Date: Tue, 12 May 98 04:10:53 GMT
To: cybrgbl@deltanet.com
From: DeltaNet Form Processor (formpro@www.deltanet.com)
Subject: Feedback and or Questions

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Name="Ricardo Martin Melindez"
comments="Well, I'm sorry, but I just had to comment. I liked your page, especially the Nuremberg executions, and "Lo Fatal", de Rubin Darío.

But I disagree about Fidel Castro and Cuba. Yes, Cuba is fucked, and yes, Fidel is long overdue for retirement. A lot of people in Cuba love Fidel, for what he did for the Cuban economy and society, La Revolucisn. He reformed the agrarian economy and raised the standard of living in Cuba. Within a reasonable margin of error, the population that remained (that weren't kicked out or escaped) shared the country's wealth equally. And yes, many other Cubans in Cuba hate Fidel. They make him responsable for the state that Cuba in now in, and wish him out of office. Hell, I wish him out of office. Yes, Cuba is in dire straits, and I've been there and experienced it. Many people ARE hungry. Many have not as much as SEEN an apple or drank a can of beer since 1991. But still, when I caught bronchitis, I was bicycle-ambulanced to a hospital, and was given free care and free medicine. And I didn4t ever have to take out my imposed American passport, or any other ID. All I was asked was to give my name and address (I gave the one where I was staying) in case there were complications. Yes, the USSR was the principal backer of the Cuban economy since the early 60s till 1991. After this "fall of communism", Cuba has no more money anymore.

But you are a learned man. You should know why this is so. But I'll say it anyway. It is because of the United States of America.

It is because the US has had Cuba economically blockaded for more than 30 years. The US just knows how bad it is to be under a Communist regime, so they go ahead and act for the benefit of the free world and democracy, and put a blockade on the Cuban people. They know very well that it will not affect the Cuban Government in any way.

It is interesting to note that th US did not feel like blockading Cuba after Fidel and the guerilleros defeated Batista's government but before it was decided that the new Cuban government would be Socialist. Hell, he even came to New York, and strolled in Central Park!

La Revolucisn has done marvels for Cuba's culture and way of thinking. There is no illiteracy in Cuba. Many of the traditionalist social bad habits that still plague most of Latinoamerica have been erradicated. Like alcoholism, male chauvinism, etc... I did observe that there is still some machismo and racism though. But society in Cuba has learned to respect every other "compaqero" even in the face of the extreme economic hardship of the US-caused Permodo Especial. There can be more than 100 people in a bus stop waiting for the "camello", but when it comes, everybody gets in in order of who came first with no pushing or shoving. Unless the guy who had said he was the last to come to the stop gets in you don't go for the door. And people don't even have to stand in line: all out of respect for your neighbor4s rights.

Nothing like this would be conceivable in US-owned democratic Puerto Rico, of even in New York, Orlando, or Washington DC (the only US cities that I can give testimony of).

I would condone the exit of Castro from power, and have free elections in Cuba, but not because it has been forced by the seige imposed by US foreign policy for God and everybody knows what reasons. And the people of Cuba are not forced to heed Fidel by force. You should know that there are more AK-47s in the houses of the poor people of La Habana than in all the barrios of LA or San Juan. I have held one in my hands, and seen the live ammunition that goes with it. The Brigadas Populares, which are all the Cuban people, including women, are very well-trained to fend off a hypothetical US invasion, nevermind them being capable of overthrowing Castro4s regime, now that there is no fuel to fly the MiG-29s or run the T-82s.

Perhaps if the US would rethink its way-old and anachronistic, stupid, bullying and domineering exterior relations, Fidel would have stepped down as far back as the 80s and Cuba would be an economically prosperous nation, as well as the great and united people they continue to be.


Ricardo Martin Melindez"

How is life treating you?="Not good, but not worse than to the average Algerian woman."
Findout="Just surfed on in!"
City?="San Juan"
Country?="Puerto Rico"

       Dear Ricardo,

       Cuba, in my opinion, suffers from the same sickness so much of Latin America does in having frail civil societies where powerful economic and political interests are not tempered by grass roots religious and civil institutions (and where indeed those civic organizations independent of the government lives in fear for the lives of its members!). This failure to develop complex civil societies is no less true in Cuba than it is in El Salvador. This is the inevitable result of Latin American societies built on the Spanish conquista and its Counter-Reformation ideology and consequent poorly developed sense of individualism and appreciation of political freedom... this so damaging historical legacy of pronuncamientos, military uprisings, guerrilla insurgencies, and coups d'etat and the attendant lack of development and poverty. I can see the Third World dynamic here in Los Angeles with so many millions of Mexican and Central American immigrants: the masses of poor people with hardly anything to offer an employer but the sweat of their brow and then a small minority of wealthy living in the hills. Your e-mail and its apotheosis of la Revolución reminds me exactly why this is so often the reality in Latin America.

       You tell me that "La Revolución" in Cuba eradicated these nasty intractable Latin American habits of old. But when I look at Cuba I see the traditional top-down authoritarian political structure which has been such an impediment to democracy in Latin America to be alive and well on an island where the same caudillo and political party have held a complete monopoly on power for nearly 40 years of uninterrupted rule. I doubt Fidel will or would ever have stepped down from power voluntarily as long as he is alive; it is the nature of most dictators to relinquish power not peacefully but only at the barrel of a gun. Cuba is not the only unfortunate historical example of revolutions turning into dictatorships, as strongmen seize power and govern until their regimes decay and rot in the fullness of time and then there is a new revolution, dictatorship, decay, revolution, dictatorship, etc. ad infinitum. Castro usurps Bautista and then someone will eventually usurp Castro or his successor and democracy never will sprout roots in Cuban soil. Cuba will never be a truly free or prosperous country until it enjoys political and cultural pluralism. This will never happen while Fidel Castro -- a caricature of himself after 40 years in power, clinging to his guerrilla fatigues and anti-imperialist rants like the Cold-War relic that he has become -- is alive and well.

       You contemn Castro but praise the Revolution. What is the Revolution without Castro? What is Cuban politics without the Communist Party? What kind of civil society or civic institutions independent of the government are there in Cuba today? It seems to me Cuba is stuck in the same old rut as always: political life as a crude Hobbesian struggle in a war of all against all in "a perpetual and restless desire for power, that ceaseth only in death." Political prisoners and political police, the official ideas the only ones that matter and virtually no possibility of a peaceful transference of power from one faction to another. It was precisely this that the framers of the American Constitution in 1789 sought to avoid in building a stable democratic government where, as Alexander Hamilton hoped, men could choose their governments "by reflection and choice" instead of forever having to depend on "accident and force."

       The world has changed so in the last ten years! Yet, like so much of the aging left still languishing in Latin American university political science departments, Cuba still bows and scrapes at the golden calf of la Revolución which, in the words of recently deceased Mexican poet Octavio Paz, is "the great Goddess, the eternal Beloved, the great Whore of poets and novelists." Look upon the prophet Enesto "Che" Guevara or El Salvadoran seer of violence and revolution Roque Dalton and the exalted place they still hold in Cuba, if not the rest of Latin America! (John Keats, a supremely idealistic poet of a Romantic era very much more innocent and less murderous than our own, separated himself subtly but crucially from and criticized the likes of "Che" and Dalton thusly: "The poet and the dreamer are distinct... / The one pours out a balm upon the World / The other vexes it.") It is instructive to watch how Paz, nearly alone among the major Latin American intellectuals, never stayed duped for long by the sirens' songs of the Bolshevik or Cuban revolutions. After Solzhenitsyn and the true nature of the commissar culture of the dictatorship of the proletariat came to light, Paz exclaimed, "Now we know the splendor, which seemed to us the coming of dawn, was a blood-soaked, burning pyre." But even today to acknowledge this truth is to make oneself anathema to the intolerant few of the Latin America left still bewitched by the charms of la Revolución which has promised so much and delivered so little! This attitude, as evidenced in your comments, has much to do with why Latin America struggles to progress, in my humble opinion.

