The Bushes Would Ruin Cuba If Castro Croaks Now

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by Glynn Wilson

With most of the media attention of late focused on the stupid exchange of rockets between Hezbollah and the Israeli military, another story closer to home has been relegated to a slanted, pro-American capitalist news footnote.

Even the Cuban government got into the act of condemning Israel’s bombing of the Lebanese village of Qana this week, calling it “cowardly, vile and criminal” and urging the world to force an immediate cease-fire.

While the rockets continue to land on both sides, the socialist leadership assured Cubans on Friday that Raul Castro was in firm control as acting president, and the health minister said Fidel Castro was “recovering satisfactorily” from intestinal surgery, according to the Associated Press.

While cable news networks took a brief break from the war in the Middle East to give a mini report on the situation in Cuba, they focused mainly on anti-Castro Cubans dancing in the streets of Miami – with no condemnation of people who would celebrate at the prospect that Fidel Castro might be dying.

What are they thinking?

If Castro were to croak now, with Bush and his oil cabal in power here, and if Castro’s brother Raul were to appeal to the American government to lift economic sanctions, chances are the oil companies and real estate developers would move in and ruin Cuba forever.

After spending a couple of weeks in Cuba during the Christmas holidays in 2002, I came away with the impression that about the only thing the Cuban people really need from the United States is more food – and maybe some investment capital to rebuild Havana.

An honest, educated and realistic comparison of Havana with any American city would reveal a wild dichotomy that few American reporters seem willing or able to understand or report.

Thanks to the policies of a true socialist-democracy under Castro, virtually everyone in Cuba has a college education – even the chicas, or prostitutes.

There are no illiterate dumbasses roaming the streets of Havana with guns like there are in every, single American city. Crime is almost non-existent in Cuba.

For all the talk from the Bush administration and the conservative movement about being pro-education and anti-crime, they could learn a thing or two from Castro – if they were willing to listen, learn and conduct an honest assessment.

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Photo by Spider Martin
A little old lady smiles for the camera in downtown Havana, Cuba, December 2002

There are also no toothless, homeless people in Cuba, like there are in every American city. Every single human being in Cuba is entitled to free health care, including dental care.

But the supposedly richest and most powerful country in the world cannot provide that for its citizens right here in the good old U.S. of A.

Does anyone else see the irony?

And here’s an interesting fact. While studies show more obesity and related health problems in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world, there is no such thing as obesity in Cuba. I walked from one end of Havana to the other, talking to people and taking photos with Spider Martin, and we never saw a single fat person. Not one.

The irony here is that the food in the homes and restaurants was sparse, simple and frankly scarce. But they are not starving either. They just live on fish and rice and do not over eat.

Imagine the boon it would be for Alabama chicken, soybean and corn farmers if only they were allowed to sell to Cuba?

According to research for a story I wrote about that trip, estimates show that lifting the sanctions on trade with Cuba could result in U.S. exports valued at $658 million to potentially $1 billion a year, or 17 percent to 27 percent of Cuba’s total imports.

But no, the South Florida anti-Castro Cuban lobbying money, which funds the campaigns of Republicans such as Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his brother in the White House, prevents a reasonable policy toward Cuba. That money even trumps the pro-business and conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which for years has urged Republican and Democratic Party presidents to lift the sanctions against Cuba.

So we hope the press releases out of Cuba are accurate, and Castro will be back on his feet and well soon. We hope he is able to survive until a more reasonable Democratic president and Congress regain power in the U.S. and finally decide to change our policies toward Cuba.

It is a beautiful place in the universe.

With a good bit of honest forethought, re-engaging with Cuba could be a win-win situation for America, Cuba and Alabama.

But it would best be done with some planning for sustainable redevelopment, not American-style suburbanization. The oil companies should not be able to rape Cuba’s environment and spoil the beaches. And real estate developers should not be allowed to put a McDonald’s on every block and a highrise condo on every dune.

While Soviet-style Communism proved it cannot work indefinitely, due to its propensity to lead to totalitarianism, that does not mean a bit of socialism mixed with democracy can’t create a better world for everyone – not just the privileged few, the born rich.

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Photo by Spider Martin
For the fun of it, here’s the photo Spider shot of me with the guy who drew the caricature used for these columns. He did it unbeknownst to me and then offered it to me for something Americans are banned from spending in Cuba – one American dollar. How could I refuse?

© 2006, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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