Why Cubans Continue to Leave the Country

By Rosa Martinez

Cubans detained in Guatemala. Photo: http://www.laprensa.hn
Cubans detained in Guatemala. Photo: http://www.laprensa.hn

HAVANA TIMES — If we could get an exact picture of the number of Cubans leaving the country to reside abroad, we would probably be able to conclude, without fear of contradiction, that the island is slowly bleeding to death. Young people, those who ought to be the nation’s future, are leaving us.

On October 19, it was reported that 139 Cubans (88 men and 51 women) had been detained in Guatemala without papers and expelled from the Central American country. Movilidad Humana, an organization devoted to the protection of immigrants, reported that more than 350 Cubans arrived at the southern border of the state of Chiapas, Mexico, and that some 200 people from the island arrive there on a daily basis.

In 2013 alone, 2,129 Cubans attempted to reach the United States illegally by sea. This figure includes those who managed to reach land, were intercepted in the high seas and repatriated and those who died during the journey.

According to the US Coast Guard, the figure rose to 3,722 the following year. As of October 1 this year, which closed the 2015 US fiscal year, and in the midst of the “updating” of Cuba’s socialist economic model, the number rose to 4,462, more than double the figure reported a mere 2 years ago.

Cuban in Ecuador. Photo: ecuadortimes.net
Cuban in Ecuador. Photo: ecuadortimes.net

These numbers do not of course include the many thousands of Cubans who traveled legally to Ecuador and then undertook a dangerous journey across several nations to set foot on the land of freedom, nor do they take into account the athletes, artists, medical doctors and scientists who “deserted” while working abroad, offering lectures or quite simply pursing studies somewhere. There is also no mention of the hundreds or thousands who traveled to other countries on invitations from friends, as tourists or to reunite with their spouses in other corners of the globe, to never return.

Notwithstanding the fact that immigration is something we see across the globe, the increase in the number of Cubans who are risking everything to leave their country and reach the United States is truly terrifying. This increase is quite simply owed to the fact Cubans fear what no few Florida politicians have predicted will come to pass, the modification or definitive elimination of the Cuban Adjustment Act, which offers many benefits to Cubans who manage to set foot on US soil.

In addition to this understandable concern, there are many other reasons that make Cubans emigrate (chiefly to the United States), despite the reforms and updating of the Cuban economic model – and reconciliation with the Yanks – now underway.

Havana Times conversed with a number of residents of Guantanamo to hear their opinion on the matter

The first person we spoke with was Candita, a 73-year-old woman who has the misfortune to be practically without any family, since her two older sons went to the USA almost 20 years ago with the help of her two brothers that were already there. Little by little they managed to bring to the US her other children and almost all the grandchildren.

Foto: Caridad
Foto: Caridad

“My two older brothers were the first to leave, for political reasons. They never saw eye to eye with the government and, after the first 15 years of the revolution, they made every effort to leave the country, until they did. A long time later, they sponsored one of my kids, and another son of mine married a girl who got her US residency in the lottery. As of that point, practically everyone I love began leaving, until the house was empty. It’s a big house with every comfort you could ask for, but it’s empty.”

“My brothers are the only ones who hate everything having to do with the revolution and its “rabble”, as they say. My kids left the country because life’s too tough in Cuba. That was in the middle of the Special Period crisis of the 1990s. The grandchildren left because, well, they wanted to be with their parents, naturally.”

Not all stories are as simple as Candita’s. There are stories people find more difficult to share, having to do with political persecution and harassment, the kinds of stories told by prisoners of conscience who have been obliged to leave their home country, denied the right to criticize or pass judgment on the things they believed to be ill-conceived. Those who did lost all peace in their lives.

This is what happened to Alberto, a mechanical engineer who claims that the main reason Cubans emigrate is politics. According to him, disagreeing with a government that has been in power for more than 50 years (more than any other dictator, he claims) is a political issue. The fact the State hasn’t been able to meet the basic needs of the population in over half a century, the fact people still don’t have Internet access this late in the game and that the average Cuban still finds it next to impossible to travel abroad or around the country is also a political issue, he adds.

Yamila, a third-year medical student, tells us something different. “No one in my family has left Cuba. I don’t think it’s because we’re very patriotic or anything like that, we just haven’t had the opportunity. How could we hope to travel anywhere, poor black folk that we are? I’m going to stay wherever I get a work contract abroad, even Haiti. My parents know this and respect that decision. Are they upset about it? Of course, plenty, but no one’s going to stop me. We’re close as a family, too close, I would say, we stick together through good and bad times, but we have a lot of financial problems, and my dream is to be able to change that, at least a bit.”

The young woman adds: “I think other young people feel the same way. They don’t want to spend the rest of their lives earning a measly salary that isn’t even enough to buy food. They don’t want to spend years waiting to get the latest clothes in fashion or enjoy what they want to enjoy. We want to be able to do this while we’re still young. Will we help our parents? Of course, they had to deal with the toughest years of the revolution and have made many sacrifices for us.”

“Our generation,” a 43-year-old university professor says, “was hit by the Special Period head on and survived. It got used to shortages, to not having this or that, to all kinds of obstacles, to not having even the most basic things at home, at work or on the street. We’ve put up with this all these years in the hopes the situation would one day improve, but it never did.”

Photo: Caridad
Photo: Caridad

“But the generation that came after is different. They don’t want to wait to see the improvement we’ve been waiting for patiently. They’re also not afraid to try their luck somewhere. They would rather work hard in a place they don’t know, they would rather risk being eaten by a shark or who knows what, than continue living in a country where no one understands or listens to them.”

Rafael, a self-employed driver, believes there are several reasons that lead Cubans to leave the country. The main one is financial. Despite the changes that have taken place in society over the last five or seven years, people continue to have the same problems: salaries aren’t enough to live on for 90 percent of population. The youngest have no way to move out of home, where three or more generations live together. Transportation continues to be a major problem. Though no one can speak of the kinds of famines seen in other poor countries, putting a good meal on the table is a real headache. The prices of all basic products continue to rise. There are very few recreational options for the young, and the few out there are far too expensive. Those are some of the difficulties that make Cuban society dysfunctional, at least for the average citizen.

