CubaNews list marks another milestone
- CUBANEWS LIST MARKS ANOTHER MILESTONE: 30,000 MESSAGES
by Walter Lippmann, September 13, 2004
History isn't a well-regarded study in the United States
of America. This is unfortunate because we have so much
history and so much we can learn about ourselves and how
we got here, and where we're going in these challenging
times. Henry Ford, the industrialist and ultra-right
extremist famously said, "History is Bunk", reflecting an
attitude which remains still far too widespread today.
In Cuba, quite differently, history is a highly regarded
field of study, and it plays an active daily role in the
life of the nation. October 19th, July 26th, March 13,
May 19th, and January 1st are dates with a deep and
resonant significance to Cubans. Unlike the United States,
these dates are ones for public celebration and reflection,
not sales in department stores. Involvement with Cuba has
meant learning of the importance of history, of time, of
periodicity in human life. And so it is with the CubaNews
e-mail list. Here are a few reflections on our passage to
an important milestone in our development.
This is the beginning of our fifth year, and we have a
great deal of solid work to be proud of. But today, now, we
cross another major milestone. With this message CubaNews
has sent out, it's really hard to believe this, THIRTY
THOUSAND MESSAGES from, about or related to Cuba (for the
most part, with occasional exceptions) and has worked to make
a positive contribution to the struggle to defend the Cuban
Revolution. Today as the island is beginning to recover
from Ivan the Terrible, a hurricane which fortunately has
turned out to not so fully live up to its name, we can
take a moment to consider where we've come from and what
From the small group of activists who fought to save Elian
Gonzalez, the Cuban child kidnapped by rightist exiles in
Miami, through the difficult days of 2003 with the trials
of those badly mis-named "dissidents", etc., through the
battles surrounding the United Nations Human Rights
Commission in Geneva, and so many more, CubaNews list has
endeavored to provide its readership with a timely selection
of news and views about these great historic events. We've
endeavored to bring you the good, the bad, the silly and
the depressing, the inspired successes and the unfortunate
errors and problems which we've observed in the ongoing
process that is the Cuban Revolution. Our aim here is to
providing facts (whether true or false) on which we can
act effectively to help the Cuban people defend their
right to construct a better society as they see fit.
Yes, true and false facts. Think about that for a moment.
We've seen so much utterly fabricated, fanciful as well as
accurate information. Learning how to differentiate between
them, to tell the wheat from the chaff is one of the goals
we try to work toward with this list. We've certainly had
some good examples of that as we look at the Miami Herald
coverage of Hurricane Ivan's passage across Cuba in these
last few days. Here's a comment I did earlier on that:
This list tries to bring readers a wide selection about
Cuba. Not just the political developments, but cultural,
historical, and personal stories. Developments within the
Cuban diaspora, which play a role in relationship with the
island, all of this falls within the list's assumed focus.
It's like a trade union with a very wide jurisdiction.
We also make special efforts to translate additional
articles from the Cuban media in Spanish for the English
speaking public. If you are fluent, or reasonably fluent
in Spanish, we can always use more translators. All we
can offer in compensation is our deep gratitude and your
knowledge that your work helps get the Cuban experience
out to a broader public.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, with which Cuba was
necessarily allied for many years, the island has made
many changes in its functioning and thinking. Having to
remake itself in many ways, Cubans have begun to more
openly discuss their own history and the history of the
world socialist movement of which Cuba continues to be
an inspiring example. This list is proud to have made
available in translation some of the fascinating new
documents in which Cubans reflect on their history.
The idea of collecting and disseminating factual and
friendly news and information on Cuba didn't start with me
(Walter Lippmann) and the CubaNews list at Yahoo. Indeed
we're rather new kids on the Cuba information block. There
are others who've been doing this work for many, many years.
Some of us have met, some have never even exchanged an
e-mail, but we all have in common a passionate desire to
see Cuba free to develop its society according to its own
lights, as well as a desire to get accurate information
about Cuba to the public. We all have many interests, but
it's Cuba which brings unites us and which draws us
together. What follows are a few of the highlights of
some of the contributors to the process of bringing
news about Cuba to the broader public. There are many
people who've participated through the years. There's
no doubt some are regrettably omitted, but only due to
gaps in my knowledge.
In the very early years there was the Fair Play for Cuba
Committee, which produced a handy little mimeographed
bulletin of selections from the Cuban media. They produced
speeches and documents from Cuba from the very beginning.
There have been other organizations such as the Cuban
Information Project which was led by Leslie Cagan and
others. Retired newscaster Frank Manitzas maintains a list.
Immigration attorney Jose Pertierra also operates a list.
Companyero in Florida is another,New York Transfer News
Collective, which prides itself on providing "All the news
that doesn't fit" since 1985. The late Jon Hillson who
worked on Cuba and many other writing and projects aimed
at bringing about a better world. These are some of the
people who preceded this version of CubaNews. We stand
on their shoulders and are in debt to each and every one
of them, we cheerfully acknowledge.
As my dear friend Preston Wilcox says, "Knowledge is
too precious to hoard", and CubaNews operates in that
spirit to the best of its capacities.
Two of our most valued collaborators are Nelson Valdes of
the University of New Mexico and Karen Lee Wald. Here are
some highlights of their work breaking the information
NELSON L. VALDES
Sociologist Nelson L. Valdes, a Cuban American who was
brought to the United States as a result of Operation
Pedro Pan, operates the Cuba-L list serve and kindly
provided this sketch of his service's history:
From: NPV mailto:nvaldes@...
Sent: Tuesday, September 14, 2004 2:21 PM
Subject: some history....
