---- Rumours of his demise are greatly exaggerated
--- alive and well he is and he's writing a daily column. Just back from Cuba --- and after drying out for two months in California
--- I'm happy to announce The Calgary Eye
Opener has a new columnist ... el Comandante en Jefe
himself --- Fidel Castro Ruz ... and a new column ... at the end of today's column is a letter I wrote to Dr. Castro last week --- here's today's installment of Fidel's Reflections:
Reflections of Fidel
Obama and the blockade of Cuba
YESTERDAY I referred to the comic angle of the "Declaration
of Commitment of Port of Spain."
Today we could refer to the dramatic angle. I hope that our friends will not
be offended. Between the document that reached us as a draft to be submitted
to the Summit hosts and the definitive one that was published, there were
differences. In the last-minute rush, there was no time for anything. Certain
points had been discussed in long meetings in the weeks leading up to the
event. At the last minute, proposals such as the one presented by the Bolivian
delegation complicated things even more. It was included as a note in the
document and stated:
"Bolivia is of the view that the development of cooperative policies
and arrangements intended to expand biofuels in the Western Hemisphere could
adversely affect and impact on the availability of foods and raise food prices,
increase deforestation, displace populations due to the demand for land, and
ultimately aggravate the food crisis. It would directly affect low-income
persons, especially the poorest economies of the developing countries. Thus,
while the Bolivian government recognizes the need to seek and use alternative,
environmentally-friendly sources of energy, such as geothermal, solar, wind
energy and small and medium-sized hydroelectric plants, it proposes an alternative
vision based on living well and in harmony with nature, developing public
policies aimed to promote safe, alternative energies that guarantee the preservation
of the planet, our "Mother Earth."
Analyzing this note from Bolivia, it should be borne in mind that the United
States and Brazil are the two major producers of biofuels, opposed by a growing
number of people on the planet and whose resistance has been growing since
the murky days of George W. Bush.
Obamas advisors posted on the Internet their English version of the
president of the United States interview with journalists in Port of
Spain. At one point he affirmed:
"One thing that I thought was interesting - and I knew this in
a more abstract way but it was interesting in very specific terms -
hearing from these leaders who when they spoke about Cuba talked very specifically
about the thousands of doctors from Cuba that are dispersed all throughout
the region, and upon which many of these countries heavily depend.
"And it's a reminder for us in the United States that if
our only interaction with many of these countries is drug interdiction, if
our only interaction is military, then we may not be developing the connections
that can, over time, increase our influence and have -- have a beneficial
effect when we need to try to move policies that are of concern to us forward
in the region.
"And I think that's why it's so important that in our interactions
not just here in the hemisphere but around the world, that we recognize that
our military power is just one arm of our power, and that we have to use our
diplomatic and development aid in more intelligent ways so that people can
see very practical, concrete improvements in the lives of ordinary persons
as a consequence of U.S. foreign policy."
Journalist Jake: Thank you, Mr. President. You've heard from a lot of Latin
America leaders here who want the U.S. to lift the embargo against Cuba. You've
said that you think it's an important leverage to not lift it. But in 2004,
you did support lifting the embargo. You said, it's failed to provide the
source of raising standards of living, it's squeezed the innocent, and it's
time for us to acknowledge that this particular policy has failed. I'm wondering,
what made you change your mind about the embargo?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, 2004, that seems just eons ago. What was
I doing in 2004?
Jake: Running for Senate.
PRESIDENT: &and the fact that you had Raul Castro say
he's willing to have his government discuss with ours not just issues of lifting
the embargo, but issues of human rights, political prisoners, that's a sign
"&There are some things that the Cuban government could do. They
could release political prisoners. They could reduce charges on remittances
to match up with the policies that we have put in place to allow Cuban American
families to send remittances. It turns out that Cuba charges an awful lot,
they take a lot off the top. That would be an example of cooperation where
both governments are working to help Cuban families and raise standards of
living in Cuba."
Without any doubt, the president misinterpreted Raúl's statement.
On affirming that Cuba is prepared to discuss any issue with the president
of the United States, the president of Cuba stated that he has no fear of
approaching any issue whatsoever. That is a demonstration of courage and confidence
in the principles of the Revolution. It should not come as a surprise to anybody
that he spoke of pardoning those sentenced in March 2003 and sending them
all to the United States, if that country would be prepared to release the
five Cuban anti-terrorist heroes. The former individuals, as was the case
with the Bay of Pigs mercenaries, are in the service of a foreign power that
is threatening and blockading our homeland.
On the other hand, the statement that Cuba charges an "awful lot"
and "takes a lot off the top" [of remittances] is an attempt on
the part of his advisors to cause a rift and divide Cubans. Every country
charges certain sums for hard currency transfers. If they are dollars there
is all the more reason to do so, because it is the currency of the state that
is blockading us. Not all Cubans have families abroad who send remittances.
