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Fidel Castro temporarily relinquishes power
July 31, 2006 8:49 PM   Subscribe

Fidel Castro temporarily relinquishes power before under going surgery. His brother, Raul is acting as president and first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba. Is this the beginning of the end?
posted by hex1848 (149 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
i saw this on another site and am looking for more details.
posted by brandz at 8:52 PM on July 31, 2006




So. When Fidel dies (wait for it!) ..not that I mean he's gonna die in surgery. The bastard will probably outlive all of us. I mean if/when he DOES kick the bucket, are we gonna be stuck with his brother Raul Castro? Why does that name sound like a joke? Rah-OOOL Castro. Could be worse. At least Cuba's not being run by the Jessica's sister Ashlee.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:55 PM on July 31, 2006


What do we know about the brother? Can't say I feel much sorrow for Fidel (whether he goes sooner or later), but I've wished that Cuba could find a little respite for a while now. Could this be a turning point for the people of Cuba, or is it just more of the same?
posted by Gilbert at 9:04 PM on July 31, 2006


VIVA! He'll be fine. We're all pulling for you, Fidel. Keep that standard of living high to embarass the US. We'll grudingly acknowledge it some day.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:04 PM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


Fidel at this point is mainly worried about his legacy. He doesn't have any real heirs, which is why he designated his brother as his successor.

A couple of years ago, when Fidel began to feel the cold breath of the Grim Reaper on his neck, he got a constitutional amendment passed which made Stalinism a permanent and irrevocable part of Cuba's government. Establishing Stalinism in Cuba was Fidel's great achievement, and he was afraid that it will be dismantled about five minutes after he dies.

Which could still happen. Those constitutional provisions won't prevent it. While the Dictator lives, you do what he tells you and say what he wants to hear, but once he's in the grave then he's history.

Notice how Arafat vanished off the radar once he died? No one, not even the Palestinians, seems to care about him or what he thought any longer. Not even his political successors among Fatah talk about him.

That could happen to Fidel too, eventually. It'll be interesting to see whether Raul tries to maintain the old system or begins to work to change it after Fidel dies. But even if he does try to maintain it, he's 72 and won't live forever. Once he also dies, then what? Reform is far from certain, but it's definitely a lot more likely once they're both dead.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:06 PM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


Actually, I think Raul is a beautiful sounding name. It means Wolf Counselor.

More about Raul from Wikipedia.

Article 94 of the Cuban Constitution provides that "In cases of the absence, illness or death of the president of the Council of State, the first vice president assumes the president’s duties." Raúl Castro, as the sitting first vice president, is next in line of succession and it would appear he would become President if Fidel Castro died before him.
posted by nickyskye at 9:07 PM on July 31, 2006


and for the anti-castros and weak liberals who will invariably squeeze out beads of invective on this thread: we're all very impressed at how anti-communist you are.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:09 PM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


From 1998:

But to the United States, any government that Raul Castro might head is merely an extension of the current one-party state. The Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which widened U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba, specifically states that the embargo, now 37 years old, will be rescinded only when "a transition government in Cuba is in power," one that "does not include Fidel Castro or Raul Castro."
posted by mediareport at 9:09 PM on July 31, 2006


Hey Curley, you left out "defenders of free speech." Sucker.
posted by dhammond at 9:11 PM on July 31, 2006


actually, raul is 75.

there's a new yorker article from last week's issue that delves into this very topic in great depth. it's impressively timely -- i just finished it last night, and et voila, here we are -- the beginning of the end for castro.

unfortunately, as of today, it is no longer linkable.

i don't really get their web archive policy. unless it's from the current issue or some random archived issue, it doesn't seem possible to link to recent stuff, even excerpts. wtf, new yorker?
posted by Hat Maui at 9:14 PM on July 31, 2006


Raul Castro was the governor of Arizona in the 70's. So, you know, he has experience in government.
posted by djeo at 9:14 PM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


lol communism

it would almost be funny if it didn't kill and impoverish so many millions
posted by keswick at 9:16 PM on July 31, 2006


hah! that's funny 'cuz they have the same name!
posted by Hat Maui at 9:16 PM on July 31, 2006


Keep that standard of living high to embarass the US.

Presumably Mr. Mayor was joking. Cuba has a population of 11.4 million and a GDP of $39.17 billion, for a per-capita GDP of $3,420.

Per-capita GDP of the US is $42,000. (All numbers based on data from the CIA World Fact Book.) Mexico is nearly $10,000. Puerto Rico is $18,500. Even Jamaica is higher than Cuba at $4500.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:17 PM on July 31, 2006


A couple of years ago, when Fidel began to feel the cold breath of the Grim Reaper on his neck, he got a constitutional amendment passed which made Stalinism a permanent and irrevocable part of Cuba's government.

Huh, where's the stalinism?
posted by wilful at 9:18 PM on July 31, 2006


Fidel at this point is mainly worried about his legacy. He doesn't have any real heirs, which is why he designated his brother as his successor.

He's maintained that Raul was a vital part of the revolution all along. As in, Raul risked his neck to get Batista and the Us coporations out just as perilously as Fidel did. I know that McCarthyites love to portray every anti-US state as feudalistic, but jesus!

A couple of years ago, when Fidel began to feel the cold breath of the Grim Reaper on his neck, he got a constitutional amendment passed which made Stalinism a permanent and irrevocable part of Cuba's government. Establishing Stalinism in Cuba was Fidel's great achievement, and he was afraid that it will be dismantled about five minutes after he dies.

Which could still happen. Those constitutional provisions won't prevent it. While the Dictator lives, you do what he tells you and say what he wants to hear, but once he's in the grave then he's history.


You're either goimg to need priapism or an unhealthy dose of Cialis to keep that boner for the days it might take to see if Fidel pulls through.

Notice how Arafat vanished off the radar once he died? No one, not even the Palestinians, seems to care about him or what he thought any longer. Not even his political successors among Fatah talk about him.

That could happen to Fidel too, eventually.


Right. Batista's heirs will be dancing around with a Dole-funded band singing "We Are Your Masters" and the Cuban population will stand for it because they really want Coke and Nikes. New markets equals new freedoms! Maybe the cuban people are even willing to kill for oil to run those DeSotos!
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:20 PM on July 31, 2006 [2 favorites]


lol communism

it would almost be funny if it didn't kill and impoverish so many millions


Just like that other economic system that's supposed to be so great but leaves the majority in the dust? Except that those left behind deserve it under that system because they're dumb or something. What's that called?
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:22 PM on July 31, 2006 [5 favorites]


VIVA! He'll be fine. We're all pulling for you, Fidel. Keep that standard of living high to embarass the US. We'll grudingly acknowledge it some day.

When people are converting 1949 Mercury station wagons into seagoing vessels to escape your country, you may want to reconsider the ways in which you define "standard of living."

and for the anti-castros and weak liberals who will invariably squeeze out beads of invective on this thread: we're all very impressed at how anti-communist you are.

How about us strong libertarians — are we exempt?

The man does give a hell of a speech, though, I'll grant you that. God help us all if the US ever ends up with a president half as charismatic.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:24 PM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


Except that those left behind deserve it under that system because they're dumb or something. What's that called?

Darwinism?
posted by dhammond at 9:24 PM on July 31, 2006


Good Heavens! Mr. Mayor was serious!
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:27 PM on July 31, 2006


the other economic system may not be perfect, but it's a lot better than communism. rage against the machine, amigo.
posted by keswick at 9:27 PM on July 31, 2006


Raul has a feisty daughter, Mariela.
posted by nickyskye at 9:29 PM on July 31, 2006


When people are converting 1949 Mercury station wagons into seagoing vessels to escape your country, you may want to reconsider the ways in which you define "standard of living."

I'll redefine "standard of living" as soon as the US stops confusing "set foot on American soil" with "has a 96 mph fastball." Because if Cuba's that bad, you'd think we'd offer amensty to everyone who almost made it, not just the ones who will make a taxable income pitching.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:30 PM on July 31, 2006


Mr. Mayor, what has American policy got to do with a consideration of whether the Cuban system is an economic success or failure?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:32 PM on July 31, 2006


if Cuba's that bad, you'd think we'd offer amensty to everyone who almost made it

I think Fidel is a fun guy and all, so this isn't to besmirch his good Comunista name, but ... do you actually, seriously think that the standard of living in the home country of refugees has anything to do with whether the US allows people to stay?
posted by blacklite at 9:35 PM on July 31, 2006


I'll redefine "standard of living" as soon as the US stops confusing "set foot on American soil" with "has a 96 mph fastball." Because if Cuba's that bad, you'd think we'd offer amensty to everyone who almost made it, not just the ones who will make a taxable income pitching.

