September 14, 2017

THE SOUL OF ANTONIO VECIANA

An accountant by trade at the time of Batista’s fall, Veciana was recruited in 1959 by a man he knew as “Maurice Bishop” and ushered him into a world of espionage, sabotage and murder.
Veciana willingly embraced the anti-Castro resistance, and was “trained” into what became his new life; “I became an irresponsible risk taker,” he admits. (pg. 87)
Among the principles of espionage that he was taught (pg. 63-64):
-           Always maintain a double personality, disguising your real activity
-           Use whatever is necessary in your battle plan. Your enemy is perverse by nature and will not hesitate to use whatever means necessary against you.
-           Be bold in your objectives. Anything is possible if you plan well enough.
To become an effective secret agent, Veciana would also need to learn that “people are his tools, and his targets. They are to be used as means to his ends. If your interests align, they’re allies. If they have no interest, they’re instruments. If they oppose your interests, they’re enemies.” (pg. 72)
Bishop pushed the idea that “if you need them, you use them. You just have to find their weaknesses. Everyone has one. That’s the key.” (pg. 72) Bishop found Veciana’s weakness; a seething hate for Fidel Castro.
The world of espionage became exciting and mysterious to Veciana, even as he contemplated the potential cost to his family. “Commando teams and submarines are the stuff of Hollywood films,” Bishop said. “You need to be aware that your only shields are your own intelligence and your ability to deceive.” (pg. 75)
“Bishop had told me to embellish, exaggerate, outright lie if I wanted to, all for the sake of making our belligerence seem more capable, and more threatening.” (pg. 117)
Veciana’s first major success was Operation Pedro Pan, a misinformation campaign resulting in 14,000 Cuban children being sent to the U.S. for fear that “Castro” was about to remove them from their homes.  This was his first “act” and it became but one element of the larger CIA plan for the invasion (at Bay of Pigs).  
Despite his better judgement, Veciana says at age 88 that he would do this again. And yet, the following paragraph shows more conscience and humanity than you’ll see in any of his associates.
“It had not been my intention to divide families. I am sorry for those who were hurt. My goal had been only to deepen the discontent with the government, to sow more instability, and, hopefully, to create the conditions for its downfall. I succeeded in the first two; I failed in the last.” (pg. 92)
From the early days of 1960, anti-Castro “sabotage and attacks... came by ground, on the water, from the air,” writes Veciana. (pg. 93)
“Bishop contended that the fundamental purpose of a clandestine operative was to cause psychological or economic sabotage. Sometimes, that required bombs.” (pg. 93)
Many of the terrorist bombings that took place in 1960 were planned by Veciana; the bomb at the Cantabria bar, the bomb in the America Theater, in the cafeteria of the Flogar Department Store in mid-Havana, the New Year’s Eve arson fire at La Epoca, other arson fires at a tobacco warehouse, at the El Encanto department store, and more.
In true CIA fashion, Veciana planned and organized and supplied and sat back… he didn’t ever blow up anything, attempt to shoot anyone or get his hands dirty.
“I abandoned the propaganda tactics Bishop had taught me in favor of more direct, and violent, means. I was never what we in Cuba call a ‘man of action.’ Not direct action, anyway. I remained behind the scenes, using my administrative skills to organize and plan these violent disruptions. I built small cells of resistance fighters and discovered a talent for strategizing I never knew I had. (pg. 94)
“I became a terrorist.” (pg. 94)
After an aborted attempt on Castro’s life (with a bazooka) Veciana relocated to Florida in October, 1961. Sometime later he was instructed by Bishop to organize a new effort, so Veciana founded Alpha 66 with Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo, “one of the bravest men I have ever known, a simple, soft-spoken man who let his actions speak more loudly than any words ever could.” (pg. 110) This was one of the first anti-Castro para-military groups. They operated with varying degrees of CIA support (& funding) and the FBI looking the other way through the rest of the 1960s. Their operations included sabotage, terrorism, assassination attempts and violent intimidation of Castro sympathizers.
People were organized. Plans were made. Weapons were procured. Shots were fired. People died. People were wounded. Things burned. Stories were told. Ships full of men made their way in the dark, and so on. But in the real world, the Cuban government was never more than annoyed by Alpha 66. Eventually Menoyo “invaded” Cuba, got caught right away and went to jail for 20 years.
