As swarms of termites gradually devour structures, leftist academics batty with false dreams of a communist utopia, have over the decades, one published paper at a time, devoured Cuba's history and created an Orwellian Castro propagandist version of Cuba before Castro. This academic corpus, though permeated with falsehoods, has provided the Castro dictatorship cover for their demolition of Cuba's true history, the good and the bad. Few outside academia's inner circle read these papers, but their false narratives about Cuba are pervasive in U.S. educational institutions, and find their way to the media. Ask an average American on the street about Cuba, and most will repeat some version as fact the usual sound bites about the dismal life of Cubans before so-called triumph of the revolution.
My long-time friend from New Jersey, Anthropology Professor Roland Alum, brilliantly counters these biased writings, one paper at a time. He has just recently published this excellent essay, The Cuban Culture of Poverty Conundrum, in the University of Pittsburgh’sPanoramasjournal. I have posted prior writings of his in the past. Here, he revisits the old scandal involving U.S. anthropologists Oscar Lewis and Douglas Butterworth who were spied upon while researching in Cuba on the question of the culture of poverty.
Once again, as Roland notes, the Castro brothers’ not only did not solve traditional social problems, but also actually exacerbated old ones and worse, created new ones; and all this was already evident toward the end of their very first decade.
The Lewis-Butterworth project was suddenly terminated, by State Security, the academics were expelled, and their Cuban statistician was imprisoned for 6 years; yet, apparently, no one lifted a finger for the victim.
I propose here to re-examine certain aspects of life in “Socialist Cuba,” principally the so-called culture of poverty, as gauged relatively early in the Castro brothers regime by two U.S. socio-cultural anthropologists, the legendary Oscar Lewis and his protégée/associate Douglas Butterworth, whose research project 4.5 decades ago was surrounded by controversy and enigmas.
Unquestionably, the Fidel and Raúl Castro “Revolutionary Government” enjoyed an extraordinary initial popularity in 1959. Yet, the enthusiasm vanished as the duo hijacked the liberal-inspired anti-Batista rebellion that had been largely advanced by the then expanding middle-classes. Instead of delivering the promised “pan con libertad” (bread with liberty), the Castro siblings converted Cuba into a socio-spiritually and fiscally bankrupt, Marxist-Stalinist dystopia in which both, bread and liberty are scarce (Botín, 2010; Horowitz, 2008; Moore, 2008).
Cuba was the last Ibero-American colony to attain independence (1902); yet, by the 1950s, the island-nation was a leader in the Americas in numerous quality-of-life indicators. This record was reached notwithstanding instability and governmental corruption during the republican era (1902-58), including the 1952-58 bloody authoritarian dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. However, under the (now anachronistic octogenarian) Castros, Cuba became an impoverished, Orwellian closed society beleaguered by unproductivity, rampant corruption, humiliating rationing, human rights abuses, and –understandably– unprecedented mass emigration (Díaz-Briquets & Pérez-López, 2006; Horowitz, 2008).
Cuba's Culture of Poverty Conundrum
The Lewis and Butterworth project in 1969-70 is still, oddly, among the little known accounts of the early effects of the Castro family’s regimentation. Supported by a Ford Foundation’s nearly $300,000 grant, the professors intended to test Lewis’s theory of the "culture of poverty" (or rather, sub-culture of poverty). They had innocently hypothesized that a culture of poverty (hereafter CoP) would not exist in a Marxist-oriented society, as they presupposed that the socially alienating conditions that engender it could develop among the poor solely in capitalist economies. Influenced by Marxism, Lewis in particular had cleverly problematized the commonalities of the poor’s elusive quandary in well-known prior studies across different societies, notably among Mexicans and Puerto Ricans.
While poverty is defined in relative terms, the CoP was conceptualized as an amorphous corpus of socially transmitted self-defeating beliefs and interrelated values, such as: abandonment, alcoholism, authoritarianism, deficient work ethic, domestic abuse, fatalism, homophobia/machismo, hopelessness, illegitimacy, instant, gratification/present-time orientation, low social-civic consciousness, mother-centered families, sexism/misogyny, suspicion of authorities while holding expectations on government dependency, and so forth.
This “psychology of the…oppressed…poor” is considered a key obstacle to achieving vertical socio-economic mobility even in fluid social-class, more open societies, such as the U.S. Not all poor individuals develop a CoP, but being poor is a sine qua non condition.
Ever since its early stages as a separate discipline in the mid-1800s, anthropology’s cornerstone has been the concept of “culture.” A century later, the notion drifted to everyday language; to wit, statements such as “a culture of corruption” became common in the media in reference to mindsets in government and corporations. I prefer the interpretation of culture by my own Pitt co-mentor, “Jack” Roberts (1964): “a system for storing and retrieving information,” which fits with the Lewis-Butterworth approach.