For Olaidis Reve, a retired veterinarian, the country’s malfunctioning economy is the main reason behind the exodus of Cubans, though the political side to the story cannot be neglected. Cuba is not the only country where one can go to prison for opposing the government, but it is among the few where thinking differently than the majority is considered a sin.

“Since before the triumph of the Revolution,” she says, “the United States has been the chief destination for Cubans. Before 1959, people would leave Cuba to study at a prestigious university or avoid political persecution, or to get away from the chaos that has befallen the country. It’s no different now.”

“Cubans continue to flee from the social system that made them dream about the ideals and aspirations Fidel proclaimed, and the political effervescence of the 70s and 80s. During the 90s, that enthusiasm went to hell. Fidel has one foot in the grave and Cuba has changed, but, in essence, it is still the same.”

“The United States, which was once the enemy and is today a good neighbor, continues to be people’s first choice. Why?” I ask her.

“It’s only natural. First, because it’s the most powerful country in the world, with one of the best economies. Second, because it’s nearby, so much so that you can get there on a raft or a surfboard. Third, because there’s no other country that offers Cubans so many benefits (through the Cuban Adjustment Act). And people should hurry! Because, when they take away that law, we’ll be as screwed up there as we are here!”

53 thoughts on “Why Cubans Continue to Leave the Country

  • October 25, 2015 at 10:52 am
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    If only these record numbers of Cubans leaving Cuba by any means possible were to read the posts written by Elio Delgado Legon or the comments posted by the handful of Castro sycophants here at HT, they would come to learn what a social and economic paradise Cuba really is. Instead, having lived in Cuba all of their lives and under the totalitarian rule of the Castros, these tens of thousands of Cubans are choosing to leave. How could all of these people be so wrong?

    Reply
    • October 25, 2015 at 11:11 pm
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      I, Moses, am an Obama sycophant, not one of your tar-baby McCartheite “Castro sycophants.” That’s because I believe Obama has bravely done more than anyone to overcome the anti-democratic scourge orchestrated by Batistiano zealots from their safe haven on U. S. soil since fleeing the Cuban Revolution. The shame directed at innocent Cubans and at the U. S. democracy began in earnest in 1952 when right-wingers in the Eisenhower administration — such as Nixon and the Dulles brothers — aligned the U. S. democracy with the Mafia to support the brutal, thieving Batista dictatorship in Cuba. A famous revolution overthrew your favorite regime in Cuba but only managed to basically chase it to its new capital of Miami. Assassination attempts in 1959, the Bay of Pigs attack in 1961, and the embargo in 1962 all failed to recapture Cuba, and neither did a plethora of terrorist acts — strafing coastal fishing cabins, bombing hotels, bombing the civilian Cubana Flight 455 airplane, etc., etc. You and other Batistiano backers were severely denounced this past Friday in a scathing Editorial in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that poignantly denounced “the criminal pipeline” from Washington to Miami that began back in the 1980s when the Bush dynasty anointed Jorge Mas Canosa as the leader of the Cubans in exile and then started Miami’s pipeline to the U. S. Congress in 1989 by entrenching Miami’s anti-Castro/Bush-aligned zealot Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Congress, etc., etc. As the Sun-Sentinel Editorial pointed out, congressional laws that favor Cubans created “the criminal pipeline” that severely harms everyone else. You rave about Cubans on the island trying to reach U. S. soil and don’t mentioned they are lured by special U.S. Cuban laws that uniquely, for example, make them home free the moment they touch U. S. soil where they alone instantly become welfare recipients, even when, as the Sun-Sentinel pointed out, when they return to Cuba, as many of those welfare recipients do. Also, Puerto Rico became a U. S. Territory with U. S. citizenship and representation in Congress after the Spanish-American War in 1898 also gave the U. S. dominance of Cuba, at least till January 1, 1959. Today there are far more Puerto Ricans, U.S. CITIZENS, fleeing their bankrupt island to join the millions of other Puerto Ricans in the U. S., and they are NOT AFFORDED the instant privileges and welfare that entice Cubans. Batistiano propaganda has inundated the Cuban narrative in the U. S. since January of 1959. That’s unfortunate, more so for the U. S. and democracy than for Cuba.

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      • October 26, 2015 at 7:32 am
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        Nothing that I have ever written in my comments here at HT should lead you to associate me with the brutal Batista regime. I support free speech, free assembly and free enterprise. I am therefore anti-CASTRO. If this is what I have in common with the handful of living pro-Batista zealots, then so be it.

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        • October 26, 2015 at 5:48 pm
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          Moses, I know what “sycophant” means without having to Google it. I also use my real name or else I would not contribute to this forum. I have noticed that most of the adamant anti-Cuba propagandists use fake names, and I have wondered if you do too.

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      • October 27, 2015 at 1:44 pm
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        Rich, I fear that you are just burning keystrokes. The man with the screen name “Moses Patterson” has a singular message here. No matter the topic, his response will always be the same. He is so focused with such blind commitment that he will never be swayed by facts.

        BTW, I again placed flowers on tomb #43 in Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón two weeks ago, just as I frequently do when I am in Vedado.

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        • October 28, 2015 at 11:03 am
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          Quite an indictment Bob. What “facts” are NOT swaying me. Keep in mind that because I don’t agree with you does not mean that I don’t understand your interpretation of the facts. I just don’t share your interpretation.

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          • October 29, 2015 at 7:44 am
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            Moses, the indictment was from the bottom of my heart. You do seem, to me, to have the same comment that you continually put forth no matter how unrelated the topic. Classic example is Ernesto Gonzalez Diaz’s September 12 post with 18 photos of Cuban women. Your 116 word response was only about the Castros’ and politics.

            I appreciate opposing views. That is how we learn. I appreciate personal commitment. But there is a time and a place for everything.

            I see our major differences as your constant unwavering campaign that you know what changes should be made in Cuba for the benefit of the people while I believe we should let them decide for themselves. BTW, their election of municipal delegates was last weekend.

            I just returned from 3 weeks living in Cuba. It was refreshing to not hear anything political.

