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inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #0 of 55: Lisa Harris (lrph) Mon 19 Jan 09 16:58
    
It's a pleasure to welcome Reese Erlich to the Inkwell to discuss his book,
"Dateline Havana: The Real Story of  US Policy and The FUture of Cuba"

Reese Erlich's history in journalism goes back 41 years. Today he
 works as a full-time, freelance print and broadcast reporter, regularly
 filing for NPR, the San Francisco Chronicle and CBC Radio, among
 others. He shared a 2006 Peabody award, received the ?best depth
 reporting? award in 2002 from the Society of Professional Journalists
 (Northern Calif.), and received an award from Project Censored in 2003.
 Erlich?s book, Target Iraq was a best seller in 2003. The Iran Agenda:
 The Real Story of US Policy and the Middle East Crisis came out in
 2007 and Dateline Havana: The Real Story of US Policy and the Future of
 Cuba was released Jan. 9, 2009.

Leading our discussion is our own Miguel Marcos.

Miguel Marcos was born in Havana, Cuba and raised in New York City and
 Florida. His career has taken him from music to computing in the
 finance industry. His restless curiosity has made him a master of no
 trades. His soul hovers somewhere between his Cuban upbringing and the
 American experience. He lives in Madrid, Spain with his wife, daughter,
 dog and guinea pig.
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #1 of 55: Reese Erlich (reeseerlich) Tue 20 Jan 09 06:38
    
I'm on my book tour talking about Dateline Havana. I started in Miami,
then hit Washington DC (before the inauguration), New York and
Philadelphia. I'm off to Montreal on Wed. The response, including from
people in Miami, has been quite good. My sense is that Cubans in
Florida are changing their views and are no longer wedded to the
hard-line, anti-communist stance of the leaders.
The book store where I spoke, Books and Books, had a policeman present
in case the event was disrupted by hardliners; but he wasn't needed.

Reese
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #2 of 55: Miguel Marcos (miguel) Tue 20 Jan 09 11:37
    
Reese, thanks for coming and sharing your knowledge and wisdom on the
topic of Cuba and the US. Though I was raised by Cuban parents and
lived through some of what you write about, there's a great deal in the
book that I've learned. It's succinct, a great read and comes at a
unique point in time in the history of Cuba and the US.

It seems like at practically any given point in the past, we've been
at a crossroads with Cuba and this moment is no exception. Both Fidel
and the reactionary Cuban exiles are getting well on in age and will
diminish in influence over time. Raúl has little charisma in comparison
yet seems to be open to the Chinese and Vietnamese model of opening up
the economy; then again he seems to backtrack on his own words. Obama
became president today and may spur a change in Cuba policy. With the
steep drop in oil prices, Chavez won't have as much disposable income
to aid Cuba as he has up to now.

Since today is such a momentous occasion, I'd like to kick this topic
off by discussing the change in our Administration and what it may
portend. Given the weakening of the Cuba lobby compared to its heyday
and the desire for change expressed by many in the US during the past
election, do you think Obama will be able or even willing to change the
path of US policy towards Cuba in a constructive way? Or do you
suspect there may be more of the same? It seems some sense of
moderation has weaved its way through the younger generation in Miami.
Is it an indicator that a new approach is feasible? How would Cuba
react to such a change?
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #3 of 55: Lisa Harris (lrph) Wed 21 Jan 09 04:09
    
Reese is having a techinical difficulty, but he asked that I post this
response for him.

