Monday, August 14, 2006

Looking at Cuba: Solidarity or Getting Rich

Peridico 26

By Circles Robinson*

Reading the hundreds of articles in the last two weeks speculating on the future of Cuba after Fidel Castro is no longer at the helm has shown two clear tendencies, one in solidarity with Cuba and the Cuban people and the other looking at the island as a place to plunder and get rich quick.

The first has been heart warming as everyday people to Nobel Prizewinners from all corners of the planet have sent get well wishes to a leader they respect for his world stature, social concerns and accomplishments as a head of state of a blockaded country with a superpower breathing down its back for over 47 years.

It doesn’t matter if they agree with Cuba’s stance on every domestic or foreign issue or policy. They know that Fidel is a leader who dedicates all of his time to trying to make a better country and a better world in an age when in most places, politician is a synonym for opportunist.

The second reaction is eyes lighting up with dollar signs and dreaming of how to sack the island through property confiscation, privatization of the health and educational systems, the banks, public utilities and just about everything that currently belongs to the Cuban people. Some see Starbucks, Wal-Mart and McDonalds springing up everywhere to serve those returning from Miami; they see a killing to be made by cashing in on lawsuits, in advertising, a new corporate media, transportation, airlines, hotels, cruises, and opulent casinos and the kind of tourism like in the good ole days when Meyer Lansky and Batista took their cut.

One group connected with a Florida University went so far as to suggest a science fiction plan of sending all Havana residents to a refugee camp and rebuilding the old city for those who would come inhabit it from Miami. They’ve already invested in making a model of the new Havana. The total fantasy is allowing Halliburton loose in the Cuban capital. With all they are doing for Iraq you can imagine how much they could do for Cuba.

Meanwhile, back on the ground, Cuba is showing that the institutions it has built during 47 years are an example for many countries where instability reigns. Since President Castro announced his temporarily stepping aside to recover from a serious intestinal operation, life has continued peacefully and normally. The wheels turn, people go to work, others enjoy summer vacations at beaches and campgrounds.

That’s not to say people are not concerned. To the contrary, the Cuban leader has many millions of followers, people who have gone through several periods of difficult times with him from wars to terrorist attacks, from economic hardships to hurricanes, and he commands much respect even from detractors.

If the Cuban people were going to surrender their revolution they would have done so in the early 1990s when the country came to a virtual standstill, crippled by losing 85% of its trade when the Soviet Union and the Eastern European Socialist States collapsed and with a hostile Bush Sr. in the White House.

At that time, virtually nobody gave the revolution six months. Now we are in 2006, and although there is still a long way to go, the economy and social accomplishments of Cuba are once again on the rise. The far right in Miami and Washington can dream whatever they like, of violence, of revenge or making a killing, but they’d be well advised not to sell short the Cubans living on the island.

Saturday night August 12, a cantata brings together many of Cuba’s well-known and upcoming singers from all genres of music. They will take to the Anti-imperialist Bandstand opposite the US Interests Section in Havana to celebrate unity on the eve of Fidel Castro’s 80th birthday on Sunday, and in the face of those chomping at the bit to turn back the clock.

*Circles Robinson is a US journalist living in Havana. His articles can be read at: www.circlesonline.blogspot.com

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