Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Take a sunny vacation in Cuba? Not while there is no democracy and political repression

Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez - Andre Deak photo
Why I won't be visiting Cuba

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday February 1, 2011

By Bill Tieleman

"I cannot go to Cuba to relax on the beach and keep my eyes shut, while dozens of political prisoners are behind bars there."

- Former Czech president Vaclav Havel, 2006

Each year over 800,000 Canadians visit Cuba for a sun-filled holiday of beaches, rum and great music.

I have not and will not be one of them.

Unfortunately for the Cuban people, their country is run by a repressive military dictatorship that rejects democracy and severely punishes those who speak out for change.

Even leaving the country is close to impossible for most of its citizens, some of whom still take desperate measures to escape the island on dangerous rafts.

In those circumstances, I cannot in good conscience support Cuba’s government by being a Canadian tourist there.

Like Vaclav Havel – who fought a repressive regime in his own country and was jailed for five years – I am deeply troubled by the Cuban communist government of former President Fidel Castro and now his brother Raul’s flagrant and ongoing violations of basic human rights.

"We cannot pretend that nothing wrong happens in Cuba. A lot of evil occurs there," Havel said.

Amnesty International, the respected human rights organization, has not even been allowed to visit Cuba since 1990. That alone should give Canadians pause before jumping on the plane to the beaches of Veradero.

But Amnesty has still documented repeated and severe abuses of Cubans for attempting to exercise basic human rights. Its 2010 Report on Cuba  says:

“Civil and political rights continued to be severely restricted by the authorities. Government critics continued to be imprisoned; many reported that they were beaten during arrest.”

“Restrictions on freedom of expression were commonplace. The government continued to curtail freedom of association and assembly.”

Despite the repression there are Cubans fighting for change.

Yoani Sanchez is – somewhat amazingly – a pro-democracy blogger  in Cuba. Her life has been extremely difficult and her courage extraordinary. As Amnesty International stated in its 2010 report:

“In September [2009], Yoani Sánchez, author of the popular blog Generación Y, was denied an exit visa by the Cuban authorities. She had been due to travel to the USA to receive the Maria Moors Cabot prize for journalism at Columbia University.”

“She was also denied an exit visa to travel to Brazil following an invitation from the Brazilian Senate to present her book at a conference and address the legislature.

“In November, Yoani Sánchez and blogger Orlando Luis Pardo were forced into a car by state security agents and beaten and threatened before being released.” Amnesty said. “The attackers told Yoani Sánchez ‘this is the end of it.’”

Sanchez has bravely written about her own situation and those of her fellow democracy dissidents, actually insisting that others not focus only on her.

“Avoid the cult of personality of a single emblematic blogger and take the alternative blogosphere as a phenomenon in which a growing number of Cubans are participating,” Sanchez writes in a “How to help” section. “Don’t repeat in the virtual world the adoration of individuals that does so much damage in the real world.”

Sanchez is indeed not alone as a democracy dissident in Cuba. Last Friday Guillermo Fariñas was arrested by police for the third time in 48 hours and then released.

Fariñas was honoured by the European Union last year with its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought – but he was also prevented by Cuban authorities from leaving the country to receive it.

And in December Amnesty International said that: “Between 9 and 10 December, at least a hundred human rights activists were temporarily detained in different locations across Cuba by the authorities in what they believe was an attempt to prevent them from attending several acts to commemorate Human Rights Day. They were released a few hours later.”

Being a dissident in Cuba is to be under constant surveillance and intimidation.

In one recent blog posting on January 11 this year titled “The Country of Long Shadows” Sanchez details the situation.

“There are two men on the corner. One is wearing an earphone while the other peers into the door of a building.”

“All the neighbours know perfectly well why they are there. A dissident lives on one of the floors of the building; two members of the political police watch who comes and goes and keep a car nearby to follow him wherever he goes.”

“They don’t try to hide because they want this person, who signs his name to his critical opinions, to know they’re there; they want his friends to distance themselves so as not to end up caught in the network of control, in the spiderweb of vigilance.”

“It is not an isolated case. Here, every non-conformist has his own shadow — or a whole group of shadows — who follow him around,” Sanchez concludes.

It’s not a picture postcard situation like the cheery scenes the Cuba Tourist Board in Canada promotes on its website .

While I will personally boycott Cuba so long as it remains a one-party state, I do not support the continued American boycott of trade with the country.