          • October 29, 2015 at 1:14 pm
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            You have the luxury to see Cuba from both the inside and now that you have returned home, from the outside. You also have the luxury of having a big steak and potato dinner tonight, if you choose. These are both choices that my Cuban friends and family in Cuba don’t have. Ironically, even the potatoes were scarce last week in Guantanamo, not to mention the a juicy steak. Yes, when it comes to Cuba, I am, admitedly, a one-trick pony. I believe that Cubans deserve free speech, free press, free elections, and a chance to decide a future for themselves. Which one of these freedoms is not worth my “constant unwavering campaign”?

          • October 29, 2015 at 8:55 pm
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            I understand that you have a deep seated conviction that our form of government will bring happiness to to an unhappy group of Cubans. I simply do not have the confidence that our way is better for them. Almost all the Cuban people I know are pretty happy with their present situation and not bothered by lack of those freedoms.

            My views have changed from once being similar to yours to my current ones as a result of transitioning back and forth from living in Cuba and the US for some 4 years. It took a while to learn how to filter out those cries saying how bad life way and they needed help when what they were really asking for was money.

            Do I believe their form of government would work in the US? Absolutely not. Would I want to live permanently in Cuba? Absolutely not as I would miss that potato and juicy steak even though those are not priorities for Cubans. But I have no conviction that what we do in the US will improve their culture and overall happiness.

            While I consider myself an American patriot, I do stop short of the “The US is always right,You are different. Therefore you are wrong and should do it our way.”.

          • October 30, 2015 at 10:29 am
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            You have come to mistake Cuban acquiescence for acceptance. READ THIS CAREFULLY:Cubans DO want free speech. Cubans DO want freedom of the press. Cubans DO want open elections. Cubans DO want democracy. Just because they don’t set themselves on fire in the streets to protest doesn’t mean they don’t want these things. These are basic human rights we are born with and no government has the right to take them away on a permanent basis. There were those whites who saw the American black slave singing while he worked under the hot sun. These whites concluded that the slave was happy and did not want to be free. Bob, you see Cubans now and assume they do not want to be free? Shame on you!

          • October 30, 2015 at 4:59 pm
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            Moses, I base my conclusions on having lived at least 3 months a year as a member of a Cuban family in a typical Cuban town for a number of years. But thanks anyway for the lessons about life in Cuba.

            My current endeavors in the US have me associating with close to the top of the economic pyramid down to the bottom. A similar situation exists in Cuba. While it is difficult to relate “US happiness” with “Cuban happiness” due to different priorities, the Cuban people seem no less happy than Americans. Once again, I am unwilling to say “we are right, you are wrong, do it our way”.

            Given a simple yes or no answer with no qualifications to the freedoms you reference, I agree a majority of Cubans would probably respond “yes”. But ask them the top 10 things that would improve their lives and they would not be on very many lists.

            I believe your analogy to American slavery back in the early days is inappropriate and inflammatory,

          • October 30, 2015 at 6:19 pm
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            Most Cubans think freedom is out of reach. , It is likely that they cease to count it among their “top 10”. Instead an air conditioner in the living room will become a priority. I disagree with your American vs. Cuban forms of happiness. When the Hmong community arrived in the US from Southeast Asia after the war in Vietnam ended, they make every attempt to continue to live as they had lived before. In their case, what made them happy was very different from the “happiness” that the US offered them. When Cubans arrive in the US from Cuba, they are ‘Americanized’ immediately. What makes Cubans happy makes Americans happy and vice versa. I know this first hand from my Cuban wife. I am glad you got my point using the slavery analogy. Test it’s validity by asking a Cuban if they cherish basic human rights any less than you do. I dare you.

          • November 1, 2015 at 6:13 pm
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            Moses, thanks again for your insight about how my family and friends in Cuba think. I am so lucky to have you explain their thoughts to me rather than having to rely on what I experience living with them 24/7

          • October 30, 2015 at 3:59 pm
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            Does a Cubans resignation to their present fate make the lack of freedom any less wrong? Don’t you think Cubans want the same access to “meat and potatoes” that you have? How sad that the Cuban regime has decimated Cuban culture and cuisine. Good luck trying to get Tasajo, Ropa vieja, or Carne con Papa in Cuba, all traditional Cuban dishes that have meat. Today Cuba has 50% less cattle, with 50% more population, than existed prior to the revolution, despite the fact that its illegal to slaughter Cattle without Government permission.

          • October 29, 2015 at 3:50 pm
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            Its quite simple Bob. You did not hear anything “political” because there is no political freedom. Simple enough. Although i do agree that it’s nice to take a break from all the noise found in the US. Its just Unfortunate that the silence is a sign of the repression

          • October 29, 2015 at 8:17 pm
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            Informed Consent: simply untrue. I live part time in a small town where I am the only foreigner and people speak openly. I just returned from 3 weeks there and never, ever, heard a political comment, even in private from close friends. I can assure you that people do not hold back. I have even gently nudged conversations towards politics but received no response.

            It would be slightly more difficult for me to refute your comment is you said that everyone there was stupid and knew no better. But that is not the case either.

          • October 30, 2015 at 3:33 pm
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            Hey Bob, were you responding to my comment or someone else’s? I do not recall saying or insinuating that we Cubans are stupid. I simply said that the pervasive silence, as it relates to politics, is a sign of the repressive and closed political system in Cuba. Although Cubans, by their very nature are political, every Cuban knows they have they have little to
            No influence on politics. We Cubans have become a fatalistic lot.

        • October 29, 2015 at 12:38 pm
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          If you don’t mind my asking, who is interred in tomb #43 of the Necrópolis Cristobal Colón?

          Reply
          • October 29, 2015 at 8:05 pm
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            Celia Sanchez. While not perfect, she did more to keep Fidel working for the people than himself until her death in 1980. I personally believe that she, Huber Matos, and Camilo Cienfuegos remained true to the original goals of the Revolution.

          • November 1, 2015 at 1:12 pm
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            Wasn’t Fidel suspected of assassinating Camilo Cienfuegos who was in an airplane that crashed? I know that they had some serious disagreements and that he was more popular than Fidel. We’ll probably never know for sure.

      • October 28, 2015 at 5:30 pm
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        …the usual crap. For those not familiar with Cuban history it’s important to note that Batista, his cohorts, and his money, never came to the US. . Rich tries to muddy the waters by throwing out the word Batista and Batistano, and disparaging anyone who does not support 55+ years of Castro dictatorship. You should be proud Rich.

