Letter to the Editor

Trip Start Jan 16, 2007
Trip End Mar 01, 2007

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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Monday, March 19, 2007

This letter to the editor was published without being edited too heavily on March 20 in the National Post, the more conservative of the two national newspapers in Canada.

Having just returned from 6 weeks in Cuba, I was interested to see the Post running a series of articles on life there after Fidel... then alarmed at what was passing for balanced reporting.

First came "Fidel's Prisoners," an article that in the first paragraph talked about people in Havana "searching the markets for any sign of meat." Since I daily walked past a market on the corner of Consulado and Colon in Central Havana which was garish with its joints of pork, I'd say that at best the statement is poetic exaggeration. I know what my journalism prof would have called it.

The author then goes on to bemoan the Cuban government replacing the 1950s yankee fridges "built like tanks" with new Chinese models. She neglects to mention the hazardous freon contained in these old American appliances, or the vast amount of energy they consume. In BC, our hydro company pays people to stop using these!

What I found most objectionable in the article was the author writing under a pseudonym to "protect" her contacts in Cuba. Since no one is identified (except a manicurist, by first name) I'm left with the conclusion it was more likely to protect her shaky reputation as a journalist.

Peter Goodspeed's articles out of Miami, refreshing for the actual presence of names for the author and the sources, is still puzzlingly evasive of some simple hard facts about Cuban-American history. For over 100 years now, the US has done an exemplary job of meddling in Cuba.

In the first half of the century, after leaving Cuba out of their negotiations with Spain to end its occupation, the US intervened militarily a handful of times and helped set up some swell dictators. After Castro's victory -- no one mentions the broad public support that enabled a handful of men to overthrow a government -- the US then embarked on a half-century of punitive diplomatic politics and covert operations.

Goodspeed does fine documenting the job Cuban-Americans have done training death squads in Nicaragua and South American (in between trying to overthrow the Cuban government), but he never puts two-and-two together and asks the big questions: What has the US ever done to show they have the interests of the Cuban people at heart? In what way are the interests of third generation Cuban-Americans any better for the Cuban people than any other Americans?

Many nights in Cuba, after having frank and funny conversations with locals about the failures of the regime and the odd manouevres Cubans perform to work the system, I'd lie awake wondering about the future of this anachronistic society.

Cuba has a list of accomplishments that varies from heartening -- literacy, medical care, reduced racism, organic farming -- to tragic -- crumbling infrastructure, jailed journalists, restricted travel. One has only to compare it to its Caribbean neighbours to realize its relative prosperity in the region, and to its neighbours to the north to realize its lamentable economic and political structures.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and I have hope the Cuban people will ride out the storm that awaits it in the coming years. Whether that future involves some echo of the odd things going on in China, or a cold-turkey induction in the world of capitalist takeovers, I don't know. But there is no doubt in my mind that the island would be so much better off if the United States could, for once, mind its own business.
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mbgower on

Re: Jailed journalists
I based my statement on, among other sources, Human Rights Watch. Their summary (link below) makes Cuba sound a lot worse than my personal experiences (as a tourist not a Cuban, of course). I am confident the organization has no ulterior motives to publishing its findings, other than a desire to end human rights abuses.

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