Veciana continued his work as an anti-Castro operative for Bishop, this time in Puerto Rico, spying on groups that sought independence for their island. These groups were always blamed on Castro. Veciana was happy in San Juan. He ran a successful business and made good money.
Then, suddenly, Bishop shows up to warn him that he’s been found out. A bomb explodes and Veciana survives unhurt, but the attempt is blamed on pro-independence Puerto Ricans supplied and trained by Castro.
After Puerto Rico, Veciana is left with little choice but to accept Bishop’s offer of a job as an USAID advisor to Bolivia’s Central Bank. His task includes killing “the myth of El Che. Or at least to stop it from growing.” (pg. 138) He was not successful at this.
“USAID is just a front for the CIA. It put people like me in positions where they had a good reason to be asking a lot of questions, learning a lot about the internal workings of foreign governments and corporations, and developing valuable connections.” (pg. 137)
When the Cuban government announced that Castro would visit Chile, Bishop saw another opportunity to eliminate the tiresome dictator.  “It would be a chance to redeem myself,” wrote Veciana. “I had carried the shame for my failure for so long.” (pg. 158) In case you’re wondering, the “shame” he refers to is not being able to kill Castro.
Bishop insisted that “it” must be blamed on exiles, not the CIA. “It was important to recruit Cubans, and not just to give the CIA its plausible deniability. Exiles had the motive. Their hearts would be in it. That, I believe, was vital. They would be willing to commit. I wanted dedicated men, not mercenaries.” (pg. 160)
Bishop “was talking about something that subsequently turned out to be an all-too-common practice for the agency, ‘plausible deniability.’ It also sounded extremely similar to the kind of thinking that had led to the Bay of Pigs disaster.” (pg. 113)
They would try to kill Castro during a press conference. It wasn’t difficult to surmise this would be a suicide mission.
“The weapon of choice had to be small enough to fit inside a fully operational television camera, to remain hidden until the assassins were close enough, and to fire one or more shots, point blank, into Fidel’s throat and head.” (pg. 153)
Veciana became obsessed with this to the point where he put his family at risk.    
“My desire to kill Castro had consumed me. I was willing even to risk my children for that one purpose.” (pg. 154) The long drive he took with his family from Bolivia to Chile, with weapons hidden in the car, was meant to be a vacation. “This was the path to my future, the way to clear my past—the way to rid the world of Fidel Castro.” (pg.154)
While recruiting Alpha 66/Bay of Pigs alumni for the job in Chile, the fact that someone would have to trade their life for Castro’s becomes a factor (again). Veciana is told that “I have children. I have responsibilities. I can’t just go and give my life, no matter what it would accomplish.” (pg.161) But he keeps looking, never offering his own life in trade for Castro’s.
The two men chosen for the task, from El Poder Cubano, eventually find a last-minute way out. Castro’s safe, again, which angers Veciana and Bishop, and this is where they part ways; Bishop orders the murder of the 2 hitmen that aborted the Castro assassination.
“Kill them,” he said. “Make examples of them.” (pg. 173)
But Veciana refused.  “No,” I said. “I won’t. I don’t have the arrogance to order a man’s death when I stood at a safe distance, nowhere near the danger he faced.” (pg. 174)
 “I didn’t know it then, but that was the end for Bishop and me.” (pg. 174) (They did meet a few more times.) Within a few months his work in Bolivia ended, and he returned to Miami.
No longer having Bishop as a resource/instigator did not dissuade Veciana from pursuing his independent efforts against Castro. On his own, he planed an attempt against Ramiro Valdés, “one of the key figures in Castro’s government and one of the most hated among exiles.” (pg. 176). 
This ended in disaster when Veciana’s hitman, Juan Felipe de la Cruz, accidentally blew himself up in his Paris hotel room.  Around that time, in Miami, Veciana was arrested on “trumped up” drug trafficking charges. He implies this was done by Bishop, and their brief meeting is less than friendly.
Eighteen years after that first Bazooka attempt to kill Castro in Havana was aborted, Veciana is ready to do it again. This time in New York City, during a visit to the United Nations.
This was known by the FBI, yet Veciana was ready to go through with it, if not for the fact that his own daughter, now a journalist, had been assigned to cover Castro’s visit and may have been near him at the time of the attempt.  
Even if willing to trade the lives of other people’s daughters, most anti-Castro Cubans would not trade the lives of their own daughters.
This marked the end of the road for Veciana’s attempts on Fidel.  

