Sunday, April 30, 2006

Cuba and the L.A. Times

The LA Times has two must read articles today regarding Cuba, the Revolution and The Bearded Stooge. One needs registration, but it's free and simple and I recommend it because it is the best of the two. Please don't mind the one or two anti-embargo comments - it's worth ignoring them for what both authors have to say.

The first article, discusses the meaures The Bearded Stooge is taking to attempt to ensure the survival of his robolution after his demise. An excerpt:
In the last year, amid indications of the bearded icon's flagging health, the regime has:

• Declared war on the "new rich," arresting those who use their cars or bicycles as taxis, seizing privately raised produce on sale at farmers markets and rescinding self-employment licenses that had allowed Cubans since 1994 to run restaurants and guesthouses in their homes.

• Increased the number of "acts of repudiation" by Communist Party militants, who track down and heckle dissidents and their families.

• Ramped up efforts to dismantle outlawed satellite dishes, and confiscated televisions and subscription decoder cards brought in by relatives visiting from abroad.

• Drafted students and aging Communist Party loyalists to stand guard at gas stations and factories to deter theft by a broad sector of state employees, a problem even the party mouthpiece Granma acknowledges has reached pandemic proportions.

• Ordered Cubans to refrain from contact with foreign tourists unless "absolutely necessary" for their jobs, claiming a need to protect citizens from ideological contamination.
The second article, an editorial by a journalist visiting Cuba highlights that the Cubans in Cuba are waiting for something. In it, he narrates different stories of coping of average Cubans:
CASTRO LIKES to bask in his "Bolivarian" partnership with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and he points to the rise of Bolivia's Evo Morales and Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to suggest hemispheric trends are going his way. But it's self-delusional for him to ignore the fact that these and other Latin American leftists were elected, and that their cities remain teeming bastions of private consumerism, while in Cuba you'd better not lose your rationing card if you want that bar of soap you are entitled to every three months.

Cuba's nightly newscast loves to show fellow Latin Americans rallying against free-trade agreements with the U.S. The goal, once again, is to reinforce the notion that events are going Cuba's way, but the message is mixed.

"If only we could protest spontaneously like that here," says Eliezer, a bookseller in Havana, echoing a common refrain among Russians exposed quarter of a century ago to scenes of anti-nuclear protests in Western Europe. "The trouble with this country," he goes on to say, presumably ignoring the thousands of compatriots who brave the Straits of Florida each year, "is that no one is willing to die for freedom."

Eliezer sells some risque material in his bookshop, but he says the way to stay out of trouble is to not get air-conditioning (a bourgeois comfort that might raise suspicions), stay off the Internet and never learn English. That's quite a survival guide.
Refreshing to see not one, but two articles that at least stay pretty true to form. Now go read.

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