       You write about how orderly and peaceful is authoritarian Cuba where citizens quietly wait for the bus. I am sure it was no different in Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union; but beneath the apparent calm, I am sure there seethes discontent that finds no outlet. Where is the release valve for dissent, for disagreement? (It seems obvious the only route is to emigrate abroad or become an enemy of the State) How are Cubans able to identify the best way to organize their society -- face the challenges of the future? -- if they are unable to freely debate the issues challenging them? How can Cuba progress if the political culture be rigid and static? Is everyone in impoverished Cuba happy, or are they merely resigned to their fate? Is an enforced calm healthy for a society? I would rather live in a vibrant and fractious free country amidst the "din of democracy" than in a quiescent land of official censors, political police, government-controlled media, and the dull conformity of heavy-handed bureaucratic statism. I prefer an open society that readily adapts to change and is therein resilient and innovative - constantly re-inventing and re-defining itself.

       You write about the high rates of literacy. What is the good of all this putative education in Cuba? We read, that we might think. We hear, that we might speak. We dispute, that we might understand. As John Milton put it, "Where there is much desire to learn, there of necessity will be much arguing, much writing, many opinions; for opinion in good men is but knowledge in the making." But in Cuba, one either adheres to the party line or keeps one's mouth shut; a Cuban learns not to search for the truth but learns in order to serve the narrow needs of la Revolución. There is no freedom of speech, no freedom of the mind. (What of lasting value can we expect from the stagnant waters of such a controlled intellectual milieu?) It is instructive to observe how it is Castro's Communist Party and not individual Cubans who decide what one's course of study will be in school, what career a person will pursue in adult life (an educational system which should be most insulting to the most curious and best educated). This is the condescending attitude of an authoritarian government which thinks it knows better than do the individual citizens what people should do with their lives. Of course it is relatively easy to command and control a people, exceedingly difficult to lead them. As Edmund Burke describes it:

To make a government requires no great prudence. Settle the seat of power; teach obedience; and the work is done. To give freedom is still more easy. It is not necessary to guide; it only requires to let go the rein. But to form a free government -- that is, to temper together these opposite elements of liberty and restraint in one consistent work, requires much thought, deep reflection, a sagacious, powerful, and combining mind.

Having never known free elections or opposition political parties, Fidel Castro's Cuba is a stranger to this freedom and liberty. "Obey us!" "We know what is best, so trust us!" "The path to a better tomorrow requires that you have faith and work hard!" "Have patience!" "Tomorrow will be better than today!" "ˇViva la Revolución!" That so many Cubans -- after almost four decades of Castro at the helm of the government with no checks on his power -- are so credulous in this regard speaks powerfully to the lack of education (in the fullest sense of that word) in Cuba.

       To learn to read and write are only the most rudimentary steps of any real education that ought to end in critical and independent thinking. Where is the independent thinking in Cuba today? Where are the dynamic visionaries and innovators plotting a forward-looking course for Cuba in the 20th century? Meanwhile, the nation of Cuba rots on the vine and seems unable to move into the future; it is more than a little pathetic to look beyond the martial rhetoric of revolutionary socialism ("ˇSocialismo o Muerte!") and see a Cuban society in survival-mode turning to tourism and prostitution to eek out a living. There seems to be some stability in the universality of poverty, but I find this an achievement difficult to celebrate.

       But all this is almost beside the point. As Cuba lived by the material and moral support given her by the Soviet Union, so she has fallen precipitously with the death of her benefactor and fading dreams of globally triumphant international Marxist-Leninism. Castro threw his lot in with the Soviets during the Cold War and now is an anachronism from that era and is himself the main impediment to any real change. In his current screw-the-capitalist-world stance and secular religion of la Revolución with its ubiquitious "Che" posters officially pasted everywhere, it seems obvious to me nobody in Cuba will escape penury and misery until Castro dies (or unless that Cuban manages to defect to the outside world). The United States can live easily without Cuba; Cuba cannot live easily without the United States. Every campesino with hardly a peso to their name in La Habana might have an AK-47 in their house, but that translates into next to nothing in terms of political or economic power. It hardly matters that a people have access to weapons if they have been conditioned to act like children. It takes moral courage and independent reasoning to stand up and speak like an adult -- to demand change and explain why it should be so. How many people today dare to challenge authority in Cuba? How many people are willing to risk it all?