Hi Miguel.
            The Cuba Lobby is clearly weaker today than in years past. Obama
won Florida, the first time for a Democratic candidate in years. He picked
up 35% of the Cuban vote. However, three ultra-rightist Cuban American
congress people won re-election from south Florida, indicating the
hardliners still  have money and electoral clout. A Florida International
University poll shows 55% Cubans in Florida opposing the US embargo. Thatâ
™s a huge shift from years past.
            So the Obama administration could make significant changes in
Cuban policy.
Obama promised to allow unlimited Cuban American visits to relatives on the
island and allow unlimited remittances to be sent to relatives in Cuba.
Those will be positive steps, but hardly earthshaking. Obama could
immediately allow more Cuban musicians, actors and academics to receive US
visas to travel and perform in the US. He could allow more legal travel to
Cuba by American non-profits, religious and cultural groups. The US military
would like greater cooperation on drug interdiction, which the Cubans are
certainly willing to provide. Such steps forward could be followed by
serious talks about lifting the US embargo and restoring full diplomatic
relations. Cuba is willing. But will the US take the necessary steps?
            Initially, Obama will be consumed with the economy, Iraq,
Afghanistan and Israel/Palestine.
But he could deal with Cuban issues later, particularly if there is pressure
from grass-roots groups, liberal congress people and business interests. I
consider myself a sober optimist. I am optimistic about change under Obama,
but sober enough to realize it won’t happen without pressure from below.
            Can you hoist a glass of aged, Cuban rum to a toast of â€
salud” ?
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #4 of 55: (dana) Wed 21 Jan 09 10:29
    
 (Note: Offsite readers with questions or comments may have them added
to this conversation by emailing them to inkwell@well.com -- please
include "Dateline Havana" in the subject line.)
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #5 of 55: Miguel Marcos (miguel) Wed 21 Jan 09 14:56
    
I'd raise a glass of Matusalen Rum if I had any. I got to know that
rum in Santiago. It's claim to fame is that it will never give you a
hangover no matter how much you drink. "Ron Matusalen. Hoy alegre,
mañana bien." ("Matusalen Rum. Happy today, fine tomorrow.") They now
call that rum Santiago de Cuba as Matusalem was claimed as a trademark
by the descendents of the company owners.

One of the latter chapters in your book is on the history of racism in
Cuba. I know Raúl Castro has commented that he would be willing to
have talks with Obama as long as it was on an equal basis but I'm not
aware of any mention about Obama being the first black leader of the
US. I vaguely remember a remark by Fidel that a black would never come
to power in the US. He's been disproved now. How do you compare the
history of racism in both countries? It seems that in Cuba integration
in the population at large is much greater than in the US yet in the
upper echelons of power in Cuba, blacks are hardly represented.
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #6 of 55: Steven McGarity (sundog) Wed 21 Jan 09 15:05
    
Welcome to the well and the conversation on your new book, Reese. I
read it recently and found it a very enjoyable experience. Thank you.
It solidified some of my thinking on Cuba and raised many thought
provoking questions as well. For my part in the discussion I would like
to begin by raising two questions that might serve as an overview to
which I will return.

First, in the historical setting you pointed out that throughout the
continuum of U.S. history we have desired Cuba to be a part and have
often seen it as a natural extension of our country. Given the balance
of resources between the two countries and the great number of former
Cubans living in the states (nearly a million?) why should not Cuba
become the 51st state?

Secondly, what can the United States learn from Cuba regarding such
essential issues as health care, self sufficiency, education, equal
opportunity for all citizens, social rights and organic gardening, if
anything?
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #7 of 55: Reese Erlich (reeseerlich) Thu 22 Jan 09 06:42
    
Wow. Two good sets of questions that could require entire essays to
reply. I'm still on my book tour; I'm in Montreal at the moment. But
I'll try to answer.

1. Racism. Before 1959 Cuba was a racist society, having combined the
worst elements of Spanish colonialism and American Jim Crow
segregation. American firms in Cuba didn't hire black workers, even
blue collar laborers. The clubs and casinos were for whites only. After
1959, the revolution abolished segregation and the government moved
many blacks into white neighborhoods to live in houses abandoned by
people who fled the revolution. Fidel announced that racism no longer
existed in Cuba, something which was obviously not true. Years later,
Fidel and the party leadership admitted that they were wrong on that
question. 
        Today Cuba has black surgeons, symphony musicians, administrators and
managers – positions that would have been impossible before 1959. Yet,
young black men are still stopped by police disproportionately for
identity checks, blacks make up a large percentage of the prison
population, and blacks continued to have lower incomes and poorer
housing compared to white Cubans. Unlike the US, there is no
institutional racism in Cuba. But the fight against it continues.

