Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Omens

Photo: Claudio Fuentes Madan

Since the beginning of the year the same conversation as emerged at different times and among dissimilar people: What does the fututo [conch] say about us? The question seems unanswerable, but in less than a week those who sneer at my misgivings have delivered into my hands some phrases copied from the unofficial Letter of the Year (this is going to get VERY UGLY, even though it seems that the horizon of horrendous has not been reached), from the astrological chart of Fidel Castro (it appears that this could be the year), the astrological chart of Raúl Castro (it appears he won’t survive his brother), the astrological chart of Hugo Chávez (it appears he won’t make it past December), and the astrological chart of Cuba (apparently with pathetic karma).

I try to put aside this obsessive scrutiny in the morning, and concentrate on the readers rather than the readings. I wonder why everyone—from different cultures, different beliefs and different sources of divination—is enthralled with the analysis of CHANGE NOW. Why these “times of instability” are interpreted as “disobedience in the earth” or “falling to pieces in the heavens”? Why is it that Saturn moving easily and without difficulty through the middle heavens can’t be anything but “the journey of no return”?

I have heard the same idiocy repeated by the most neophyte, the most atheistic, the most skeptical and even by the most Marxist. I can’t deny that trying to understand the stars sharpens my neurons and that to read what the voices from the other side say gives me the creeps. However, what makes me smile—and brings back my quiet rationality—is that so many visions about the same reality also express the desire, the faith, the hope in another Cuba not so far away, not so hard, not so sad.

Note: If any reader has the complete unofficial “Letter of the Year”, please send it to me at my email address. I have talked so much about it that I’m dying to read the whole thing.


Humberto Capiro said...

WALL STREET JOURNAL:A Cuban Education for Spain's Socialists
Havana once again makes clear that tyrants are just as intolerant of dissent abroad as they are at home.

"On Monday, Spanish politician Luis Yáñez-Barnuevo García was expelled from Cuba hours after landing there on a tourist visa. The rebuff of the Socialist Member of the European Parliament has sent Madrid into waves of pique, summoning Cuba's ambassador and demanding an explanation. Strange, given Madrid's closeness to the Castro regime, that it should still require an education on the Communist dictatorship's modus operandi."

"The Spanish-Cuban fracas is really a case study in Dictatorship Engagement 101, and mirrors Barack Obama's own efforts to draw Cuba closer. Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama offered warm words of a new beginning with Havana. He also loosened travel restrictions and limits on cash remittances to the island. But Washington's failure to ditch funding for anti-Castro radio and TV broadcasts, as well as its continued support of Cuban democracy activists, has stopped the rapprochement in its tracks. Last month an American government subcontractor was arrested in Cuba and is still being held, reportedly after having distributed mobile phones and laptops to Cuban activists. At a meeting of Latin American leftists last month, Raúl Castro affirmed that the "confrontation between two historic forces is becoming more acute." "

Humberto Capiro said...

UTV-England: Forgotten CubaStephen Kinzer: Cuba's revolution once inspired the world, but political stagnation has left it a poor, hungry backwater © Guardian News and Media 2010
"Vestiges of revolutionary enthusiasm survived into the 1980s, when I last visited Cuba. Millions had already lost faith in the promise of Caribbean communism, but millions still clung to it. Today believers are hard to find. People I met told me that they had a burst of hope two years ago, when Castro retired from active politics and turned the regime over to his brother. But life remains much as before, and the island has slipped into paralysing lassitude. "Finding enough food for our families and a roof over our heads is the extent of our dreams these days," one man sighed."

"Who would have imagined that Cuba would become an importer of food – even importing sugar, of all things, from the United States, of all places? Or that an entire generation of Cubans – those born in the early 1990s, when the end of Soviet subsidies brought a plague of hunger to the island – would be born malnourished and grow up stunted? Or that the birth rate would plummet, leaving the prospect of an aging population without working people to support it? Or that most groceries would be for sale only in hard currency, which is unavailable to most Cubans? Or that fishing would be all but forbidden because the regime fears that anyone with a boat will make straight for Florida? Or that the country Americans once treated as a giant bordello, a hotbed of degradation that Castro set out to wipe away, would once again become the hemisphere's leading destination for sex tourists?"

""We have three successes: education, health care and social equality," one Cuban told me. "And we have three big problems: breakfast, lunch and dinner." Another put it more directly. "In 51 years of revolution, we have not learned that agriculture is what keeps a country alive.""

Humberto Capiro said...

BBC NEWS: US denies contractor held in Cuba was spying

"Washington has labelled "false" Cuban claims that an American contractor arrested at Havana airport last month was a US spy. The US state department said the man did not work for American intelligence."

"Those comments are false. Cuba has a history of mischaracterising what Americans and NGOs in Cuba are doing," said state department spokesman PJ Crowley. "This person is not associated with our intelligence services." "

"This is a gentleman hired by a company that hires for the American secret services and is now the subject of an investigation," Mr Alarcon told reporters in Havana.

He described it as an example of the "privatisation of war" by the US, which hires people to be "agents, torturers, spies"."

Humberto Capiro said...

REUTERS: Angry Cuba demands removal from U.S. terrorism list

"Cuba demanded its "immediate exclusion" from the U.S. terrorism list, calling it an "unjust, arbitrary and politically motivated designation that contradicts the exemplary conduct of our country in confronting terrorism."
It accused the United States of harboring "hundreds of criminals, murderers and terrorists" it said had acted against the Cuban government since Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution. Fidel Castro, 83, handed over the Cuban presidency to his younger brother Raul Castro, 78, in early 2008."

"Cuba reacted angrily earlier this week when Washington said U.S.-bound air passengers from 14 nations including Cuba would receive extra security checks, including a pat-down search.

The new measures followed the botched bombing attempt of a Northwest Airlines flight into Detroit on Christmas Day by a Nigerian believed to be an operative for al Qaeda."

Humberto Capiro said...

AFP: EU must be 'demanding' with Cuba: Spain

MADRID — "Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero called Friday on the European Union to be "demanding" with Cuba even while pushing for dialogue with the island's communist regime.
Spain, which assumed the rotating EU presidency for six months on January 1, is at the forefront of efforts to boost relations with Cuba, a former Spanish colony.

"We must be demanding with Cuba but always keep the door open to dialogue," Zapatero said at a press conference with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and the EU's new president, Herman Van Rompuy.

Spanish media have reported that Madrid wants to establish a new agreement on EU-Cuba ties in the first half of 2010 but has lowered its ambitions to avoid objects from other EU nations."

"Spain wants to see an end to the European Union's position on Cuba, adopted in 1996, which calls for improvements in human rights and democracy on the island as a condition for normal relations with the 27-nation European bloc.

But this is opposed by other EU nations, including the two previous holders of the bloc's presidency -- Sweden and the Czech Republic -- as well Cuban human rights groups."