Bishop/Philips

In 1976, Veciana went before the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA).
HSCA was established due to public mistrust of the Warren Commission Report, but it ultimately supported the “single shooter” theory. It also clarified that Cuba or anti-Castro Cuban groups had not been involved in the JFK assassination.
 “I had testified in secret before a congressional panel. I told them about the assassination attempts against Castro and about El Che’s diary. I told them about Alpha 66 and about Oswald. And I told them how a man I knew only as Maurice Bishop had been responsible for it all.”
Veciana also testified that at a meeting, three months before JFK’s assassination, he saw “a man who looked like Bishop” talking to Lee Harvey Oswald
Veciana’s handler, Maurice Bishop turned out to be David Atlee Phillips (pictured), the CIA’s Chief of Operations for the Western Hemisphere.  His Bishop identity was known to only a few, but Veciana did not positively identify Philips as his Bishop, though head investigator Gaeton Fonzi already suspected as much.
Eventually the CIA found out about his testimony, and they were not happy about it, as this implicated the CIA in the JFK assassination. (Remember Bishop’s teaching: “If they oppose your interests, they’re enemies.”)
In September 1979, Veciana survived an attempt on his life. Four bullets were fired as he drove his truck, one entered his head, but it didn’t kill him. This was quickly blamed on… you guessed it; Castro.  
“So I kept quiet. I only said enough to let Phillips know that I remembered him introducing me to Oswald in the lobby of the Dallas office building.” (pg. 202)
After the attempt on his life, Veciana said that the man he saw with Oswald might have been somebody else. But in 2014, at a conference for the 50th Anniversary of the Warren Commission Report, he told the whole story for the first time.
In his new book, he writes that “before the House Select Committee on Assassinations finished its work, someone tried to silence me. With a bullet.”   
Not surprising to anyone familiar with the U.S.-Cuba situation, everything that Veciana did was against Castro. All the operations and actions and human tragedy… it was all against Castro. Never against the Cuban people. Bishop was convinced that eliminating Castro was the key to recovering Cuba. Veciana wanted to free Cuba.
The embargo is against Castro. Terrorism, sabotage? It’s OK if it’s against Castro.  
If a good man like Veciana can be drawn into an ideology that embraces murder as a tactic, couldn’t it happen to anyone? Such a metamorphosis is not that rare in human existence, but seems particularly frequent where our former island-colony is concerned.
And yet, Veciana embraces truths that the shrinking masses of anti-Castro supporters traditionally ignore.
He acknowledges that efforts against “Castro” have been a failure, yet he would do it again.  
He freely admits his belief that Luis Posada Carriles “was responsible for the bombing of Cubana de Aviación flight 455 and the deaths of all seventy-eight people on board…” (pg. 9) “It was a terrible thing. I would not have ordered it—all that carnage. I could not have lived with myself if it had come as a result of one of my plans.” (pg.161) Yet there’s no sign of guilt for the collective actions of his faction, or mention of efforts against Cuban-Americans that didn’t believe in a hardline approach.
Veciana recognizes that he’s been a terrorist. Most of those he associated with, Cubans and Americans, would never admit this, calling themselves “cold warriors” or “freedom fighters,” or even “patriots.”
He writes about Chilean President Salvador Guillermo Allende with seeming respect and admiration, even as he describes his own efforts against “Latin America’s first democratically elected Marxist.” (pg. 155) “More and more, I became a courier, delivering cash to Chilean officials and generals collaborating secretly with the United States.” (pg. 156)