I have no idea what you're referring to with the baseball bits, but I'd love to see the US open its borders without restriction, as it did prior to the World War I era and the concomitant xenophobia, with only positive results as far as I can tell. I'd particularly love to see the US open its borders to Cubans. I'm not sure why you think that criticizing US policy amounts to a defense of Cuba, though.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:37 PM on July 31, 2006


There is no suitable system of government, but let's not blame the systems. If one objectively looks at communism on paper, it makes sense. Arguably, someone could take my opinion of communism and from that incorrecly deduce that I am a communist. I would be, if not for the fact that I'm human. True communism is idealistic and naive, and no human being in a fascist or socialist or stalisist state would ever allow the society to achieve communism -- it'd mean relinquishing too much power.

What doesn't allow most isms to work is the human factor. No matter what system you instigate to try and make things fair for everybody, there's gonna be someone who will examine the system for the sole purpose of manipulating it towards their selfish ends.

Contrary to any other ism that fits in this context, what makes capitalism work better than any other system ever is that capitalism not only acknowledges this human factor, it depends on it, exploits it, and turns the seven deadly sins that haunt and weaken humanity into carrots on a stick. Morality in a capitalist state however is blatant hypocrisy.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:38 PM on July 31, 2006


the other economic system may not be perfect, but it's a lot better than communism. rage against the machine, amigo.

It must be. I can buy 350 types of cereal even if I can't procure an abortion. And my car is way newer than some cuban's! I use it to go a totally unique strip mall where I buy products only seen in some commie's wet dreams! Check out my new ironic t-shirts! I dare you! Think some stupid cuban asshole can buy pre-faded kitsch? No way! That's how I'm reassured that system works!!
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:40 PM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I hear abortions are real hard to come by in rural, fundamentalist backwaters like Boston.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:43 PM on July 31, 2006


Question: if Cuba is so great, why are you in Boston instead of Havana, Alcada Curley?
posted by keswick at 9:45 PM on July 31, 2006


It must be. I can buy 350 types of cereal even if I can't procure an abortion. And my car is way newer than some cuban's! I use it to go a totally unique strip mall where I buy products only seen in some commie's wet dreams! Check out my new ironic t-shirts! I dare you! Think some stupid cuban asshole can buy pre-faded kitsch? No way! That's how I'm reassured that system works!!
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:40 PM CST on July 31 [+fave] [!]


You know I guess the constitution has some business about freedom and speech and press and religion and stuff but that doesn't really matter since everything's fascist anyway rite
posted by cellphone at 9:50 PM on July 31, 2006


Keswick, no need to turn this into another thread about Al-Qaeda.
posted by cellphone at 9:50 PM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


I think it is just swell that Fidel has a baby brother to rely on in his weeks of need. Without ikkyu2 to give an informed opnion, am I free to speculate that Fidel has cancer and will be in chemo for the next 4 months?
posted by Cranberry at 9:51 PM on July 31, 2006


cellphone: that was so bad. and yet so good
posted by keswick at 9:52 PM on July 31, 2006


I just live with the vague hope those stupid, stupid political cartoons will end. You know, the ones with the string of U.S. Presidents denouncing Castro and saying they won't rest until he's out of power or whatever. Those.
posted by furiousthought at 9:56 PM on July 31, 2006


Yeah, I hear abortions are real hard to come by in rural, fundamentalist backwaters like Boston.

posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:43 AM EST on August 1

Question: if Cuba is so great, why are you in Boston instead of Havana, Alcada Curley?

posted by keswick at 12:45 AM EST on August 1

You know I guess the constitution has some business about freedom and speech and press and religion and stuff but that doesn't really matter since everything's fascist anyway rite
posted by cellphone at 12:50 AM EST on August 1

love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:02 PM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


It is hard to ignore the fact that cubans have a much better health care system, and even the linked article from USA Today talked about how education was made a priority and illiteracy abolished. The Castro regime is far from perfect, but as it was pointed out, no system is. Some people are always getting fucked over by their system of government. You think poor people in the US are any happier about how the two party capitalist system based squarely on economic standing treats them?

And keswick, honestly, you might make some good points if we could understand them through all that ass you got stuffed around your head. culo
posted by teishu at 10:03 PM on July 31, 2006


I bet the CIA poisoned his roasted babies...

The funny thing about a people's democratic republic is that absolute power is handed to the nearest of kin, should the current ruler die, entirely unlike an absolutist monarchy.

The irony is voided if there's an intern-humper between the two.
posted by qvantamon at 10:10 PM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Yeah, I like that song too. I think I even have The Ballad of William Worthy kicking around on this machine somewhere. Still not sure exactly what your point is.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:12 PM on July 31, 2006


I haven't read up on this, but find it hard to believe that the U.S. (read: CIA) doesn't have some kind of plan to capitalize on Castro's death. We certainly tried to kill him ourselves enough times. This is basically a once a generation opportunity to get rid of a foreign policy annoyance, one that has taken on new import with the rise of Hugo Chavez. Are there rumors that we have some funny business planned for when Castro does die?
posted by gsteff at 10:17 PM on July 31, 2006


The CIA hit him with the old depilatory powder in the scuba mask again, huh?

Cuba better open a shitload of nice, clean whorehouses and absinthe parlors when Fidel does kick though, otherwise people are just gonna go to AC, the Bahamas and Vegas like they've been doing since the glorious revolution, we've got enough bananas and sugar cane now, thanks.


I'm still figuring out where I stand on the whole strong education (state controlled), health care, cuban doctors first on the scene in a disaster vs. cops on every corner, no free elections, fear of the "beard", jail for dissidents all the time thing, probably slightly towards the latter, but I do admire an underdog with style. As the US edges into Bad Castro territory I guess I just hope Canadians and Euros come to visit New York to see our Toyota Corollas with tractor engines and enjoy our hand rolled menthol cigarettes, copious booze and pasty wasp hookers.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:21 PM on July 31, 2006 [2 favorites]


I just wanted to weigh in and say that Castro is bad because US Presidents have been paying him lip service for almost 50 years! Plus, I hear that consumers have very little choice in Cuba, and consumer choice is a good baromoter of freedom.

Like Billy Bragg said "as long as you're comfortable, it feels like freedom." And he was right, because I feel the most free when I look at how many products I can buy. Because, like, kids in nasty countries gave their LIVES and shit for me to be able to look at six different kinds of pants in my size. And Kennedy didn't like Castro, and Kennedy was the embodiment of liberalism even if his policies make him seem like a moderate republican. But we can look past that because he was shot. Shot in the HEAD! And his wife was a dreadful mess cradling his shot head and we all agree that was bad and he was Kennedy and he was a democrat. So Castro is so very bad. And I hope he has a terrible disease. Because if he dies after all these years, that means that the US wins that argument about United Fruit and all the money they lost. I hear that a lot of United Fruit executives had very meagre Christmases in the early 60's and you can imagine how tough that is on a kid when they expect very fancy 1960's style christmas presents like high-quality toy ray guns and the like and instead they got shoddy gifts like common people. So we can be glad that Castro will die and there will be freedom in Cuba because they will have good newspapers like ours that always tell the absolute truth no matter how much it hurts and Cuba can grow to be a democracy. A REAL democracy where the people who think that Jesus likes guns can vote against the people that think Jesus liked everyone. Because democracy is all about keeping the ever-so-slightly left of middle line where people vote for your party and get nothing but at least they feel good about it and are not offended.
posted by Mayor Peace Love and Unity at 10:21 PM on July 31, 2006 [11 favorites]


gsteff:

I don't know about Raul's charisma, but if it's anything normal, it should be fairly easy (compared to deposing Fidel) to use the vacuum from Great Leader's demise to start popular pressures for pluralism... And then getting more democracy/free-market oriented people to win the elections (though not someone with pro-American discourse).

The US don't have the military for a coup (the cuban military is reminiscent from the revolutionary guerrilla), and they don't have any resistance left to finance/funnel arms. It's either ideology and propaganda, plus international pressure, or outright intervention.

About once in a generation: Raul is 75. The US is now tangled in Iraq, with Iran, NK, Syria, all queued up. Perhaps they'll try something light (and non-committed), and if it doesn't work, they'll solve their other issues and wait for Raul to die.
posted by qvantamon at 10:34 PM on July 31, 2006


Well, it's not so much the lack of sartorial choice — I buy my pants at the thrift store, and there are very rarely any of them in my size, let alone six different kinds — as the "locking people up and torturing them for distributing unpopular books" thing that bothers me about Cuba. But, you know, don't let me interrupt your impressive string of straw men here.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:34 PM on July 31, 2006


Steven, in what way is per-capita GDP a useful indicator of how the average person is doing? Are you saying that America's wealth is distributed equally among Americans, and every year every man, woman and child gets $43K? Sounds like a wet dream of Communism to me. Wouldn't have thought it of you.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:36 PM on July 31, 2006


It's a quick way to gauge the general wealth of a nation. No, it isn't distributed equally among Americans; I don't think that and I don't want that. But when our per-capita GDP is 12 times that of Cuba, then it's pretty clear that it's idiocy to try to claim that their economic system is somehow better than ours.

