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There’s communists and then there’s communists

Sam Bauman
Appeal Entertainment Editor

There’s good news and there’s bad news about U.S.-Cuban relations. Of course, that’s the way it has been for decades, with the United States putting an embargo on Cuba because the Cubans had the nerve to defeat our surrogate army at the Bay of Pigs back when.

The bad news is that the U.S. continues to pour money into TV and radio broadcasts from Florida to Cuba that are totally blocked by Cuba. Money wasted. The bad news also is that the Cuban faction in Miami continues to make U.S. policy about Cuba. (That’s about as bad as the way that the Israelis make sure any Congressional critic of Israel policies loses his or her next election, but that’s another world.)

It boggles the mind when one considers Cuba in light of U.S. policy with Communist China, which despite tracings of capitalism (poor old Karl Marx, rotating away in the United Kingdom) is just as intolerant of freedom as Cuba, yet suffers from no American embargo (where would we borrow the money to pay the $600 tax rebate to us if China wasn’t forking over the yuan?) Seems that in Washington there are good communist states and bad communist states; figuring out which is which is the funny game of those folks in Florida. The rest of the world finds it all mystifying.

The good news is that those die-hard Cubans (by now Americans) in Miami are softening up, saying nicer things about Cuba. Maybe it would be better if they could visit the old home towns, send some (devalued) Yankee dollars back to Uncle Jose.

There’s more good news, sort of. President Bush just held a teleconference with democratic activists in Cuba, an unprecedented move that may enrage the Castro government, the AP reported; “… Bush spoke with Martha Beatriz Roque, one of the 75 pro-democracy activists arrested in a 2003 crackdown for offenses against the Castro regime; Berta Soler, the wife of an activist still jailed for treason, and Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, who was released last year after 17 years in prison.”

Then Bush said, referring to new leader Raul Castro’s recent loosening of restrictions in Cuba, “Until there is a change of heart and a change of compassion and a change of how the Cuban government treats its people, there’s no change at all.” Bush said this at the State Department to the Council of Americas, a business group that advocates for democracy and open markets in the Western Hemisphere.

“Cuba will not be a land of liberty so long as free expression is punished and free speech can take place only in hushed whispers and silent prayers,” Bush continued.

“And Cuba will not become a place of prosperity just by easing restrictions on the sale of products that the average Cuban cannot afford.”

Well, speaking of freedom of speech and travel, this writer wanted to visit Cuba last fall as a reporter, allowed under the embargo. But he had to get a visa first, and after weeks of dealing with a bureaucratic State Department with no visa, just endless snags, he gave up.

I guess it isn’t all that important that we drop the embargo. You can get Cuban cigars through various intermediaries, and besides, Appeal sometimes-columnist Bob Thomas says the Cuba stogies aren’t all that good anymore. Still, it would have been nice to visit Hemingway’s old home and his favorite bar in Havana.

Sam Bauman is the Appeal’s entertainment editor.