CubaNews notes from Los Angeles
- CUBANEWS NOTES FROM LOS ANGELES
by Walter Lippmann
After over a month on the road, I returned to Los Angeles on
Tuesday morning of this week. The Pastors for Peace 15th
Friendshipment Caravan successfully breached Washington's
blockade of Cuba, bringing 126 tons of humanitarian aid to
the revolutionary island. Washington's escalated propaganda
and practical attacks on the island failed to deter the Rev.
Lucius Walker and over 120 Caravanistas from their mission.
Traveling by auto, ferry, and traditional yellow school bus,
I started in from Victoria, British Colombia and proceeded
down the west coast of the United States to Los Angeles, and
then east to McAllen, Texas. There were three days of classes
about Cuba and non-violent civil disobedience tactics after
which we drove across the border, survived an inspection by
the Customs and Border Patrol, and proceeded through Mexico
to Cuba for a ten-day visit. We returned by the same route
to the United States where we survived the most invasive US
government inspections which the caravan has experienced in
its history, after which participants went home.
I got back to my home here in Los Angeles, California early
on the morning of Tuesday, July 22, feeling exhilarated and
exhausted. That's why I haven't sent out any materials since
returning until now. I'm still pretty much wiped out by the
experience, but am beginning at last to recover my strength.
Frankly, I cannot remember any time in my life where I've
been in so many different places within a single month.
Imagine over a month away from home, mostly not knowing in
the morning where I'd sleep that evening? Presenting a look
at the Bush administration's escalating moves against Cuba,
spending ten days filled with activities in the Cuban capital,
getting no exercise and in numerous ways stepping out of my
normal daily life, and you can see why I've needed a bit of
During this time, in addition to the Caravan itself, we also
saw Cuba on the receiving end of more propaganda against its
system by Bush himself. He gave a speech in Florida last week
trotting out the tired, familiar "child-sex-tourism" stories,
and the US media obliged him by making this his main theme.
While in Cuba I had a chance to meet with Celia Hart, author
of "Socialism in One Country" and the Cuban Revolution which
was first made available in English via CubaNews, and which
has since been picked up an reprinted in a number of places.
Most recently, the San Francisco-based Trotskyist newspaper,
SOCIALIST ACTION has published Hart's important essay.
When we met in Cuba, Celia Hart provided me with a copy of her
latest essay, "On August 15 we took the Winter Palace" which
has now been translated to English and which will be sent out
shortly. That essay focuses on the upcoming recall election
to be held in Venezuela. If you haven't read Hart's earlier
essay, it's posted at: http://www.walterlippmann.com
Cuba continues to have hopeful news about a possible oil strike
which would, if successful, solve the island's dependence on
foreign sources for energy. As I've said before, this would be
the island's most powerful step toward independence since the
Revolution's triumph in 1959. This is an extremely significant
development, so you'll want to monitor it regularly
Another very hopeful sign came out just days before we left and
that's the signing of a contract for a cancer vaccine between a
Cuban biotech firm and a California company. There'll be opening
up a joint venture in this connection. This was authorized by the
Bush Administration, obviously under heavy pressure since cancer
is such a widespread phenomenon in the United States. During our
visit to Cuba's principal biotech company I was surprised to
learn that, in spite of all the blockade restrictions, there are
already thirty two-Cuban medicines which have been licensed for
production in the United States from Cuban companies. And while
it's true that the blockade restrictions prevent the Cubans
from receiving payment in the most simple way possible (cash),
one can be confident that in bargaining for payment in kind,
the Cubans are making sure to get their full value in exchange.
James Cason, chief of the US Interests Section in Havana has
recently announced that the US has granted the 20,000th visa
to a Cuban requesting permission to emigrate to the US and if
this is true, it's good news. It will reduce tension on the
island and reduce the number of people needing to be fed and
housed, and should act to discourage others from trying those
dangerous rafts as has been the case too often in the past.
Of course, Cason coupled this announcement with rhetorical
pot-shots against Cuba, but what else would we expect?
This week the Cuban government announced the release of Marta
Beatriz Roque, the only female among the seventy-five people
who were sentenced to long prison terms in the spring of last
year (2003) for their collaboration with and receipt of money
from the United States government. You can see photos of Roque
together with James Cason in the book LOS DISIDENTES, a heavily-
documented study of the seventy-five. She, along with several
other of her co-collaborators were sentenced to long terms by
the Cuban courts last year. Keep in mind that US legislation,
such as the Helms-Burton and Torricelli laws, as well as the
recently-disclosed report of the so-called "Commission for
Assistance to a Free Cuba" make "regime change", which is
nothing but a euphemism for the overthrow of the government
and social system of Cuba, active U.S. policy goals.
Roque was released after serving less than eighteen MONTHS of
her TWENTY-YEAR sentence. While the foreign media working in
Cuba pays scant attention to the island's continuing ability
to meet its obligations for the care of the Cuban people, the
foreign media are always interested in these oppositionists.
Unsurprisingly, in the various reports about Roque's release,
no mention is made of the charges for which she was charged,
tried and convicted: collaboration with a hostile foreign
power committed to the overthrow of Cuba's social system.