With initial high-level governmental welcome, one of the Lewis-Butterworth investigations entailed comprehensive interviews of former Havana slum-dwellers resettled in new buildings. In the research project’s fourth book, The People of Buena Ventura, Butterworth (1980) admitted with disenchantment that his research project found sufficient social symptoms that met the CoP criteria, thus disproving the initial hypothesis expecting an absence of the CoP under socialism.
The Project's Significance
The Lewis-Butterworth ethnographic (descriptive, qualitative) work has various additional implications. It shed light for an evaluation of the Guevarist “New Socialist Man” archetype. Similarly, it informed an understanding of the dynamics that led to the spectacular 1980 Mariel boat exodus, when over 120,000 Cubans (some 1.2% of Cuba’s population) “voted with their feet.” Ironically, the regime and its insensitive fans abroad still refer to the raggedy refugees with disdainful discourse as “escoria” (scum) and with the Marxist slur “lumpen proletariat.” Significantly, most Marielistas were born and/or enculturated under socialism, i.e., they personified the presumed “New Man.” Many of them, moreover, had been military conscripts, and/or had served time in the infamous gulag-type “U.M.A.P.” forced-labor camps created for political dissidents (particularly intellectuals and artists), Beatles’ fans, gays, the unemployed, long-haired bohemians/hippies, Trotskyites, would-be emigrants (considered “traitors”), and religious people (including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Afro-Cuban folk-cults’ practitioners), etc. (Núñez-Cedeño, et al., 1985). In fact, the Marielistas encompassed also an over-representation of Afro-Cubans, the demographic sector traditionally viewed as most vulnerable, and thus, among the expected prime beneficiaries of socialist redistribution.
Certainly, there were always poor Cubans -of all phenotypes- and conceivably, some version of the CoP existed pre-1959; but in my exchanges with Butterworth, he reconfirmed another remarkable finding. While acknowledging the social shortcomings of pre-revolutionary times, he could not document (for ex., through the collection of oral life-histories), a case for a pervasive, pre-revolutionary Lewisian CoP.
This in situ scrutiny of daily life fairly early in the Castros era corroborates previous and subsequent accounts by many Cubanologists and the much vilified and ever-expanding exile community. There exists a widespread CoP in Socialist Cuba, though not necessarily as a survivor of the ancien régime, but -as Butterworth deduced- a consequence of the nouveau régime. The authorities must have suspected, or ascertained through surveillance, about the prospective conclusions, given that the anthropologists were suddenly expelled from the country. They were accused of being U.S. spies, most of their research material was confiscated, and some “informants” (interviewees) were arrested and/or harassed. Additionally, their Cuban statistician, álvaro ínsua, was imprisoned.
Comfortably from abroad, academic and media enthusiasts of the Castros’ “dynasty” customarily replicate party-line clichés in their penchant to “launder” the dictatorship’s excesses and the centralized economy’s dysfunctions by blaming external factors. Topping the excuses is the ending of the defunct COMECON’s subsidies circa 1990. Some apologists -notably a few anthropology colleagues- even absurdly refer to the 1959-90 epoch as a “utopia,” while the government labeled the current calamitous post-1990 years the “Special Period.”
Yet, the undertaking by Lewis & Butterworth, who were initially eagerly simpatico to the Castros, provided remarkable revelations that regime’s defenders conveniently still continue to overlook. It showed that life for average Cubans toward the end of the regime’s first decade -long before the Special Period- was already beset with corruption, consumer scarcities, and time-wasting food-lines. All this is characteristic of what is branded “economies of shortage,” standard for Soviet-modeled societies (Eberstadt, 1988; Ghodsee, 2011; Halperin, 1981; Verdery 1996).
Likewise, Butterworth portrayed how ordinary Cubans -“los de a pie” (those on foot)- were by then engaging in what nowadays we call “everyday forms of resistance,” a social weapon of subjugated people anywhere. As also depicted by other observers and Cuban former participant-resisters (now exiled, my own informants or “cultural consultants”), Butterworth reported how Cubans were already undermining the hegemonic police-state through taboo actions, such as absenteeism, black-marketeering, briberies, pilfering, and even vandalism. Apparently, this project remains the only conventional testing of the CoP in a totalitarian socialist country, although numerous researchers have chronicled the pitiable quality of life under such socio-political systems (Eberstadt, 1988; Halperin, 1981).
