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A Voice of Cuba
Washington Post ^
| July 19, 2003
Posted on 07/23/2003 1:50:01 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
When Ms. Cruz defected from Cuba in 1960, her songs were banned in her home country, though in recent years Cuban aficionados could listen to her hits by tuning into Miami radio stations. At first, the sensation who left behind stardom in Cuba and sought liberty in the United States had no easy time; her efforts for the next decade stumbled. But like so many immigrants seeking the American dream, she eventually made it: That clear, operatic voice could not be denied.
Hers was a talent that reached far beyond her own culture. In concert, she charmed audiences throughout Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia, and Ms. Cruz's more than 70 records became a clarion call for music lovers worldwide. She moved effortlessly between the Afro-Cuban rhythms of her youth to the salsa she defined and redefined; later in her career she embraced hip-hop style and transformed it into eye-popping music videos. For her, it was all part of the same music and a shared experience.
Unlike so many celebrities of the modern era, Ms. Cruz knew firsthand of the atrocities of communism in Cuba, and she spoke frankly of her time and challenges there. Ms. Cruz's voice instantly fills a room with the feel of swaying palm fronds and cigar smoke, bringing back memories of a Cuba before Fidel Castro's dictatorship. But her art transcended any political agenda. Ms. Cruz always remained a lady, coy about her age and decked out in extravagant outfits even in her last public appearances -- accompanied nearly always by her husband of 40 years, Pedro Knight.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
TOPICS: Business/Economy; Cuba; Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: celiacruz; communism; cuba; fidelcastro
Thousands of mourners line the streets of downtown Miami, as a funeral procession for Celia Cruz makes its way from the Freedom Tower to Gesu Catholic Church, where a memorial Mass was celebrated Saturday, July 19, 2003. Tens of thousands of mourners lined the streets Saturday to pay their respects to salsa legend and Cuban exile Celia Cruz.
(AP Photo/Richard Patterson)
Pedro Knight(top C), husband of the late salsa legend Celia Cruz, waves to fans, next to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg(L), as he leaves St. Patrick's Cathedral behind his wifes casket.(AFP/Tim Clary)
Fidel Castro - Cuba
At Calle Ocho Celia Cruz, the queen of salsa, performs at the Calle Ocho festival in Little Havana, March of 2002.
To: Cincinatus' Wife
Unlike so many celebrities of the modern era, Ms. Cruz knew firsthand of the atrocities of communism in Cuba
posted on 07/23/2003 8:07:53 AM PDT
(As soon as we could see out of our big black eye, man, we lit up your world like the 4th of July)
They have to keep up a front.
To: Cincinatus' Wife
ON SANCTIONS AND SUNBATHING IN CUBA
By © Ileana Fuentes
La Nueva Cuba
September 6, 2003
On August 21st, the state of Alabama signed trade agreements with Cuba worth 10 million dollars in poultry, dairy products and other undisclosed items. Are these items to be sold in pesos by the ration card, or freely at the chopins where the government can hoard the coveted dollar? As Alabamans celebrated their chicken deal, Cuba's daily Granma announced a national inventory of all
computers to identify and seize those of "dubious provenance."
In July, Pinar del Río police confiscated sewing machines and sewing supplies from local women engaged in dressmaking, an anti-social form of self-employment by Cuban standards. Others engaged in selling ice cream, ham snacks and fruit drinks for a living also had their supplies seized.
Last January, the Cuban government started to random search people's homes to weed out drug dealers and black-market operators, or so it said. In February, the Holguín police confiscated legally purchased wares and cooking supplies from countless licensed female cuentapropistas in the food-to-go business. Neither pots, nor pans, nor sewing machines have yet been returned.
It should surprise no one that the Cuban regime should show such blatant disregard for privacy, private property, contracts, entrepreneurship, and the sanctity of sales transactions. After all, the revolution started out in 1959 confiscating all privately owned land larger than 990 acres; then all national firms and urban property in 1960; and between 1960 and 1961 the property of foreigners, Americans first and foremost. Soon even the smallest mom-and-pop stores were nationalized. In 1963, the government confiscated further all farms larger than 165 acres, causing agricultural production -traditionally the
bountiful accomplishment of small farmers- to go down the drain.
Most confiscations went un-compensated, an early sign that the regime disregarded fair business practices, ownership rights, contract compliance, and honesty. Cuba is a rogue state, run by military thugs who have excelled at thievery. This is the trade partner the foes of the U.S. embargo are peddling to American business.
A few months ago, the International Labor Organization denounced the exploitation of Cuban workers at the hands of the sole employer -the Cuban State- and its foreign corporate accomplices. These companies pay workers salaries directly to the Cuban State in hard currency. They look the other way when the government turns around and pays a minimal fraction to the Cuban worker, in
worthless Cuban pesos. As reported recently by Dr. Jorge Salazar-Carrillo, a Brookings Institute senior researcher and chair of the Economics Department at Florida International University, foreign hotel concerns, like the Spanish Sol Meliá, in partnership with Cuba, pay US$400 per worker "hired." The government then pays the worker 400 worthless Cuban pesos. Net gain per worker is $384. Is
this a government with whom decent Americans want to trade?