Cuba-L began in 1983. At the time I monitored radioteletype
by hand. Then in 1986 radioteletype signals were captured
with a sophisticated shortwave radio and
decoded/demodulated and fed into an RS232 port which the
computer assumed was a computer.
All the materials that we have distributed since 1990 has
been archived electronically and I have it in CDs. It is
I can say, as well, when Cuba-L began. May 1, 1983. I tape-
recorded and then transcribed Fidel Castro's speech and then
it was sent via email using a TRs80 computer (which at the
time used a cassette to save the electronic materials).
The "official story" of Cuba-L is inseparable from the
Latin America Data Base which I created in 1986 and ran as
its director in 1996. In that 10 year period I managed to
get $2.6 million dollars for it. I quit the LADB in 1996 in
order to dedicate more time to Cuba and created the Cuba
Research and Analysis Group in 1998.
On the LADB official history see:
Of course, people who use the Internet did not need to
learn about decoding, demodulating, radio frequencies,
frequency division multiplexing, time division multiplexing
and other such technical things...
In 1983 Cuba-L announced the invasion of Grenada BEFORE the
US military informed the mass media! Radio shortwave
operators in Grenada informed me. Moreover, I also
monitored Radio Veneceremos, Radio Guazapa and Radio
Farabundo Marti in the 1980s.
How many items have I distributed since 1983?
I don't think anyone could say. But if we do
a really conservative projection:
May 1983-84 = daily 40 items x 340 days= 13,600
83, 84,85,86,87,88,89,90,91, 92, 93= 10 x 13,600= 136,000
94,95,96,97,98,99, 2000, 2001,2003= 9 x 13,600= 122,400
Total number of items= 258,400 items
From 2000-2004 everything is online.
KAREN LEE WALD
Karen Lee Wald has been doing this work for I don't know
how many decades, with a boundless supply of energy and
commitment, she not only has she written a book, countless
articles, and operated her own listserv from Cuba known
originally as "Postcards from Cuba"), she also raised two
children in on the island as well as living and working
there for many years.
In 1986 on one of her frequent trips back to the San
Francisco Bay Area, while still a neophyte with computers,
she discovered PeaceNet, and it changed her life and her
way of breaking the information blockade.
PeaceNet had begun in 1984 as a way for peace activists
(the nuclear freeze movement was very strong at that time)
and others who organized against racism, sexism,
imperialism and for all forms of social justice to begin to
use the new technology that up until that point had been
used basically by the wealthy and the religious right to do
their mass mailings and lobbying. Now that PCs were cheaper
and more accessible, the founders of PeaceNet realized that
the Left could use them too.
When Karen discovered PeaceNet, it was still a dial-up
service, since the Internet was not yet available to the
general public. But in addition to email exchange, it
already had a number of "conferences" (interactive data
bases) on almost every topic of interest to progressive
people: except Cuba.
It had a section called CARNET (Central America Resource
Network, founded and run by Jo-Anne Scott and PeaceNet's
technical guru Scott Weikert) that had helped the
Sandinistas set up a network in Nicaragua; it worked
together with or helped found similar networks in Canada
(WEB), England (GreenNet), Sweden (Swedish PeaceNet),
Brazil (Alternex) and eventually throughout the world.
These then formed APC -- the Association for Progressive
Communications. By this time PeaceNet had hooked up with
other progressive networks like EcoNet, ConflictNet,
LaborNet, etc. in the US to form Institute for Global
Communications -- IGC. (When you see that someone's email
address is xxx@... that is a holdover from that time,
before the internet and the corporate servers took over.)
Karen began filling the Cuba gap by setting up PeaceNet's
CubaNews, with patient advice, help and encouragement from
Jo-Anne and Scott. It's first 20 or so articles were
written by Karen and put online by PeaceNet's Howard
Frederick, but soon others began contributing articles and
By 1990 PeaceNet was accessible to and from Cuba. As Cuban
institutions became more computer-savvy, they began
contributing their own articles, primarily via a Cuban
network called "David", which included most of the social
activist and research centers.
Karen's living and working in the United States now, but
she writes and is active in Cuba solidarity work all the
time. Her son graduated from Cuban medical school and
Karen travels to the island frequently. Today she sent
the following note which I want to share with you (with
her permission.) acknowledging some of those who have
From: Karen Lee Wald [mailto:kwald@...]
Sent: Tuesday, September 14, 2004 1:39 PM
CubaNews as I know it today began with Paddy Newell. She
basically started CubaNews (beyond what I had been doing
within IGC) as an informational lobbying service, by
putting the skills she had gained in the Irish solidarity
movement to use, organizing an email list to let people
know what bills were in Congress, who they should lobby,
What Mavis Anderson, LAWG, CIP and others do now in an
organizational form, she started as an individual while
living in Washington DC, studying for a belated college
She was the first one who did the research and put online
the "money trail" -- letting us know exactly who is
financing the Cuban far-right fringes, who is donating how
much money to which Congressmen to carry out their agenda,
All of us who are working today have benefited from the
work of people like Paddy Newell, like Jose G. Perez (who
directed CubaNews for a number of years) and many others
like Nelson Valdez, Frank Manitzas, Jose Pertierra, and
others. Now, of course, what we publish is nourished by
information coming in from all over the world, and from
Canadian friends from Vancouver to Halifax, from throughout
Latin America, from Europe and Africa and Australia...
We are grateful to all of them -- and especially to you,
for keeping it going.
Read some of the greetings we've received and
a report on this list's development here:
Here's a basic description of the CubaNews project: