Cuba’s “New Man” Utopia

Maykel Paneque

HAVANA TIMES — A few days ago, my next door neighbor knocked on my door and asked me if I didn’t mind having a flask of rum with him, “or I’m going to explode”, he said. It was 3pm in the afternoon. We sat in the living room, and even though I’d switched on both of my fixed fans, the only air that they’re rotating blades blew out was hot. If was as if the temperature was warning me of what was to come.

The first confession was direct and straight to the point. The Head teacher of the primary school where his youngest son studied had sent him a message asking him to go and see her urgently, that she’d be waiting for him in the head teacher’s office. “Up until that point, everything was normal, some prank, you know what kids are like. The earthquake came afterwards,” and he took a gulpful of rum suddenly. And then another.

He continued to drink, the space between each swig becoming shorter and shorter. Maybe he wanted to get rid of something that resembled anguish or despair. All of a sudden, he said, I saw myself going into the head teacher’s office. She was sitting impatiently behind a desk and my son was waiting, sat down with his head lowered, for me, his father, to come and rescue him from his punishment.

School can sometimes be like a jail cell, don’t you think? It’s also a factory where they produce boys and girls on an industrial line, turning children into parrots of the government’s ideology, I wanted to say to him, but I remained silent.

And why did they tell your son off? I asked him instead. “He’d said that he didn’t want to be like Che in class, that he didn’t want to die, that he wanted to be like the Power Rangers.”

Ah, the slogan of so many years of the Cuban Revolution: Pioneers of Communism, we will be like Che. “The Head teacher, very serious, told me that I should take him to a psychiatrist that my son suffered from some kind of personality disorder.”

And what did you tell her? “That my eldest son, who is 17 years old, doesn’t want to be like Che either but like Cristiano Ronaldo, and asked her whether I should take him to where they heal the crazy too.”

Among swigs and memories, my neighbor asked me whether I could conjure what was left of the “New Man” now in the new generation. I told him that I’d recently seen a play at the theater where a mother said: “Young Cubans have an airplane in their heads, they just don’t have opportunities of ever boarding it.”

I like this image of the “New Man”. I’m drawn in by everything that contrasts with the utopia that we all think alike when, in fact, we all think differently. It doesn’t matter that we all raise our hands unanimously in assemblies showing that we all agree. They’ve forced us to pretend, to play out a masquerade. We are actors from a chorus, another possible image of the “New Man”.

If we were satisfied with paraphrasing we could say, all jokes aside, pioneers of political ostracism and imprisonment, that we would make our great escape a dream and say farewell to all the speeches and committees. The latter, the CDR (Committees in Defense of the Revolution) are a spying and controlling institution that continues to ensure the “democratic” elections here in Cuba, from the ground up.

There are no official statistics that tell us how many young people break free and emigrate per month, or annually. The truth is that the “New Man” in Cuba today, searches for a country, a society which stops telling them that “everything is ok”, when in fact everything is going badly and isn’t really going anywhere. A country that “increases” its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) every year, but the quality of life, expectations and aspirations of its people remain unchanged. A country whose leaders say it’s making progress, but it continues to be stuck in the same rut. Unless, walking around in circles is making progress.

“Obama knew what he was saying when he suggested that we look towards the future, alongside our telecommunications,” my neighbor said and laughed. He poured out the last of the rum in the flask into our cups and sighed. “I’m fed up of so much historic past, my sons and my wife too.” Here’s another likely image of Cuba’s “New Man” today: not having his eyes on the back of his head even though they keep selling us the face with a red neckscarf. Looking towards the future without having to carry this heavy burden of historic memory.

We know already. Without having diverse points of view, there is no future, unless it’s a authoritarian future founded upon imposition and arrogance. Today’s New Man will reject this reality day after day in the 21st century. He will be rebellious and answer back even if they try to silence him, and because he thinks differently, he’ll be marginalized and excluded. Another likely image which is no longer a utopia. Saying No when he has to say no. The consequences will come, but at least it wouldn’t have been in vain.


49 thoughts on “Cuba’s “New Man” Utopia

  • July 30, 2016 at 12:30 pm
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    The most hopeful chance Trish may come in 2018. Raul Castro retires as President and being then 87 may not even be around – Nicholas Maduro gets ousted in Venezuela leading to cessation of provision of ANY cheap oil to Cuba by the new Cuban government.

    Diaz-Canel, Bruno Rodriguez and Marino Murillo (the ‘young’ troika) of the Cuban communist political regime, clash with Generals Luis Alberta Rodriguez Callejas and Alejandro Castro Espin (son-in-law and son respectively of Raul) who between them control over 80% of Cuba’s economy and all its security systems both internal (CDR) and external. In short a battle for who is going to be the next dictator as under communist systems only one person holds the ultimate power.

    The population tired of yet more austerity and deepening poverty take to the streets – not with weapons, but in an ‘orange’ revolution of the Eastern European type. This would necessitate the entry of the military – but would they take action against their own people? But note, the military is dependent upon GAESA for funding and Rodriguez Callejas and Castro Espin are military!

    I like you pray that young Cubans may yet know freedom. My God-daughter is under six years of age and every day when I talk with her, my mind questions whether she will be subjected to fifty seven more weary poverty stricken oppressive years of “Socialismo”.

  • July 30, 2016 at 8:25 am
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    Perhaps the time will come. No?

  • July 29, 2016 at 6:08 pm
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    Try a search on the Internet in Cuba for: Raul Castro executions
    Then do the same thing in the US.

  • July 29, 2016 at 8:09 am
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    No Dan, everyone is not a failure, but most are without hope of a better future, not only for themselves but for their children. Most of the young are so disillusioned they can not and will not agree with the system that was imposed on them. Imposed on them. A young friend of mine, a doctor, has a dream. To clean toilets in a resort so that she can make enough money to live a decent life and raise a family. You say you spend a lot of time in Cuba, if you do then you know that this is true. The tired old sayings of a tired old government just don’t work anymore, if they ever did. Supporters of the regime in Cuba spout off about health and education and they are correct. My question to them though is why educate a people and then forbid them to think?

  • July 28, 2016 at 7:16 pm
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    A trick that I fell for. Jajajaja. If it makes you happy.

  • July 28, 2016 at 7:11 pm
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    Jajajaja….te jodiste papo! No se puede defender lo indefendible ni justificar lo injustificable!

  • July 28, 2016 at 2:40 pm
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    Forget it man. No vale la pena.

  • July 28, 2016 at 2:38 pm
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    It was a trick, which you fell for, to show that comparisons between Cuba and other countries, particularly all the time, are logical, fair, and engaged in by you and your et.al. all the time …. provided that the particular comp leaves Cuba w/ the short end of the stick.

  • July 28, 2016 at 11:10 am
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    Ok then, let’s leave it at: well into the second decade of the 21st century, Cuba has the lowest Internet penetration rate in the Western Hemisphere.
    …And you celebrate this?

  • July 28, 2016 at 11:07 am
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    I will take your response as an admission that what Dr Martin Luther King accomplished in the USA could not happen in Cuba. Certainly the famous gathering and “I have a Dream” speech would never take place in that totalitarian society. Likewise, Mr Paya, was unable to effect change through the peaceful, and civil, Varela project. The anaconda, that is the Cuban regime, simply tightened it’s coils around the people, further choking individual freedoms. Instead you focus on the death of Paya (I used it as a rhetorical device) and avoid the central issue of what he was trying to accomplish, within the legal framework of the Cuban constitution I might add.