As Amnesty International rightly observes:

“The Cuban government has repeatedly used the embargo as a justification for maintaining restrictions on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” AI stated on September 8, 2010 in criticizing United States President Barack Obama for extending the Trading With the Enemy Act boycott provisions, in effect since 1963.

“The embargo and political antagonism with the USA continue to be used as a pretext for curbing dissent and criticism of the Cuban government. As a result, independent journalists and political and human rights activists are continuously harassed, intimidated and many face criminal prosecution,” AI concludes.

But unfortunately many decades of trade between Canada, European nations and other democracies has not produced the needed change in Cuba.

That’s why individual Canadian tourists can send a strong message with economic impact to the Cuban dictatorship by vacationing elsewhere.

Tourism is Cuba’s second largest source of revenue  and Canada is the number one country sending visitors there.

To be clear - there is no organized tourism boycott nor are pro-democracy dissidents in Cuba calling for it, although to do so would be highly dangerous for them.

It is simply a personal choice – something citizens of Canada and other democracies are privileged to have.

The counter argument is that Cuba has many positive accomplishments despite its repressive government. Infant mortality is among the lowest in the world  and better than the United States, thanks to its public health care programs, and its medical services to citizens are vastly superior to most developing countries.

Public education is free at every level and Cuba spends 10% of its central budget on education versus 4% in the United Kingdom and 2% in the U.S., according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO].

And Cuba’s social safety net is in many ways superior to those of many of its Caribbean basin neighbours.

But Cuba’s citizens pay a heavy and unnecessary price with the loss of liberty and democracy. And now, with President Raul Castro cutting 500,000 public sector jobs  and significantly reducing state subsidies and ration cards for food and other items, that safety net is fraying considerably.

Cuba also has a long and sordid history of repression of gays and lesbians, personally documented by the late Cuban poet and novelist Reinoldo Arenas in the book and movie Before Night Falls.

In recent years, and despite official public efforts to proclaim Cuba anti-homophobic, reports continue to indicate police harassment of gay activists , including the 2009 jailing of Mario José Delgado Gonzáles, who tried to organize a “Mr. Gay Havana” contest and who is vice-president of the Reinaldo Arenas LGBT Memorial Foundation.

Cuba also voted at the United Nations last year to remove a reference to gays and lesbians in a resolution condemning unjustified executions  - many of the countries that voted with Cuba criminalize homosexuality and five call it a capital offence. Canada voted against it.

And Cuba’s history of military intervention to support other dictatorships is odious. Cuba backed the vicious regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia in the 1970s and 1980s – a country with one of the worst human rights records in the world at that time.

Cuba supporters will no doubt be outraged at my suggestion that Canadians consider boycotting the country to show opposition to its repressive record and take sun vacations elsewhere.

They prefer to promote the romantic view of the photogenic cigar-smoking Che Guevarra and Fidel Castro leading the popular uprising against the brutal dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. But the early promise of the revolution faded to the ugly reality of another dictatorship that espoused high ideals while replicating repression.

Many of those Cuba supporters will adamantly oppose a personal tourism boycott but totally supported international boycotts against the apartheid regime of South Africa and the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile when those two terrible governments were in power.

You can’t have it both ways – you either support democracy and human rights everywhere or you don’t. I backed South Africa and Chile boycotts but I don’t look away from Cuba’s abuses.

Arguments from Canadian-Cuba support groups that say: “Cubans want you to witness their country while it remains pristine -- before the impending onslaught of American tourists is unleashed,” as a recent email put it, are simply misleading when it comes to democracy and human rights.

“Rest assured that your dollars are not filling the coffers of greedy multi-nationals involved in war, oil and water theft, environmental destruction, sweatshops, human rights and labor violations, or drug and sex trafficking – all things Cuba decries,” Cuba Explorer claims while at the same time avoiding discussing the country’s disastrous human rights record.

Perhaps the best argument for visiting Cuba is to meet ordinary Cubans and see directly what the situation is there. Certainly many Canadians approach the country with that view.

But there is no way of being a tourist to Cuba without involuntarily supporting the government, since it is heavily dependent on that income.

Would ordinary Cubans suffer if tourism dropped? Yes, that would likely be a temporary result and regrettable, but similar to other international boycotts to encourage democracy.

However, even dictatorships must react to internal pressure and some of the recent moves to reduce restrictions have only come because Cubans increasingly demand it – not because the Communist Party has had a change of heart.

Ultimately only democracy can respond to the interests of Cubans, who will then make the decision about who and how they will be governed. If they choose to continue supporting the existing administration, that is their right.