Indeed, the Cuban reality of widespread misery -except for the privileged top one-percent (now an elitist gerontocracy)- as well as of indignities and hushed quotidian defiance, evokes narratives about similar, though faraway communist “experiments” that collapsed a quarter-century ago. Among these comparable accounts are ethnologist Verdery’s (1996) descriptions of despot Ceau?escu’s Romania and Ghodsee’s (2011) Bulgarian ethnographic vignettes.
A number of experts have been reporting about certain kinds of behavioral traits among Cubans, both islanders and recent émigrés, which may reflect CoP patterns (Botín, 2010; Horowitz, 2008). This is not surprising, as the CoP worsened with time as impoverishment augmented (Hirschfeld, 2008).
One can surmise that, despite its human and material toll, the Castros regime not only failed to solve traditional social problems, but exacerbated at least some of them, and moreover created new ones (Díaz-Briquets & Pérez-López, 2006; Eberstadt, 1988). Much of this was already manifested in the 1960s (Edwards, 1973; Halperin, 1981), as reflected in the Lewis-Butterworth venture.
Lewis died, heart-broken, at age 56 in December 1970 upon his repatriation. Butterworth also took ill -especially emotionally- dying in 1986 (at 56 too). The Ínsuas were abandoned in Cuba to their own lot. Álvaro languished in jail for six years; in 1980 he was “allowed” to leave for Costa Rica with wife Greta (who had also worked for the project), and son Manolo. They reached the U.S. soon thereafter, coinciding with the arrival of the Mariel expatriates and Butterworth’s book publication. After a brief staying in northern New Jersey, where I assisted them, they settled in Miami.
In assessing the legacy of the Lewis-Butterworth project on Cuba’s culture of poverty, there remain several intriguing puzzles pending exploration. Hopefully, someday Álvaro and Greta will write their own elucidating memoirs.
Professor Alum, who was recently appointed a Research Associate of the Center for International Studies at his graduate alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, also holds a Post-Doctoral Certificate from the University of Virginia. Professor Alum welcomes feedback, his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Young Venezuelans are paying the ultimate price for defying the Castro puppets who have enslaved and ruined their country.
In the past week alone, six students have been killed by Nicolas Maduro's Cuban-trained riot police.
18 Feb.-- José Daniel Frías Pinto & Julio Alejandro Adonis García
19 Feb -- Jhon Barreto Ramírez
23 Feb -- Yamir Tovar & Luis Fabián García"
24 Feb -- Kluiver Roa, 14 years old
"Todos ellos con disparos en la cabeza" (All of them shot in the head).
Maduro justifies the killings as follows:
«La derecha está preparando muchachos para que generen violencia, les llenan el alma de odio, de deseos de venganza» (Those on the right are preparing young people to generate violence, and they fill their souls with hatred and with the desire for vengeance.")
Will anyone bring up this issue at the "normalization" talks between the Castro dictatorship and the U.S. ?
Read all about it HERE. It's ABC Spain, so expect the Castellano dialect.
Or go HERE for the always restrained BBC in English
The're calling the shots, and they want the world to know that.
Aware of the fact that the U.S. negotiators will agree to just about any terms, Castro officials boasted yesterday of their all-or-nothing-at-all strategy.
So, get ready for that total Castro victory over the U.S. It seems inevitable.
Read it and laugh (or weep, if that's your preference).
From Granma Lite II (a.k.a. Reuters)
Cuba says fast track to restoring ties 'depends on U.S.'
Cuba would agree to restore diplomatic relations with the United States in time for the April Summit of the Americas if Washington quickly and convincingly removes the Caribbean country from a list of state sponsors of terrorism, a senior Cuban official said on Wednesday.
Diplomatic ties were severed in 1961, and negotiators for the two longtime adversaries will meet in Washington on Friday, following up on the first round of talks held in Havana last month.
If the sides move fast enough, they could reopen embassies in each other's capitals in time for the April 10-11 summit in Panama, where U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro could meet for the first time since agreeing on Dec. 17 to restore ties and exchange prisoners.
A senior Cuban official put the onus on Washington to first strike Cuba from the terrorism list, which can apply sanctions to banks doing business with the designated countries.
"It depends on what the United States does. It does not depend on Cuba," Gustavo Machin, deputy director of U.S. affairs for the Cuban foreign ministry, told reporters on Wednesday. "It depends on whether we are really taken off the list of terrorist countries."
In Washington, a senior U.S. State Department official said re-establishing diplomatic relations should not be tied to Cuba's place on the terrorist list. If Cuba insists on linking them, it could delay restoring ties, the official suggested.
The official said a State Department review about whether to remove Cuba from the list will be completed "very soon," in weeks at most.