    You focus on silly conspiracy theories regarding MLK. Which I guess is where you go when you run out of arguments. Intermittently, memes have circulated on social media claiming the United States government was somehow found guilty. None of these claims have survived critical examination. Snoops.com has exhaustive research on this. http://www.snopes.com/politics/conspiracy/mlktrial.asp

    …”Stalinist revisionist way”? ….What weird world do you live in??

    And let’s not even address your original “challenge” LOL

  • July 28, 2016 at 8:55 am
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    Paya is dead, yes. As a result of riding in a car driven by a guy who lost his license for recklessness. This may be news to you, but MLK is dead too. He got a bullet in his head. In 1999 a civil jury heard overwhelming evidence of the US government’s involvement, and it returned a verdict finding that King was in fact murdered by US covert agencies. Strangely, the media was not interested in the trial. Look it up for yourself. MLK succeeded you say ? In a Stalinist historical revisionary way, I guess. Lot’s of places are named after him, yet his message has been sanitized, his fate, and the US role, ignored. If he was so successful, why do we have the Black Lives Matter movement all these years later.

  • July 28, 2016 at 6:39 am
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    You are comparing. This site is not about Haiti.

  • July 27, 2016 at 6:14 pm
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    …there’s a reason that, even today, Cuba has the lowest Internet penetration in the Western Hemesphere. And it’s not the embargo.

    It’s embarrassing to think that Haiti has greater access to the Internet than Cuba.

  • July 27, 2016 at 6:09 pm
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    According to Fidel Castro, Cuba was not “3rd world” in 1959. When did it become so?

  • July 27, 2016 at 2:55 pm
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    You don’t under the difference between 1st world and 3rd. Give me an example of a third world “success”

  • July 27, 2016 at 2:52 pm
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    The subject at hand being how horrible Cuba is. So we are not to compare ? Watch this… Cuba has internet ! Thousands of people in Havana are surfing the web…

  • July 27, 2016 at 12:08 pm
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    what a silly thing to propose. I should know better than to respond, but here are some examples from each country

    Jamaican
    – Michael Lee-Chin – business investor, philanthropist self-made billionaire
    Mexican
    – Dan Alexander – Mexican telecom magnate and billionaire
    Puerto Rico (there are quite a few)
    – Jaime Fonalledas – Empresas Fonalledas holding company and billionare
    Guatemala
    Mario Lopez Estrada – telecom giant and self made billionaire

    ….you asked.

    But, as usual Dan, you miss the point. Every country has it’s problems, the USA not the least among them. However, we don’t use other countries problem’s to excuse away our own. We’re not saying; “oh, look! such and such country has it worse” The problem with Cuba is that the people of Cuba are unable to make any changes to the system! Only the Castro’s, and their cohorts, mostly the Castro’s, are the ones who dictate what happens in Cuba. ….Just ask Oswaldo Jose Paya Sardinas about the Varela project! Ops, you can’t, he’s no longer with us.

    Oh, and as far as MLK goes. I used him precisely because he succeeded in this country despite the obstacles placed in his path. I ask you, could a Cuban MLK (let’s just say Oswaldo Paya) have given a “I have a dream” speech on the Malecon, or the steps of the Capitolio, attracting millions of Cuban’s. No need to respond, we know the answer!

    And…….another boat load of Cuban migrants just landed on Miami Beach.

  • July 27, 2016 at 10:43 am
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    Great point! It must be endlessly embarrassing how Cuban’s (or immigrants in general) arrive in this country and find ways to succeed, in-spite of all those terrible inequalities Dan loves to point out.

    Here’s a great example. Jeff Bezos Founder of Amazon.com and owner of the Washington Post, Bezos’ father moved to the United States from Cuba as a teenager.

  • July 27, 2016 at 10:39 am
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    Despite all the deficiencies to be found in the USA,(and Cuban’s are well aware of them) they prefer to live here than in Cuba. That’s because here there is hope and opportunity. Two ingredients missing in Cuba …..Quite telling don’t you think.
    As for the tired “bromide”? You must be thinking of someone else as I certainly didn’t say that.

