Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Winter of the Patriarch.

Fidel Castro, whose ego demands a large and bold type, has yielded power to his brother Raul Castro -- who is also not exactly a blushing flower -- as Fidel undergoes "intestinal surgery" to repair bleeding caused by "stress." This is the official message from Havana. The truth is anyone's guess.

Official messages from all governments -- especially Cuba's --are a kind of poetry. They should not be interpreted too literally.

Fidel might easily arrange this little bit of theater in preparation for his eventual departure from the scene, which will not be too soon for most Cubans, both on the island and in Miami, also elsewhere in the world.

Fidel knows this and is inspired to live a long life, just for the pleasure of annoying all of those who wish him the opposite. Cuba's decision to exclude foreign journalists, through delays in processing visas, is a little worrisome. Who are they rounding up?

What if Fidel wanted to see who would be likely to oppose Raul? Suppose Fidel were only to "appear" to have left (temporarily), so that opponents might be emboldened to act or take positions with the intention of wresting control of the government away from Fidel's "little brother," as the Miami Cubans say? Miami's Cuban-American politicians are probably worse than both Castros -- and much more stupid.

"Let us see," Fidel has been known to comment, "whether the serpents will emerge from underneath their rocks." Usually, the "serpents" have been stupid enough to cooperate with such tactics. My advice is "caution" and patience. The celebrations in Miami were a little premature. Many of the "serpents" are probably more dishonest than Castro could ever be.

Fidel may, suddenly, recover (miraculously) and scoop up Cuba's "uncooperative" subjects, providing them with a one way ticket to one of his dungeons, possibly adding a cigar as a farewell gift. When he appeared at the airport in Havana, waving goodbye to refugees, he said: "Don't forget to write ..." The man is a novelist in the political arena.

It is important to distinguish Fidel Castro from the Cuban people and Revolution. "Cuba si," Ronald Reagan said, "Castro no." (Please supply a mental accent over the word "si," in every sense.)

The official response from Havana at the time was: "Castro is Cuba." My thought then and now is: "I don't think so." Such a determination must be, exclusively, for the Cuban people to make.

I am "for" an end to the embargo, not because I am a fan of Fidel Castro -- though I think he is a brilliant and fascinating, if "morally challenged" man, more than most of us -- but because millions of Cubans and Americans suffer (pointlessly) as a result of that embargo. Fidel Castro requires a writer on the level of Shakespeare to capture all of his complexity.

The embargo and Helms-Burton strengthen the revolution and hurt the weakest members of both societies. I am against pointless suffering. How about you? (See "Time to End the Embargo Against Cuba.")

If you want Raul to govern indefinitely in Fidel's absence, then you should be "for" the embargo that will give him an excuse to point to us ("Yankee imperialism") in justification of all failures.

If you really want to test the Cuban revolution, then take away the embargo and let us see how it does and whether people want it. If they do, then the U.S. should accept this and "move on" by thinking of ways in which cooperation can improve the lives of all.

What should happen in Cuba? Well, I think The New York Times got it right:

"America's [and Cuba's] overriding interest is in a peaceful transition to the democratic and economically dynamic society that Cubans have dreamed of for decades. Given Cuba's educated population, the energy and skills of its people, and its advantageous location, that is not at all a utopian fantasy. But it may not happen immediately. Washington should be planning to establish contacts with Fidel and Raul Castro's successors even if they have roots in the dictatorship, and attempt to play the most constructive role it can in the island's evolution. An early easing of the economic embargo could strengthen Cuba's battered middle class" -- don't refer to "classes" when speaking to the Cuban government! -- "and help it play a more active role in the coming political transition."

Here is the key warning for Cuban-Americans:

"All of this preparation could be complicated by the backward-looking fantasies of some politically active members of Miami's Cuban-American community. The refugees [emphasis added] are certainly entitled to their say, [especially when the "refugees" are U.S. citizens or Senators?] and they will be bound to get a hearing [Why shouldn't they?] ... But the challenge for the Bush Administration will be to make sure other voices are heard and heeded as well. Washington's post-Castro policy must not become a pawn of Miami [or any other state's] refugee politics."

