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See Cuba

by NEIL CORBETT

Perhaps if Americans, those privileged residents of the Land of the Free, were permitted to travel to Cuba, they would feel the same sense of outrage that we Canadians feel when members of the U.S. government speak of attacking Cuba.

In the wake of 9/11, Canadian soldiers joined the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In the early days of the war against terrorism, Canadian naval vessels stopped and searched more vessels in the Persian Gulf than any other navy.

But soon Pat Buchanan would be referring to my country as “Soviet Canuckistan.”

When the Canadian government expressed reluctance to join the invasion of Iraq without UN sanction, an American right wing rag sneeringly said Canada should be “bombed for its own good.” For this story, the japesters at the National Review became front page news for Canada’s two major national newspapers.

But Cubans, a well-educated people who are well aware of how their country has long defied the U.S., and that an invasion has been attempted in the past, can only regard any such statements as pre-invasion propaganda. For them, it must seem, an invasion is in the mail.

George Dubya Bush recently accused Fidel Castro of turning his island into a haven for sex tourism, where the innocence of children is bought and sold. CounterPunch is one of the few media outlets to publicize Castro’s rebuttal.

Bush’s accusation, to me, seems specious. On a July trip to Cuba, including time spent in the capital of Havana, I was solicited perhaps 50 times to purchase black market cigars, but not a single prostitute offered her services.

Another Canadian couple I know hired a young lady to act as their tour guide. She insisted that the Canadian woman always be close by. Even so, at a shopping centre, the Cuban woman was several times stopped by authorities, who asked her why she was in the company of a foreign man. Obviously, this is something that is to be questioned, and only the assurances of the Canadian man’s wife satisfied the queries.

Such stories are of course only anecdotal evidence, but what sort of evidence does Bush ever offer?

The best way for Americans to judge would be to visit Cuba, but the world’s ultimate bastion of liberty will not allow its citizens to travel there.

Americans should see Havana, with its 16th century buildings built by the colonizing Spanish, and the city’s statues and monuments to the Cubans who later fought to free the nation from the Conquistadors. The thought of these being destroyed by bombs might give Americans pause.

As much as Americans, the Cubans love their heroes. Che is everywhere, as the people’s hero. Fidel’s face is seldom seen. He is certainly no Saddam. There would be no statues to topple in Havana.

U.S. visitors should be able to visit a Cuban town, and learn about the storehouses where the Cuban people get their rations of rice, beans and other necessities. All provided by the government. The elderly can get a couple packages of cigarettes if they must, and families with children get rare beef rations. Despite sanctions, there is no good reason for Cuban people to starve.

I’m a baseball fan. I stopped in the streets of Havana to watch a pitcher deliver, and a sinewy youth smoke a one-hopper right at me. The ball was homemade, and too light. Like me, an American would think that, for his next trip, he’d dig a well-worn ball and glove out of the closet, to make some Cuban kid’s day.

I love visiting America. Last year I was in Seattle to cheer the Seahawks as they took on the San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was at Seattle’s Safeco Field on the first weekend it opened. I’ve spent a day prowling Powell’s books in Portland, and had a ray wiggle out from under my foot in the Florida sand.

And I am certain that if Americans were able to see Cuba first hand, they’d fall for it the same way I did.

That’s the invasion that should be called for.

NEIL CORBETT is a Canadian journalist.

 

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