  • July 27, 2016 at 9:44 am
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    Sounds like you want to argue about the size of the ants at a picnic. If your worldview is life sucks everywhere, then the appropriate answer is where does it suck the least. Are you following me? It would appear most people, in general, and certainly Cubans, specifically, if allowed to choose between the US and Cuba, think that the US sucks less.

  • July 27, 2016 at 9:39 am
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    One small but important correction. I would hope to never imply that the tyranny in Cuba is limited to Cuba. Places like Iran and North Korea share similar forms of repression. However, when the Castros have cornered the market on some specific defect or human rights violation, I will be more careful to point that out. Thanks for the heads up.

  • July 27, 2016 at 9:34 am
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    I really do understand your point. I think that the equivalence you are making is faulty. The Pledge of Allegiance in the US is voluntary. Peer pressure may have some influence on the children but there is no school requirement to cite the pledge. In Cuba it is mandatory and worse yet, as Griffin points out, refusal to cite the be like Che brings consequences upon the child AND the child’s family.

  • July 27, 2016 at 9:24 am
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    Dan, a lot of our readers are not that interested in life in the US. This site is mainly about Cuba. When they are are interested in debating life in the USA issues there are millions of sites on the subject. Please try to stick to the subjects at hand.

  • July 27, 2016 at 8:18 am
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    Cubans are not allowed to succeed in Cuba, but in exile in America you can find many Cubans who have succeeded in science, medicine, engineering, law, sports, arts, literature, music, business, politics and any other human endeavour.

    Just one of the Castro brother’s many crimes against humanity, was the suffocation of the intellectual & creative genius of the Cuban people.

  • July 27, 2016 at 8:11 am
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    Please post some actual examples of what happens to US school children who refuse to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In the worse case they might get a detention but more likely nothing at all would happen to them. Your attempt to draw an equivalence between the US or Cuba on this matter, or rather, to claim that the US is even worse, demonstrates how little your opinions accord with reality.

  • July 27, 2016 at 7:47 am
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    I challenge you. Give me a Mexican, Puerto Rican, Guatemalan or Jamaican Elon Musk. And BTW, I’m sure that the irony of mentioning MLK in lauding American “Freedom” is lost on you. He was harassed by the FBI, called “the most notorious liar in the country” spied on, blackmailed, encouraged to commit suicide, vilified by the media and the government, and possibly even assassinated by the same. What lives on is an ultra sanitized version of MLK as a sop. And you use him to distinguish American “freedom” from totalitarian Cuba ?! That’s telling.

  • July 27, 2016 at 7:33 am
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    We have hope ? Are you paying attention to what’s going on around you ? You and Moses’ doom and gloom view of Cuba is matched by the most rosiest view of life in America to be found anywhere. You really need to read a newspaper or magazine once in a while. Americans no longer trust their government, they rightly believe it is totally dominated by a tiny economic elite. The middle class is shrinking. Getting an education requires a lifetime of debt servitude. Paying for medical insurance eats up 30 to 40% of many paychecks. Over 50% of Americans cannot come up w/ $400 for an emergency w/o getting a loan or selling something. Did you read “The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans” in the New Yorker a while back ? And don’t be silly with that tired bromide of “why not move to Cuba from the US ?”

  • July 26, 2016 at 11:11 pm
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    Although the Castro communist regime has failed to meet the objectives which Fidel Castro described fifty seven years ago, it is possible under that regime to have a quiet life, the way’ to achieve that is:

    “Don’t challenge the system, accept it, stay mute and exist.”

    Without opportunity, achieving success when lacking freedom of individual expression and when jail awaits those who seek change, the opportunity to achieve success is removed. Is that necessarily failure – or is the failure that of the imposed system?

  • July 26, 2016 at 7:03 pm
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    As many teachers in USA would confirm , their students can be totally disrespectful, impudent, in your face, texting (not so much cell phone rings anymore) and take school and freedom for granted. Not defending the school cop who manhandled the student but the fact that schools need cops around should tell you something.