There’s some Bin Laden type reasoning in the anti-Castro lobby that nobody wants to talk about. It goes back to the late 1950s… to men like Bishop and Dulles and Eisenhower and Nixon and that whole ideology of empire entitlement (religious entitlement’s second cousin). And it goes back to Veciana and others who suddenly felt a surge of patriotic hate against Castro and were easily manipulated to nurture that hate and turn it into an American sub-culture. And it still exists today in politicians that supported President Trump’s recent hardline turn towards the island.
Then there’s the Kennedy thing.
This is one thing that’s different about Veciana.
Veciana knows he was tricked and manipulated by Bishop (Philips). He acknowledges that the CIA plan was to “con” Kennedy to invade Cuba. But he never openly considers that the first part of Bishop’s plan was to “con” a bunch of Cuban exiles into doing the unthinkable and risking their lives so he could then “con” the President.
“The CIA’s plan, via Maurice Bishop, had always been to put the fight on Kennedy’s doorstep, to force him to take the offensive to end Cuba’s Communist government.” (pg. 112)
Kennedy wasn’t conned. He was assassinated, instead.
Veciana is the only anti-Castro Cuban I know of to express any understanding for JFK:
“I grew to have a more favorable opinion of the young president as the years went by. I began to appreciate the intensity of his efforts to ratchet down the dangers of the Cold War, to bring about the first nuclear test ban, and to lead the United States toward the loftier goals that his successor would proclaim as “The Great Society.” (pg. 119)
To this day, many Cuban-Americans continue to hold resentment towards Kennedy and the Democratic Party, not accepting that the President was conned just as they, themselves, were conned by the CIA. Part of this resentment also stems from the “deal” made between Kennedy and Khrushchev to end the Missile Crisis of 1962, in which the U.S. agreed not to invade Cuba.
 Aside from the various YouTube offerings in which Veciana appears, he’s featured in the 2007 documentary “638 Ways to Kill Castro.” He’s introduced as Cuban Security’s number one target, and is shown walking through one of his four marine stores in Miami, pointing out boating products. He recalls the “bazooka” attempt on Castro… “Nobody’s suicidal,” he says in the film. “I’m not suicidal. I don’t want to die. I have family and children. You need at least a small chance to get away.”
He also discusses the attempt to kill Castro in Chile, while on vacation with his family. “They failed because they weren’t brave enough,” Veciana says of the aborted attempt. His son, also featured in the film, says “he should have hired an Arab. Those guys are not afraid of anything. They’re willing to give their lives away if they have to.”
If it is true, as claimed by Bishop and Veciana and the anti-Castro movement through the decades, that the ends justify the means, what does it mean when 57 years later the end still hasn’t arrived to justify a half-century of terrorism, sabotage, subterfuge and murder?  
This book may help some understand why things don’t change, even why racism persists in the U.S.  
“Trained to Kill” opens a window into a world we should have outgrown long ago; a real old world of cold warriors and spies and terrorists and fanatics. It doesn’t read like an adventure, but like a drama, due to the author’s perspective and honesty, a rare quality for the subject matter. And yet the book only hints at the constant prodding by the CIA of a community hurt and separated… constantly being pushed to extremes, even against the wishes of the U.S. President.
Veciana’s inconsistent moral framework, and his acceptance of generalities required of a terrorist, provides a refreshing look at a turbulent time in our history.  
Would defeating Castro through murder and terrorism have made a better Cuba? Or has the idea just contributed to the dark turn in American politics and culture?
“Antonio Veciana has finally unburdened himself of the secrets of his life,” writes David Talbot in the foreword. Perhaps that’s a good place for the rest of us to start.

