Friday, December 20, 2013

Obama – Raul Handshake Overlooked On The Island

Obama – Raul Handshake Overlooked On The Island / Ivan Garcia
Posted on December 17, 2013

In Cuba, most news reaches us via Miami. Look, given such limited
access to the internet where one official hour puts us back a whopping
4.50 convertible pesos (i.e., the equivalent of one week's pay for a
laborer), people resort to foreign short wave radio or whatever illegal
cable connection the neighbor down the street managed to set up but
charges 10 cuc to let you listen to the news.

Don't ever think you'll get any real news about Cuba from local
newspapers. Out of the six pages of dull newspaper made from sugar cane
pulp, the national press only publishes Pollyanna stuff and overly
compliant economic indicators.

Out on the street, we think of our newspapers as pure science fiction.
Good for nothing except to help keep track of the baseball season, to
get a peek at the TV guide, or as a good substitute for toilet paper.

The cut and paste ordeal to get information is a lengthy process. While
Barack Obama and General Raúl Castro were shaking hands in the
Johannesburg soccer stadium, Rebel Radio a.m. (Radio Rebelde) went on
and on about the sugar cane harvest and the great and successful efforts
made by our cooperative social service units.

Moraima, a 29 year-old housewife found out about the event because she'd
been watching TV through some illegal cable connection. She comments,
"every day, I watch channel 23 News and a few Oscar de Haza programs.
That's how I get a whiff of unreported local Cuban news ranging from the
latest crime, to another dissenter arrest, to the North Korean ship in
Panama or to the handshake between Obama and Raúl."

While the Obama-Raúl thing sent a large part of the exiled
Cuban-American community living in Miami into an uproar, in Havana the
whole thing was little more than just another bit of news. Gerardo, a 74
year-old retiree thought the encounter was positive, but his main
morning concern was being able to buy a leg of pork.

"Pork meat is sold in agro-markets for 24-25 pesos per pound. But I was
hunting for the 21 peso bargain I'd get if I could find a state
slaughterhouse carrying it. I was in line for an hour and a half, but I
finally got my pork leg for Christmas Eve dinner. Maybe the handshake
will bode well for the future — I'm not really certain — but the good
news is that I'll have food to last me for a few days. Politics is a
dirty game. Government reforms do not benefit retirees. I don't have
relatives in Yankeeland, so no one sends me dollars. Whether those two
shake hands or tell each other off doesn't really matter to me."

Common folks in Cuba are just tired, that's all. Tired of a bunch of
stuff. Of bad government. Of the now ancient embargo used as a pretext
by the regime to justify depriving us of scarce goods and services. And
worst of all, tired of not having any political voice or say.

A 38 year-old teacher, Zoila feels like a pawn for the State. "Whatever
we think about the future we'd like to have is nothing the government
cares to take into account. Any one act like Obama's handshake can
easily morph into cheap and superficial politics. Our government leaders
don't want to change. All they are doing is stalling for time."

In Parque Central located in the heart of Havana, people could be seen
rushing around stuffing plastic bags with whatever they could find. A
loaf of bread. Two and a half pound of tomatoes. Maybe some dry fruit.

On baseball hill just next to the statue of José Martí, countless fans
argued over baseball or predicted results for the European Champions
League soccer matches.

At the Payret, about fifty people queued up waiting for the movie
theater to let them in to see an Argentine flick brought in by the
International Festival of New Latin American Film.

Meanwhile, beggars were sorting through garbage cans. And a pair of
very old people begged for money right next to the Inglaterra hotel.
And workers hired to repair the Capitol building were selling their own
lunch for 25 pesos.

Obispo street was a beehive of pedestrians swarming in and out of
stores. Some discreet street vendors offered cigars. Others, girls.
Blondes, mulatto, black. Young men were also an option.

Our bus service is still in crisis. Bus stops are stuffed to the gills,
and people feel antsy and are upset about not being able to get where
they need to go. And even at the cusp of winter, temperatures in Havana
still hover at unbearable 86 degrees of Fahrenheit humidity.

When people are forced to live like this, it is logical that a greeting
between two heads of State might be overlooked. That's a fact even if
the two men happen to be Barack Obama and Raúl Castro.

Iván García

Photo Credit: Martí Noticias.

By request, we are resubmitting the article, "Nothing To Do With
Mandela" taken from Spain's newspaper, El País on December 11, 2013.

At Nelson Mandela's funeral service, more world leaders came together in
one fell swoop than world history can recall. Despite rainy weather,
one hundred world leaders collectively sat on bleachers at Soweto's
soccer stadium to pay tribute to a man of principles.

The man had the strength to fight in the name of freedom, the
level-headedness to redress his thinking, the courage to disagree among
his own rank and file, the empathy to step into his opponents' shoes,
the magnanimity to embrace forgiveness, the brains to build bridges, and
finally, the decency to accept a timely retirement.

In light of Mandela's track record, why would leaders stomping on the
core ideals of the South African leader wish to render tribute? Case in
point, the three ogres: Raúl Castro, Robert Mugabe and Teodoro Obiang.
Front-row-center, the fearsome threesome certainly hardened the mood and
turned all the magic in the air sour.

Right on cue, Obama drove the point home: "There are leaders here today
who praise Mandela but silence protest." The words were intended for
iron-fisted leaders who gravely overstep to crush human ideals,
religious beliefs or the acceptance of gender preference. Only official
protocol could possibly explain how despots were invited to attend and
got the opportunity to grandstand for absolution under Mandela's glow.
Tyrant and apprentices filled the gallery. Simply review the list of
shameful human right violators from anywhere: All were in Soweto.

Well, almost all human rights violators went to the funeral. A few
hardliners stayed at home. For instance, the President of Sudan, Omar
al Bashir was absent, but probably due to the fact that the
International Criminal Court is hot on his trail.

Fortunately, Caucasus strongmen ignored the news and the event. Also
absent (for reasons of their own) were big human rights abusers like
Russia, China and Iran.

But it was Czech Prime Minister, Jiri Rusnok, whose silent microphone
was on long enough to record him saying that a full agenda made going to
a funeral out in the "boondocks" inconvenient and something for which he
was not in the mood. No way to save face with mourners after that kind
of faux pas. Rusnok apologized, of course. But he, at least, certainly
expressed an honest opinion.

Translated by: JCD

14 December 2013

Source: "Obama – Raul Handshake Overlooked On The Island / Ivan Garcia |
Translating Cuba" -

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