Cubans starting to see leaders as suspended in time
By MYRIAM MARQUEZ
For commie spin in six languages, check out www.granma.cu. Prepare to be
sucked up in a time warp of such dimensions that you'll be ducking and
covering, holding your breath for the big one to hit.
Because in Cuba, the regime's propaganda for 51 years hasn't evolved
past one scare tactic: that the ``imperialist monster to the north'' is
gearing up to attack.
We're used to that old script in South Florida, where exiles suffer our
own Cold War mentality. For good reason. You don't pal around with
Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and every other power-hungry maniac, as
Cuba's Fidel and Raúl Castro have done since 1959, for nothing. They're
plotting from Venezuela to Iran, with the Cuban script at hand.
Many Americans think Cuba's just a poor island with nice beaches and
want to go there because -- as one told me a few years back -- hey,
there are no McDonald's. How quaint!
The world doesn't know Cuba's history past the images of a young Fidel
entering Havana with adoring hordes embracing regime change. They excuse
the firing squads as a relic of another century and consider today's
political prisoners in Cuba unfortunate pawns in the U.S.-Cuba drama,
but nothing to lose sleep over.
Then political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo went on a hunger strike
for more than 80 days and died last month protesting prison conditions
while the regime did nothing.
The world suddenly opened its eyes to today's Cuba, which is to say
yesterday's Cuba. The same old place that preaches social justice with
rapid squads of wild-eyed thugs whose response to a peaceful march of
women down Havana streets is to punch, kick and drag them to the back of
We have our sorry history, but even in the worst days during the 1960s
civil rights battles, the courts delivered color-blind rights, laws
changed, and, slowly, so did American hearts. There are still racists
among us, but no one can say we're a racist nation and explain the
election of Barack Obama to the highest office in the land.
No matter how much Raúl and Fidel try to argue that Obama is a 21st
century Uncle Tom, it rings hollow to most Cubans, a majority of them
black or of mixed race. And that's what scares the Castros.
Cubans look to their leadership and see cranky old white guys holding on
to a destroyed country with the Chicken Little pretext that U.S. bombs
are about to fall.
They see the regime-controlled ``news'' programs call Zapata a common
criminal and hear on the street and read in blogs that Raúl uses a
racist slur equivalent to the N word to describe the latest hunger
striker -- independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas -- and they smell
As in Iran, Cubans are using technology to put the regime on notice even
as Cuba has outlawed satellite dishes, from which people get real news,
and the ``counter-revolutionary use'' of computers and cellphones to
bypass the regime's closed Internet and its snooping on land lines.
It's why bloggers like Yoani Sánchez are harassed by Cuban security.
It's why a peaceful march by the Ladies in White gets treated to violent
We've had other such moments when events in Cuba seemed to be propelling
the people to demand their rights, moments when exiles held our breath
-- not expecting U.S. bombs to drop, but for Cubans to seize what the
revolution promised 51 years ago and failed to deliver: freedom.
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