And those claims about the Cuban health care system, and their marvelous educational system? Just how is it that we know that their literacy rate is higher than ours, and their health care is better? Easy: the Cuban government says so. And of course, they would never lie about such a thing, would they?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:48 PM on July 31, 2006


Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley was a great song.

WTF are we talking about? Oh, yeah Castro. The Dodgers shoulda signed him. Because we'd all be better off.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:54 PM on July 31, 2006


Historic tables: Household shares of aggregate income by fifths. The poorest quintile has much less than a twelfth of what the richest has. Starting in 2001, the richest fifth now gets more than the other four-fifths combined. (Notice, by the way, that the trend was the other way until 1980. I gotcher Reagan revolution right here.)

This doesn't correlate in any obvious way to what we're talking about, but it does help illustrate why GDP per-capita means very little (and actually proves nothing at all) in terms of standard of living. I'm in no doubt that most Americans are materially better off than most Cubans, as well as enjoying more rights. But the 12:1 ratio is a valueless measure.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:05 PM on July 31, 2006 [2 favorites]


It's a quick way to gauge the general wealth of a nation. No, it isn't distributed equally among Americans; I don't think that and I don't want that. But when our per-capita GDP is 12 times that of Cuba, then it's pretty clear that it's idiocy to try to claim that their economic system is somehow better than ours.

And those claims about the Cuban health care system, and their marvelous educational system? Just how is it that we know that their literacy rate is higher than ours, and their health care is better? Easy: the Cuban government says so. And of course, they would never lie about such a thing, would they?


Typically, the GDP isn't even remotely the best way to measure the socioeconomic success of a nation. That just means it's got a higher population and more natural resources generally speaking.

One indicator that is however, is life expectancy and infant mortality, both of which in Cuba are on par with the US. This despite the fact that Cuba is under severe economic sanctions and has been for decades. The fact that they can achieve this level of success while spending roughly $200 per person per year, as opposed to the $6000 (number are rough and a couple years old) the US does, speaks volumes.

And, all this data can be obtained from a great number of independent non-cuban sources, quite easily googled.

A great many arguments can be made against the lack of free speech and the totalitarian style of leadership, but it is just ill informed rhetoric to try and claim that the average Cuban citizen is somehow leading a life of much lower quality than someone in the US. "Quality of life" is quite subjective.

In reality, the argument really boils down to Hobbes vs Locke. Would you rather have the Cuban Leviathan or not?
posted by teishu at 11:10 PM on July 31, 2006 [2 favorites]


I apparently had the wrong link in my paste buffer. It should have been this, sorry.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:12 PM on July 31, 2006


Just how is it that we know that their literacy rate is higher than ours, and their health care is better? Easy: the Cuban government says so. And of course, they would never lie about such a thing, would they?

Well Steve, there are the people in the rest of the world, who assumed to be adults, can travel to Cuba and see for themselves the state of their education and health care and then smuggle a coded reprot through the velveteen curtain. I really do suspect you of being a smart fella, but the mental inflexibility and one-note-charlieism is making that suspicion hard for me to maintain. Life in a Hardy Boys novel must be awful fucking bleak.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:13 PM on July 31, 2006 [2 favorites]


Well, they travel to Cuba, and they get to see what the government there wants them to see. They get to talk to everyday Cubans, who know that they're being monitored while they talk, and who will say what they know the government wants them to say.

Which means those reports are worth nothing at all.

It's entirely possible that everything being said about the Cuban educational system and medical system are true -- but those reports are not evidence of anything.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:16 PM on July 31, 2006


Steve
You're working off a Tom Clancy script fella, personally I'm more than ambivalent about the quality of the Cuban revolution, but I know plenty of people whom I trust implicitly who have traveled there without "minders" or even much notice other than a cursory customs passthrough, who've had free roam of the place and spoke excellent Spanish (don't get Spanish speakers started on the "uniqueness of Cuban Spanish", btw) and they have all remarked that DESPITE the obvious semi-police state and depridations the quality of Cuban healthcare and education is very strong.

PS, I AM A RED COMMUNIST SPY! MAY I HAVE A MARLBORO AND BLUEJEANS PLEASE!
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:33 PM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


My Cuban friend said if it weren't for Castro, Cubans would be shining American shoes by now. Not that he's the world's greatest guy, but I would put El Presidente Bush way higher on the evil scale. Cubans are better off than Americans in at least a few ways; free health care, free education.

I disagree with Mayor Peace Love and Unity. Being able to buy anything you want is hardly the measure of society or freedom I'm interested in.

The US prevents Cuba from trading with any of our allies, then points fingers at them when they trade with those on Bush's "enemies list." Who else they gonna trade with, stupid?

I saw an interview with Castro by an American journalist (on HBO, can't find it now). It was very enlightening. They asked him why he didn't step down and let the next generation of Cubans take over. He said cause that's exactly what Bush would want, and he'll never roll over for Bush because he's evil. I say more power to him, the world would be a better place if more world leaders felt that way.

As Steven C. Den Beste notes, we don't get much in the way of unfiltered news from Cuba. A factor of our own goverment more than Cuba's, imo. Yet even knowing this, Steven seems unwilling to consider that what his goverment tells him may not be the actual reality. (Gee, when does the US Goverment ever lie, right?) Let's all do a collective Baaaaah like a sheep.
posted by d723 at 11:33 PM on July 31, 2006


Cuba and the United States are not even hypothetically comparable in terms of economic power, under any system of government. Much more useful questions include: Is the average (economically peasant-grade) Cuban better off under Castro than he was under Batista and the Mafia? Is he better off than he would be under corporate rule? I'm no apologist for the hairy old windbag, but let's compare and contrast based on real-world possibilities.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:33 PM on July 31, 2006


"Cubans have as much food as they did before the Soviet Union collapsed."

The Cuba Diet (an interesting read) In addition to amazing organic farms, they apparently have a pretty impressive biotech industry, from what I've heard.
posted by shoepal at 12:28 AM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


i'm no fan of totalitarian governments, but any rational person has to admit that for a caribbean nation, cuba is looking pretty good. compare/contrast haiti, dominican republic, etc. in terms of healthcare and literacy. beaches not all wrecked by tourists/hotels. fine ceegars :)

yeah, consumer goods, fancy houses, luxury items... not doing so well in cuba. but why have we all come to assume that these are necessary for human happiness? on the contrary, the fact that humans keep on keepin' on in the face of some of the worst imaginable atrocities would indicate to me that it doesnt take much (just a bit of hope, really) to make most people look forward to another day.

but who am i fooling? the existence of an underground dollar economy, and the cuban government's looking the other way on prostitution, etc. would indicate that cubans are jonesing for the American Way. so bring it on, i guess. bring on the big macs and obesity and heart disease and the consumption of natural resources like there's no tomorrow. "be careful what you wish for..." these mofos have no idea whats in store for them.

also, SCDB: yeah, you're working from a tom clancy script, for sure. friends of mine have visited cuba (gasp!) and they were not shadowed by handlers or minders. give me a break, this isnt DPRK we're talking about here.

finally, don't get too used to your freedoms here. guaranteed that GWB and Cheney et. al. see china as their wet dream. what could be better for them than totalitarian capitalism?
posted by joeblough at 12:32 AM on August 1, 2006 [2 favorites]


It's not always the economy. The imprisonment of intellectuals, journalists, academics, marks Cuba as totalitarian, not its standard of living. Good riddance to a dictator with good PR
posted by A189Nut at 1:13 AM on August 1, 2006


SDB, you really are an utter moron. Have you not considered the effects of the US embargo on the Cuban economy? The US embargo is plain spiteful and nasty. It serves no purpose other than to attempt to destroy the economy of another state. It's done for no other reason than to punish Cuba for not kow-towing to American demands, and to demonstrate to all the other piddly Carribbean nations what will happen if you don't do what America wants. Who is the bad guy here?

You're comparing the Cuban GDP to the US GDP. Why would you do that? Surely we should be comparing Cuba to other Caribbean islands? Haiti has a GDP per capita of $1,500, with 80% below the poverty line. Dominican Republic is $7,000, with 25% below the poverty line. On that basis, even with the US embargo, Cuba is right in the middle.

Cuban literacy is 97% and life expectancy is 77.41 years. In the Dominican Republic, the figures are 84.7% and 71.73 years. On that basis, a clear win for Cuba.

Before the revolution, Cuba was a much more unequal society than it is now. The rich were much better off, the poor worse off. Who do you think are the anti-Castro Cubans in Florida? Of course they hate Castro; he tore down the social structures that maintained their standard of living.