2. Cuba – the 51st state?
Nobody in Cuba or the US wants Cuba to become a 51st state. The Cubans
value their hard-fought sovereignty. Puerto Rico isn’t about to become
the 51st state, and it has a colonial relationship with the US
already. Historically, some US presidents and leaders wanted to annex
Cuba as a state.
But they settled for making it a neo colony after the Spanish American
War of 1898. That all ended in 1959.

3. What can Americans learn from Cuba?
There are specific lessons to be learned from Cuba’s development of
medicine and organic farming that could be shared by scientists and
ordinary people in the US. About 30% of Cuban farms are organic, with
another 40% using organic methods and some pesticides. That’s a
tremendous achievement that could be more widely understood in the US,
both to protect human health and the environment.
        More broadly, Americans can learn that certain basic services
shouldn’t be trusted to the profit motive and free markets. Our health
care system, for example, provides excellent care for the rich and
those with high-priced insurance, and excludes millions of others.
Where’s the logic or justice in that?
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #8 of 55: Teneo, Ergo Spero (robertflink) Thu 22 Jan 09 08:08
    
>Where’s the logic or justice in that?<


I'm struck by the possible trade-off between freedom and justice when
thinking of what the US could gain from Cuba's experience.  While
freedom and justice are not opposites, could the pluses in Cuba be
somehow dependent on some restriction of freedom?

In some on-line discussions with some in the mid-east, I was struck by
the desire for justice over some freedoms such as free elections,
freedom of expression, freedom of religion, gender freedom, etc..  With
experience with the putative advantages and benefits that Cuban's
enjoy, would US citizens be willing to give up selective freedoms?  

Could both broad freedoms AND effective social justice be beyond the
practical ability of governments, in part because governments must be
run by humans?  I'm assuming here that few, if any, humans can wield
power in any system while resisting seduction by power.
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #9 of 55: Miguel Marcos (miguel) Thu 22 Jan 09 09:00
    
An interesting question. I think part of it has to do with the level
of economic development of a country. Where economic development is
poor, social justice *can* be much more important than freedom. It may
also be much easier for an authoritarian government to implement some
forms of social justice such as free education and medicine. As Reese
notes in his book, racial justice is not something they've been able to
achieve. It has improved but it has not been eradicated as Fidel once
claimed long ago.

Reese, how about a what-if exercise? Had Fidel not succeeded in 1959,
what might Cuba be like? Would it have progressed in terms of social
justice? I find it difficult to believe that medicine would be freely
available everywhere or for the literacy rate to be high, for example.
What do you think?
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #10 of 55: Reese Erlich (reeseerlich) Thu 22 Jan 09 14:36
    
Freedom vs. justice?
The Cuban government argues that the US is in a state of war with
island of Cuba. The economic embargo, called a blockade in Cuba,
constitutes an act of war, not to mention the thousands of terrorist
attacks launched from the US. So, the argument goes, the government
must restrict certain freedoms, such as freedom of advocacy, freedom to
hold demonstrations, uncensored access to the internet, etc. I don’t
buy the argument. Any government has the right to jail and punish those
who seek its overthrow through violence. But what about peaceful
advocacy of unpopular ideas? In Dateline Havana, I devote a chapter to
the question of democracy. Cuba has survived 50 years in this state of
war, has a stable government, supported by a sizeable percentage of the
population. The US is likely to remain hostile to Cuba even after the
embargo is lifted. So does the state of war exist forever?

What would Cuba look like today without the Revolution?
I also devote a chapter in the book to this question, phrased a little
differently. What if the US succeeded in bringing US style democracy
and free markets back to Cuba. Under the guise of free elections,
various pro-US parties would proceed to bribe and steal elections as
they did before 1959. They would form paramilitary groups to enforce
their power, as happens in Russia, Bulgaria and Colombia. Criminal
cartels would be free to sell drugs and bring back gambling and
organized prostitution. The parties, needing money for their armed
militias, would form alliances with the drug cartels.
        In short, Cuba would become a perfect model of US-style democracy:
periodic elections, free press followed by closing of newspapers,
followed by military coups and harsh repression.


 
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #11 of 55: Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 22 Jan 09 14:54
    

> The Cuban government argues that the US is in a state of war with
>  island of Cuba. The economic embargo, called a blockade in Cuba,
>  constitutes an act of war, not to mention the thousands of terrorist
>  attacks launched from the US. 