The 20-year policy of engagement with Cuba -trading and people-to-people contact-practiced by dozens of countries in Europe and Latin America has failed to transform repression into tolerant diversity, exploitation into fair labor practice, or tyranny into democracy. So, it begs the question: why will U.S. engagement and "gringo-to-asere" contact bring about any kind of improvement?
Not that commerce and trade -much less tourism- exists to reform dictatorial regimes, or bring civil and human rights to the natives. The business of business is business. Trade has to do with profit, making money, multiplying assets and developing markets, not with justice or human rights, even if the prospective trade partner is a dismal autocracy like Kuwait, or a genocidal power like China (the female infanticide that results from China's reproductive policies is genocide), or a military bully the likes of pre-perestroika Russia.
Thirty years ago, that kind of "ugly American" was despised, for he cared little about rights, whether human, women's, workers', or blacks'. That is, until the question of apartheid in South Africa shook international conscience. In December of 1985, the World Council on Churches gathered in Harare, Zimbabwe, to discuss the South African drama. In the end, the Harare Declaration stated clearly:
"We call on the international community to apply immediate and comprehensive sanctions in South Africa
the minimum requirement of which must be to promote divestment and end all investments in South Africa."
Divestment and sanctions did influence greatly the repeal of apartheid and the advent of a free and democratic South Africa. Now, if sanctions were moral and good for South Africa, why are they immoral and evil for Cuba? Is Castro's 44-year tyranny any less offensive to human dignity than apartheid? American business trading with a quasi-capitalist ruling class that allows only the spoils to its people, will only make the oppressor wealthier, the dictatorship stronger, and 11 million disenfranchised and rights-less Cubans a lot poorer and miserable.
The stampede of farm, cattle and grain interests storming the halls of Congress to influence legislation that will allow them to trade with the Cuban dictatorship is a despicable performance by opportunist capitalists. Whatever happened to the passion with which liberals hated money-grubbing capitalist pigs?
Last week, Florida's cattle industry scored a deal to sell 450 heads of Holstein and Jersey cattle to ALIMPORT, the Cuban government's all-powerful imports monopoly. Let's talk cattle for a moment. In 1958, the year before the
revolution, there were 1.2 heads of cattle -Holstein and Jersey among them- per person: 7 million heads of cattle amidst 6 million Cubans. Today, there are 0.4 mooing quadrupeds per Cuban citizen, some 4 million heads of cattle in a population of 11 million people. Every cattle expert will assure you that the U.S. embargo did not cause the demise of the cattle industry in Cuba. So, what will
the 450 heads these Dixie ranchers will sell to ALIMPORT do for 11 million hungry people, when INTUR -the State tourism agency- has to feed like royalty an estimated 1 million tourists -not counting Americans- expected to vacation in the island in 2004?
This takes us to the subject of travel restrictions. I empathize with American citizens who want to vacation at Varadero Beach, or have medical treatment in Cuba's SERVIMED health facilities. But, just like I am against American business helping Cuba's white oppressive military elite become any richer or powerful, I am against my next door neighbor going to Cuba to consume the medical and food supplies that my people -who are almost 70% "of-color" -are entitled to, and ain't getting.
If moral or ethical considerations don't matter, let the business community take into consideration, at the very least, Cuba's appalling business record and credit history. Cuba has debt payment and accounts payables in long-term arrears with France, Italy, Venezuela, Mexico, Spain, and even Russia -a country whose multi-billion claims Fidel Castro cynically dismisses saying it was owed
to the now defunct Soviet Union. Most of these countries have suspended credits to Cuba, and their attempts to negotiate payment schedules on the arrears have failed. Who, but a greedy and/or misguided lot, could recommend that American business trade with that Cuba?
The cash-only option is not the answer. First, the cash that goes into American coffers will not translate into economic or political benefits for Cubans. The argument that lifting U.S. sanctions will benefit the Cuban people is sheer demagoguery. It would have been racist demagoguery in the case of South Africa. Secondly, if anyone has priority in receiving cash payments from Cuba's
government, it is:
Foremost, the dozens of foreign trade partners and creditors, as well as those countries whose Cuban receivables are in arrears; and secondly· The hundreds of corporate and individual American claimants registered
with the Joint Corporate Committee on Cuban Claims to which Castro's regime owes an estimated $6 billion dollars in compensation for the expropriations of the early sixties.
Is Cuba a nice place to visit? Of course! Cubans are a hospitable and warm people. But, why should freedom-loving Americans spend their hard-earned vacation dollars boosting a ruthless regime?
Is Cuba a desirable trade partner at present? An old Cuban proverb says it best: "He who trips twice over the same stone is a damn fool."
Nobel Peace laureate, South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke relevantly about South Africa back in 1988, with words that fit Cuba today:
"The only peaceful way of forcing [the South African government] to sit at the negotiations table is through properly-enforced and comprehensive diplomatic and economic sanctions. I reiterate my call for such sanctions."
The South African government freed its violent opposition, Mandela and Sisulu among others. Let's hold out touring and trading with Castro until his regime is compelled to free its internal peaceful opposition and negotiate a full
transition to democracy.
posted on 09/06/2003 8:42:56 AM PDT
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