I'm no supporter of Communism as a political system and I particularly dislike the authoritism that seems to accompany it. Basic political freedoms that we know in the West do not exist there, At the end of the day though, you have to ask yourself if the average Cuban worker is better off under the Castro system, and I think you can certainly make a good case that this is true. For us in rich countries, we don't have to make that choice about political freedom and basic healthcare. If you're living in a poorer country that choice is less clear cut.
posted by salmacis at 1:13 AM on August 1, 2006 [5 favorites]


there's an awful lot of experts around this thread. a legitimate question comes to mind: how many of them have actually been to Cuba? it's not that far away, really. and going there is very interesting, makes you understand a bit more

me, I cannot avoid to appreciate how el líder máximo (nobody calls him like that anymore in Cuba, don't worry, it's like a thing for tourists), old and ill, still manages to chap rightwingers' asses -- it must be that Bay of Pigs thing, I guess. it makes the retreat from Vietnam look like some smashing military success. not to mention, he's been thumbing his nose at, what, nine US Presidents? and none of them kicked his commie ass?



And those claims about the Cuban health care system, and their marvelous educational system?


again, traveling there helps you understand things. if you really think that there are government minders for every tourist in Cuba, well, you really have read too many bad spy novels (I like them too but I don't confuse their polts with reality). it's not really North Korea. if you're arguing that, say, a foreign journalist, while visiting government facilities, will be accompanied by a "translator" who keeps him away from negative info and tries to spin the government line, well, guess what, it happens when foreign journalists visit, say, the Pentagon or Congress.

a friend of mine, unwillingly, did a small test of the US vs Cuba health care system. either for bad luck or for carelessness in the choice of restaurants, he got very bad food poisoning in San Diego and in Havana. the quality of the care, he says, was basically the same if you of course concede that there are obviously much older, less shiny facilities in Cuba (it is indeed a poor country, embrago and all). nurses were apparently nice in Cuba, he saw a doctor more quickly in San Diego (even if it was pretty quick in Cuba, too, they probably didn't want him to keep barfing all over the ER)

what he got was a quick physical, shot of something that made him stop barfing (maybe it was the same medicine in both hospitals), and some pills. he rested a while on a stretcher (in Cuba) then called a cab and went to his hotel

the difference is of course that the San Diego hospital bill* was over 3,000 dollars

* to be fair, the San Diego bill included an ambulance ride to the ER, his buddies drove him to the Havana hospital

3,000+ dollars vs 0 makes quite a difference for those who don't really own any Halliburton stock, see.

re: education. well, Cubans are incredibly curious and, as much as it's possible there, very well-informed (many have -- sometimes rudimentary -- satellite dishes and stuff, you don't see Castro jumping on their roofs to rip them out) and have a true love for reading. most of them speak some English, and even some Italian or French. ask any foriegn doctor who had the chance to work with Cuban colleagues, and you'll very likely hear only good things re: their skills, especially given the fact that they have to work with VERY lean budgets

if you gauge quality of life on how many Hummers you see at the gas station, then I concede that there is no contest. but I'd be more careful before comparing Cuba to South Korea, really.

the Castro family will of course disappear -- if they last 50 years they'll beat even the Bushes -- and it's likely to be a good thing for Cubans, they certainly need more civli and political rights, but one would hate to see the good Cuban people be handed over to a Batista-style CIA-friendly banana dictatorship. they deserve better, that's for sure.

one last thought: those of you guys who really have a hardon for the "Cuba = baaaaaaaaaad" line, try to consider something.

in Cuba, the American system is Gitmo.

say what you want about Castro, more than a few political prisoners in his jails have more rights and are treated more humanely than the Gitmo invisible, unindicted prisoners

but as I said, visit the island, you'll understand that much you read about it is, well, wrong.

posted by matteo at 1:49 AM on August 1, 2006 [3 favorites]


A frugal Cuba should be a good inspiration for its obese neighbor, in these days of announced scarcities.

But in these modern times, one can't deny a nation the privilege to see thousands of its people perish in horrible circumstance as chaos breaks over a city when a something like Katrina hits them full on -- freedom has a price, I'm sure they'll understand.

It's not that socialism or anything like that could prepare then adequately for a disaster.
posted by NewBornHippy at 2:18 AM on August 1, 2006


matteo, I'm sure you meant to compare Cuba to North Korea, not South Korea.
posted by jacalata at 2:39 AM on August 1, 2006


At the end of the day though, you have to ask yourself if the average Cuban worker is better off under the Castro system, and I think you can certainly make a good case that this is true.

Speak for yourself. I'd rather be poor and free than well off and afraid to speak my mind for fear of 'disappearing'.
posted by PenDevil at 2:56 AM on August 1, 2006


Speak for yourself. I'd rather be poor and free than well off and afraid to speak my mind for fear of 'disappearing'.

Fair point PenDevil, but the fear of disappearing is not very strong from my experience. You wouldn't run down the street shouting 'down with the Revolution', but you can do so in a 'free speech zone' such as a friendly house or bar. Everybody knows who the informants are and behaves accordingly.

The embargo is what is causing most of the disparity in living standards for Cubans. Many people realise this, some will blame Castro.

Which Carribean capital cities can a tourist safely wander around freely, day or night? The worst you'll get in Havana is a hinetero/a following you for a bit if you are alone. Ironically, hineteros are very illegal but you see them everywhere there are tourists.

The food in the farmers' markets was amazing when I was there. Beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables at prices around 5-10% those in the neighboring Cayman Islands. If Cuba could sell food to the other Carribean islands it would be a great benefit to all concerned.
posted by asok at 3:23 AM on August 1, 2006


Speak for yourself. I'd rather be poor and free than well off and afraid to speak my mind for fear of 'disappearing'.

"Disappearing"?

Nothing that wouldn't happen in capitalist Columbia then, or fascist Argentina or Chile of the 70s, with assistance from the CIA?
posted by Jimbob at 3:28 AM on August 1, 2006


Also, have you ever been poor and free? I think the folks in Soweto would prefer to be in Cuba than where they are now.
posted by Jimbob at 3:31 AM on August 1, 2006


The irony of the discussion on Cuba is that people act as if the United States didn't have a plan to install a puppet government in the country the instant Fidel dies. This would not be a free and open government (there's no way it would be as democratic as the imperfectly democratic government that is there now) but rather basically a dictatorship of the mafioso Cuban exile community, who would introduce Cuba to real "freedom" as it's experienced throughout Latin America -- freedom from healthcare, freedom from education, freedom from the right to have a job.

All the squawking about Cuba being "totalitarian" is just the line of a State Department that has spent decades trying to crush Cuba for daring to break away from the capitalist system, and doing better. Cuba is under perpetual siege by American imperialism, and is defending its right to self-determination. The few Cuban "political prisoners" are usually there for accepting American funds toward the overthrow of the government; and the only torture that happens on the island is in Guantanamo Bay, the proximity of which will give the Cuban people reason for pause before they welcome American-sponsored "benefactors."
posted by graymouser at 4:09 AM on August 1, 2006


Spent a couple of weeks in Cuba last year, mainly around Havana area. Absolutely wonderful place. The 1st impression you get is a very impoverished people, but when you look past the flaking paint, they generally seem happy and contented.

Have visited many capital cities around the world, and can categorically say that I felt the safest walking around then districts of Havana.
posted by lloyder at 4:13 AM on August 1, 2006


If you're gay in Cuba, people are allowed to flick your nuts in public.
posted by rxrfrx at 4:25 AM on August 1, 2006



US has $80m plan for Cuba after Castro
America should be prepared to move quickly to pour aid and advisers into Cuba in the event of Fidel Castro's death, to turn the island away from communist rule, a government report due for release this week will recommend.

The report, the second from a group set up by George Bush three years ago to intensify US pressure for regime change in Cuba, calls for $80m (£43m) to be put aside to step up opposition to Mr Castro.
posted by Unregistered User at 4:30 AM on August 1, 2006


People, you can't take anything Steven C. Den Beste says seriously... oh sure, he sounds smart but he proved with this comment that he's not a member of the reality-based community.

From the book "Moneyball": "Many people think they are smarter than others in baseball and that the game on the field is simply what they think it is through their set of images/beliefs. Actual data from the market means more than individual perception/belief. The same is true in baseball."
--John Henry, pg. 91

I'm willing to bet SCDB has never been to Cuba to gather data first-hand. The second-hand information he has has been filtered through his ideological bias to conform with his beliefs. GDP does not equal Standard of Living, but it's easier to count money than happiness.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 4:33 AM on August 1, 2006


The smug triumphalism of a lot of the anti-Castro people about this is sort of amusing, as if they were all part of some grand military strategy. "Yes! Our brilliant plan of waiting fifty years for him to die worked! Good job, everyone!"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:35 AM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Hey I'm against the US embargo of Cuba, especically considering other 'communist' states such as China receive most favoured trading nation status for years. In fact I'd bet the best way to hasten the demise of communist Cuba would be if the US removed economic and travel restrictions.

