Monday, August 07, 2006

The wrong Cuba

First, let me lay out firmly a warning: I'm tired. I'm watching my favorite television show -- a rerun no less -- and I'm having a glass of wine. Not exactly prime for an insightful -- or thoughtful, for that matter -- post on the sad state of affairs of U.S. Politics. But, as always, I digress.

Also, I'll put the disclaimer at the top: Why does this have anything to do with a journalism blog? Simply because I think it's a much more important issue than the general media is treating it. It's complex, layered, and not Iraq or Israel. Instead, we're running front-page reactionary pieces on Cuban-Americans marching in Miami. Great. Times like these call for some analysis.

Don't worry, this will be short. To the point.

It was a bad time for Fidel Castro to go down. It seems counterintuitive to even think such a thing. The guiltless, heavy-handed dictator deluxe, Castro is the King Oppressor of the Western World, a title he's held for more than a half-century. He's gutted the jewel of the Caribbean (if that's what we're calling it) of its wealth, its identity and its freedom. He's single-handedly ruined a once burgeoning center of commerce and wealth, a vacationland for wealthy and intellectual-type U.S. tourons. He led a bloody revolution, that started perhaps with noble intentions, but ended (and continues) in the worst form of socialism and censorship. He's spawned sociopaths like Chavez, and his fast-conforming counterpart in Bolivia... Yeah, you get it. He's a bad dude. A dangerous, bad dude. So what the Hell am I talking about? Why would it ever be a bad time for him to lose power?

A myriad of reasons.

1) The U.S. is firmly entrenched putting out fires in other parts of the world. While battles/instabilities in Iraq, Lebanon/Israel/Syria/Iran, North Korea, and oh yeah -- another continuing operation the U.S. media is for some reason all but ignoring -- Afghanistan command U.S. troops, the Bush administration has its hands full. (I haven't mentioned Africa, but does it even pay to mention it if it doesn't exist in the realm of U.S. foreign policy? Anyway, back on point.) If there's one time ever that the U.S. would prefer to let the sleeping giant lie, it's now. But now, we could be months away from another bloody, messy situation just 90 miles from Miami. Yikes. With the proximity and cultural/historical/strategic implications with our southern neighbor, the U.S. will certainly get involved if unrest builds around a Castro departure. Can you say "Puerto Rico?" Best case scenario, I say. As long as it's not another Bay of Pigs...

2) Election year. Sure this isn't really ever avoidable, since Congress behaves as if it's always an election year (at least the House), but it's significant. To deal with a potential situation in Cuba, where do we get the troops, the military leadership? Divert some from Iraq? Take the loss, cut and run? (We know the answer's a resounding 'no,' but if it is even murmured in Washington, it becomes an election issue, wrought with the typical posturing, pandering and partisan bickering.) Don't forget about Gitmo, either. Bush has taken a whipping for that disaster, and so have his GOP partymen. Not only from the Dems, either. The UN (the half-witted pseudo-enforcement body), has even derailed it and asked for its closure. If Gitmo is closed down for reasons other than a plan crafted carefully by Bush, it's going to be ugly.

3) Raul Castro. Raul Castro? Yeah, even though the U.S. should know everything about this guy, they don't -- and admittedly so. No one seems to have a firm handle on exactly what this guy is capable of. Some say he'll loosen the strings on communistic economic policy, much like China has. Some say he's even more blunt-headed than his brother. Why don't we know more about this guy?

I'm no historian, and that's evident. I'm no politico, and that's pretty evident. But I think this whole Cuba situation is a bit underplayed. And a bit more important than we're giving it attention.

I hope we all see the day of a free Cuba. As Castro said 55 years ago: Cuba Libre!

Frankly, I really just want to visit.


At 4:47 AM, Blogger C. Max said...

Good post. Jon Lee Anderson had a very interesting article in the New Yorker a few weeks back that lays out some possible scenarios for post-Fidel Cuba. He also discusses American post-Fidel policy.

At 6:42 AM, Blogger AG said...