People on the island are not going to roll over and allow others, from outside the country, to arrive on the scene and tell them what will happen and how it will take place. At least, this is the opinion of one "refugee" who -- since he happened to be born on that unfortunate and suffering island nation -- feels a poignant concern for all who continue to suffer as a result of Cuba's revolution and what has come after that historical event, especially the current foreign policy of the United States, which is costing Americans billions of dollars in lost revenues and resulting in more dangerous hostility in the world.

The structures of government and habits of independence are well-settled on that embattled island, which has grown accustomed to its autonomy. The fate of the revolution is ONLY for the Cuban people to decide.

I believe that Cubans want to retain the achievements of the revolution in health care and education, while allowing for greater or new civil liberties in expression, freedom, and true democratic processes, without becoming a U.S. colony, while establishing a friendly and cooperative relationship with the U.S. and everybody else, for that matter.

I will not accept the condition of a slave or laboratory animal. I will not be deprived of my humanity. I will not be silenced or censored, threatened or insulted. I cannot expect other persons, anywhere in the world, whether in Georgia or Poland, Venezuela or Cuba, to accept being ruled by a foreign power.

I want freedom and peace for the U.S. and Cuba. Peace is in the interest of the U.S., so is providing some satisfaction for Cuban-Americans insisting on "justice." Recognition of injury and pain is something I favor, together with efforts at mutual understanding. I know about justified anger and outrage. Succumbing to such tempting emotions is never the most productive response to evil.

One possible idea is a forum for civilized discussions, "face-to-face," genuinely free debates, to which all are invited -- provided one is willing to be guided by reason and not threats or attempts to silence opponents. Threatening to "kill me" is not an adequate response to this suggestion.

I write these words as I struggle against daily criminal censorship and destruction efforts directed by powerful political interests against me in a society claiming to respect and protect my fundamental Constitutional and human rights. I hope and believe that the world sees this spectacle which, sadly, proves that much of what Fidel Castro has said for forty years is true. ("Fidel Castro's 'History Will Absolve Me.'")

These mild opinions that I am now expressing are enough to produce violent reactions among many Cuban-Americans together with inserted "errors." Such hostile and irrational reactions to OPINIONS are the opposite of the democratic spirit that many Cuban-Americans say they want to bring to Cuba. To replace the revolutionary government with a BRUTAL Fascist regime is not progress. Fascism is always the opposite of progress. You do not defeat an argument by threatening someone with violence or removing a letter from one of his Internet texts. ("How Censirship Works in America.")

Why bother to live in a free society if you are going to allow anyone to intimidate you in the expression of your opinions? No reason. We Americans are famous for speaking our minds. So I'm not going to be intimidated by anyone. For a view that is different from mine, by a Cuban-American, see: Rolando Pujol, "Next Christmas, in Havana?," in A.M. New York, August 2, 2006, at p. 10. For a very different view, see the Cuban American National Foundation's web site.

I hope that Cuban women of all races -- including those who disagree with me -- will play a prominent part in formulating the response of the U.S. and Cuban governments to unfolding events in Cuba. Machismo and militarism are aspects of Cuban political culture, both under the current government and before it existed, that we can now do without. At this point in history, racism and sexism are anathema in any civilized society.

Why do I favor participation by Cuban women in any future government? For one thing, generally, women can not do worse than men in running nations or businesses and universities. They are less likely to be swayed by ego or bravado in making difficult decisions.

Peace and cooperation are finally possible. If we fail to achieve these things, then we will have only ourselves to blame.

By "ourselves," I mean both Cubans and Americans. I am an American of Cuban ancenstry, others will now have to decide what and who they are. The first principle to accept, as an American, is that others are free to disagree with one's opinions.
Let us try to understand one another. We may then be able to take a first "faltering step" towards that much hoped for justice and reconciliation.

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