Resources
You Tube
Antonio Veciana Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zy4MWRKM89E
David Atlee Philips AKA Maurice Bishop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i7OidcsB3s
Gaeton Fonzi on David Atlee Phillips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9LydPyR6fc#t=6.393843
1977 Mark Lane VS CIA David Atlee Phillips debate, Part 1 of 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OEpuQD0whQ
1977 Mark Lane VS CIA David Atlee Phillips debate, Part 2 of 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lR8Nw-8a9Q
Films

 638 Ways to Kill Castro 

Labels: , , , , , ,

September 05, 2017

Elián on CNN

I wasn’t surprised by last week’s new CNN Films’ documentary Elián, which looks at the saga of Elián Gonzalez.

To refresh your memory; just before G.W. Bush’s first historic and trend-setting Presidential election, Elián was found at sea tied to an inner-tube by two American fishermen 3 miles off the coast of Florida. He was turned over to his American family, who refused to hand him back to his father in Cuba. Eventually he was removed at gunpoint by federal agents and returned to his father.  The dispute became a Presidential campaign issue that may have cost Al Gore the election.
At the time, Elián became a revealing showcase for the painful conflict that exists within Cuban-American families and is constantly fueled by our approach to relations with Cuba.
The CNN documentary doesn’t take long to embrace a (mostly) Miami-Cuban point of view. A few minutes into it we’re given a stilted history of U.S.-Cuba relations as a background to Elián’s journey across the Florida Straits. Facts are glossed over as if we’re sitting in a neighborhood bar on Calle Ocho, where even a sudden rainstorm can be blamed on Castro.
Surprisingly, the narrative does mention the hardliner violence and terrorism of the 1960s and ‘70s—by Cubans of one mind (hardline-anti-Castro) to Cubans of a different mind (peaceful relations with Cuba)—which was surprising to see reported at all. And that brief mention may be where any attempt at historical accuracy within this documentary ends.
After all, “Castro confiscated private property and nationalized American-owned oil refineries…” (apparently for no reason) which left us little choice but to swing the hammer. “With Castro drawing closer to the Soviets, the American government punished Cuba with an economic embargo, then it backed an invasion by Cuban exiles at Bay of Pigs.”
WHAT!!?? Did I hear that correctly? “Backed…??” Any mention of who planned, funded, recruited and ran every detail of the operation? Here, the documentary misses a great opportunity to show JFK’s speech in which he assumes responsibility for the invasion.   
These and similar inaccuracies are presented almost casually as background context. “This is the story of a little boy from Cuba whose mother died bringing him to freedom in the United States,” says the narrator (Raúl Esparza) at the beginning, leaving no doubt about the narrative’s point of view. (Did the ghost of Jorge Mas Canosa write the script?)
The show completely avoids discussing Elián’s mother, Elizabet Brotons Rodríguez, the woman who took a 6-year old boy into the Florida Straights without telling the boy’s father. It doesn’t mention that her boyfriend, Lázaro Munero, charged $1,000 per person to most of the passengers, or that he’d served time in a Cuban jail for burglary.  Elizabet’s true reasons and motivations have been rarely explored beyond the realm of blaming Castro, and are not addressed here at all. Her decision to bring her 6-year-old-son on such a journey is described repeatedly as “brave.”
“I survived because of my mom…” says a happy 24-year-old Elián in Cuba, and that’s about where her story ends, except for some claims to her “brave sacrifice for her son…” (I paraphrase)
What the show does well (and by accident) is showcase the cost of our political differences to Cuban families. This is the real price for Cuban independence that families are still paying to this day.
This suffering is clearly seen in Marisleysis’ face… who became attached to Elián and soon became the best case that could be made for keeping him here. Even back then, I felt sure that her feelings were of true love for the boy, not political opportunism or “finders’ keepers” ideology. The same can’t be said for most of those around her.
Since the beginning, young Elián was treated like a prize to be paraded… and you can see on his eyes how uncomfortable this was for him.  Soon his face was on posters and T-shirts, and everywhere he went the media was there.
When it became clear that Elián would be returned to his father in Cuba, the tension rose another notch. In Miami, the crowds took to the streets, stopping traffic and chanting for Elián to stay. The media circus was parked outside Elián’s door, and the police had to close the street.
 “I’m a father, and the boy should be with his father,” says a man on the street who suddenly needs protection from an angry crowd. “You don’t have a clue about what being in a free society is…” he says, “you have no respect for other people’s opinion.”  You can see members of the crowd shouting that he’s a … communist.