       It was so liberating as an American at the end of the Cold War! As the strategic threat of the Soviet Union to the national security interests of the United States receded and then evaporated virtually overnight, suddenly nobody much cared about these squalid, brutal, winner-take-all civil bloodlettings which punctuated the geography of Latin America in places like El Salvador, Peru, Guatemala, Chile, Columbia or Cuba. The United States can today afford to be much more discerning about choosing its friends; it feels little obliged to embrace thugs in marriages of convenience, as during the Cold War. Who really cares if dullish, reactionary goons from the Right or wild-eyed, fanatical revolutionaries from the Left murder or imprison each other en masse. What will it ultimately matter? What will change? You would claim Cuba is poor and a stranger to political freedom only because of the United States. Cuba was poor long before the United States played a meaningful role in its affairs and will be poor long after Fidel Castro is dead and buried. "He who works for freedom and democracy in Latin America plows the sea," Simón Bolívar would have updated his original assertion of the region as history repeats itself over and over.

       It is thus today at the end of the 20th century for the same reasons as it was at the beginning of the 19th century during the era of el libertador: a tradition of authoritarianism, an inability to compromise, legacy of instability, and the consequent underdevelopment and poverty. Look at these twin evils which have so bedevilled Latin America and its development since the first conquistador stepped onto the continent: militarism and populism demagoguery! Look at the strongmen of Latin America -- whether they be Marxist guerrillas or fascist nationalists -- from only this century, these fanatic believers in themselves as the embodiment of their nations' souls! The list is long and little distinguished: Fidel Castro, Alberto Fujimori, Augusto Pinochet, Juan Perón, Abdala Bucaram, Alfredo Stroessner, Bautista, Somoza, Ortega, Noriega, Torrijos, etc. etc. ad nauseam. It is enough to drive a partriot of Latin America to despair! In an authoritarian country of the right like Chile you have a soldier like Pinochet in charge with the strong support of the Catholic Church, and in leftist Cuba there is Fidel the strongman also wearing a uniform with the entire country bowing down before the official state religion of Communism: from the very beginning it has been all about either the State or the Church in Latin America, and power flowing down from powerful institutions (and weak civil societies dependent on them).

       Maybe this is changing even as we speak; Fidel Castro is, in fact, the only dictator left in Latin America today, and functioning democracies have been firmly in place now for some years in countries where formerly they were embattled, usurped, or unknown. Civil societies are forming and political power is diffusing downward from the traditional elites. Look at the Mexican PRI and their toadies losing elections for the first time in its history! There is reason for optimism. Yet history and tradition change but slowly, and political stability has yet to be tested over time and forged by adversity in Latin America. But if in the past decade Latin America has changed Cuba has not; and Castro the Caudillo increasingly lives in an imaginary world of his long lost dreams of worldwide socialist revolution, as Cuba the nation-state limps on into an uncertain and inhospitable future with an anachronistic head of state who wears military uniforms and harangues his people with defiantly angry seven-hour speeches while the world largely ignores him. Talk about jousting at windmills! It is surreal!

       In contrast, the real world is a messy and busy place full of hypocrisy and ugliness where much compromise and wheeling and dealing is needed to keep even the basic machinery of society working. Don Quixote-like dreamers such as Fidel Castro in Latin America need get off ineffectual Rocinante, saddle up Sancho's mule, and get to the mundane work of actually making unglamorous and ambiguous ordinary political and economic life work peaceably (if at all possible) in a global economy instead of embracing the epic millennial revolutionary struggle. There is so much work to be done! Of course it is easier to become a murderer/martyr, a dreamer instead of a builder, a blamer of others for your own problems, a whiner far removed from the centers of global power; but this does not improve the lot of your people. Perhaps in another decade or two Castro's revolutionary fever will become fashionable again in Latin America and those countries will suffer yet another round of guerrilla uprisings and military governments in a never-ending cycle of political instability, economic underdevelopment, and general suffering. From your comments, I see clearly this is possible. Bolívar himself lamented pessimistically that the nations of Latin America were "condemned to oscillate between anarchy and tryanny."

       At the end of WWII, Asia lay largely in ruins but now flourishes in many places after long years of hard work and conscientious building and development. I suggest Latin America do the same instead of lapsing into irrelevancy on the world stage - like in the case of Cuba. Nobody owes you a living in this world. And nobody cares if you languor in the instability and poverty of a geopolitical backwater cursing your fate.

       Ricardo, I could have sweet-talked you and been conciliatory in this e-mail; I have instead chosen to speak the rude truth. Please receive my comments in this spirit.

       I hope this e-mail finds you well in your studies in New York.


       Richard Geib

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