        Is it “Batistano” propaganda that has kept the Cuban people isolated and unable, until recently, to legally travel, have access to news and freely associate with whomever I please.

        I’m Cuban, you cant pull the wool over my eyes!

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        • October 29, 2015 at 6:54 am
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          Those more familiar with Cuban history know that Fulgencio Batista owned two large homes at at 137 and 145 N. Halifax Ave. in Daytona Beach Florida where he was a local celebrity and very politically connected. He was essentially a full time Florida resident for 8 years between his two terms as Cuba’s president. There was even a “Batista Day” in Daytona. He ultimately donated a large collection of notable Cuban Art, some from the National Gallery, to the city of Daytona Beach along with his two houses.

          Cuba is still asking for return of the art treasure trove which is displayed at the Cuban Foundation Museum in Daytona Beach.

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          • October 29, 2015 at 12:29 pm
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            On the topic of looted Cuban art, one day the artworks looted by the Castro regime will be returned to the rightful Cuban owners.

          • October 29, 2015 at 3:45 pm
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            All true. But that was in the late 40’s. And afterward he wasn’t welcome nor did he feel safe in the US. And in the final years of his rule did not come here. Instead he fled to the Dominican Republic and then Portugal. This idea that there is a Batista contingent almost 60 years after the dictatorship of Castro started is absurd. Its just old Rich trying to muddy the water and deflect criticism of the repressive Castro regime

  • October 25, 2015 at 2:29 pm
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    Cool all that! But nobody mentioned the more of half a century of bullying and harassment behavior of the most powerful nation on Earth . Let’s been fair!

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    • October 29, 2015 at 12:22 pm
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      None of the Cubans interviewed above mentioned the “bullying” because no Cubans actually believe that excuse. If the so called “bully” is the problem, why are the vast majority of these Cubans leaving for the US?

      Reply
  • October 25, 2015 at 4:30 pm
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    Until the economic model meets the needs of the people, those with options will depart. The reforms of the economic model need to accelarate. It’s beyond question that the soviet communist model failed, everywhere. A mix model of social programs and free market is what works. Balance is needed as evidenced by tough time redistribution heavy countries are having.

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    • October 26, 2015 at 11:01 am
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      ‘the Soviet Union was state capitalist just as Cuba is .
      Cuba is not socialist, is not communist.
      It never was .
      The means of distribution of goods and services is akin to socialist methods , for human need but since it is not democratically run from the bottom, it is not and cannot be termed socialist or communist.
      You’re welcome.

      Reply
      • October 27, 2015 at 6:39 am
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        Says who John?

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      • October 27, 2015 at 7:20 pm
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        The Soviets called themselves Communist. Cuba is still run by the Communist Party. Their name for their party, not mine. You can call it what ever you want. A system that fails to reward personal effort that focuses on redistribution is doomed. The wealth of a nation is measured by what it produces not by what it consumes, no matter how equally. I don’t get why equality of consumption matters when it’s sufficiency that determines quality of life.

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  • October 25, 2015 at 7:24 pm
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    A Near Half-century of Terror
    By Noam Chomsky

    The Batista dictatorship was overthrown in January 1959 by Castro’s guerrilla forces. In March, the National Security Council (NSC) considered means to institute regime change. In May, the CIA began to arm guerrillas inside Cuba. “During the Winter of 1959-1960, there was a significant increase in CIA-supervised bombing and incendiary raids piloted by exiled Cubans” based in the US. We need not tarry on what the US or its clients would do under such circumstances. Cuba, however, did not respond with violent actions within the United States for revenge or deterrence. Rather, it followed the procedure required by international law. In July 1960, Cuba called on the UN for help, providing the Security Council with records of some twenty bombings, including names of pilots, plane registration numbers, unexploded bombs, and other specific details, alleging considerable damage and casualties and calling for resolution of the conflict through diplomatic channels. US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge responded by giving his “assurance [that] the United States has no aggressive purpose against Cuba.” Four months before, in March 1960, his government had made a formal decision in secret to overthrow the Castro government, and preparations for the Bay of Pigs invasion were well advanced.

    Washington was concerned that Cubans might try to defend themselves. CIA chief Allen Dulles therefore urged Britain not to provide arms to Cuba. His “main reason,” the British ambassador reported to London, “was that this might lead the Cubans to ask for Soviet or Soviet bloc arms,” a move that “would have a tremendous effect,” Dulles pointed out, allowing Washington to portray Cuba as a security threat to the hemisphere, following the script that had worked so well in Guatemala. Dulles was referring to Washington’s successful demolition of Guatemala’s first democratic experiment, a ten-year interlude of hope and progress, greatly feared in Washington because of the enormous popular support reported by US intelligence and the “demonstration effect” of social and economic measures to benefit the large majority. The Soviet threat was routinely invoked, abetted by Guatemala’s appeal to the Soviet bloc for arms after the US had threatened attack and cut off other sources of supply. The result was a half-century of horror, even worse than the US-backed tyranny that came before.

    For Cuba, the schemes devised by the doves were similar to those of CIA director Dulles. Warning President Kennedy about the “inevitable political and diplomatic fall-out” from the planned invasion of Cuba by a proxy army, Arthur Schlesinger suggested efforts to trap Castro in some action that could be used as a pretext for invasion: “One can conceive a black operation in, say, Haiti which might in time lure Castro into sending a few boatloads of men on to a Haitian beach in what could be portrayed as an effort to overthrow the Haitian regime,… then the moral issue would be clouded, and the anti-US campaign would be hobbled from the start.” Reference is to the regime of the murderous dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier, which was backed by the US (with some reservations), so that an effort to help Haitians overthrow it would be a crime.

    Eisenhower’s March 1960 plan called for the overthrow of Castro in favor of a regime “more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S.,” including support for “military operation on the island” and “development of an adequate paramilitary force outside of Cuba.” Intelligence reported that popular support for Castro was high, but the US would determine the “true interests of the Cuban people.” The regime change was to be carried out “in such a manner as to avoid any appearance of U.S. intervention,” because of the anticipated reaction in Latin America and the problems of doctrinal management at home.