As tension and passion rose like a heatwave, the media blitz grew to include Diane Sawyer, The Today Show, Larry King and others. You couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing Elián.
As soon as the story went national, leaders of the anti-Castro movement descended on Elián like vultures. Within days, GMA jumped at the chance to reunite Elián with Donato, one of the fishermen that rescued him. Elián appears in Donato’s arms, not understanding a word that’s being said, as the fisherman refers to the boy as “a gift from God.”   
“I didn’t want to meet anyone,” recalls Elián of those times. “I’m shy.”
In some less-than-subtle ways, this (mostly) right-leaning documentary surgically white-washes the obvious opportunism that Elián’s tragedy provided. Polls at the time already reflected Americans’ willingness to embrace peaceful relations with Cuba, and the 6-year-old became the standard-bearer for the outdated anti-movement. Right after the first commercial break, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is heard saying, “people are literally dying to flee Cuba.”
“We have a role to play in protecting freedom,” says a younger and visibly  decaffeinated George Bush, “and when people risk everything to come, even if they’re a five-year-old kid, they ought to be allowed to stay.” He didn’t mention that our own “left-foot-dry-foot” policy, which he supported, dictates that he be sent back. But it’s often difficult to make sense of a law that is best described with “foot” metaphors. Still, I’d hope that by now somebody has explained to Mr. Bush the difference between making a choice to cross the ocean on a small boat and going where your mom says when you’re six years old.
At various times, little Elián is photographed with an American flag in the hands of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who flashes a permanent wide smile at the camera as Elián leans away in horror… reminding me of Johnathan Harker’s journal from the third chapter of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
In what may be one of the all-time low points for broadcast journalism, networks played a videotape made by Elián's American family in which the boy, looking at the camera, says he wants to stay in the U.S. He points a finger and tells his dad to “stay or go, but leave me here.” You can decide if the boy looks coached or is being directed during the taping.
CNN’s Elián doesn’t clarify how, after arriving in Cuba, the boy was finally left to have a private life with his father, stepmother and baby brother, ending the media circus that signified his stay with his American family. Sure, at times Castro would pop in, but not for photo ops, though the day of his return is celebrated every year.  
It appears that over time, Castro and Elián developed a real friendship, but the program doesn’t emphasize enough how Castro dragged out the ordeal, perhaps to let the world see his enemies up close.  
It turned out that Cuba loves Elián as much as Elián loves Cuba. He acknowledges that he became “Cuba’s son.” “The Cuban people made me their family, their son,” he says.”
“God wanted him here for freedom,” says Marisleysis early on, “and he’ll get it.”  Later in the show Elián makes an odd reference to seeing Castro as “God.” 
If anything, CNN Films’ Elián stands as evidence of how our sad history with Cuba (and most of Latin America) is not reflected honestly in our culture. The expanded results of our obvious self-deception are now echoed in a bizarre Trump reality that’s dividing our country and challenging our Democracy.
--
“He’s got no future, no life in Cuba,” says a passionate Miami woman before Elián’s return. Her prediction seems to have been incorrect, which makes Elián much less lovable to Cuban-Americans today. “The real story of what happened is not written anywhere,” says 24-year old Elián. “All that’s left is our memories of the people and how they lived.”

Elián was produced by Jigsaw Productions, Fine Point Films, and provides a great example of a missed opportunity to tell the truth. The topic deserves a more honest and serious approach.

Labels: , , , ,

July 09, 2017

How Big Is Cuba? And Why Does She Owe Us “A Better Deal?”




