Sunday, October 28, 2007

W's out of touch on what's really going on in Cuba

The Daily News, New York

By Albor Ruiz

Sunday, October 28th 2007, 4:00 AM

President Bush's recent speech on U.S. policy toward Cuba was so bad, so misguided, had so little to do with reality that the Havana government thought it was great for its credibility with the people of Cuba.

In an unusual move, most of the President's words were published on Thursday - the day after the speech - on the front page of Granma, the Cuban Communist Party newspaper, as well as on national TV.

"The speech insists again on his passion for controlling Cuba, and disrespects Cubans by trying to dictate to them what they must do," said Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo, a Cuban dissident living in Havana. "Maybe the President forgot he has no right to intervene in matters that concern Cuba."

Gutiérrez Menoyo, not a government sympathizer by any stretch of the imagination, pretty much summarizes the generalized reaction in Cuba.

The arrogant and interventionist tone, the ignorance about the island's reality and its history, the obvious manipulation of facts, the speculation about violence did not make for a great speech.

Hard as it may be to believe, the violent lessons of Iraq have not had any effect on the White House. Asserting that Cuba was going through a transition, Bush practically called on Cuba's armed forces and on its people to rise up.

"When Cubans rise up to demand their liberty, you've got to make a choice," the President said. "Will you defend a disgraced and dying order by using force against your own people? Or will you embrace your people's desire for change?"

It is as if Bush had not found out yet that Fidel Castro relinquished power to his younger brother more than a year ago and that a transition already has taken place in Cuba.

"All of [the speech] was predicated on the false notions that the transition in Cuba has not already occurred, and when it does, there will be a climactic moment where Cubans arise and the world rushes in," said Sarah Stephens, of the Center for Democracy in the Americas. "It made the President appear uninformed about what is happening in Cuba - as if the White House library stopped acquiring new books in the mid-1990s."

EVEN MORE surreal was the President's insistence in the speech that the U.S. "stands by" the Cuban people. Not a very convincing message, given that he himself tightened a trade embargo on the island that for half a century has made the life of ordinary Cubans much more difficult.

Add to this that it was his government that prohibited Cuban-Americans from traveling to the island more than once every three years, and only to visit very close relatives, that humanitarian visas are nonexistent and that remittances to help families were severely curtailed, and you will realize that the President's words of concern for the Cuban people must have sounded to them like so much hot air.

As if to take the absurdity to the extreme, Bush said that his words were addressed to the Cuban people.

He also said that Cubans were taking a great risk to watch him and hear his message on TV Marti, the U.S. station that is supposed to provide an alternative source of information to the island. In reality, though, it is well documented that the Havana government thinks that TV Marti is a violation of Cuba's sovereignty and successfully blocks its signal.

Ironically, the President got his wish and his counterproductive speech did get to the Cuban people through the island's own newspapers and TV stations - and with the blessing of the Communist government. What that says about his message is a different matter.

Obviously, Bush desperately needs new advisers that will tell him the "real truth" about Cuba.

aruiz@edit.nydailynews.com

Albor Ruiz has been a columnist for the Daily News since 1997, but joined the paper in 1993 as the first Latino member of its Editorial Board. Ruiz was also the editor-in-chief of El Daily News, the first bilingual newspaper in the country. Throughout his career, Ruiz has never lost sight of the struggles of Latino immigrants. Whether writing for English- or Spanish-language media, Ruiz' journalistic mission has been to provide a voice for those whose stories often go untold by the mainstream media.

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JG: This article is one of the better analysis of Bush's disgraceful speech on the 24th of October, where he took up again his obsessive compulsion about Cuba. The American people should start worrying about the actions of the current occupant of the White House. I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but I will offer my lay opinion that he displays the symptoms of a mentally unbalanced person. Do we have now a Dr. Strangelove in the Oval Office?

His recent performance brings to mind the actions of the guy with the funny mustache during the nineteen thirties of the twentieth century. Millions of people died because of Hitler's and Mussolini's actions. Bush is traveling the same road. He goes around threatening just about every country in the world. Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia. He has threatened more than sixty, some have said. Like a lunatic he raves about his "sanctions."

Wake up America! I will say again that the Democratic Party has spineless pussies for leaders in the U.S. Congress: Reid, Pelosi, Hoyer, Wasserman-Schultz, Levin, etc. What we need are leaders that have the guts to confront the policies of a madman.

Will we see hundreds of millions of human beings perish under the mushroom clouds with the imprimatur of George W. Bush?

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