But I still don't think Cuba being on the same or better level with the US in terms of healthcare or literacy is an excuse for the denial of basic human rights.
posted by PenDevil at 4:49 AM on August 1, 2006


But I still don't think Cuba being on the same or better level with the US in terms of healthcare or literacy is an excuse for the denial of basic human rights.

You're absolutely right and it's high time that the US stopped torturing people and holding them in little pens without trial.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:59 AM on August 1, 2006


Never said I was the biggest fan of the US and it's treatment of prisoners either but continues to parade out that strawman if it makes you feel better.
posted by PenDevil at 5:12 AM on August 1, 2006


Never said I was the biggest fan of the US and it's treatment of prisoners either but continues to parade out that strawman if it makes you feel better.

This is Metafilter and you worked the term "straw man" into the argument so obviously you've won.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:25 AM on August 1, 2006


Dude why are you getting so aggro? It's perfectly valid to criticise the human rights record of a particular country without having to add a disclaimer at the end stating the human rights failure of every other country in the world.
posted by PenDevil at 5:42 AM on August 1, 2006


It's perfectly valid to criticise the human rights record of a particular country

But when you criticize the human rights record of particular country, you must have a reason or a point to prove, right?

"Oh lah de da, isn't it a lovely day, aren't the marigolds lovely this year, Cuba imprisons dissidents, I wonder if the water's warm enough for a swim?"

Your "better to be poor and free than well-off and oppressed" comment reveals that this is about more than you commenting on Cuba's human rights record. It sounds ideological. And it also sounds like bullshit. Freedom is the freedom not to die from a preventable disease, and the freedom to be able to feed your children. And as the increasing popularity of socialist leaders across the America shows, a lot of poor people in IMF-approved countries are jealous of the Cubans.

You also lose points for using the term "strawman" seriously.
posted by Jimbob at 6:00 AM on August 1, 2006


and for the anti-castros and weak liberals who will invariably squeeze out beads of invective on this thread: we're all very impressed at how anti-communist you are.

So you'll be building a rubber raft to float to Havana, along with the rest of the huddled masses soon, right?
posted by jonmc at 6:03 AM on August 1, 2006


Actually, I think Raul is a beautiful sounding name. It means Wolf Counselor.

Adolf/Adolfe/Adolph/Adolpho/Adolfo/Adolphe/Adolfo/Adolphus/Adolphine/Adolphina
means "Noble Wolf".
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:07 AM on August 1, 2006


Seriously, to all the Castro apologists*, I lived in Miami for a few years and all my friends and co-workers were exiles or the children of exiles, and not a single one of them had anything good to say about Castro and I'll take the word of someone actually connected to the situation rather than somebody who's read a few magazine articles.

*I unserstand that criticizing a third-world lefty would cost you your cred, but it's all right.
posted by jonmc at 6:08 AM on August 1, 2006


Are those these Cuban exiles jonmc? These? I presume they're exiles from this period?
posted by Jimbob at 6:18 AM on August 1, 2006


Jimbob, actually just about all of them (or their parents) came over post-Castro. My friend Letty's dad was a political prisoner under Castro. But, continue with the champagne socialism and armchair revolution, please.
posted by jonmc at 6:21 AM on August 1, 2006


I lived in Miami for a few years and all my friends and co-workers were exiles or the children of exiles, and not a single one of them had anything good to say about Castro

Well d'uh. If they were Castro supporters they'd hardly be living in Florida would they? I'm also willing to bet that the vast majority of exiled Cubans were among the wealthiest on the island before the revolution.
posted by salmacis at 6:23 AM on August 1, 2006


I lived in Miami for a few years and all my friends and co-workers were exiles or the children of exiles, and not a single one of them had anything good to say about Castro

I lived in a South American colony of confederate exiles and not a single one of them had anything good to say about Lincoln.*

Yeah, the people who had it good under Batista generally don't have anything good to say about Castro. They also don't have anything good to say about those smelly poor people who were naked, cold, illiterate and sick under Batista, either.

I know, I know. Your cuban friends' parents were campesos cutting sugar cane for pennies a day before the revolution. But they loved freedom so much (freedom that they would have had even less of under Batista) that they risked it all to come to this country and now they are very successful. That's how it always is.

No one ever says "Well, my grandpa was a supervisor for United Fruit and he had his own bullwhip and naturally we were pissed when there was a popular uprising and suddenly those ignorant farm laborers were declared human beings."

*I didn't really. Obviously
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:23 AM on August 1, 2006 [2 favorites]


Pobre Cuba, tan lejos de dios y tan cerca de estados unidos.
posted by signal at 6:25 AM on August 1, 2006


They also don't have anything good to say about those smelly poor people who were naked, cold, illiterate

And there's a lot of those people up in the back bay of Boston, too, right Mayor? I think you're wasting your time here Baby Che. You should be out fighting La Revolucion.
posted by jonmc at 6:26 AM on August 1, 2006


it is just ill informed rhetoric to try and claim that the average Cuban citizen is somehow leading a life of much lower quality than someone in the US.

i guess all the people who've abandoned cuba for the u s were victims of ill informed rhetoric then ... as are all the people in the u s who somehow have mysteriously neglected to move to cuba
posted by pyramid termite at 6:26 AM on August 1, 2006


were they part of the Mariel immigration wave?
posted by matteo at 6:26 AM on August 1, 2006


Your cuban friends' parents were campesos cutting sugar cane for pennies a day before the revolution. But they loved freedom so much (freedom that they would have had even less of under Batista) that they risked it all to come to this country and now they are very successful.

I think one was fairly affluent in Cuba. Most of the ones I knew, lived fairly ordianry middle-class lives in Miami; store managers, technicians, etc. And like I said, I'll take their word over someone who vies the conflict on TV.
posted by jonmc at 6:29 AM on August 1, 2006


Seriously, to all the Castro apologists*, I lived in Miami for a few years and all my friends and co-workers were exiles or the children of exiles, and not a single one of them had anything good to say about Castro and I'll take the word of someone actually connected to the situation rather than somebody who's read a few magazine articles.

Seriously, the militant Cuban "exile" community in Miami is basically the Cubans who were better off under Batista -- a rich or at least well-off minority. This is the way of class struggles; when the lower class actually wins a battle, it does hurt the upper classes (big and little bourgeoisie, natch). The Miami gang has harbored dreams of crushing the revolution in Cuba for 47 years now, because they were the ones who benefitted from the island being a fiefdom of the Mafia. They are reactionary to the bone, and basically want the US government to reinstall them to their privelege in Havana. They haven't been in Cuba in decades, and their opinions on Castro are entirely motivated by self-interest of the worst kind.
posted by graymouser at 6:33 AM on August 1, 2006


But when you criticize the human rights record of particular country, you must have a reason or a point to prove, right?
Sure, my point was, as I explained earlier, that I don't think it's alright to excuse denial of human rights just because the healthcare is good or the literacy rate is high.

To tell you the truth I don't have much of a dog in this race, the only Cuban I've ever met was the Cuban doctor at the local government hospital who had to send half his paycheck to the Castro government and who was desperately trying to find a way not to be sent back when his 'loan period' (for want of a better phrase) was up.

Your "better to be poor and free than well-off and oppressed" comment reveals that this is about more than you commenting on Cuba's human rights record. It sounds ideological. And it also sounds like bullshit.
Read into it what you will. I put an extremely high value on freedom of expression and belief. If you put higher value on those rights you mentioned that's your choice, I don't really care. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

You also lose points for using the term "strawman" seriously.
Oh well guess I'm out the running for Miss Metafilter this year. C'est la vie.
posted by PenDevil at 6:35 AM on August 1, 2006


Free heath care? Great. 100% literacy rate? Fantastic.

However, I just can't get behind the prisons, the lack of free speech, the forced agricultural labor. My Cuban family is full of political prisoners and people forced to farm sugar cane on starvation rations. It isn't that they fled to the US to have a bigger house or feed that Mac attack. Most spent decades dirt poor trying to get back to a normal standard of living. They fled because they didn't want to end up in front of a firing squad or needed to escape the plantations.

Everytime I start forgetting about this another family member washes up on the shore and reminds us that it really hasn't gotten any better.

Cuba is one of those places that looks really great from a distance. Trust me, you don't want to live there.
posted by Alison at 6:36 AM on August 1, 2006


graymouser: none of my friends were what you'd call 'militants,' they weren't members of any militias or organizations. They were Joe Citizens, basically. But they were definitely anti-Beard.
posted by jonmc at 6:38 AM on August 1, 2006


compare/contrast haiti, dominican republic

Yeah, exactly the kinds of wonderful governments the US likes to support in the Caribbean. And the world. If only we could install a Duvalier (Papa Doc or Baby Doc would do), a Marcos, or a Suharto. Maybe a Batista or a Pinochet. I've always been partial to a Reza Pahlavi. And then there was our favorite child of the 80s, wacky Saddam.