What terrorist attacks are we launching from the US on Cuba?
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #12 of 55: Steven McGarity (sundog) Thu 22 Jan 09 20:46
    
Ok Reese, reference Cuba as the 51st state. We can agree that it is
most likely out. Does that bring up a huge reparations issue? I
remember a junior college spanish teacher I knew in east Texas in  the
early 80's, a young woman married to a dentist. I asked her once why
her family left Cuba in '59. She stated most indignantly that, "they
took their family car." Does that become a major issue which might
interfere with normalizing relations? I noticed you pointed out that
the Helms Act already allowed lawsuits in U.S. courts to recover
property? Am I correct on that. Has this been done frequently yet? I
would think we are talking some significant money.

Regarding what we can utilize. I greatly enjoyed learning about the
organic effort in Cuba. I had no idea. Dr. Funes seemed a remarkable
man to know. It seemed you were describing a system where more food was
being grown by small private farmers rather than the big state farms
now specializing in sugar cane. Is there a premium for organic products
on the private market? I am sure chemical fertilizer, pesticide, etc
costs are a prime driver in the transition to organic methods in Cuba.
Does this seem cost dependent on oil and due to fluctuation or more of
a policy to nuture the land and long term productivity.
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #13 of 55: cyndigo (cynthiabarnes) Fri 23 Jan 09 15:40
    
Welcome, Reese!

I'm traveling this week, unfortunately not to Cuba. I wanted to go
very badly, and as a journalist I can. But my boyfriend works in
aerospace, with various clearances, and if anything "went wrong" on our
trip it could compromise him professionally. So we chose Mexico
instead. I find it interesting that as a U.S. citizens we can travel to
Iraq, to China, Vietnam ... but not 90 miles from Miami.

Just starting the book. Very interested to see what changes the new
U.S. administration will bring.
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #14 of 55: Miguel Marcos (miguel) Sat 24 Jan 09 06:24
    
Fidel praises Obama's honesty and suggests he won't live to see
Obama's second term:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ghGthxqnYMWcICCnEkjH5ayqPamQ
D95SHNCG0

Raúl has also praised Obama publicly.

Obama is savvy enough to give the Cuba issue a good positive push. He
has publicly stated he will keep the embargo unless the Cuban
government takes steps toward democracy. This amounts to throwing bits
of meat to the ultraconservative Cuban and Republican community.
However, I think he has such a strong mandate from the population that
a little risk taking would be accepted.

Going back to that 51st state issue: My father, fortunately, was not a
barking reactionary Cuban. He is rather rational about everything that
happened in Cuba and has told me numerous stories about poverty in the
countryside, corruption and torture in the government and state and
local police. When it comes to the US, however, he has always been
clear that the US has always been in a position to abuse Cuba due to
its dominance and size and despises Cubans who wish to overthrow Cuban
from the US. His point is, if you want to change things in Cuba, go and
live there and do it. Like Gutierrez Menoyo.

I agree. I think he is a reflection of the Cuban mindset: The US is a
great country, just keep your hands off us.
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #15 of 55: Miguel Marcos (miguel) Sat 24 Jan 09 06:36
    
Another interesting bit of news, Venezuela is requesting (again) the
US return Posada Carriles. Carriles is 'a former CIA operative accused
of plotting the 1976 bombing of a Cuban plane that killed all 73 people
on board'. Carriles has a long list of terrorist activities he's
accused of.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5icrRloDQ-4ivMeYQJsqIQFpar6vw
D95T3G501
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #16 of 55: Reese Erlich (reeseerlich) Sun 25 Jan 09 11:59
    
Please excuse my tardy response. I just returned to the Bay Area after
a three week East Coast book tour. So I was a bit tired.
If anyone is interested in hearing me speak about Dateline Havana,
I’ll be in the Bay Area from Jan. 26-Feb. 14, then off on a Midwest
tour for the rest of February and then touring the west coast in March.
For details, see www.reeseerlich.com

Responding to the recent posts:

1. US Attacks on Cuba?
From the 1960s-80s, the US government actively organized terrorist
campaigns to overthrow the government of Cuba. The Bay of Pigs and
numerous assassination attempts against Fidel Castro are well known.
But as recently as the 1980s, the US spread swine fever to kill Cuba’s
domestic pork production and in the 90s, the Clinton administration
sprayed aerial pests to kill crops. Ultra-rightists, such as Luis
Posada Carriles, are allowed to live freely in the US, even after they
organized assassination plots and hotel bombings in the 90s and 2000s.
And of course the US continues the economic embargo, which Cuba
considers an act of war. So the Cubans have a legitimate beef about
being under siege from the US. I don’t agree, however, that this
justifies the lack of civil liberties on the island.

2. Reparations for Cubans in the Diaspora?
For sure, Cubans in the US will want compensation for their property
confiscated in the early 1960s. The Cuban government will also submit
claims for damages due to the illegal US embargo. If the US and Cuba
reach the point of having normal diplomatic and trade relations, such
competing claims will be negotiated (or arbitrated by an international
body). Cubans in the US won’t receive money from the Cuban government,
let alone a return of their property; they might receive money from the
US government in order to resolve the issue.
        The most odious provisions of Helms Burton, which allow law suits
against people in other countries who invest in Cuban property or
businesses, have never been implemented. Both Republican and Democratic
presidents have signed waivers every six months to prohibit those
provisions from being implemented. 
In my opinion, the Justice Department knows such provisions are
illegal under international law and don’t want to risk an international
court decision against the US.

3. Organic farming
In my opinion, Cuba is running the purist experiment in organic
farming anywhere in the world. Cuba turned to organic farming in the
early 1990s due to the complete lack of chemicals from the Soviet
Union. Organic products cost the same in Cuba as non-organic. There’s
no profit motive as in the US, where organic products are intentionally
priced way above their cost of production in order to make excessive
profits for some farmers, distributors and supermarket chains. The only
question in Cuba is: Can organic methods feed the country? Today about
30% of Cuban farms are totally organic and about 40% use a mixture of
organic and chemical methods. The remaining 30%, mostly large sugar
cane and citrus operations, use chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

3. Travel
Americans are the only people on earth who are prohibited from
spending money in Cuba (the technical terms of the embargo). So much
for our treasured American freedoms. Nevertheless, some 150,000
Americans travel to Cuba every year – legally and illegally. Airlines
at the Cancun airport sell you a Cuban tourist visa on the spot for
$15. The Cuban government doesn’t stamp American passports. So lots of
Americans, including Cuban Americans, travel to Cuba without penalty.

4. Change from within
I agree with the comment that change in Cuba will come from within.
The ultra-rightists in south Florida are totally discredited in Cuba,
and for good reason. I interviewed Gutierrez Menoyo, a former leader of
Alpha 66, who now lives in Cuba. He has no influence there, and in my
opinion, change won’t come from the old generation of dissidents.

5. Venezuela/Posada Carriles
Imagine for a moment that Osama bin Laden was living freely in
Venezuela, holding press conferences and attending banquets. Hugo
Chavez announced that he couldn’t turn bin Laden over to US authorities
because he would be tortured. So bin Laden walks the streets of
Caracas. That’s the situation facing Venezuela today with Louis Posada
Carriles. The FBI has implicated him in the 1976 bombing of a Cubana
Airliner flying from Venezuela to Cuba; Posada Carriles admitted to the
NY Times that he organized a campaign of hotel bombings in Havana in
the 1990s. Yet Posada Carriles walks the streets of Miami. The
Venezuelan government has guaranteed that Posada Carriles wouldn’t be
tortured and would be put on trial.
        So much for the US commitment to combat terrorism. 
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #17 of 55: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sun 25 Jan 09 16:10
    
"There’s no profit motive as in the US, where organic products are
intentionally priced way above their cost of production in order to
make excessive profits for some farmers, distributors and supermarket
chains"

If prices are excessively high, why aren't more farmers converting to
organic farming to get a better price?
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #18 of 55: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 25 Jan 09 16:41
    
What Brian asked. I don't know of any farmers making 'excessive
profits.'
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #19 of 55: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Sun 25 Jan 09 17:34
    
>If prices are excessively high, why aren't more farmers converting
>to organic farming to get a better price?