"Please, Mr CATO expert...I'm falling asleep..Your chant belongs on Monty Python. Have you bothered looking at any of the abundant evidence accumulated against your boneheaded chant during the past--say--two decades or so?!" "Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time" (again with overwhelming evidence.)
A neighborhood in Sacramento, California, is in turmoil over one pro-Palestinian resident who has bedecked his property with swastikas.
Even worse, this story actually makes it to the tabloids. It will soon enough surface in the major news media too.
The response to these swastikas calls attention to the selective nature of American indignation.
Back in December, the lawyer who handled Alan Gross's release from the Castro gulag didn't bother to hide his framed photo of Che Guevara when news photographers showed up at his office.
Not one word of protest was uttered anywhere outside of Cuban exile circles about the lawyer's admiration for a mass murderer.
So, please, once and for all, get this straight, and let go of your bitterness: Che, Fidel, Raul & Company are okay, but Nazi symbols are not.
Why the discrepancy? Because in the case of the Lateen-oh sociopathic mass-murderers, only Lateen-ohs are involved, and, as we all know, Lateen-ohs need strong visionary sociopaths.
Accept that, you Lateeen-ohs. Embrace your inferiority and your innate submissive nature, and thank your deity for those strong visionary sociopaths without whom you would be lost.
From the king of tabloids, The Daily Mail (UK):
Neighbor from hell decorates home in swastika-covered Israeli and American flags and there's NOTHING police can do
A California man has become the neighbor from hell by plastering swastika-covered Israeli and American flags across the front of his home and refusing all demands he take them down.
The Sacramento homeowner also fashioned a soldier out of wood and green cloth and strung up a Palestinian flag above the house.
He calls it his art, neighbors say, and there's nothing the police will do about it.
'This is ridiculous,' nearby resident Rick Reader told KCRA. 'Seeing this is ridiculous. That's crazy.'
Another resident told the station he wants nothing more than to tear the display down.
One man who's acquainted with the homeowner and tried to level with him. '(The swastikas) kind of cross the line for this neighborhood,' the concerned neighbor recalled saying. ' [but] he called it his art and got very defensive about it.'
Police on Monday dropped by the house and spoke to the homeowner, but said there's nothing they could do.
Cuban-Americans, primarily those belonging to the Historic Exile (1959-1979), have been the target of insults lately after President Obama announced a new opening to Communist Cuba on December 17, 2014.
They have been called all kinds of pejoratives – Batista sympathizers, inveterate hardliners, cavemen, reactionaries. They don’t deserve these slanderous labels. Those who mischaracterize them do not really know the story of one of the most successful immigrant groups in the United States.
Indeed, most Cuban-Americans have taken umbrage at multiple racist cartoons that several national newspapers have published in the past. Two come to mind immediately – one by Oliphant and the other by Herblock. Pat Oliphant’s cartoon depicts Uncle Sam sending a bunch of Cuban-Americans on a raft back to Cuba for fear that they would interfere with the 2008 presidential election, and asking them to say hello to Batista. Herblock’s cartoon issues a warning to Cuban-Americans who are dissatisfied with U.S. laws to purchase a one-way ticket to Cuba. Both of these cartoons are slanderous to Cuban-Americans – a minority group that is more conscious than the average American of the supremacy of laws because they left a homeland that became lawless. Regarding Cuban-Americans returning to Cuba in 2008 and saying hello to Batista, this shows the utmost ignorance by Oliphant. Fulgencio Batista left Cuba on January 1, 1959, and died in 1973. Thus, it would have been impossible for Cuban-Americans, or for anyone else, to interact with Batista – which goes to prove that racism is based on ignorance and unfounded stereotyping. Anti-intellectualism may be an American tradition, but when mainstream cartoonists embrace ignorance, we are all diminished as a Nation.
Moreover, some media outlets indicate that the majority of these Cuban-Americans are Republicans and mostly whites. And, you can rest assured that these characterization are not complimentary.
Ignorance and prejudice are sins against humanity! Although they may not know much about Cuban-Americans, they have seen them or interacted with them in the past. When they’ve gone to the movie theaters, they’ve seen Andy García playing leading roles in “Godfather, Part III” and in “When a Man Loves a Woman.” They’ve watched television anchor and correspondent Soledad O’Brien report the news and interview guests in multiple shows in CNN, HBO, and Al Jazeera. They’ve seen journalist José Díaz-Balart interview the President of the United States. They’ve read or watched the film “The Mambo Kings,” written by Oscar Hijuelos (the first Hispanic to win the Pulitzer for fiction). They’ve listened to the magnificent interpretations of jazz classics by Grammy-winning saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera and pianist/trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. They’ve danced to the catchy tunes of Celia Cruz (the Queen of Salsa), and rapper Pitbull. They’ve read about those who served in the President’s Cabinet: Carlos Gutierrez, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and Mel Martínez, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. They’ve been entertained by the incomparable Sammy Davis, Jr., whose mother was of Afro-Cuban descent. They’ve celebrated special occasions by drinking Bacardi Rum and Grey Goose Vodka, both owned by the Bacardi Family.