They'd show those ungrateful Cubans just what the hell real opportunity looks like.

Steve C. De Beste (anyone every notice that those who use their middle initial at all times, even if there's no one else with a similar name to distinguish themselves from, are always pro-aristocratic?) is a small-minded lackey. I sincerely hope something will happen to open his eyes, and I sincerely hope it won't be tragic, but I'm not crossing my fingers. These days in the US, the truism seems to be that in the land of the one-eyed, the blind man is king. Fucking depressing.

Your "better to be poor and free than well-off and oppressed" comment reveals that this is about more than you commenting on Cuba's human rights record. It sounds ideological. And it also sounds like bullshit. Freedom is the freedom not to die from a preventable disease, and the freedom to be able to feed your children. And as the increasing popularity of socialist leaders across the America shows, a lot of poor people in IMF-approved countries are jealous of the Cubans.

Nice post, Jimbob. Right on the money.
posted by the_savage_mind at 6:41 AM on August 1, 2006


And there's a lot of those people up in the back bay of Boston, too, right Mayor? I think you're wasting your time here Baby Che. You should be out fighting La Revolucion.

Homer: "If you don't like it, move to Russia."
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:45 AM on August 1, 2006


They fled because they didn't want to end up in front of a firing squad or needed to escape the plantations.

there are times when actions speak louder than words ... people can't vote with their ballots so they vote with their feet, even if it means they may die in the attempt

but i'm sure that there are some people in cuba who would love to log in to metafilter and tell us the truth of their situation ... unfortunately, they won't because they're not allowed to do that

but at least they're healthy ... why, they're just as healthy as those in the people's republic of canada, another well-known supporter of the glorious communist revolution ... oh, wait, they're not communists up there, are they?
posted by pyramid termite at 6:47 AM on August 1, 2006


I dunno man, at this point it's hard to imagine castro ever dying. It's kind of gross to read about all the neo-con "Plans" for the country after he goes. bleh. I hope the cubans are able to self-determine the course of their country after he dies without the US trying to controll all of it.
posted by delmoi at 6:47 AM on August 1, 2006


They were Joe Citizens, basically. But they were definitely anti-Beard.
jonmc, there are certainly reasons to be anti-beard without being pro Batista or monarch or fascist or whatever. There's no whitewashing a lot of the shitty things Castro has done in terms of incarcerations and executions.

What we're looking at, though, is a situation like Iran in the 50s and Venezuela now, where the US assaults a smaller nation's leader in various ways, forcing them to radicalize in response. That way the US wins no matter what. Either they assassinate/pull him down via coup or they can point and say, "See! See what a despot he is because he is not letting the movement who tried to kill/tear him down do their work?!!"

You cannot extract Castro actions from the context of how he's been handled by the US. And you also can't ignore the good he's done because of the bad. Well, you can, as Steve C. De Worste shows, but you shouldn't.
posted by the_savage_mind at 6:48 AM on August 1, 2006


jonmc, there are certainly reasons to be anti-beard without being pro Batista or monarch or fascist or whatever.

Don't get me wrong, Batista was a scumbag, too, and the US could have handled him better. I'm just a little amused at Castro's lionization by many US leftists.

Mayor Curley: If you're really serious about your revolution, I can send some guys out to steal your car. Redistribution of the wealth and all that...
posted by jonmc at 6:53 AM on August 1, 2006


I'd particularly love to see the US open its borders to Cubans.

The US has open borders with Cuba. It's all rather bizarre but Cubans who make it to the US gain instant citizenship. But if we catch them at sea we send them back. It's entirely ridiculous.
posted by delmoi at 7:00 AM on August 1, 2006


jonmc - Did your friend Latty's dad arrive from the port of Mariel? Plenty of those guys added the "political" to the "prisoner" en route, if you know what I mean. Surely they hate Castro - hating him means a clean slate vs. a rap sheet and a shitty rep back where they came from. Go further South to Haiti and ask around who would like to move to Cuba. The answer is "just about everyone". What does that prove to you? What does it prove to you when the Cuban community in Miami has been pushing for measures against Castro that CLEARLY DO NOT WORK AS INTENDED for several decades now? What does it mean when they cry foul about free speech in Cuba but wholeheartedly support in the US a party that is keeping unknown prisoners for unknown reasons for unknown periods of time in unknown conditions (legal and otherwise) in (sometimes) unknown locations outside their country?

Not that it really matters, but I happen to have plenty of expat and local friends and family in Cuba *and* the Cuban exile colony in Florida and have extensive first-hand knowledge of how capitalism works South of the Rio Grande. I say lift the embargo and see what happens . But of course we wouldn't want to give some key successes half a chance, would we now? Who gives a damm about infant mortality when there is clearly money to be made once the "beard" goes? Seriously, it is not a matter of "good" vs. "evil" or any other polarizing attitude. It's a matter of no single implementation being correct in all instances. The question is: what do you want to do about it?

Por curiosidad, Alison, ¿a tí todo eso te lo cuentan en español o en gringo?
posted by magullo at 7:03 AM on August 1, 2006


I'm just a little amused at Castro's lionization by many US leftists.

90 miles from the United States, the Cubans have kept together a state in defiance of the direct and well-known will of the single most powerful country, in military terms, ever to exist. And they have done well for themselves relative to that country's attempts to stamp out their counterexample to the system of global capitalism whereby the a small ruling class, much of it in the US, profits at the expense of the vast majority of humanity. Revolutionary Cuba, although of course reflecting its harsh circumstances, is an island that shows that another world is possible. And that means something to people.
posted by graymouser at 7:07 AM on August 1, 2006


jonmc - Did your friend Latty's dad arrive from the port of Mariel?

It's Letty, and I don't think so, and quite frankly that's a bit of a cheap shot. 'He dosen't like Castro? Must be one of those Marielito criminals.'
posted by jonmc at 7:08 AM on August 1, 2006


I'm just a little amused at Castro's lionization by many US leftists.

It's not lionization so much as correction. The attitude of otherwise liberal Americans towards Cuba (and Iran for that matter) leave me no option but to think the US media provides as warped a view of these countries as people in these "pariah states" see of America on their TVs. Possibly worse - I know for a fact that one of my Iranian friends has seen American Pie and American Pie 2.

As so many others have said, comparing Cuba to the USA is futile. Try comparing Cuba to Columbia or Haiti or Angola or Sri Lanka somewhere. If you're really desperate to see Cuba and the US on equal social and economic footing, then you're talking some serious redistribution of wealth there. Sounds like communism to me.
posted by Jimbob at 7:09 AM on August 1, 2006


And that means something to people.

And it means other things to other people.
posted by jonmc at 7:10 AM on August 1, 2006


Go further South to Haiti and ask around who would like to move to Cuba. The answer is "just about everyone".

which is why when they get into a boat, they all show up off the coast of florida, right?

i've never understood the embargo, anyway ... it seems as though our government is simply holding a grudge ... and it seems that if we started trade and communication with cuba that they would be influenced to loosen up quite a bit
posted by pyramid termite at 7:10 AM on August 1, 2006


it seems as though our government is simply holding a grudge ...

D'ya think?
posted by Jimbob at 7:13 AM on August 1, 2006


Well, they travel to Cuba, and they get to see what the government there wants them to see. They get to talk to everyday Cubans, who know that they're being monitored while they talk, and who will say what they know the government wants them to say.

That's idiotic. Cuba isn't North Korea or pre-invasion Iraq. It has a massive, massive tourism industry fed mostly by Europeans and Japanese. There is no way everyone from outside Cuba gets a government minder. Cuba is a lot like China You can travel around and talk to people all you want, and there are tons and tons of outsiders there. People don't get monitored. Get a grip.

The US prevents Cuba from trading with any of our allies, then points fingers at them when they trade with those on Bush's "enemies list." Who else they gonna trade with, stupid?

We are unable to actually stop anyone from trading with Cuba. Even Canada does. Cuba trades with every country except the United States.

Our Cuba policy is based entirely on personal animosity. BECAUSE CASTRO KILLED KENNEDY!!! Think about it people!
posted by delmoi at 7:15 AM on August 1, 2006


Yeah, yeah, I get it. Castro is evil. Batista was, arguably, worse (for the average guy). G.W. ain't no fucking prize, either.

True believers in the American Experiment understand that you nevertrust the leader, no matter who it is. The average citizen generally gets screwed in any system.

That said, I'd rather see a leader with the conviction to walk the walk than one that blows goodness and light up everyone's ass while doing shit they don't want to own up to on the side. Fidel is ten times the man that other wussy emperor wannabes (who will remain nameless) are.