Recently I spent some time at home recovering from a minor injury and Google helped with the entertainment. Here are some things I found out and/or re-discovered.
Cuba is big. I mean BIG. Bigger than her actual size and bigger than most of us realize.
She’s bigger than her music and her food and her history and her beautiful women and her Finlay Institute and her amateur boxers and her free vaccines and her baseball players and her universal healthcare and education… and her undeniable moral superiority.
Some people think she’s ours. She’s not. Or that she can still be ours. She can’t.
Some people think we can still conquer her. We can’t. 
Some think she will allow herself to be ours again through murder and embargos and sabotage and terrorism. She won’t.
One thing that makes Cuba so big is her resiliency, and this makes her an example to developing countries all over the world.
Cuba was Spain’s last colony in the new world, and the first neocolony for the U.S.
In 1898, after a 30-year period of wars and insurrections against the Spanish Empire, the U.S. not only forced the dismantling of Cuban ideas over a hand-me-down constitution that went on to foster many corrupt Presidents… but the Spanish-supporting Cubans got to stay, and made out well during the transition between empires. They stayed in power then, and they want that power back.
A recent book by Francisco López Segrera, “The United States and Cuba, From Closest Enemies to Distant Friends” touches on the touchy history between my two countries, and provides clues about Cuba’s hidden size. It points out how the island’s “collaboration with countries of the third world have given it considerable political capital.” (pg. 33)
“Cuba has always given great importance to its relations with developing countries in a framework of international solidarity.” (pg. 35)
“Cuban doctors and health professionals are present all over the world, from South Africa to the Pacific Islands… The role of Cuban health personnel in Haiti’s earthquake and in the fight against Ebola in Africa is internationally recognized.” (pg. 36)
Segrera’s book is a fast read, but it covers all the basics. You probably already figured out that U.S. policy “made necessary a revolution as profound as Cuba’s,” and that “U.S. policy toward the Cuban revolutionary process from 1959 until the present has brought about exactly the opposite of what it sought.” (pg. 32) emphasis mine-JAS
“…that policy did not leave Cuba any alternative other than a confrontation that it never sought.” (pg.32)
Cuba is not the new kid on the block. She’s just the one that got away.
Cuba existed as Cuba long before the United States appeared.  She’s now just over half millennia young. In her time, she has divorced four empires, some of which took excessive liberties with her.
Only two of them fell in love with the “pearl of the Antilles” (the Spanish and the American empires). The others were just an affair of convenience (USSR) and a one-night-stand (British).
We can accept that the British Empire didn’t love Cuba when they held the Port of Havana so tightly for nearly 2 years in the early 1760s. They made a “deal” and traded for Florida.  
During the British occupation, Cuban merchants could trade their goods in the open market (for the first time) and the freedom that Cuban businesses encountered led to blacks and whites joining hands to form the idea for the Cuba of today.  
Still, imagine trading a “stand your ground” State for Havana. The Spanish made a “good deal.”
After the Spanish Empire got their precious island back, Cubans could only trade with the government, at terms set by the government, who would then sell the goods in the open market and pocket the profits. (It’s good to be Captain General!)
If only the Cubans could get rid of that pesky empire that cares nothing about the people that live and work and die on the island. If only… someone like Martí and Maceo and Gómez would emerge into the Cubano-sphere to inspire the population and unite the variously shaded Cubans to take one small step for man… one giant leap for mankind (thanks Neil) to create one of the most unique nations on Earth.
Cuba was always Cuba, and it was always surrounded by water… and every empire that tried to exploit and/or abuse her… called her Cuba.
Cuba always was and is an island.
The Republic of Cuba… is still Cuba.
Here’s some other stuff.
 I contacted mylifeelsewhere.com (www.mylifeelsewhere.com/country-size-comparison/united-states/cuba) and asked; how many times would Cuba fit in the United States? It seemed like a reasonable question. I should have asked; how many Cubas would you need to “umbrella” the territorial United States? That may have been more scientific…  
A lot of people don’t like the term “territorial United States.” It implies something they don’t want to hear. Maybe I shouldn’t use it.
I’m still waiting for a response, and I may have to look for other ways to figure this out.
--
Thinking about previous conversations with friends and family in the anti-Castro community, I wonder if Tim Berners-Lee has now, or ever, been accused of being a communist.
--
Did you know that Cuba, like 95% of the world, still uses the metric system? When are they gonna learn?
--
How big is Cuba?
Cuba is slightly smaller than the state where American pencils go on vacation when they can afford it; Pennsylvania
The United States is 89 times bigger than Cuba. The island is about 42,803 square miles (110,860 sq km), while the U.S. is approximately 9,826,675 sq km.
The island runs East to West for 760 miles (1,223 km) long and about 55 miles (89 km) wide. She looks like a lizard crawling out of the ocean for a snack. From orbit, the island looks like she’s about to be swallowed by a hungry lizard-eater.
Cuba is the largest country in the Caribbean, accounting for over half of the land mass in the West Indies.
The Royal Palm Tree, which can grow as tall as 75 feet, is Cuba’s national tree. Is it because tall trees get more rebounds? They are beautiful to look at, but not always practical for shade.
According to ifitweremyhome.com (http://www.ifitweremyhome.com/compare/US/CU) Cuba is the 77th largest country in the world!
My Life Elsewhere (http://www.mylifeelsewhere.com/country-size-comparison/united-states/cuba) also has a good comparison tool that I found amusing. You can compare countries to the U.S. or to each other.
Did you know that the United Kingdom is only 2X bigger than Cuba?
--
And why does Cuba owe us a better deal?
During his run for office last year, President Trump said that he (and only HE) could get us a better deal with Cuba… but why does Cuba owe us a better deal? Does his recent speech in Miami (6/16/2017) represent a better deal? Or is it just the same bad deal we’ve been pushing and Cuba has declined for 57 years?
The answer is found in an obscure and abstract memory from my 7th grade experience at Mark Twain Jr. High School (in Venice, CA): “Because we’re bigger than you and will just steal your lunch money you fucking little runt.*
*Please excuse the cursing, but it was necessary to maintain the integrity of the memory and the hostility it still represents.
Today, the best deal we could make for ourselves is to stop being the bad guys and start setting a good example by taking care of our own people. Sadly, I do not see that happening.