    Operation Mongoose

    The Bay of Pigs invasion came a year later, in April 1961, after Kennedy had taken office. It was authorized in an atmosphere of “hysteria” over Cuba in the White House, Robert McNamara later testified before the Senate’s Church Committee. At the first cabinet meeting after the failed invasion, the atmosphere was “almost savage,” Chester Bowles noted privately: “there was an almost frantic reaction for an action program.” At an NSC meeting two days later, Bowles found the atmosphere “almost as emotional” and was struck by “the great lack of moral integrity” that prevailed. The mood was reflected in Kennedy’s public pronouncements: “The complacent, the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be swept away with the debris of history. Only the strong . . . can possibly survive,” he told the country, sounding a theme that would be used to good effect by the Reaganites during their own terrorist wars. Kennedy was aware that allies “think that we’re slightly demented” on the subject of Cuba, a perception that persists to the present.

    Kennedy implemented a crushing embargo that could scarcely be endured by a small country that had become a “virtual colony” of the US in the sixty years following its “liberation” from Spain. He also ordered an intensification of the terrorist campaign: “He asked his brother, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy, to lead the top-level interagency group that oversaw Operation Mongoose, a program of paramilitary operations, economic warfare, and sabotage he launched in late 1961 to visit the ‘terrors of the earth’ on Fidel Castro and, more prosaically, to topple him.”

    The terrorist campaign was “no laughing matter,” Jorge Dominguez writes in a review of recently declassified materials on operations under Kennedy, materials that are “heavily sanitized” and “only the tip of the iceberg,” Piero Gleijeses adds.

    Operation Mongoose was “the centerpiece of American policy toward Cuba from late 1961 until the onset of the 1962 missile crisis,” Mark White reports, the program on which the Kennedy brothers “came to pin their hopes.” Robert Kennedy informed the CIA that the Cuban problem carries “the top priority in the United States Government — all else is secondary — no time, no effort, or manpower is to be spared” in the effort to overthrow the Castro regime. The chief of Mongoose operations, Edward Lansdale, provided a timetable leading to “open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime” in October 1962. The “final definition” of the program recognized that “final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention,” after terrorism and subversion had laid the basis. The implication is that US military intervention would take place in October 1962 — when the missile crisis erupted.

    In February 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved a plan more extreme than Schlesinger’s: to use “covert means . . . to lure or provoke Castro, or an uncontrollable subordinate, into an overt hostile reaction against the United States; a reaction which would in turn create the justification for the US to not only retaliate but destroy Castro with speed, force and determination.” In March, at the request of the DOD Cuba Project, the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted a memorandum to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara outlining “pretexts which they would consider would provide justification for US military intervention in Cuba.” The plan would be undertaken if “a credible internal revolt is impossible of attainment during the next 9-10 months,” but before Cuba could establish relations with Russia that might “directly involve the Soviet Union.”

    A prudent resort to terror should avoid risk to the perpetrator.

    The March plan was to construct “seemingly unrelated events to camouflage the ultimate objective and create the necessary impression of Cuban rashness and responsibility on a large scale, directed at other countries as well as the United States,” placing the US “in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances [and developing] an international image of Cuban threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere.” Proposed measures included blowing up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay to create “a ‘Remember the Maine’ incident,” publishing casualty lists in US newspapers to “cause a helpful wave of national indignation,” portraying Cuban investigations as “fairly compelling evidence that the ship was taken under attack,” developing a “Communist Cuban terror campaign [in Florida] and even in Washington,” using Soviet bloc incendiaries for cane-burning raids in neighboring countries, shooting down a drone aircraft with a pretense that it was a charter flight carrying college students on a holiday, and other similarly ingenious schemes — not implemented, but another sign of the “frantic” and “savage” atmosphere that prevailed.

    On August 23 the president issued National Security Memorandum No. 181, “a directive to engineer an internal revolt that would be followed by U.S. military intervention,” involving “significant U.S. military plans, maneuvers, and movement of forces and equipment” that were surely known to Cuba and Russia. Also in August, terrorist attacks were intensified, including speedboat strafing attacks on a Cuban seaside hotel “where Soviet military technicians were known to congregate, killing a score of Russians and Cubans”; attacks on British and Cuban cargo ships; the contamination of sugar shipments; and other atrocities and sabotage, mostly carried out by Cuban exile organizations permitted to operate freely in Florida. A few weeks later came “the most dangerous moment in human history.”

    “A bad press in some friendly countries”

    Terrorist operations continued through the tensest moments of the missile crisis. They were formally canceled on October 30, several days after the Kennedy and Khrushchev agreement, but went on nonetheless. On November 8, “a Cuban covert action sabotage team dispatched from the United States successfully blew up a Cuban industrial facility,” killing 400 workers, according to the Cuban government. Raymond Garthoff writes that “the Soviets could only see [the attack] as an effort to backpedal on what was, for them, the key question remaining: American assurances not to attack Cuba.” These and other actions reveal again, he concludes, “that the risk and danger to both sides could have been extreme, and catastrophe not excluded.”

    After the crisis ended, Kennedy renewed the terrorist campaign. Ten days before his assassination he approved a CIA plan for “destruction operations” by US proxy forces “against a large oil refinery and storage facilities, a large electric plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities, and underwater demolition of docks and ships.” A plot to kill Castro was initiated on the day of the Kennedy assassination. The campaign was called off in 1965, but “one of Nixon’s first acts in office in 1969 was to direct the CIA to intensify covert operations against Cuba.”

    Of particular interest are the perceptions of the planners. In his review of recently released documents on Kennedy-era terror, Dominguez observes that “only once in these nearly thousand pages of documentation did a U.S. official raise something that resembled a faint moral objection to U.S.-government sponsored terrorism”: a member of the NSC staff suggested that it might lead to some Russian reaction, and raids that are “haphazard and kill innocents . . . might mean a bad press in some friendly countries.” The same attitudes prevail throughout the internal discussions, as when Robert Kennedy warned that a full-scale invasion of Cuba would “kill an awful lot of people, and we’re going to take an awful lot of heat on it.”