Is it better to live in a struggling communist society that's attempting to achieve it's goals, or a democracy that's blatantly running away from it's responsibilities? At least a country that has disenfranchised people willing to vote with their feet indicates that they have politically aware citizens, not fat, lazy, unaware sheep.

I am not endorsing Fidel's system, but I am not bragging about ours, either. We certainly haven't earned, in any way, the right to cast stones with any righteousness. Anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:17 AM on August 1, 2006 [2 favorites]


The Mayor Curley flame in this thread is extraordinary.
posted by Falconetti at 7:27 AM on August 1, 2006


Castro's outlasted Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 1.0, and Clinton.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:33 AM on August 1, 2006


So have several funguses.
posted by jonmc at 7:36 AM on August 1, 2006


But if we catch them at sea we send them back. It's entirely ridiculous.

Except the ones that can play professional baseball. They get to stay.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:40 AM on August 1, 2006


it's amazing what guns, prisons and secret police will do for one's political longevity
posted by pyramid termite at 7:40 AM on August 1, 2006


Except the ones that can play professional baseball. They get to stay.

Hot salsa dancers can stay, too. We need them for music videos.
posted by jonmc at 7:42 AM on August 1, 2006


Fuzzy Monster: "People, you can't take anything Steven C. Den Beste says seriously... "

Oh. Like we CAN take anything a fuzzy monster says seriously? Would that be Grover or Cookie?

MetaFilter: You can't take anything said seriously.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:44 AM on August 1, 2006


Good health care (sure), good education (sure) - I really can't comment on those. Good economy (no way - try telling that to people who make their dresser drawers out of cardboard - but I wouldn't hold Castro completely responsible for that.)

And Batista was rotten.

What I can't ignore is the complusion so many Cubans show to leave that place. Not a good indicator of the success of the experiment. As one of so many examples, consider what it took for parents to send their kids away from them in the Peter Pan Operation. One of my colleagues spent ages 10-25 away from her mother, and she has never seen her father again because he died still in Cuba. What kind of a political and social system drives parents to do something that drastic?

I wouldn't count Haiti in calculations of acceptable GDPs. The country is a disaster. [Warning - 2004 report includes horribly disturbing report/pictures of the extent of Haiti's current horror.] So Cuba's not that bad? Not a good indicator of Cuba's potential economy, absent war.

Also, I know one person who traveled to Cuba as a tourist, and he had lots of good things to say about it. I know many other people who have traveled to Cuba in a professional capacity, and they experienced a drastically different side of Cuba.

posted by Amizu at 7:48 AM on August 1, 2006


All anyone needs to know about Steve Den Beste is right here:

SDB's essay on female people
posted by felix at 7:59 AM on August 1, 2006


jonmc Surely it's a cheap shot ... and a running joke among many Cubans, exiled and not exiled. But you can't have it both ways. You are either getting good info from your Cuban friends in Florida or you "you don't *think* so" and thus set yourself up in the most obvious of ways.

BTW, apologies for getting her name wrong. I did not intend to insult anyone personally, much less someone I don't know and you clearly appreciate. Rest assured, however, that many of those "prisoners" where not *political* prisoners when they left the island. The rest where not craving liberty but money ... once again bringing up the question of what, if any, is the political effectiveness (and goals) of the embargo.

By the way, a great read on the subject of the (early) exile is the novel American Tabloid by James Ellroy.

----------------

The point of bringing up Haiti is that - if I remember correctly - that was the last major US political intervention in the area. And right now it is probably the worst country in the continent.
posted by magullo at 8:00 AM on August 1, 2006


> A couple of years ago, when Fidel began to feel the cold breath of the Grim Reaper on his neck,
> he got a constitutional amendment passed which made Stalinism a permanent and irrevocable
> part of Cuba's government. Establishing Stalinism in Cuba was Fidel's great achievement, and he
> was afraid that it will be dismantled about five minutes after he dies.

The Bishop Orders his Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church
posted by jfuller at 8:01 AM on August 1, 2006


What I can't ignore is the complusion so many Cubans show to leave that place.

Oh come on. People from every nation on earth immigrate to the United States, and the United States puts Cubans at the front of the line. Once they touch the ground they're in.

Simple economic advantage is more then enough to motivate people to immigrate from Cuba to the United States just like it's enough to convince anyone to immigrate to the US. For every Cuban who gets a free pass, there are probably a hundred Mexicans who move here and have to live in fear of being deported does that mean Mexico is a totalitarian dictatorship a hundred times worse then Cuba? What about all the Canadians who move to the US and put up with years of INS bureaucracy? Is Canada a totalitarian dictatorship?

What about all the ex-pat Americans who live abroad? Did they leave to flee totalitarianism?

The fact that people move from place to place is not evidence of anything.
posted by delmoi at 8:02 AM on August 1, 2006


The fact that people move from place to place is not evidence of anything.

There's a difference between jetting over to Europe for a few years in First Class on a 747 and sailing 90 miles in the open seas on a homemade raft.
posted by keswick at 8:04 AM on August 1, 2006


Por curiosidad, Alison, ¿a tí todo eso te lo cuentan en español o en gringo?

It's a mixed bag. My abuelo and Tío Jeorge speak better 'Gringo' (hee.) and mostly talked about this in English. We would usually talk about this in family settings and my mother does not speak Spanish, so it was necessary to speak in English.

My abuela, on the other hand, does not speak English as well and I have spent more one-on-one time with her.
posted by Alison at 8:12 AM on August 1, 2006


By the way, a great read on the subject of the (early) exile is the novel American Tabloid by James Ellroy.

I know. I'm a big fan of Ellroy's. I'm just neither rah-rah Fidel nor a rabid exile supporter. There seems to be less middle ground all the time on this.
posted by jonmc at 8:19 AM on August 1, 2006


There's a difference between jetting over to Europe for a few years in First Class on a 747 and sailing 90 miles in the open seas on a homemade raft.

Yes; and neither of them is the same as being smuggled over the US/Mexico border in difficult, dangerous circumstances, as millions are. There are relatively very few Cubans who go to the US as compared to Mexicans. If this were a real indicator of anything, it would be that Cuba is much better than Mexico.
posted by graymouser at 8:24 AM on August 1, 2006


And smaller?
posted by keswick at 8:27 AM on August 1, 2006


There are relatively very few Cubans who go to the US as compared to Mexicans. If this were a real indicator of anything, it would be that Cuba is much better than Mexico.
Or it could be an indicator of the 90 miles of ocean between the US and Cuba.

It's a helluva lot easier to swim across the Rio Grande than the Florida Straits.
posted by PenDevil at 8:34 AM on August 1, 2006


Simple economic advantage is more then enough to motivate people to immigrate from Cuba to the United States

and of course, that never has anything to do with what kind of government you have, does it? ... and let's not overlook that in jamaica, for instance, if you want to leave the country for the usa, you can just buy a plane ticket if you have the money ... the same goes for mexico ... in fact, you can just drive over the border

(remember that a substantial portion of mexicans that are here illegally are overstaying their visas and didn't walk through the desert to get here)

yes, people are motivated to leave all sorts of countries ... but generally speaking, they're not motivated to leave by drifting 90 miles in rubber rafts, risking their lives and risking imprisonment in their home countries if they're returned ... that's not mere economic motivation at work ... that's desperation

but pay no attention to what people actually DO ... if the facts are ideologically inconvenient, rationalize them away, because believing that a country with castro as leader is automatically better than a country with bush as leader is the correct thing to think if you dislike bush ... and it's not like you're ever going to be confronted with a difficult choice like that, so you can pontificate not only over what people should do, but why they're doing it and what they're thinking about it, without having to suffer any real consequences for it

god forbid we should think that they're both awful leaders
posted by pyramid termite at 8:40 AM on August 1, 2006


It's all rather bizarre but Cubans who make it to the US gain instant citizenship. But if we catch them at sea we send them back.

The US wants only expert Cuban boaters? The best swimmers?

There's a difference between jetting over to Europe for a few years in First Class on a 747 and sailing 90 miles in the open seas on a homemade raft.

Yeah, if you're poor, the jet is out of the question, while 90 miles in a boat is doable. If all countries in the world had just 90 miles of open water between them and the capitalist capital of the world, and had the same instant-citizenship deal that the Cubans have, and were told they'd be viewed as some sort of heroes for escaping the mean old man who nationalized the casinos and plantations, most of the populations of every country but maybe Western Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand would be out behind the shack or hut or tent or igloo right now building boats that would make it look like the Wacky Races at sea. It wouldn't have to be anything at all to do with politics. It would be money.
posted by pracowity at 8:42 AM on August 1, 2006


The best swimmers?

Jimmy, one of my aforementioned Cubano buddies in Florida used to tell a joke:

How come there's no Cuban swim team at the Olympics?

Cos all the good Cuban swimmers are in Miami.
posted by jonmc at 8:52 AM on August 1, 2006


What I don't get is the insane embargos we've instituted against Cuba - why, because of communism, human rights?? How the fuck do we do any business with China then??
posted by premortem at 9:09 AM on August 1, 2006


How the fuck do we do any business with China then??