Redistributing a relatively small part to the benefit of those most in need
of food, medicine and other goods is absolutely fair. Our homeland does not
have the privilege of converting into hard currency the bills that leave state
printers, what the Chinese have frequently called "junk dollars,"
as I have repeated on various occasions, and which has been one of the causes
of the current economic crisis. With what money is the United States saving
its banks and multinationals, in its turn indebting future generations of
U.S. citizens? Would Obama be disposed to discuss those issues?
Daniel Ortega put it very clearly when he recalled his first conversation
with Carter, which I will repeat again today:
"I had the opportunity to meet with President Carter and when he told
me that now that the Somoza dictatorship had gone, that the Nicaraguan people
had defeated the Samoza dictatorship, it was time for Nicaragua to
change." I said to him: "No, Nicaragua does not have to
change, it is you that have to change, Nicaragua has never invaded the United
States; Nicaragua has never mined U.S. ports; Nicaragua has never thrown a
single stone against the U.S. nation; Nicaragua has not imposed governments
on the United States; you are the ones who have to change, not the Nicaraguans."
During the press conference and the final meetings of the Summit, Obama showed
signs of smugness. The abject positions of certain Latin American leaders
were not far removed from that attitude of the U.S. president. I said a few
days ago that what everyone said or did at the Summit would be made known.
When he stated, responding to Jake, that today, 2004 seemed like eons ago,
that was superficial. Do we have to wait that many years for him to suspend
his blockade? He didn't invent it, but he has made it his just like
the other 10 presidents of the United States. Going down that road a definite
failure can be augured for him, like that of all his predecessors. That was
not the dream of Martin Luther King, whose role in the struggle for human
rights will more and more illuminate the way of the U.S. people.
We are living in new times. Changes are inevitable. Leaders pass, the peoples
remain. We will not have to wait for thousands of years, just eight will be
enough, until - in a more heavily armored car, a more modern helicopter
and a more sophisticated aircraft - another president of the United
States, doubtless less intelligent, promising and admired in the world than
Barack Obama, occupies that inglorious office.
Tomorrow we shall have more news of the Summit.
Fidel Castro Ruz
April 21, 2009
Translated by Granma International
Here is a copy of Bob Edward's email to Dr. Castro:
The Calgary Eye Opener
Suite 353, 185 - 911 Yates Street
Victoria, B.C. V8V 4Y9
Telephone: in Alberta: (403) 860-2730
In British Columbia: (250) 380-1252
Fax: (403) 206-7514
His Excellency Doctor Fidel Castro Ruz
c/o Granma, Havana
Until just recently, many right-wing Canadians (of whom there are fewer every
day) speculated that you had, as H.L. Mencken would say, "joined the angels".
We were always sure that rumours of your death were grossly exaggerated.
We are very happy to see that you have become a journalist. Of prodigious output
and fine words I must say --- your Granma "Reflections" are very informative
--- they would seem to express the truth as you know it and your views as you
hold them. We think that Canadians should have access to your views and we intend
to publish some of them in The Calgary Eye Opener. We will encourage our readers
to send comments on to you. The comments would be sent to you through Granma's
email facility because we do not have a direct email address for you. It would
be better, though, if we could give our readers a direct address.
We try to be objective and we intend to publish other opinions not in accord with
yours. But you can see that The Calgary Eye Opener is not a right-wing publication.
Yesterday's (April 22) column about your meeting with Daniel Ortega gave a very
different view of the summit and helped to penetrate the enigma that is President
Obama because Canadians and Americans don't know who Obama is. Some suspect that
he is all "sound and fury signifying nothing". Others think he may be
another Lincoln. All I can say is this --- I have spent the last few months in
Cuba (at Rancho Luna east of Cienfuegos among Cubans and Canadians of humble circumstances);
in Palm Springs California where the great American Dream is becoming a nightmare;
and here in Canada. Before Obama's election, almost everyone in North America
was disillusioned with politics and with their fellow citizens --- we often felt
our fellows ill --- it was a nasty, brutish time. The election of Obama revolutionized
people's thinking --- where there had been meanness before --- there was --- and
remains --- much good will. Part of that is due to the progress Obama's election
represents in correcting one of the three great and ironic failures of the American
Revolution --- the failure to immediately abolish slavery and the inequality of
the Black Race --- the other two failures being the failure to justly deal with
the indigenous people of North America and the failure to forego the temptation
of empire. But Obama is charismatic --- as a charismatic leader, you know that.
And so much more can be done of real value if this time of good feelings and charisma
is harnessed for progressive deeds. In your report of your meeting with the Black
Caucus you recognized that Obama could only do a portion of what he would like
to do --- in fact he may surprise you and do much more. But your last few articles
have been quite pessimistic. What I have seen in Cuba is a new way of doing things
--- your health care system for example --- and don't forget your educational
system which is much superior to that given the ordinary American or Canadian.
And, you have designed a template for, in the words of your friend Pierre Trudeau
"living with an elephant in the room" that Latin Americans can use ----
but that Canadians can also use. I would be devastated if Cuba's social victories
were destroyed by the U.S. or anyone else. It seems to me that these Cuban successes
could be preserved if you and the U.S. were able to work out an honest agreement
Muchios Gracias, Your Excellency
Thomas Davis (aka Bob Edwards)