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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cuba and “Change We Can Believe In.”

But what became apparent to me as a first-time traveler to Cuba is that the official calls for “democracy in Cuba” are strictly for American consumption. The US blockade of Cuba, and restrictions on American travel there, must continue until there is no longer a Cuban Revolution. Otherwise, Americans might begin to envision a world where health care, education, and pensions are truly rights of residency; where industry is developed to support human needs, not scrapped for the benefit of creditors; and where egalitarianism is a realizable goal, not a utopian fantasy. Americans must never be permitted to see that, even in a flawed socialist economy in a tiny island country, there is no homelessness or starvation or unemployment or illiteracy. It might give us dangerous ideas about “Change We Can Believe In.”

By Philip Fornaci
June 09, 2009 "Global Research" -- One of the most notable characteristics of 21st century Havana is what is not there: obvious and visible destitution. The begging and aggressive peddling prevalent in so many poor Latin capitals (and in most US cities) is entirely absent in Havana. There are no homeless people sleeping under bridges or hidden in doorways, no stumbling addicts crashed on park lawns, nor frantic children hawking candy and crafts. The sidewalks are crowded with workers and students and bureaucrats, rushing in every direction, often at a frenetic pace, but at no point is a visitor likely to encounter robbery or assault, or begging.
I recently spent a week in Cuba on a research tour, organized through the Canadian organization, Cuba Education Tours, with a group made up primarily of Canadian and American attorneys, union members, and researchers. It was an extraordinary experience, dispelling much of what I thought I knew about Cuba, and ultimately revealing more about the US than I had anticipated.
Two prevailing American misconceptions about Cuba were dispelled very early in our trip. One is the notion that the island is a society “closed” to the outside world, a stubborn throwback to another ideological moment. But this is typical American myopia, conjuring a country frozen in 1959, when the popular uprising displaced the American playground that was pre-Revolutionary Cuba. To be sure, the US economic blockade has had, and continues to have, a huge impact on the island’s economy, reflected most dramatically in the poor housing stock and lack of industrial development, but Cuba is hardly isolated from the world. Today, Havana is crawling with Canadian, Mexican, European, African, and East Asian tourists, students, and businessmen, and even a fair share of American backpackers and adventurers stealthily defying the US State Department.
The other common, but more complicated, American misconception is that Cuban society is less “free” than American society. We Americans still like to think we live in the Free World, if not the center of it, despite our massive surveillance state, a prison system unparalleled in its size and ferocity, and our militarized borders and restrictive immigration policies. But Cubans, our government and media tell us, are forced to live under a repressive, colorless, and undemocratic police state. This characterization comes as a surprise to most Cubans, who have minimal interactions with police (far less visible in Havana than in, say, Guatemala City or New York), engage in a lively electoral process every 2-1/2 years, and who seem to be among the most engaging and politically astute people I have ever encountered. LinkHere


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