Cuban-Americans are highly educated. According to the Pew Research Center, they have higher levels of education, as of 2011, than the Hispanic population overall. Twenty-five percent of Cubans ages 25 and older—compared with thirteen percent of all U.S. Hispanics -- have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree. After losing all their personal possessions when they left Communist Cuba, they learned that the one thing that no totalitarian government could take away from them was a good education and a university degree.
And, Cuban-Americans wield immeasurable power in the realm of U.S. politics. While being less than one half of 1 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 3 percent of the U.S. Senate and more that 1 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives. In total, there are eight Cuban-Americans in the U.S. Congress – five in the House, and three in the Senate. They speak for four states – Florida, New Jersey, Texas, and West Virginia. They belong to both political parties. And, when it comes to issues regarding Cuba, they speak with one voice regarding the restoration of freedom and democracy to this Caribbean Island, the Pearl of the Antilles.
But, one thing that the majority of Cuban-Americans are certain of is never to trust a Castro. Fidel and Raul have subjected the Cuban population to 56 years of totalitarian rule. With the average monthly salary of a Cuban employee being $20 and with many Cuban youngsters having to resort to prostitution to feed their families, most Cubans have lost hope of a better future. They cannot complain to anyone or participate in protest rallies for fear that they will be ignored, arrested, receive lengthy jail sentences, or assassinated. Two prominent political dissidents, Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Requests made to the Cuban Government to investigate these cases have fallen on deaf ears. No one pays attention to their cries for justice, as the Cuban Government is not interested in finding the truth, but only in hiding it.
So, are Cuban-Americans Batista sympathizers? Some of them are, but they are a minority and have to play by American rules while living in the United States. Although I've been called this designation in the past, I could not be a sympathizer of any political figure as I was 11 years old when I left Cuba. This shows vividly that these people who dislike Cuban-Americans so much are not interested in logical debates, but in ad-hominem attacks. In 1959, the majority believed that Fidel was the best hope for a better Cuba, only to regret it shortly after. This majority made up the cream of the crop of Cuban society – the professionals, the businessmen, the entrepreneurs, the entertainers who wanted a better life as a reward for their talent. They are the sons and daughters of this generation of Cuban-Americans who rose to prominence in American society because of the example that their parents gave them that it took hard work, dedication, and determination to achieve the American dream.
Are they cavemen? Not by any stretch of the imagination. They want nothing else than freedom and democracy for Cuba. No one would dream of calling former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt a caveman for fighting to restore freedom and prosperity to our allies during World War II. No one would dare to call Nelson Mandela a caveman for fighting to remove the apartheid plague from South Africa. Freedom is an equal-opportunity dream.
Are they reactionaries? No, again. They are champions of progress who have exceeded in all areas of American culture – the arts, humanities, sciences, and business. Instead, it is the Cuban Government officials who merit the reactionary label. They sentenced former USAID contractor Alan Gross to fifteen years in prison for simply distributing cell phones and computers to the island’s small Jewish community to connect it through the Internet with the outside world – not a crime anywhere else. In 2014, only 3.4 percent of homes in Cuba had Internet access – one of the lowest rates in the world – and it was largely limited to government employees and expensive pay-by-hour public access. Among the things that the Cuban Government fears the most is providing access to unfiltered information to its population. Keeping Cubans in the dark is the safest way for the Cuban Government officials to remain in power in perpetuity.
Are they inveterate hardliners? This, they are. Many of them believed Fidel Castro when he promised them in 1959 a revolution “as green as Cuba’s palm trees” with national elections in three months. They remember Fidel saying in July of 1959 that “I am not a communist and neither is the revolutionary movement,” and doing an about-face in December of 1961 by stating “I am a Marxist-Leninist, and I will be a Marxist-Leninist until the last days of my life.” They do remember Raul Castro giving the order in 1996 to shoot down two Brothers to the Rescue unarmed civilian planes in international waters, killing three U.S. citizens and one Cuban-American resident. They resent the Cuban Government for giving the title of national heroes to the Cuban Five Spies on February 24, 2015 -- the nineteenth anniversary that Cuban Migs shot down two planes belonging to Brothers to the Rescue. And, they became aware on January 28, 2015 of Raul Castro’s ludicrous demand of requiring the U.S. Government to compensate Cuba for the estimated $1 trillion in damages for the U.S. embargo. And, yet, it was the Cuban Government that triggered the U.S. embargo when they confiscated the holdings of U.S. businesses shortly after Fidel rose to power in 1959 – which originally were valued at $1.8 billion, and which at 6 percent simple interest translates to nearly $7 billion in 2014. It is incomprehensible for Cuban officials to expect compensation from the victims of their illegal behavior.