  • July 26, 2016 at 3:38 pm
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    You are drawing a false equivalency….and you know it!

  • July 26, 2016 at 3:30 pm
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    Cuban’s are not really allowed to succeed. That would be dangerous to the regime. So you won’t find any Elon Musks, or Alexander Graham Bell’s in Cuba. And you also won’t find any Martin Luther Kings. After all, Cuba, and Che’s “New Man”, isn’t allowed to think for himself.

  • July 26, 2016 at 3:23 pm
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    …but this is not one of those posts Dan.

    And no one is saying that Cuba’s problems are exclusive to Cuba, most of it’s problems are the direct result of Castro style communism, which is what we are criticizing. Dan….we are Castro haters not Cuba haters. I hate what Castro did to my country.

    You try and deflect attention from Cuba’s problems by pointing to the US and saying, “see…see…it’s bad here too!!!”

    It all boils down to hope. Here, in the US, we have hope, as Moses said, we have recourse for our grievances. In Cuba there is none. The ideological choker placed on each Cuban makes life unbearable. One day is much like the other, with no change in sight. Cuban’s prefer the US, with its many faults, to life in Cuba. Indeed they risk their lives in order to come here.

    Interesting that the “underclass’ you speak of doesn’t flee to Cuba.

  • July 26, 2016 at 3:22 pm
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    You don’t understand either. My post was not re racism. That was just an example. It was about having to recite the Pledge of Allegiance ( our version of seremos como el Che) By the way, did you see that video, posted on a Anti-Cuba website about 6 -10 months ago, with what was billed as Cuban Police brutality ? The one where the arrestee beats up the female PRN ?

  • July 26, 2016 at 1:17 pm
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    On behalf of black kids (I have two) and former black kids (me), I can admit that there is likely some racist, hyper-patriotic teacher somewhere who just might overreact as you suggested. Here’s the difference between Cuba and the US. If that did happen in the US, there would likely be a smartphone video of the incident that would go viral. Odds are the ensuing lawsuit would be settled by the school district out of court for more than enough money to send that black kid to Harvard. In Cuba, as Griffin suggests, the consequences would be severe with absolutely no recourse available to the parents. Well, none other than gulping down a cask of rum with a willing neighbor.

  • July 26, 2016 at 1:09 pm
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    Failure no. Far from it. But imagine how many more people would have “succeeded” in Cuba, had individual freedom been available to them.

  • July 26, 2016 at 11:58 am
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    Nothing would happen ? Says you. People I deal with everyday, parents in juvenile dependency matters, you know, where a child welfare agency takes away your kid, maybe to return him later, maybe to terminate your rights and have him adopted – are shocked to see how much due process they get as members of the underclass. I would never have believed it myself until I saw it. School is the same way. No, the parents won’t lose their job. I’m not convinced that that would necessarily happen in Cuba, although I would concede that it might. But there would be consequences. Problem is Griffin, that if you are a conformist and never challenge your respective system, you really have no idea what the consequences might be. BTW on the subject of Black kids and their love of country, home and hearth, do you see the video a few months ago of that school cop “extracting” that black girl from her desk ? When did you do your poll?

  • July 26, 2016 at 11:54 am
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    Everyone in Cuba is a failure ?

  • July 26, 2016 at 11:43 am
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    Here we go again IC. FYI, there are posts on HT about places other than Cuba. I recall one just a short time ago about what July 4th means to Black America ( and surprisingly, with nary a comment by Black Moses, yourself, or that Scottish guy. Maybe because the broomstick up the rectum trick by the NYPD is something the most fanatical Cuba-haters can say about Cuba ?). Moreover, the comparison serves to dispute the implied notion that all the myriad of things complained of here about Cuba are somehow exclusive to Cuba and inherent to its system. Moreover,my comment had to do w/ ideological conformity, not racism. That just happened to be an example. And again, although I may have never “lived” in Cuba, I have spent a hell of alot of time there for the last 23 years, and so, a clue, I do have.