    Terrorist activities continued under Nixon, peaking in the mid- 1970s, with attacks on fishing boats, embassies, and Cuban offices overseas, and the bombing of a Cubana airliner, killing all seventy-three passengers. These and subsequent terrorist operations were carried out from US territory, though by then they were regarded as criminal acts by the FBI.

    So matters proceeded, while Castro was condemned by editors for maintaining an “armed camp, despite the security from attack promised by Washington in 1962.” The promise should have sufficed, despite what followed; not to speak of the promises that preceded, by then well documented, along with information about how well they could be trusted: e.g., the “Lodge moment” of July 1960.

    On the thirtieth anniversary of the missile crisis, Cuba protested a machine-gun attack against a Spanish-Cuban tourist hotel; responsibility was claimed by a group in Miami. Bombings in Cuba in 1997, which killed an Italian tourist, were traced back to Miami. The perpetrators were Salvadoran criminals operating under the direction of Luis Posada Carriles and financed in Miami. One of the most notorious international terrorists, Posada had escaped from a Venezuelan prison, where he had been held for the Cubana airliner bombing, with the aid of Jorge Mas Canosa, a Miami businessman who was the head of the tax-exempt Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF). Posada went from Venezuela to El Salvador, where he was put to work at the Ilopango military air base to help organize US terrorist attacks against Nicaragua under Oliver North’s direction.

    Posada has described in detail his terrorist activities and the funding for them from exiles and CANF in Miami, but felt secure that he would not be investigated by the FBI. He was a Bay of Pigs veteran, and his subsequent operations in the 1960s were directed by the CIA. When he later joined Venezuelan intelligence with CIA help, he was able to arrange for Orlando Bosch, an associate from his CIA days who had been convicted in the US for a bomb attack on a Cuba-bound freighter, to join him in Venezuela to organize further attacks against Cuba. An ex-CIA official familiar with the Cubana bombing identifies Posada and Bosch as the only suspects in the bombing, which Bosch defended as “a legitimate act of war.” Generally considered the “mastermind” of the airline bombing, Bosch was responsible for thirty other acts of terrorism, according to the FBI. He was granted a presidential pardon in 1989 by the incoming Bush I administration after intense lobbying by Jeb Bush and South Florida Cuban-American leaders, overruling the Justice Department, which had found the conclusion “inescapable that it would be prejudicial to the public interest for the United States to provide a safe haven for Bosch [because] the security of this nation is affected by its ability to urge credibly other nations to refuse aid and shelter to terrorists.”

    Economic warfare

    Cuban offers to cooperate in intelligence-sharing to prevent terrorist attacks have been rejected by Washington, though some did lead to US actions. “Senior members of the FBI visited Cuba in 1998 to meet their Cuban counterparts, who gave [the FBI] dossiers about what they suggested was a Miami-based terrorist network: information which had been compiled in part by Cubans who had infiltrated exile groups.” Three months later the FBI arrested Cubans who had infiltrated the US-based terrorist groups. Five were sentenced to long terms in prison.

    The national security pretext lost whatever shreds of credibility it might have had after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, though it was not until 1998 that US intelligence officially informed the country that Cuba no longer posed a threat to US national security. The Clinton administration, however, insisted that the military threat posed by Cuba be reduced to “negligible,” but not completely removed. Even with this qualification, the intelligence assessment eliminated a danger that had been identified by the Mexican ambassador in 1961, when he rejected JFK’s attempt to organize collective action against Cuba on the grounds that “if we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our security, forty million Mexicans will die laughing.”

    In fairness, however, it should be recognized that missiles in Cuba did pose a threat. In private discussions the Kennedy brothers expressed their fears that the presence of Russian missiles in Cuba might deter a US invasion of Venezuela. So “the Bay of Pigs was really right,” JFK concluded.

    The Bush I administration reacted to the elimination of the security pretext by making the embargo much harsher, under pressure from Clinton, who outflanked Bush from the right during the 1992 election campaign. Economic warfare was made still more stringent in 1996, causing a furor even among the closest US allies. The embargo came under considerable domestic criticism as well, on the grounds that it harms US exporters and investors — the embargo’s only victims, according to the standard picture in the US; Cubans are unaffected. Investigations by US specialists tell a different story. Thus, a detailed study by the American Association for World Health concluded that the embargo had severe health effects, and only Cuba’s remarkable health care system had prevented a “humanitarian catastrophe”; this has received virtually no mention in the US.

    The embargo has effectively barred even food and medicine. In 1999 the Clinton administration eased such sanctions for all countries on the official list of “terrorist states,” apart from Cuba, singled out for unique punishment. Nevertheless, Cuba is not entirely alone in this regard. After a hurricane devastated West Indian islands in August 1980, President Carter refused to allow any aid unless Grenada was excluded, as punishment for some unspecified initiatives of the reformist Maurice Bishop government. When the stricken countries refused to agree to Grenada’s exclusion, having failed to perceive the threat to survival posed by the nutmeg capital of the world, Carter withheld all aid. Similarly, when Nicaragua was struck by a hurricane in October 1988, bringing starvation and causing severe ecological damage, the current incumbents in Washington recognized that their terrorist war could benefit from the disaster, and therefore refused aid, even to the Atlantic Coast area with close links to the US and deep resentment against the Sandinistas. They followed suit when a tidal wave wiped out Nicaraguan fishing villages, leaving hundreds dead and missing in September 1992. In this case, there was a show of aid, but hidden in the small print was the fact that apart from an impressive donation of $25,000, the aid was deducted from assistance already scheduled. Congress was assured, however, that the pittance of aid would not affect the administration’s suspension of over $100 million of aid because the US-backed Nicaraguan government had failed to demonstrate a sufficient degree of subservience.

    US economic warfare against Cuba has been strongly condemned in virtually every relevant international forum, even declared illegal by the Judicial Commission of the normally compliant Organization of American States. The European Union called on the World Trade Organization to condemn the embargo. The response of the Clinton administration was that “Europe is challenging ‘three decades of American Cuba policy that goes back to the Kennedy Administration,’ and is aimed entirely at forcing a change of government in Havana.” The administration also declared that the WTO has no competence to rule on US national security or to compel the US to change its laws. Washington then withdrew from the proceedings, rendering the matter moot.