Are the majority of Cuban-Americans affiliated with the Republican Party? Well, the United States is a free country, and no political party has an advantage over the other. Membership in one is determined by the confluence of ideology and platform with voters’ core values. And, the majority of Cuban-Americans think that the Democratic Party has betrayed their ideals. Most Americans are familiar with the three-strikes-and-you-are-out rule of baseball. Well, the Democratic Party has struck out with most Cuban-Americans. First, in 1961, President Kennedy crushed the hope to bring back freedom to Communist Cuba when he betrayed them at the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Second, President Clinton betrayed the aspirations of Elizabeth Broton Rodríguez to have her son, Elián González, raised in freedom in the United States. Elizabeth drowned in the open sea, but Elián was miraculously rescued by two fishermen and turned over U.S. Coast Guard. In 2000, President Clinton returned Elián to Communist Cuba. And, on December 17, 2014, President Obama announced his decision to relax travel, trade and economic restrictions with Communist Cuba. The deal was made after 18 months of secret negotiations in Canada and the Vatican, while keeping U.S. congressmen in the dark. There was a reason for the lack of transparency in this deal. President Obama knew that U.S. congressmen from both sides of the aisle would have objected to this unilateral deal with Communist Cuba.
After being called out on strikes, most Cuban-Americans opine that the Democratic Party considers them the enemy or not important enough to care about getting their votes. It was not like this before. There were many Cuban-Americans whose views were more compatible with those held by Democrats. But, it has come to this now. Just look around at how many Cuban-Americans get nominated to political appointments in the Federal Government when a Democrat wins the White House. Let me answer this rhetorical question for you: NOT MANY!
Are the majority of Cuban-Americans who came to the United States from 1959-1979 primarily whites? The quick answer is “yes.” According to the 2012 census, conducted by the National Office of Statistics of Cuba, the Cuban population was mostly white (65.1%), minorities included mulatto and mestizo (24.8%) and Afro-Cubans (10.1%). Within a century after the landing of Christopher Columbus in Cuba in 1492, the indigenous people were virtually wiped out due to Eurasian diseases and cruelty of the Spaniards. During this time period, the Cuban Government inundated the air waves with news about the rampant discrimination in the United States. Alabama Police Chief Bull Connor and his police department’s use of fire hoses, police dogs, and night sticks to break up civil rights demonstrations got as much air time as the speeches of Dictator Fidel Castro. After listening and viewing to these sound bites, most Afro-Cubans decided that the United States of America was not a welcoming place for them. And, ironically today, the majority of human rights dissidents in Cuba – from Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet to Jorge Luis García Pérez (better known as Antúñez) – are Afro Cubans.
At a hearing on February 2, 2015, before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives, Antúñez indicated that he had “been subjected to torture, arrests and raids on my home by Castro’s political police for denouncing the human rights situation in Cuba at international forums.” He went on to say that the Obama-Castro Accords “are considered by a vital segment of the Cuban Resistance as a betrayal of the aspiration to freedom of the Cuban people.”
There is an African proverb that reads “Not to know is bad. Not to wish to know is worse.” Finding out why the majority of Cuban-Americans think that the Obama-Castro Accords are treasonous to the cause of freedom in Cuba is something desirable for the citizens of the last bastion of freedom on Earth. You can find from me, a Cuban-American who left his homeland at age 11, or you can find out from Antúñez, who served a seventeen-year sentence for calling out for political and economic reforms in his country. But, find out you must! It a crime to let the enemies of the United States to do the thinking for you!
Cuban-Americans want nothing more than a Cuba Libre. A Cuba without any political prisoners, where Cubans can participate in free and fair elections conducted under the supervision of internationally recognized observers. A Cuba that recognizes human rights and basic freedoms as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Cuba is a signatory nation. A Cuba that allows the establishment of independent trade unions and the creation of independent social, economic, and political associations. A Cuba that does not include Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, or any member of this family. A Cuba of the Cubans, by the Cubans, and for the Cubans.
[I submitted the above op-ed to multiple national newspapers, and all came back with multiple excuses for not publishing it. Out of frustration, I posted it on my LinkedIn account. As of today, it's been viewed by 17,892 readers].
If you have a chance, catch "Real Money With Ali Velshi" tonight, Feb 25, on Al-Jazeera America.