 

Just don’t misspell her name, she’s the one that got away.” Tom Waits

Labels: , , , , ,

January 18, 2017

Goodbye Fidel, Hello Donald




Did you ever think he would die? Did you think he would turn 90?
Can you grasp what it means that the most sought-after assassination target of modern times (barring Osama Bin Ladden) died peacefully in his bed after a world-wide celebration of his 90th birthday?
Now that he’s dead, is he not immortal? Is he not more dangerous as a myth? Is he not now and forever the man the empire couldn’t kill? But wouldn’t it be worse if we had killed him?
And, more directly, is there a connection between the many harsh lies told to excuse our actions against Cuba and the rhetoric and lack of facts in Trump’s presidential campaign and post-election rhetoric?
As an immigrant, I’ve never hated Castro as much as my indoctrination demanded. Though I’ve never exactly liked him, as I tend to dislike overt, type-A personalities and authoritarian types… especially in uniform. But I still believe that Cuba’s leader should be up to the Cubans in Cuba, not the ones that left.  Just like I’m certain that our Presidential race should be up to Americans, not Russian President Putin.
The constant barrage of antagonism in describing Castro (tyrant, despot, killer, brutal dictator, etc.) resembles Trump’s “crooked” Hillary and “little” Marco and “low energy” Jeb and “crazy” Bernie and “goofy” Elizabeth and “dishonest” media… they speak to the same audience.  
Why push the truth to such extremes? Why embrace such outlandish exaggerations? Are they convinced that “the truth” would not help their case? Boogyfying Castro only served to hide the true suffering caused by the Cuban Revolution, as the separation of families was ignored altogether. Cuban families like mine paid the highest price.
The anti-Castro rhetoric never looked at the whole picture, faithful only to the points conceived by the CIA prior to the JFK assassination.
What about the improved education and healthcare? What about the many Cuban doctors all over the world? And the free vaccines to third world countries?
What about the fact of Cuba helping defeat Apartheid in South Africa and supporting Mandela? (Remember, we were pro-Apartheid.)
Can we honestly blame the failures of the Cuban system on Castro while ignoring our constant efforts to sabotage and unbalance the island?  Can we also pretend Cuban successes do not exist? That’s exactly what we’ve Trump-ishly done for decades.  
We can choose to ignore the truth and replace it with lies and exaggerations, but we’re the only ones fooled… like members of a cult that can only speak with each other and everything said to outsiders is hype.
The world turned out to celebrate Castro’s 90th birthday with exhibitions and concerts and lectures and books… and they turned out to mourn his death.  Now they’re visiting his grave in record numbers.
We may not have noticed all this, as our media has been busy with Trump almost exclusively, and later with the Miami death parties.  
And then there are our methods of opposing Castro. He must be the devil and nothing less, otherwise our actions can be recognized as over-the-top.
The fact that in opposing Castro we’ve embraced and forgiven acts of terrorism by men like Orlando Bosch, Luis Posada Carriles and others, only brings up the fact that Cuba’s leaders should be up to Cubans in Cuba.  The argument over “human rights” was never an issue under Batista, a truly brutal dictator whose police executed people on the streets.  Am I to believe that those that let George Zimmerman walk away from a murder charge in Florida care about human rights in Cuba?
More recently, in South Carolina, a white policeman that shot an unarmed black man (Walter Scott) in the back as he ran away, said in court that he feared for his life. Despite a phone video that clearly shows this as murder, the case ended in mistrial. Scott had been pulled over for a broken tail light.
Can our continuing war against black skin, now chronicled by phone videos and “not-guilty” verdicts, compare to anything going on in Cuba?
Think about how distasteful it is to recognize Russia’s interference in support of Presidential candidate Trump… by what right do they make that choice for us?  That’s how distasteful it is for us to try to control Cuba.  
Had we “accepted” Castro without the harsh anti-movement, maybe there would have been less suffering in Cuba, which should have been our goal all along.
Our hardliners, it would seem, have made their hardliners relevant.
Will anti-Castro hardliners join hands with alt-right activists? The dust that may remain from Martí’s bones rattles with disgust at the mere possibility.
It seems obvious that the anti-Castro movement helped bring out the Trump factor in American politics with over 50 years of heavy-handed lying.
 So be it.
Now that our great country is to be run with the same ideology and lack of truthfulness, my heart goes out to young Americans.
May the force be with us all.