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Viva Cuba Libre!
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Long ago in Havana, my mother and father would take me to the famed “Floridita” bar to join a burly, white-bearded man and drink daiquiris.

He gave me his book, “A Farewell to Arms,” autographed to “Eric, from his friend Ernest Hemingway. Havana, 1953”

Those were the old days in Cuba, even before Fidel Castro. That’s how far back I go on this lovely island on the Spanish Main.

I’ve twice been in battle in the west African state of Angola against Cuban troops that had been sent by Fidel Castro to fight white South African forces.

After visiting Cuba many times over the years and recently shooting a documentary there, I’ve acquired much affection for the peppery Cubans and their beautiful island. Havana is a century older than my native New York City.

So I was truly delighted to see President Obama travel to Havana this past week, rub shoulders with leader Raul Castro, and proclaim an end to Cold War hostility between the two neighbors.

Obama told Cubans, “you do not need to fear a threat from the United States.”

If Obama would make the same pledge to North Korea the dangerous crisis in North Asia might well be ended.

After half century, the American president renounced the use of force to overthrow Cuba’s Marxist government. Whether a new Republican president and Congress honors this pledge remains to be seen.

At the heart of bitter US-Cuban relations was the Castro brothers’ adamantine refusal to take instruction from Washington. Before Fidel Castro seized power in 1959, Cuba had been an obedient semi-colony of the US. This was the era when Big Brother in Washington told Latin America what to do and allowed US business to exploit the region.

The US seized Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay during the 1898 Spanish-American War as a naval coaling station. Cuba was forced to grant the US a perpetual lease. The Panama Canal was acquired in a similar imperial manner.

Over half the lush island’s agricultural land was owned by US corporate interests; many hotels came under control of American mobsters, including the once glorious ‘‘Nacional’’ hotel where I always stay.

Fidel Castro seized US property soon after taking power. The angry Americans imposed a punishing blockade on Cuba in 1960 that persists to this day, strongly backed by the Republican Party. Exiled Cubans and US corporations want their property back. Havana says no.

On my last visit to Cuba, I stood in awe in front of an old, crude-looking Soviet, 1960’s era SS-4 intercontinental missiles that had once been armed with nuclear warheads. They had been aimed at the US East Coast during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. As a student at Washington’s Georgetown University in that crisis year, I had been smack in the middle of ground zero.


1962 was a terribly close call for mankind, a nuclear game of blind man’s bluff. Thank god that John Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev backed down. Both proclaimed victory. Interestingly, during a Moscow conference during the 1980’s, a senior KGB officer claimed that Fidel Castro had begged Moscow to fire its missiles at the United States – perhaps because CIA had tried to murder Castro more than a dozen times?

Cubans suffered terribly and ate grass for decades but refused to bow to US demands. They had to become beholden to Moscow to stave off the USA.

Now, at the end of Fidel Castro’s life, tiny, proud Cuba has won its struggle for independence. Obama’s visit capped Cuba’s pyrrhic victory. US tourist will soon inundate the island, eradicate its seedy 1950’s charm, and see Cuba returned to American tutelage.

Ironically, when Castro revolted against Washington, Cuba was the vanguard of Latin America. Today, half a century later, most of Latin America has become democratic and relatively prosperous while Cuba lingers in dire poverty and authoritarian rule. But at least it was a clean authoritarian rule that genuinely cared for its people, providing high grade medical care and education that in some ways put the US to shame.

Republicans insist the US should not deal with authoritarian Cuba. What flaming hypocrisy. Washington gives billions to the uber ugly Egyptian dictatorship of ‘Field Marshall’ al-Sisi that tortures and guns down its people. The US supports repressive Morocco, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and, biggest malefactor of all, China.

President Obama did the right thing. Viva Barack!

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Cuba 
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  1. anon • Disclaimer says:

    The time has long since come for America and Cuba to bury the hatchet. Trade and travel should be promoted.

  2. Cuba, like so many countries, is forced to maintain a degree of authoritarianism to protect itself from relentless US attempts to subvert any political freedom they would like their people to have.

    In large part, countries are authoritarian either because they must be to resist constant US subversion (ex. Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Russia, China, etc.) or because they already have a US-backed regime that repressively controls its population for the US (ex. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran during the Shah, Chile during Pinochet, eastern Ukraine, etc.)

    When people vote for a government that does not do what the US wants, it gets subverted and overthrown (Ukraine, Honduras, Egypt, Iran, Chile, etc. 57 times in 47 countries over the past 71 years.) If subversion, coup, and assassination attempts fail, the US imposes indiscriminate collective punishment on the entire population through crippling sanctions (like the ones that killed an estimated half a million children in Iraq between 1990-1996 alone, which US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said was “worth it”.)

    The country that harms real democracy and political freedom the most, by subverting political freedoms while proclaiming loudly to support them, is the US.

  3. Even with all these accolades for Castro’s government not a single comment originating in Cuba. Imagine that.

  4. @anony-mouse

    Obviously they don’t sink as much money into paid internet propaganda as Tel Aviv does. But then Tel Aviv is eating high on the hog thanks to that steady stream of welfare Uncle Sucker ships there.

  5. Marcus says:

    If you think the Castros “genuinely cared for” the Cubans, look up Punto Cero.

  6. @anony-mouse

    ‘El Barbo’ himself commented on the recent visit.

    While many Cubans look forward to better times, and cheap paint. I don’t think there are a lot of them who would sell Cuba to the highest bidder. Even if it’s only a semblance, ordinary Cubans to-day feel that Cuba belongs to them – not to the ‘oligarchic families’ and certainly not to the USA.

    I hope they’re smart enough to maintain their relationship with the EU and other nations and not put all their eggs back in Uncle Sammy’s basket – and steer clear of the ‘helpers’ at the IMF.

  7. Just to top off the take over of Cuba–Rolling Stones are planning to give a big concert–free to 500,000 Cuban attendance. Sheldon can not wait-to re establish his casinos.

  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The communist government of Cuba restored its iron-fisted control over pro-democracy activists last weekend, following mass arrests a week ago on the Sunday before President Barack Obama landed in Havana. An estimated 300 dissidents were beaten and arrested nationwide.

    Miami’s El Nuevo Herald cites dissidents on the group as confirming that more than 100 of their peers were arrested in Havana. “They ripped their clothes in the middle of the street, leaving many of them nude in public,” one witness recalled. Some were “beaten with washing machine belts and flag poles.” At least one Ladies in White member suffered a broken arm from being whipped with a washing machine belt.

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