The show airs at 10:30 pm Eastern Time. Most major cable providers include Al Jazeera America in their lineup.
A certain Babalusian will be on the show, discussing the subject of the billions of dollars in property stolen by the Castro regime, and the effect this fact is NOT having on the so-called "normalization" talks between the Castro dictatorship and the inept acolytes of the current occupant of the White House.
The Babalusian was surprised by some of the questions. But he thinks he was able to deal with them adroitly.
Once again, to level the visual playing field, an old daguerrotype photo of the Babalusian from olden days has to be used, so no one will think that Al Jazeera dared to give a wizened old man an advantage over a young whippersnapper.
Babalusian in days of yore, ineptly masquerading as a Cuban "chuchero" with the wrong kind of "camiseta"
On the 5th Anniversary of the Death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo
The video above was published on the first anniversary of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.
Testimony from Abel Lopez Perez can be read here. A few days before the 3rd of December, Abel was transferred from the Provincial Prison of Guantanamo (in his native city and where he served a political prison sentence) to the horrid dungeons of a prison in Camaguey, where Orlando Zapata was also taken.
Today, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testified in two Senate hearings -- and contradicted himself.
In the morning, Kerry told a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that the Obama Administration's new Cuba policy had been applauded throughout the region; that it would eliminate Castro's "blame America" excuse; and that it would remove a distraction for other nations to hold Cuba's regime accountable.
(It was also this week's Cuba talking point by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.)
In the afternoon, Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he was "perplexed" by the Venezuelan government's assault on democracy; that Nicolas Maduro was using the same old script of "blaming America"; and said nothing about the region's unwillingness to hold Maduro's regime accountable.
As background, last week Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro intensified his repressive campaign against Venezuela's opposition by violently arresting the Mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma. Maduro did so after returning from "consultations" in Havana. And this afternoon, a 14-year old Venezuelan student protester was killed by security forces.
Meanwhile, regional leaders remain silent on Maduro's repressive actions. Mum's the word from Mexico and Brazil, while UNASUR nations (led by former Colombian President Ernesto Samper) are actually regurgitating Maduro's "blame America" line.
So riddle me this:
These are the nations the Obama Administration believes are going to now hold Castro's regime accountable?
The same nations that maintain a collaborative silence towards Maduro's regime?
-- There is no U.S. embargo towards Venezuela;
-- The U.S. has diplomatic relations with Venezuela;
-- The Obama Administration has refused to name Venezuela to the "state-sponsors" of terrorism list, despite its well-documented connections to Hezbollah, Hamas and the FARC; and
-- The State Department's diplomatic finesse with Maduro even resulted in Venezuela's military intelligence chief, Hugo Carvajal, getting away scot-free (after being arrested in Aruba on a U.S. warrant for narcotics trafficking).
Yet, the Venezuelan people's calls for freedom and justice continue to fall on deaf ears.
So how exactly will it be different -- if not worse -- with Cuba?
And let's look right here at home.
Where are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Farm Bureau's concern about events unfolding in Venezuela?
Where are U.S. Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Amy Klobuchar's (D-MN) condemnatory statements?
Where's House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) outrage?
After all, they've all been peddling the same White House talking points on Obama's new Cuba policy.
Why haven't any of them mentioned the over 300 political arrests in Cuba last week?
Because it would distract from their agenda. Yet another contradiction.
Tensions rise in Venezuela after 14-year-old protester is killed during clash with police
A 14-year-old boy was shot in the head and killed Tuesday during a protest against the government of Nicolas Maduro in western Venezuela.
Preliminary investigations suggest the school student, identified by the Associated Press as Kliverth Roa, was injured during a confrontation between police and protesters in the city of San Cirstobal, and died on the way to the hospital.
A photo and video of the student lying in a pool of blood, his backpack hanging over his shoulder, as a man frantically tries to staunch the bleeding rocketed around social media.
Soon after the shooting, one of the more radical opposition parties called for a gathering in the capital, Caracas, Thursday to demand an investigation into the cases of students who have died at the hands of the government.
Residents of San Cristobal, a university town near the Colombian border known for its tendency toward protests, were outraged.
"How are you going shoot point blank at a student who's just leaving school to go home?" asked Glenda Lugo. "We're tired of this injustice."
Ruling party officials swiftly condemned the killing and offered condolences to the family.
Interior Relations Minister Carmen Melendez pledged that the government would pursue Roa's killer "relentlessly," and said in a televised interview that a member of the national police had already admitted to shooting the student with a shotgun.
She repeatedly called for general peace and tranquility. But what had started as a small demonstration was swelling into a larger protest as night fell in San Cristobal, with shops closing their doors and public transportation stopping routes in anticipation of unrest. Some schools announced that classes would be canceled Wednesday.
