Getting Cuba’s history correct: The antidote to Castro apologists

Fergus Hodgson in PanAm Post:

The Antidote to Castro Apologists

Jaime Suchlicki’s Historical Account Sets the Record Straight novelist and Nobel Laureate Marío Vargas Llosa once quipped that the greatest producer of ant-capitalist, anti-US propaganda was none other than the United States. Not that there was any doubt, but this truth crystallized in my mind recently, after I read Cuba: From Columbus to Castro and Beyond (fifth edition, 278 pages) and then inadvertently watched a A Brief History of US-Cuba Relations by ABC News.

Let’s just say that ABC delivered a version of “history” sympathetic to the Castros and critical of the United States, in contrast to the observational account by Jaime Suchlicki, a professor at the University of Miami. Narrated by George Stephanopoulos, the seven-minute clip is riddled with errors and lies by omission, perhaps by design, and could have come straight from the regime’s Institute of Radio and Television.

But regardless of whether the flawed account stems from incompetence or ulterior motives, it has been widely circulated as a feel-good synopsis. Its source, one of the largest US-based media networks, demonstrates why so many unsuspecting viewers are misinformed on Cuba and see the regime as benign, even enviable. The ABC clip also belies the importance of the hard yards, of taking the time to examine a topic in depth, as opposed to accepting superficial and sugar-coated reports. For those willing to make the investment, then, does Cuba by Suchlicki fit the bill?

Yes, but with a few provisos. Such an effort, covering Cuba’s long and complicated history, is a balancing act: depth versus economy, objectivity versus frankness, and nuts and bolts versus human interest. You cannot win them all, and Suchlicki’s focus on countless acronym organizations and his attempt at neutrality, at least for the bulk of the book, make for a dry read that is at times hard to follow — a problem amplified by the presence of many Spanish terms. The style is also a departure from his oral presentations and shorter commentaries, where he lays his views on the table without hesitation.

In saying that, those with the will to forge on to the end will be rewarded. Cuba packs a lot of detail and pays closest attention to the 20th century: the US presence and then the Castro era.

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