This falls into the category of real news that has somehow fallen by the wayside. While most Americans could certainly find Cuba on a map with ease (good god i hope this is true) my guess is most people would be hard pressed to tell you whether Bolvia is in Africa or Latin America and whether or not Chavez is a slightly mentally unstable and rabidly anti-American leader of a strategically important country. My guess is if you gave most people the choice of president of Venezuela or a former back-up outfielder for Brewers, most people would probably go with the baseball or think he's umm, you know, the guy that was important cuz he, umm, fought for the right to pick grapes in, ummm, conditions that wouldn't kill you and stuff.

Anyway, that's another point in Medill's corner. We were encouraged to look at it and try and find a way to tie it to oru communities if at all possible. While the trend in newspapers has been get as local as local can possibly be at the expense of the important issues of the day, a lot of outlets seem to have lost the ability to see the big picture. So that if things really go batshit someplace like Cuba that has barely been in the news for a generation (ours, barring that reidiculous Elian fiasco) people are mystified. Then you get all those embarrassing maps on CNN telling us that Cuba is 90 miles from Miami and that by Castro they don't mean the neighborhood where the gays live in San Francico. I cringe...

At 2:24 PM, Blogger Davique said...

I think the media attention reflects the reality of the day. The US is in no position to do anything about this except watch. Most likely, Raul will take power without difficulty, because the resistance in Cuba knows the US can't help them significantly. So really, it's kind of a non-issue. Nothing can happen, so why bother focusing on it? Raul will assume power, Cuba will either continue on the track its been on or introduce some economic reforms, adn that's that. Honestly, who really thinks Cuba is of significant strategic importance to the United States any more? The Cold War is over people! Leave Cuba be.

Second, your assertions about Latin American leaders are outrageous and show exactly why the US shouldn't be involved in the affairs of Latin America. God forbid Castro's revolution wanted to free Cuba from Batista and his band of capitalist warlords who wanted to make Cuba into an American tourists's paradise. What exactly has this done for Jamaica? The Dominican Republic? It's amazing to me that Americans don't seem to understand that many Cubans actually like Fidel Castro. They don't want another Batista, and that's all the US could offer them.

Chavez a sociopath? Why, because he opposes the US? Because he's a populist? Give me a break. And Evo Morales is awesome, finally sticking it to the American and European tycoons that have impoverished Bolivia's indigenous population for decades.

In any case, Latin America isn't really our biggest concern right now so we should really just stay out of their affairs for once. They'll be better off for it.

At 3:05 PM, Blogger Dickie said...

Hm... I tend to gravitate towards Davique on this one. A couple of things jumped out at me:

1. Castro is a tryant and a dictator, but to say he's single-handedly plunged Cuba into poverty is questionable. U.S. sanctions certainly helped there - and you can debate whether those are justified or not, but that's getting off-topic.

2. Plus, despite the good times in Havana pre-Castro and the "Superman" show off the main casino drag, there was, undeniably, predominant poverty and corruption under Batista. The wealthy and intellectuals would vacation there, but you forgot one key element: The Mob. They didn't make that shit up in Godfather II -it's ripped straight from the history books. I mean, they plundered that town and Batista's unbridled capitalism was a direct reason why. So let's not romanticize pre-Castro Cuba. It was crappy before, and it's uber-crappy now. Basically, if you're Cuban, God hates you.

3. Chavez a "sociopath"? Look, as someone who's had to endure more than my fair share of the guy's long-LONG-winded speeches in person, he's definitely a kooky character. But a socialist and "anti-imperialismo!!" does not a sociopath make. Although he and Castro are unapologetically bosom buddies, and you can draw similarities between Chavez current course, and the one Castro took to communism (although Chavez denies he's heading in that specific direction.) I mean, they really take turns shamelessly brown-nosing one another. If I'm Venezuelan, I'm crapping my pants.

At 3:20 PM, Blogger Frosty said...

I'm sorry, Dickie, but Chavez is more than kooky. Look at all the signs. He's slowly amassing and coordinating power, and slowly leading his country on a Castro track. A dictator, what Chavez is slowly becoming, is inherently sociopathic.