There is lots of industrial scale organic farming, especially in the
lettuce/salad green business. It's the stuff that shows up in those
hi-tech plastic bags (each with an atmosphere customized to its
contents) at the Safeway. I'm sure the production costs are higher that
for conventionally farmed greens, but not as much higher as they are
for the small guys. So they can get the organic premium price without
much of the expense.

A lot of this goes back to the regulations promulgated by USDA a few
years back for organic farming, which were more or less written by the
industry. 
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #20 of 55: Miguel Marcos (miguel) Mon 26 Jan 09 03:36
    
Sometime ago I read a number of articles that Cuba had a fairly strong
bio-technology industry, including development of drugs from plants,
but I haven't heard much since then. At the time it seemed it might be
the source of revenue from patented drugs and such.

When you dig deep you realize Cuban society, for all its political
faults, is quite advanced in a number of different areas and compares
starkly in this regard to the rest of its neighbors in the Caribbean,
and pretty darned well for its size and situation (the embargo)
compared to other neighbors in the hemisphere.
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #21 of 55: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Mon 26 Jan 09 05:28
    
<Cuban society, for all its political faults, is quite advanced in a
number of different areas and compares starkly in this regard to the
rest of its neighbors in the Caribbean>

...and the Soviet Union, lest we forget, had the first manned
spacecraft in outer space...

Autocratic socialist rule, such as Cuba has endured for fifty years,
has indeed come with some decided social advantages for its
citizens––most notably in the area of universal health care.  In the
name of "security" since 9/11/2001, the US has taken several
well-documented authoritarian measures. (None more egregious than the
rendition/torture policy in Guantanamo).  Let's just hope that it isn't
in the authoritarian tendency through which the US is growing more
similar to Cuba.  

The incremental erosion of human liberties has unfolded in Cuba under
the guise of being "at war" with the great capitalist pigs of the U.S.,
and in the U.S. by being "at war" with an elusive, self-defined notion
of "terrorism".  Such institutionalized diatribe hampers both nations
if they are to move forward in a more civilized/humanitarian fashion.
In other words, I can hear Rush Limbaugh ranting to his base: "The
United States, for all its faults, is still the most advanced..."

Enough rationalization and apologetic BS.

Only if both the U.S. and Cuba can move beyond self-limiting rhetoric
will there be any hope that each nation can learn from the best each
other has to offer.  Why can't the richest nation in the world find a
way to enact rudimentary universal health care for all?  Why can't Cuba
allow free elections and freedom of speech within the framework of a
social democracy and without bringing back an unfettered Banana
Republicanism?  Why can't a hybrid model that is decidedly not
authoritarian/totalitarian serve to advance humankind. 

It's time for a paradigm shift in the opportunistic world of politics
as usual, and away from the Cold War dialectics of
Capitalism/Communism.  Let's hope that a new window of genuine
opportunity presents itself with the departure of Fidel and Dubya.
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #22 of 55: Miguel Marcos (miguel) Mon 26 Jan 09 08:00
    
Per a blog called The Havana Note, Geithner has promised to review
policy towards Cuba. In the blog post, the writer says a policy review
is a big deal. Here's the URL:
http://thehavananote.com/2009/01/geithner_also_pledges_cuba_rev.html

Reese, is it really a big deal or could it be more of the same? Have
previous administrations done Cuba policy reviews?
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #23 of 55: Ian Duncan MacDonald (imacd) Mon 26 Jan 09 12:19
    
I am curious about the statement by Reese Erlich that the "most odious
provisions" of the Helms Burton Act which allows law suits against
foreigners has not been implemented. What about Ian Delaney and all the
other executives of Canada's Sherritt International Corporation? They
have invested many hundreds of millions in Cuba over the last 30 years
to develop Cuba's nickel mines and are now in the midst of spending
over a billion dollars to develop the Cuban oilfields. Since 1995 it
has been illegal for these executives to enter the USA.  If they do,
supposedly they will be jailed.  Ian Delaney looks on as the USA's loss
not his.  He thinks the embargo is an anachronism and is unenforceable
and always has been. 