Venezuelan ombudsman Tarek William Saab, a federal official charged with defending human rights, said on Twitter that he deplored the "vile assassination" of the teen, who he named as Kluiverth Roa, though other officials spelled his first name differently.
The attorney general's office has opened an investigation into the teen's death.
Last month, the government issued a policy change to allow law enforcement officials to open fire and use deadly force to control protests. At the time, human rights groups said the new regulations were dangerously vague, but Saab defended them.
Tensions are running high in Venezuela following of a slew of bad economic news and the arrest last week of the opposition mayor of Caracas. February marks the one year anniversary of massive street protests that choked neighborhoods around Venezuela and left more than 40 people dead.
Dissatisfaction with the administration has grown in the past year, but opposition leaders have so far been reluctant to call for similarly large-scale protests.
Six Issues the U.S. Should Not Concede to Cuba During Normalization Talks
By Ana Quintana
The U.S. and Cuba will hold the second round of normalization talks on February 27 in Washington, DC. This follows the U.S.’s attempt in late January to negotiate the terms of reestablishing diplomatic relations with the Castro regime. In those talks in Havana, Cuban officials made it clear that the regime will not change its political or economic system, despite the Obama Administration’s many overtures. The regime also demanded an end to the embargo and removal of Cuba from the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism before restoration of diplomatic relations. Later in January at a summit of Latin American countries, Cuban leader Raul Castro reiterated these points, conditioning further openings with the U.S. on the lifting of the U.S. embargo, the return of Guantánamo Bay naval base, and compensation for “human and economic damage” incurred as a result of the U.S. embargo.
In the midst of so many foreign policy disasters, the Obama Administration is eager to finalize this deal. The Administration prematurely set a deadline of April, presumably in time for Cuba’s undeserving participation at the seventh Summit of the Americas. This will be Cuba’s first participation in the meeting of hemispheric leaders, despite its violation of the summit’s principle tenants of democracy and free trade. By April, the Administration has declared that both countries will have reciprocal embassies and that Cuba will be well on its way off the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. In the meantime, the Cuban government has put significant hurdles in the way.
Six Key Issues
Heading into the talks, the U.S. should not waiver on six issues:
1. Guantánamo Bay. The U.S. should make no compromises on the Guantánamo Bay naval base or agree to restitution to the Cuban government for its use
2. Cuba’s democratic opposition and human rights activists. The U.S. should continue to support Cuba’s democratic opposition and independent human rights activists.
3. The State Sponsors of Terrorism list. The U.S. should not agree to remove Cuba prematurely from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
4. U.S. exports and investment. The U.S. should reject policies that support financing for U.S. exports and investments in business ventures on the island that are owned or managed by the Cuban government, military, or Communist Party.
5. The LIBERTAD Act. The U.S. should evaluate future overtures on the principles enshrined in the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act.... According to the LIBERTAD Act, the Cuban embargo cannot be repealed until Cuba demonstrates that it will hold free and fair elections, free all political prisoners, and guarantee free speech and workers’ rights.
6. Reject any agreement that is tantamount to compensation for the U.S.’s embargo against Cuba.
The Obama Administration naively believes that granting the Castro regime every item on its never-ending wish list will lead to improved relations. Maximizing pressure, not unilateral concessions, is the only way to pave the way toward a democratic and free Cuba.
—Ana Quintana is a Research Associate for Latin America in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy, of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, at The Heritage Foundation.
32 Cuban activists arrested for trying to pay tribute to slain Brothers to the Rescue
FANTU activists in Santa Clara (Photo via Martinoticias.com)
Thirty-two Cuban opposition activists, including 13 women, were arrested in Santa Clara on Tuesday when they tried to march to a cemetery to pay tribute to the four murdered Brothers to the Rescue, according to a reported at Martinoticias.com.
The activists are members of the Anti-Totalitarian Forum, led by Guillermo Farinas, who was among those arrested. Some were beaten, including one who had to be treated for her injuries, taken to locations far from the center of town, and then released.
The four Brothers to the Rescue -- Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Jr., Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales -- were in two planes that were shot down by Cuban fighter jets on Feb. 24, 1996, over international waters.
Cuban police in Havana and Santiago de Cuba also clamped down on activities to commemorate the shootdown. In Havana, 31 activists were targeted and in Santiago, activist Ricardo Guzman was arrested while carrying a sign paying tribute to the Brothers to the Rescue.
"The repressive forces of the dictatorship carried out strong operations to impede activities on Feb. 24, across the country," said Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, head of the Patriotic Union of Cuba.
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