If so many Cubans still love Castro and what he did for them, why have millions defected to the U.S. over the years?

And Morales and Chavez are following in his footsteps.

What starts with noble intentions sometimes ends in repression, poverty and the loss of civil rights. I can't tell if you're advocating Communism or not, but mistaking Cuba, Venezuela and Boliva for the smooth-sailing socialism in Europe is shortsighted.

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Dickie said...

uh...I didn't think I was advocating anything.

If so many Cubans still love Castro and what he did for them, why have millions defected to the U.S. over the years?

I'm SO not condoning the Castro regime, I'm saying we haven't exactly helped the Cuban people either. (Again, God hates Cubans. It's science.)

My point about Chavez is, "be nervous, be very nervous" - but no one knows for sure where this is heading. I've never been to Cuba, but I've been to Venezuela and it's far from a repressive regime, at this point. It's got its problems, but we've got our PATRIOT Acts, our wiretappings, and our Guantanamos.

Chavez is a mix of challenging U.S. world dominance, taking on domestic poverty, and blowing hot air. It's what makes him so interesting: No one's got him fully figured-out. And that's why it's ridiculously over-simplified to dismiss him as a "sociopath."

Of course, that's just my humble take. I've spent way too many hours observing the guy, both on Venezuelan TV and in person. (Hours of my life I'll never get back.) But fortunately Frosty's here to set me straight. Thanks, Frosty!

At 8:07 AM, Blogger Uncle Paulie said...

One more thing to consider on the whole ¨Cubans fleeing Castro¨ thing. When millions of Mexicans cross the border, is it because Vicente Fox is a sociopathic tyrant or because the economic situation in Mexico just ain´t that great? (How interesting that when Cubans flee, they´re political refugees. When Haitians fled the Tonton Macoutes, they were shipped right back, ´cause they were just ´economic refugees´...)

Yes, political repression is rampant in Cuba and needs to be of concern to everyone (and no, I won´t make excuses for a country that has witnessed Radio Swan, Bay of Pigs, exploding cigars, etc. or seen US intervention in almost every country from the Rio Grande to Tierra del Fuego - ...even if that disclaimer DID sound like an excuse), but how much of this is accurate reflection of what´s really going on inside Cuba and how much is propaganda?

Yes, Cuba is probably the hardest place to work as a journalist, what with all the beatings, arrests, and not-very-veiled threats. But according to Reporters Sans Frontieres, the two most deadly places for reporters in the Americas? Mexico and Colombia (in that order).

And before anyone gets their stuff in a bunch: No, I´m not advocating Castroism, either (unlike Dickie, who we all know is a closet Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist who is daft enough to believe in Communism in One Country). I´m just asking that we take a ´fair and balanced´ look at Cuba, compare it to, oh, I don´t know, Guatemala (there I go, rubbing it in again as I type this from the cool mountain heights) and ask why the U.S. isn´t shocked at the deplorable political and economic situation here. [p.s. Guatemala´s emigration rate is 1.9 per 1000 compared to Cuba´s 1.6 per 1000. I know this is a lot like saying ´see, not many people emigrated from 1970s East Germany,´ but at least it´s something to consider.]

At 8:53 AM, Blogger AG said...

Dickie - I'm sure he could have had you thrown out of that helicoter over the Veneueland countryside but he didn't. Can't be all bad, right?

At 10:28 AM, Blogger Dickie said...

One thing is certain: He woulda chucked Frosty outta that bird in a heartbeat. This I assure you.

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Frosty said...

All I'm saying is that the media should be paying more attention to what's happening in Cuba.

And, Dickie, my previous comment omitted Davique's name in the last graph. I was addressing him, not you.

Crazy communinist....



At 8:43 AM, Blogger Davique said...

I don't think I at any point drew a comparison between Cuban communism and European socialism. Dickie, did you really fly in a helicopter with Chavez? My dad met him once, he said he was a class act, all the way. But he also smelled a little bit.


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