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Englightening the President and the Press

Cuba

by SAUL LANDAU And NELSON P. VALD?S

"No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver"  

? Spanish saying

(There is no worse blind person than the one who does not wish to see.)

On May 13, Miami newspaper headlines and TV leads should have said: "Obama makes fool of himself." The "leads" would have referred to his statement: "I would welcome real change from the Cuban government."

Obama’s conditions? "For us to have the kind of normal relations we have with other countries, we’ve got to see significant changes from the Cuban government and we just have not seen that yet."

A clever tabloid might have headlined, "Obama Goes Blind ? Can’t See Changes Right in Front of His Eyes!"

If Granma had a sense of humor its editorial would have begun with: "President Obama stands for `Change we can believe in,’ but does not stand for change Cuba’s leaders believe in."

Indeed, changes in Cuba have come fast and furious over recent months, but apparently Obama has his own definition of the word "insignificant." Or, maybe his advisers did not inform him that Cuba has freed all the "political" prisoners it arrested in 2003 and some others as well.

"The bottom line is political prisoners are still there who should have been released a long time ago, who never should have been arrested in the first place," Obama said. (Univision May 13, 2011)

Did he ignore the words of his Secretary of State? "Let those political prisoners out. Be willing to, you know, open up the economy and lift some of the oppressive strictures on the people of Cuba. And I think they would see that there would be an opportunity that could be perhaps exploited. But that’s in the future, whether or not they decide to make those changes." (January 13, 2009, Senate Confirmation hearings)

Did no one inform the President that the United States now has more political prisoners in Cuba than the Cuban government? Did he not hear from the government of Spain that they refused to accept nine of the remaining 46 Cuban prisoners because they had committed terrorist acts?

The President also remained blissfully unaware that he had vowed shortly after his inauguration to close the U.S. prison in Guantanamo where the political prisoners ? more numerous than those held by Cuba ? have not enjoyed even the basic rights of the Magna Carta. Cuban prisoners have all heard accusations against them, had lawyers and trials. No one at Guantanamo can claim any of those formal processes.

Obama also ignored the vast economic changes. "The economic system there is still far too constrained," he told Univision.

Again, his advisors went to sleep at the switch and neglected to inform him that in agriculture alone, the Cuban government vastly reduced the number of state farms and simultaneously increased the number of private holdings as well as the amount of acres individuals farmers can control. Thus far, the state has turned over 63% of uncultivated lands to the private sector. By mid May, individual farmers and cooperatives had received 1,191,000 hectares. (1 hectare + 2.47 acres) And private farmers now can employ as many workers as they can afford ? not allowed since 1963.

The state also increased the price tenfold for farmers selling beef and three times for milk. In addition, farmers can now sell more easily to consumers.

The state retained price controls on 21 agricultural commodities; all the rest follow supply and demand. For farmers, access to bank credit has become much easier; the rates lower.

Oh, people may soon be able to buy and sell homes and cars, and go into business for themselves in many areas.

Obama, however, is fixated on Fidel. "If you think about it, (Fidel) Castro came into power before I was born ? he’s still there and he basically has the same system when the rest of the world has recognized that the system doesn’t work," Obama said.

Fidel left power in 2006 as we know and ironically Cuba possesses the only system that still can claim some semblance of old-fashioned socialism ? despite a 50-plus year economic war against it by Washington.

Interestingly, in declaring Cuba’s systemic failure, Obama did not mention the U.S. recession, the double digit unemployment in several states, the millions of people homeless and hungry, with many more facing foreclosures and job loss. Indeed, for two centuries the U.S. economic system has broken down cyclically, and in this best of all possible systems millions of homeless people stare at vacant homes and apartments and hungry people cohabit with billionaires. And this well-working system does not suffer from having on its economic throat the boot of the largest economic power ? as Cuba endures.

Is Obama’s word frivolity simply a product of the perfect system’s rhetorical demand at pre-election time? After all, only a year and half remains before the next presidential contest and the "Miami-Cuban vote" counts.

MORE ON CHANGES NEXT WEEK

Saul Landau’s new film is WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP (CINEMA LIBRE STUDIO ? distributor).

Nelson Vald?s is Professor Emeritus, Univ. of New Mexico.