Canada is the biggest foreign investor in Cuba and has much to lose if
the embargo is lifted. Perhaps they have been funding the Cubans in
Miami to make sure it is not lifted. I've been to Cuba and all over the
Caribbean.  There are several "democratic" countries in the Caribbean
whose standard of living is much, much lower than that Cuba and whose
infant mortality rates and life expectancy are terrible. The infant
mortality rates and life exectancy of the US and Cuba are not much
different. While I would never choose to live in a dictatorship like
Cuba, "freedom" is a relative thing. "People who live in glass houses
should not throw stones".  There are many aspects of the American style
of democracy that do not look particuarily "free" and "democratic"
from the outside.  The USA is considered to be the "evil empire" by
many
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #24 of 55: Reese Erlich (reeseerlich) Mon 26 Jan 09 16:17
    
In response to today’s posts:

1. Organic products in the US today have become a highly profitable
niche market for a small number of farmers, distributors and
supermarkets. I’ve investigated organic wine making, vegetable
production and forestry. The cost of producing organics is somewhat
higher than using chemicals because there’s more manual labor and
greater crop loss. But the supermarket prices are two or even three
times the cost of non organics. The supermarkets charge high prices
because they can get away with it. Please note that organic wines don’t
cost more than non organic because vintners can’t get the high prices;
there’s too much competition. What we need is more organic farms with
more competition and a movement to force supermarkets to make organics
affordable to ordinary working people. It’s better for our heath and
the environment.

2. Cuba does indeed have a sophisticated bio tech industry, having
developed several successful drugs now used in the third world, and
developed new uses for interferon. Up until now, however, Cuban drugs
are unavailable in the US; one European company is conducting trials
and may eventually make one available in the US.

3. According to UN statistics, Cuba ranks #54 out of 194 countries in
terms of life expectancy, education, health care and similar criteria.
When the status of women is factored in (e.g. women’s health,
education, etc.), Cuba is #2 in the world, way ahead of the US. Being
“authoritarian” doesn’t account for such progress. Cuban doctors, for
example, really do believe that medicine should help the poor and be
available to everyone for free. Such sentiments can’t be imposed from
above by authoritarian rulers.
        As noted elsewhere, and described extensively in my book, Cuba faces
massive economic problems and is certainly no democracy. But Cubans are
far better off today than most third world countries, and certainly
better off than before 1959.

4. The Treasury’s decision to make a policy review on Cuba is a
positive step forward. It remains to be seen when and whether officials
recommend a change in policy.

5. The banning of Sherritt executives and a few others is one of the
few times those provisions of Helms Burton were applied. Many dozens of
European investors, however, are free to travel to the US. The US has
not authorized law suits by Cuban Americans against investors in Cuba
who might use property once owned by those Cuban Americans. As far as I
know, Sherritt executives very much favor lifting the US embargo, as
do international business people in general. Sherritt is solidly
established in Cuba and wouldn’t likely lose out to US companies. But
lifting the embargo would simplify shipping, banking and other
practices currently mucked up by the embargo.

For all of you in the Bay Area, I'm speaking about Dateline Havana and
US foreign policy in general at a series of events over the next two
weeks. See www.reeseerlich.com for more details.
  
inkwell.vue.345 : Reese Erlich, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Future of Cuba
permalink #25 of 55: Authentic Frontier Gibberish (gerry) Mon 26 Jan 09 18:32
    
Hello, Reese, and welcome to the WELL.  I'm sorry for coming late to
the discussion.

I haven't read your book yet, but I did read the introduction and had
a chance to browse through parts of the book.  (I loved your vivid
description of Havana's idea of a "frigid winter.")

I recall that in the introduction to your book, there was a mention of
something to the effect that the book offers a correction, both to
those left-leaning folks who've been romanticizing the Cuban
Revolution, as well as to those right-wingers who've had nothing but
condemnation for it.  (Please forgive my shoddy paraphrasing, and
correct me if I got it wrong.)

Could you please provide one or more examples of how lefties get it
wrong, as well as how righties got it wrong?
  

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