It never proved possible to see Michael Moore's FAHRENHEIT 9/11
during the Caravan. That's because during its early weeks in
theaters, we found performances completely sold out along the
way. It's about to enter its second month and is already made
history as the highest-grossing non-musical documentary of all
time. It opened in Havana and is now playing across the island
of Cuba, after receiving rave notice in the Cuban media, one
of which was a scheduled discussion of the film by the Cuban
National Assembly President, Ricardo Alarcon, last Sunday on
Cuban television. They've also written extensively about Moore
for some time, and showed ROGER AND ME the previous week. The
opening of FAHRENHEIT 9/11 in the Cuban capital is a big story
here in LA OPINION, the Spanish-language daily in Los Angeles,
and the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the entire US.
There's been no mention of this in the L.A. Times, by contrast.
It seems that FAHRENHEIT 9/11 will prove to have a big influence
as Moore attended as it's being discussed and debated widely
outside of theatrical venues. In Las Vegas, Nevada, a capital
of gambling and live entertainment, singer Linda Ronstadt
caused a minor sensation earlier this week when she spoke up
in favor of Moore and the movie, and the venue which booked
her told her not to come back. Here in Los Angeles a few days
later, Ronstadt got a big round of applause when she spoke
about Moore and the movie.
One thing I have done since returning was to see FAHRENHEIT 9/11
on Tuesday afternoon, my first day back. It's a terrific movie
which I hope you'll all get to see. It opened in Cuba Thursday
and was due to be playing at 120 venues on the island starting
yesterday (Friday). The week before, Cuban television showed
ROGER & ME in prime time.
JULY 26th CELEBRATION COMING UP IN HAVANA
Monday is July 26th, the 51st anniversary of the attack on the
Moncada Barracks in 1953, and marks the beginning of the armed
struggle phase of the Cuban Revolution. only 5.5 years later,
the Batista dictatorship was overthrown and the process of
building a new Cuba was begun. This is always a date when the
Cuban government provides its people and the world with a look
at some of the most important issues they currently face. I've
no idea what will be in the speech which Fidel Castro will give,
but you might want to take a look at the last major address he
gave a few weeks ago, an open letter to George W. Bush:
This was my eighth visit to Cuba since I began going in 1999.
Though at ten days, it was also my shortest visit, I always
find it useful to take advantage of the experiences of going
back and forth between the United States and Cuba to note some
of the differences, as well as some of the similarities between
our two countries. This was no exception.
Immediately on returning, the moment I stepped out of the airport,
the blizzard of advertising billboards confronts and clouds ones'
consciousness. In Cuba there are no commercial billboards and the
ones with political concepts and slogans are no where near as all-
pervasive as the ones selling products which we see in the US.
While there are poor people in Cuba, too, and one now and then
sees individuals looking for food or recyclables in Cuba, it's
nothing like what we see here. People in tents sleeping in parks
and under bridges is a constant sight in the United States of
America, certainly here in Los Angeles. Yesterday was trash day
in my neighborhood and all over you could see poor and homeless
people pushing shopping carts, collecting empty glass and
plastic bottles for recycling, and thereby to earn a few
As an inveterate newspaper reader, the differences between the
printed publications in the US and Cuba are quite striking.
Cuban daily newspapers are normally just eight tabloid pages,
and the only color is the red for GRANMA and the blue for the
JUVENTUD REBELDE. The photos are just black and white. The US
newspapers are often filled with brightly-colored photographs
to illustrate the stories, but even more with massive amounts
of commercial advertising. Cuban publications have very few
ads, if any. And this is not to say anything about the views
and political opinions expressed in either place..
CUBANEWS HOUSEKEEPING NOTES
CubaNews list continues its slow but steady growth, a testimony
I believe to the useful service which this list provides to its
readers. This list focuses first and foremost on news from and
about Cuba, Cuba's relations with the United States and with
other countries around the globe. We also provide news from the
Cuban media, in particular a series of daily news summaries from
the Prensa Latina news agency and other Cuban sources, primarily
in English. I'm please to see others have been sending in notes
and commentaries while I was traveling and not able to maintain
the usual high level of information. It's important to keep in
mind that this list is primarily a source of news and information
with some room for discussion.
Yahoo, which hosts this and other lists, and which doesn't charge
any money to users of the service, has recently taken away the
ability of list owners and moderators to add new subscribers as
we had previously. Anyone wishing to join the list therefore must
send in an e-mail through the Yahoo system in order to get on the
list. Those who wish a shorter and more concentrated selection of
news might want to consider the second list I also maintain and
taking it in the digest format as this list can have quite a
heavy flow of information at times. Write to me directly for the
details on the shorter list.
From time to time it's useful to remind readers that this list is
primarily a news and information service, and it's goal is to help
students of Cuban life and activists in the solidarity and anti-
intervention movements with a wide selection of materials about
Cuba and related matters. Just because something is sent out by
this list doesn't mean that it's something that I as the list
owner or any of the other moderators agree with. It's important
both to provide accurate information, to deconstruct much of the
mediocre and distorted coverage, as well as to simply inform the
reader of what's being said
Again I'm grateful to Ana Portela first of all, and to several of
the other readers of this list who have facilitated making Cuban
news items available which otherwise might not get translated to
English. Any of you who are fluent in Spanish and wish to help out
with this important process should please write to me directly.
I'd like to welcome new subscribers and to encourage participation
in the process. The Cuban Revolution is a source of endless interest
for its friends, and the readers' active participation is welcomed.
Walter Lippmann, Moderator, CubaNews