    Successful defiance

    The reasons for the international terrorist attacks against Cuba and the illegal economic embargo are spelled out in the internal record. And no one should be surprised to discover that they fit a familiar pattern — that of Guatemala a few years earlier, for example.

    From the timing alone, it is clear that concern over a Russian threat could not have been a major factor. The plans for forceful regime change were drawn up and implemented before there was any significant Russian connection, and punishment was intensified after the Russians disappeared from the scene. True, a Russian threat did develop, but that was more a consequence than a cause of US terrorism and economic warfare.

    In July 1961 the CIA warned that “the extensive influence of ‘Castroism’ is not a function of Cuban power. . . . Castro’s shadow looms large because social and economic conditions throughout Latin America invite opposition to ruling authority and encourage agitation for radical change,” for which Castro’s Cuba provided a model. Earlier, Arthur Schlesinger had transmitted to the incoming President Kennedy his Latin American Mission report, which warned of the susceptibility of Latin Americans to “the Castro idea of taking matters into one’s own hands.” The report did identify a Kremlin connection: the Soviet Union “hovers in the wings, flourishing large development loans and presenting itself as the model for achieving modernization in a single generation.” The dangers of the “Castro idea” are particularly grave, Schlesinger later elaborated, when “the distribution of land and other forms of national wealth greatly favors the propertied classes” and “the poor and underprivileged, stimulated by the example of the Cuban revolution, are now demanding opportunities for a decent living.” Kennedy feared that Russian aid might make Cuba a “showcase” for development, giving the Soviets the upper hand throughout Latin America.

    In early 1964, the State Department Policy Planning Council expanded on these concerns: “The primary danger we face in Castro is . . . in the impact the very existence of his regime has upon the leftist movement in many Latin American countries. . . . The simple fact is that Castro represents a successful defiance of the US, a negation of our whole hemispheric policy of almost a century and a half.” To put it simply, Thomas Paterson writes, “Cuba, as symbol and reality, challenged U.S. hegemony in Latin America.” International terrorism and economic warfare to bring about regime change are justified not by what Cuba does, but by its “very existence,” its “successful defiance” of the proper master of the hemisphere. Defiance may justify even more violent actions, as in Serbia, as quietly conceded after the fact; or Iraq, as also recognized when pretexts had collapsed.

    Outrage over defiance goes far back in American history. Two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson bitterly condemned France for its “attitude of defiance” in holding New Orleans, which he coveted. Jefferson warned that France’s “character [is] placed in a point of eternal friction with our character, which though loving peace and the pursuit of wealth, is high-minded.” France’s “defiance [requires us to] marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation,” Jefferson advised, reversing his earlier attitudes, which reflected France’s crucial contribution to the liberation of the colonies from British rule. Thanks to Haiti’s liberation struggle, unaided and almost universally opposed, France’s defiance soon ended, but the guiding principles remain in force, determining friend and foe.

    Reply
    • October 25, 2015 at 11:06 pm
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      Cut and pasting one man’s retelling of events which occurred more than 50 years ago does not address why 2015 is a record year for the numbers of Cubans escaping the Castro regime.

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      • October 26, 2015 at 7:09 am
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        Moses, the Miami Herald and other media have explained the recent influx of Cubans coming to the U.S. They fear, with Obama’s efforts to normalize relations, the special laws that benefit only Cubans, such as Wet Foot/Dry Foot, might finally become vestiges of the Cold War insanity and become revoked. Have you not known that or does it just not equate to your antiquated Cuban narrative?

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        • October 26, 2015 at 7:24 am
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          My “Cuban narrative” is far from antiquated. I support free speech, free enterprise and due process. These concepts are always in style and woefully absent from the Cuban reality.

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      • October 26, 2015 at 10:57 am
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        You did not read the posted Chomsky reprint.
        You do not have the courage to read the truth from one of the world’s top intellectuals when it so clearly and factually contradicts your twisted view of things.
        You can’t handle the cognitive dissonance . (Look it up)
        People are leaving Cuba because they are under economic siege and they believe that the special laws that apply to only Cubans coming to the USA may soon end like many of the other laws that Obama voided (by executive order and against the will of the Senators and Representatives of the American people.)
        Would you happen to know what the percentage of Cubans leaving is and how that compares to other Caribbean and Latin American peoples heading for the USA
        without benefit of automatic citizenship ?
        I didn’t think so.

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        • October 26, 2015 at 3:38 pm
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          How the heck would you know what I read? I don’t dispute the facts that Chomsky uses to reach his conclusions. I simply don’t agree with his conclusions. In a
          free society, free people can agree to disagree without casting negative aspersions. There remains a sizable number of Cubans who are leaving Cuba for political reasons. I know several of them personally. The number of Cubans who are escaping Castro tyranny is difficult to estimate because of the illegal and secret defections. Haiti, Jamaica and Puerto Rico have their own unique problems which fuel outmigration. Havana Times is a Cuban blog so the problems and comparisons to other countries is only marginally relevant.

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    • October 25, 2015 at 11:21 pm
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      Elizabeth Faraone is to be congratulated for having the courage, the insight, and the apparent love of democracy to attach to this forum the long but pertinent Norm Chomsky assessment. It is so factual that, I believe, Batistiano supporters in this forum will ignore it as opposed to commenting on it. Let’ see if that is so.

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      • October 27, 2015 at 7:21 pm
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        Copy and paste is courage ?

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      • October 28, 2015 at 5:36 pm
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        I’m going to start embracing your use of the word Batistano. In your usage it has taken on a new meaning, one that I know you did not intend. If it now means that i am anti Castro, that I am against a repressive communist dictatorship that destroyed not only my homeland (I mean really – have you not seen the pictures of Havana?) But also all but destroyed Cuban culture.

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    • October 27, 2015 at 7:24 pm
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      All over the world this obsession with past wrongs is holding progress back. It is time to resolve the issues of 2015, so that we can move forward.