Let's see: 11 million Cubans, 450 bazillion Chinese. You do the math.
posted by jonmc at 9:11 AM on August 1, 2006


Would that be Grover or Cookie?

Leave my brothers out of this.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:32 AM on August 1, 2006


what about your sister?


posted by jonmc at 9:34 AM on August 1, 2006


Or your cousin from the auld country, Cookie O' Puss.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:40 AM on August 1, 2006


if you want to leave the country for the usa, you can just buy a plane ticket if you have the money

What makes you think that is not the case in Cuba? You need a proper visa issued by the country that you are travelling to, a plane ticket and a 150$ "Tarjeta Blanca" exit permit. Even this clearly anti-castro recent article concedes that the people who are denied the permit are in the "hundreds".

Tarjeta Blanca para los cubanos

While I am pretty sure that each and all of those particular situations are tough to say the least; in the larger scale of Caribbean immigration, they are quite insignificant - both in terms of quality and quantity.
posted by magullo at 9:43 AM on August 1, 2006


but pay no attention to what people actually DO ... if the facts are ideologically inconvenient, rationalize them away, because believing that a country with castro as leader is automatically better than a country with bush as leader is the correct thing to think if you dislike bush

Hey pyramid? As a non-Castro-apologizer, I say get a grip dude. You're certainly not the only person here engaging facts in defense of their argument. You may dislike Mayor C's position, but he's not just rationalizing away things and avoiding facts.

There are plenty of facts as to why Cuba is in fact a better system (in certain ways) than many other states. Including the US. While at the same time there are many facts that show a system worse than many other states (Canada, the Scandinavian nations, Spain at the moment). The two aren't mutually exclusive. And your own crass generalization in the statement above is unsupported.

Oh, and heartily concur... American Tabloid is one of the best novels ever. Plus his conclusions on the Kennedy assassination dovetail with the grand, old CIA spooks my folks know in McLean. Which ultimately doesn't mean it's true, but man does it sound convincing.

No matter how you cut it, Kennedy was a fuck.
posted by the_savage_mind at 9:46 AM on August 1, 2006


That's what she said...

sorry
posted by jonmc at 9:59 AM on August 1, 2006


What about your sister?
posted by jonmc


Or your cousin from the auld country, Cookie O' Puss.
posted by Divine_Wino


Y'know, it's funny... every time I call and ask to speak to them, the person on the other end hangs up.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:00 AM on August 1, 2006


but at least they're healthy ... why, they're just as healthy as those in the people's republic of canada, another well-known supporter of the glorious communist revolution ... oh, wait, they're not communists up there, are they?
posted by pyramid termite at 2:47 PM GMT on August 1 [+fave] [!]


No, we are communists up in Canada. You can tell by our evil nationalised health care. And we have no democracy - we don't even get to vote for our own Queen!

The problem with this whole problem is that it isn't black and white. Castro is a dictator, as much as Batista ever was. But rampant, unchecked capitalism was also a system which was very destructive to Cuba, as it is to many other places. The first world doesn't even have to deal with unchecked capitalism - we have minimum wage, labour laws, health and safety, social safety nets to cushion us against it.

One should be able to denounce Castro and his dictatorship without denouncing things which have proved to be good - like nationalised health care. The question is: how to end Castro's rule and democratise Cuba without destroying the social infrastructure which has been created.

Funny enough, China (which the U.S. is very happy to trade with) has liberalised economically but not at all politically. People there disapeer for saying the wrong thing, and they lose their houses and farms to developers with no compensation. Where is the blockade against China? Where is the hatred for Jiang Zemin, who is just as despicable as Castro?
posted by jb at 10:11 AM on August 1, 2006


The question is: how to end Castro's rule and democratise Cuba without destroying the social infrastructure which has been created.

You talk as though Cuba has no democratic institutions; it does have a popularly elected Assembly and local Organs of People's Power, which although imperfect are in fact democratic and reflect the concerns of the Cuban people. Absent a foreign power looming over it with the constant threat of return to virtual enslavement, these institutions would have the best chance of actual democracy in Cuba. Of course, that wouldn't mean much if the US manages to install one of the Miami crew as the new Batista, which would be the result of a US-backed "democratization."
posted by graymouser at 10:24 AM on August 1, 2006


premortem: What I don't get is the insane embargos we've instituted against Cuba - why, because of communism, human rights?? How the fuck do we do any business with China then??

My guess is that it's because of the Cuban Missile Crisis. We'd have probably gotten past it ages ago if it wasn't the same guy leading the same regime, but it is.

The Cuban exiles here also often hold a very personal grudge against Castro and his regime, and are very active in politics.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:30 AM on August 1, 2006


No matter how you cut it, Kennedy was a fuck.

Cut him some slack: to borrow from the other thread, reportedly the only thing that stopped Operation Northwoods (look familiar?) after it had been approved by all of the Joint Chiefs, was Kennedy personally quashing it. This is not documented anywhere, but it had gone so far that by that time he's just about the only one who could have killed it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:35 AM on August 1, 2006


Cuba is neither the utopian everything-is-wonderful mecca of wonderfulness that some wish to pretend it is nor the big scary boogieman where everyone is miserable and must.be.stopped! that others like to paint it as. People like to twist the image of the country into whatever is convenient to support their own political agenda, knowing that most observers (or indeed, many of those debating the points) don't know any better. As with most things, the truth lies between somewhere in the messy middle.

I was there in January of this year, and found it enlightening to go there and see firsthand what it's like.

They have free University education and free prescription drugs (not even progressive Canada has those free) - but people in tourism make more money than doctors or engineers do, and OTC drugs like Tylenol are hard to come by. Simple things like shower curtains and notepads are in short supply so people line up for hours outside of stores on the days they recieve their shipments. There are lots of old old American cars (40's and 50's mostly) that have been retrofitted with Russian diesel engines and housepaint slapped on the outside. But there's also many brand new European cars that I've never seen in North America. There are billboards everywhere just like at home, but they're all propaganda. People are careful about what they're heard saying about political matters, but it's not too difficult to get them alone if you get off the resorts and then they'll speak more freely.

It's a safe place for tourists, and unlike Mexico you won't be hassled by police looking for bribes. Tourism is the #1 industry, and there are lots of tourists around, but none of them are Americans. There is no monitoring of visitors. I was able to move freely and talk to whomever I wanted, and I didn't need a translator.

The Cubans I talked to said that their lives have improved since the fall of the USSR and the slowly increasing freedoms they've enjoyed since then. There is more that they long for, but there is lots they are proud about now and don't wish to give up.
posted by raedyn at 10:39 AM on August 1, 2006


In fact, entering and exiting Cuba was easier than entering and exiting the US is, and I'm a not-brown not-Muslim Canadian.
posted by raedyn at 10:43 AM on August 1, 2006


reportedly the only thing that stopped Operation Northwoods (look familiar?) after it had been approved by all of the Joint Chiefs, was Kennedy personally quashing it.

Well, as you point out, there's no corroboration of that story anywhere. The man was responsible for the Bay of Pigs. In addition, rumors just as strong as the one you quote say Kennedy was freaking juiced on goofballs (literally) throughout the Missile Crisis. Vietnam. The inception of using major insurgent groups to affect foreign countries.

Total. Bastard. But he was pretty and a member of 'American Royalty', whatever the fuck that means, so he's remembered as this glorious liberal angel.
posted by the_savage_mind at 11:46 AM on August 1, 2006


What I don't get is the insane embargos we've instituted against Cuba - why, because of communism, human rights??

It has nothing to do with human rights. If it did, other countries would be invaded before Cuba, and of course US-caused financial strain to the population over many years has not done anything for human rights.

Some hypercondensed Cuban history: the US has long thought that it rightfully owns Cuba. It tried to buy Cuba from Spain a couple of times and, after Spain kept saying no, the US eventually went to war with Spain to just take Cuba and other territory. The US won the war and occupied Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam. The US installed a military government in Cuba then and the US still hasn't entirely left Cuba today -- that's what Guantanamo is, a military occupier's base of operations. The base was there long before Castro and communism, and probably was a cause of Castro and communism's rise to power. When Castro nationalized US sugar and fruit interests that were squatting on huge tracts of Cuban land, the US got bay of piggish. The Soviet Union, watching America trying to fiddle with Cuba, installed missiles there. And so on. A big mess. Meanwhile, a lot of formerly upper-class Cubans and their American descendants always figured that, like deposed royalty, they would be able to go back and get rich if they forced Castro out. So they kept pushing to keep the embargo no matter what anyone said about it not hurting Castro and just making the common Cuban suffer.

Foreigners have been screwing Cuba for hundreds of years. America is the latest.
posted by pracowity at 12:58 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


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