  • July 26, 2016 at 11:32 am
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    Griffin it was explained to me in April, by a 25 year old Havana University graduate that there is a deliberate double entendre in saying that “To be a good communist one has to be like Che.”

    Che copied the concept of the “New Man” from Josef Stalin and held rural retreats in Cuba to endeavor to instill it. Che’s definition of his new man was:

    “Selfless and cooperative, obedient and hard-working, gender-blind, incorruptible, non-materialistic and anti-imperialist.”

    The difficulty was that in practice it led to reduced production and inefficiencies as Cubans perhaps selfishly preferred to concern themselves with their own families interests rather than those of unknown other citizens.

  • July 26, 2016 at 10:48 am
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    Dan. How does your comment pertain to this article? How does it address the issues raised by Maykel? Obviously, despite the rampant “racism” in the U.S., Cuban’s prefer here, to there. As a Cuban, I certainly prefer to be here. You, having never lived in Cuba, have no clue. …and by the way, the’re is a whole lot of racism in Cuba as well. Trust me.

    If you want to express your concerns about racism in the U.S., why not go to this Washington Post article:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-racism-still-flourishes/2015/06/26/d0e1f2e4-1b6e-11e5-ab92-c75ae6ab94b5_story.html

    …It’s more relevant to what you want to talk about.

  • July 26, 2016 at 9:57 am
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    Does the truth about Cuba hurt Dan?

  • July 26, 2016 at 9:55 am
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    But sadly not in Cuba!

  • July 26, 2016 at 9:16 am
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    I was such a kid. Here I am today. Without going into detail, like my President, I realize that despite the many horrific flaws which still exist in the US, the possibility remains for that kid to succeed. In Cuba, under Castro tyranny, no such opportunity is possible.

  • July 26, 2016 at 8:28 am
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    What do you imagine would happen to a child in a US school who refused to recite the US pledge of alliance?

    Would his parents be called into school for a meeting with the teacher? Would the teacher threaten to send the child to a psychiatrist? Would the family be placed under watch of the CDR and reported to the MININT police? Would the parents lose their jobs? Would a note be added to the child’s file, which would forever block him from a good job, decent housing and all the other perks of life, like the opportunity to purchase a fan or a TV? That’s what happens to such a child in Cuba.

    Nothing would happen to the African American child. The teacher would shrug it off. And yet, for some reason, African American children are still patriotic, they love their country, even if they find many faults in the way things are run. They respect their President, whom their parents were proud to vote for. That’s not something any Cuban has had the right to do in over 60 years: vote for their president.

    The Cuban “New Man” was can be found all over the island and in exile. He’s a man who has learned to dissemble, to mouth words he doesn’t believe, to avoid confrontation with authority, to pilfer from work not because he’s a criminal, but because he needs to survive, to lie to neighbours not because he’s dishonest, but because he needs to protect himself from spies.

    Who would want “To be like Che”? Ernesto Guevara was a racist sociopathic killer. Together with the Castro brothers, he destroyed Cuba.

  • July 26, 2016 at 8:14 am
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    I’d rather be like Cristiano Renaldo, or at least have his money and supermodel girlfriends.

  • July 26, 2016 at 8:08 am
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    Time to move forward; listen to the young people. They can determine their own futures.

  • July 26, 2016 at 7:45 am
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    How about a black kid living in a US slum, with half his family locked up, having to mouth “with freedom and justice for all” every morning ? That’s a tremendous lie. And woe to the kid with the guts to tell teacher he’s not telling it. Want Cuba to be like Switzerland Maykel ? That’s fine. But I bet you are a filoamericano.

  • July 25, 2016 at 10:58 pm
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    I would rather be a Power Ranger too.

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