 20th a constituent assembly
      finally acceded to US demands that it install an amendment into
      the Cuban constitution, authorizing the United States to
      militarily intervene in Cuban affairs whenever the US deemed it
      necessarily. It will be interesting to see what kind of similar
      amendment is put into the Iraqi constitution whenever the US
      gets around to "granting" formal, but limited sovereignty to
      Iraq. Don't hold your breath about the June 30th date, however.


      Article I. The Government of Cuba shall never enter into
      any treaty or other compact with any foreign power or
      powers which will impair or tend to impair the independence
      of Cuba, nor in any manner authorize or permit any foreign
      power or powers to obtain by colonization or for military
      or naval purposes, or otherwise, lodgment in or control
      over any portion of said island.

      Article II. The Government of Cuba shall not assume or
      contract any public debt to pay the interest upon which,
      and to make reasonable sinking-fund provision for the
      ultimate discharge of which, the ordinary revenues of the
      Island of Cuba, after defraying the current expenses of the
      Government, shall be inadequate.

      Article III. The Government of Cuba consents that the
      United States may exercise the right to intervene for the
      preservation of Cuban independence, the maintenance of a
      government adequate for the protection of life, property,
      and individual liberty, and for discharging the obligations
      with respect to Cuba imposed by the Treaty of Paris on the
      United States, now to be assumed and undertaken by the
      Government of Cuba. . . .

      Article V. The Government of Cuba will execute, and, as far
      as necessary, extend the plans already devised, or other
      plans to be mutually agreed upon, for the sanitation of the
      cities of the island, to the end that a recurrence of
      epidemic and infectious diseases may be prevented, thereby
      assuring protection to the people and commerce of Cuba, as
      well as to the commerce of the Southern ports of the United
      States and the people residing therein....

      Article VII. To enable the United States to maintain the
      independence of Cuba, and to protect the people thereof, as
      well as for its own defense, the Government of Cuba will
      sell or lease to the United States lands necessary for
      coaling or naval stations, at certain specified points, to
      be agreed upon with the ]?resident of the United States.

      JON HILLSON (1949-2004)
      Today I received the sound recording of the memorial meeting
      for Jon Hillson. In time I'm hoping to get the entire sound
      file of the meeting posted to the website along with the
      rest of the information which has been compiled about him
      to this time. If you knew Hillson and would like to write
      up your own impressions to share with others, please send
      those to me at walterlx@... Thanks.

      Web page: http://www.walterlippmann.com/hillson.html

      With all the information on Cuba which has been coming out
      recently, I'm pleased to report the work of NY TRANSFER NEWS
      is now being posted to the CubaNews list. NY TRANSFER has
      been providing "all the news that doesn't fit" for many years
      and we'll be using a significant number of their postings on
      this list. Their website: http://www.blythe.org

      As we wait for the Bush administration's plans to try to
      still further tighten the US blockade on Cuba, activists
      opposed to the blockade are planning coordinated efforts
      to break the blockade through direct, non-violent actions
      of civil disobedience. The Pastors for Peace through its
      Friendshipment Caravan, the Venceremos Brigade, the
      National Committee to Free the Five and the African
      Awareness Association have announced plans for direct
      actions breaking the blockade. The first three have also
      announced their plans to all return to the United States
      from Cuba on the same day, to maximize efforts to obtain
      publicity and attention to the blockade and actions to
      break it. Everyone who supports the right of the Cuban
      people to determine their own destiny and to build their
      own society according to their own wishes, and without any
      further foreign intervention, should support and participate
      in these actions. Here are some of the details:


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