      Reply
  • October 26, 2015 at 10:48 am
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    Yet another in a long list of articles at HT on Cubans leaving the island , the vast majority for financial reasons that did not mention the effects of the 54-year old U.S. embargo on the entire population of Cuba.
    The purpose of the embargo was to impoverish the island’s entire population to the point that they would overthrow their revolution and perhaps as important in the U.S. propaganda war on the revolution, creating the image of Cuba’s “communism/socialism” ( really state capitalism) as a failure.
    The USG succeeded in creating the poverty but failed utterly in creating a counterrevolution .
    The policy is a partial success and will be maintained because it creates the propaganda message that the dumbed-down U.S. electorate will believe, having been brain-washed into being anti-communist/socialist for well over 100 years straight.
    Of course they, like Trump, do not know what either socialism or communism actually are .

    Today’s quote: ” It is easier to lie to people than it is to tell them that they have been lied to.”

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    • October 26, 2015 at 5:58 pm
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      John, this is a brilliantly accurate assessment and, as a democracy-loving American, I have always been ashamed that the U. S. embargo against Cuba, initiated in 1962 after failed assassination attempts against Castro and after the failed Bay of Pigs attack, was designed to starve and deprive the Cubans on the island for the purpose of causing them to rise up and overthrow the revolutionary rule, presumably to return the Batistianos and Mafiosi rule. That has been documented on the U. S. National Archive website by declassified U. S. documents from 1962. Thanks for pointing out that fact, which is among the many things, such as Cubana Flight 455, that Americans are not supposed to comprehend or else the vast Castro Industry in the U. S. might suffer.

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    • October 27, 2015 at 2:22 pm
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      The Castros made Cuba poor, not the US embargo. Simply put, the US embargo affects what Cuba buys. The Castros impact what Cuba sells. The wealth of a nation and it’s people are determined by what a country sells, not what it buys.

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      • October 27, 2015 at 7:08 pm
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        Socialist don’t get that redistribution does not work without production by some one.

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      • October 29, 2015 at 8:49 am
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        I find it interesting that “poor” is exclusively an economic term when used by Americans but frequently used to describe quality of life by Cubans. That accounts for the many Cubans living happily in Cuba.

        Now there is no question that many Cubans wish to have the economic benefits of living in the US while not giving up the social advantages of living in Cuba. Only a small number realize both are not possible simultaneously.

        Flying frequently between Miami or Tampa and Cuba, I find it interesting to hear the number of Cuban-Americans who say “can’t wait to get home” when traveling to Cuba.

        Reply
  • October 27, 2015 at 12:50 am
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    let’s try something , let’s tear down the fence between Mexico and United States and see what happen ? how many Mexicans would pack it up and move to the United States with or without any favorable laws ?
    One of the nations that I have come across which is have an exodus is Canada , from the eighties until
    now Canadian population have not increased by much , those who immigrate to and those who are born into Canada barely closes the gap .
    One of the main complaint with Canada is there police and government , they are strong beyond imagination , in my opinion and experience I found that the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police ) to be equivalent to the SS , average citizens can’t complain against ore sue in a court of law .
    The story of humanity is a story of immigration and migration since our ancestors left Africa looking for a better life , after all the grass is greener on the other side .
    Out of my own experience as a refugee / immigrant I will tell you no matter how bad things get in your country they’re much better than anywhere else , in United States of America you wall forgot your cultural social life that you know and you will join the rat race.
    Instead of someone wasting his life building somebody else’s country ,consider your own country first and improve it .
    Next in my comment is about the most shameful in United States America , considering they sent trillions of dollars to everywhere else instead of taking care of our only .
    I’m going to give you an example of what they say , please log on and read it for yourself

    US Hunger & Poverty Facts – 48M Americans Struggle with Hunger?

    http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/impact-of-hunger/hunger-and-poverty/hunger-and-poverty-fact-sheet.html?gclid=CKWmrYCD4sgCFVcSHwodousEYw?referrer=https://www.google.com/ Poverty in the United States [i]

    In 2014:
    46.7 million people (14.8 percent) were in poverty.15.5 million (21.1 percent) children under the age of 18 were in poverty.4.6 million (10 percent) seniors 65 and older were in poverty.The overall poverty rate according to the Supplemental Poverty Measure is 15.3 percent, as compared with the official poverty rate of 14.8 percent.[ii]Under the Supplemental Poverty Measure, there are 48.4 million people living in poverty, nearly 2 million more than are represented by the official poverty measure (46.7 million).[iii]
    Food Insecurity and Very Low Food Security[iv]
    In 2014:
    48.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 32.8 million adults and 15.3 million children.14 percent of households (17.4 million households) were food insecure.6 percent of households (6.9 million households) experienced very low food security.Households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 19 percent compared to 12 percent.
    only if they have the whole picture before they move , only if they know the truth before they take the decisions , things will be different.

    Reply
  • October 27, 2015 at 11:12 am
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    I don’t think people complain any more about the police and government in Canada than elsewhere. However if you lived in a tropical country, I don’t think Canada would be your first choice in countries to immigrate to. The warmest cities in the winter have an average temperature high of 6 C and the coldest an average temperature high of -12.7

    Reply
    • October 28, 2015 at 6:30 am
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      as we migrated out of Africa a phenomenon tolk over ( climatization ) as I heard once in a scientific discovery that the difference between dark and light skin would be generations in a different environment , I will say this again evolution does not favor the strong or the smart it favours those who have the ability to adapt and coexist with a different environment

      Reply
  • October 27, 2015 at 2:11 pm
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    I am anti-CASTRO and I use my real name.

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  • October 27, 2015 at 2:17 pm
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    You wrote and copy/pasted all of that and never mentioned Cuba one time. You really seem unhappy living in the US. Why don’t YOU move back to Palestine? Based on what I have seen on the news, your birth country is having a few problems these days. They could use someone like you who can manage to tell the richest and most powerful country in the world how to improve. Just imagine what you could do for Palestine?

    Reply
    • October 28, 2015 at 6:22 am
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      answering your comments will be redundancy , I wish to concentrate on Cuba , I will bring issues into the discussione as an example ,

      Reply
      • October 28, 2015 at 10:58 am
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        You are deflecting. You bring little insight into the discussion about Cuba. Your comments, instead, are full of attacks against the US, the country that has allowed you to live better than you can live in your native country.

        Reply
  • October 27, 2015 at 3:29 pm
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    Yes ::: A friend recently left Cuba to work for a cruise ship company at US $ 4000.00 a month.

    Reply

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