For those wondering, in addition to Cuba I also have no intention as a tourist of visiting China or other countries with repressive military dictatorships.

And I remain ever hopeful that the spread of democracy and human rights will increasingly isolate vicious governments, like those of Egypt and Tunisia, where massive protests may lead to lasting democratic reform.

But it’s a personal choice for every Canadian who has the opportunity to travel to decide where they go on vacation.

After all, unlike Cuba, it’s a free country.

* * * * *


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Bill.
It's quite amazing talking with friends who continue to visit there close to annually. They just refuse to acknowledge that Cuba is a repressive regime. They insists they've been anywhere, anytime and everyone is happy, has health care and it's peachy keen.
No discussion is even allowed for any time, if one is not in agreement with the thrust of Cuba. It surely seems odd to have such an adamant pushback.
I haven't been there so can offer little else than what I've read.

Anonymous said...

You sure it was not just cuz the oil spill screwed up the scuba diving Bill?


This seems like an out of place rant given international affairs at the moment.

Lets hear bout your trip to Egypt, or what of Algeria our largest supplier of oil.

If it is necessary for new democrats to distance themselves from the filth of the left in preparation of government must we pick on Castro? I mean really, hasn't his brother greased the skids a little? Should you not just stick to distancing yourself from Kwan and Williams?

Trust me Bill, no one is worried about the socialist hoardes at the gates of power in BC. Only hyperbolic MSM comentators whip up that baseless propaganda.

It would be a shock to even communist sympathizers if any such event came close to a reality in BC.

So go to Cuba, just dont scuba dive!

Independent Candidate said...

I am planning to run as an independent candidate in Coquitlam-Maillardville.

My MLA does nothing and spends all her time down South.

I have decades of political experience in the NDP (paid organizer and volunteer foot canvasser) and previously in student politics. I know I can't win, but I can grab some votes by making a decent mail-drop flyer and knocking on doors in small clusters through the district in my spare time.

The two-party system in this province needs to go.

DPL said...

If my memory serves me well, a heck of a lot of people are getting killed in Mexico. The cops down there were considered on the take as far back as 40 years ago. Yet Canadians flock to the place. Cheap fares just like cheap fares to Cuba.More rain that Cuba as well.

The US of A holds some land in Cuba and runs a prison that does many nasty things to a lot of folks. Are they political prisoners? (I would say yes).

Cuba has lot of enemies, the biggest being the US and next in line would be the companies that got bounced out of the country and want to regain control of the place.

Only time I was in the country was at Gitmo for a couple of hours in the early 70's , but a large amount of folks from this country sure like the place.

Women say that they feel safe on the streets day or night. Nobody trying to short change them when paying the bills.

I spent some time in other countries in the Caribbean and never felt secure in any of them. ( Jamaica was especially bad. The Bahamas , parts of which a lot of Canadian tourists own chunks of, with their condos and beach houses.)Only place we were at where the drug dealers showed up at small beaches with lots of stuff, so we left the place as soon as possible.
I do like the odd Cuban cigar just like a lot of US citizens who supposedly arn't allowed to go to that country.
Different strokes, for different strokes as the old saying goes.

Bernard von Schulmann said...

I saw the comments over at they Tyee, no one seems willing to acknowledge the fact that Cuba is repressive dictatorship and focuses its repression against gays, environmentalists, workers and people wanting any free expression of ideas. Basically the core of repression in Cuba has been against the left, and still people on the left will no condemn the government in Cuba.

You have caused some serious moral outrage over there, more needs to happen until people realize there is no such thing as a good dictatorship.

Norm Farrell said...

Repression and violation of civil rights takes many forms. The Cuban regime rejects democracy and, according to Vaclav Havel, has "dozens of political prisoners" imprisoned. However, many other nations do not populate prisons, they depopulate the streets, murdering in the tens of thousands.

Whether authority is exercised by government or industrial autocrats, war lords, drug gangs or broad criminal enterprises matters little to dead victims. I believe, it is not appropriate to boycott a nation that jails critics while condoning nations that murder critics.

Reliable data is hard to find but the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding (CCPB) publishes statistics on violent deaths, taken from WHO reports. Cuba ranks better than the USA at 7.6 violent deaths per 100,000. Other numbers:
Mexico 13.3
Chile 19.6
Ecuador 33.2
Brazil 36.7
El Salvador 50.8
Philippines 58.1
Russia 76.8
Columbia 77.1

My better half wants to go to Columbia in the future. Should we choose that over Cuba?

Person-to-person social interactions can be powerful in encouraging change. Ultimately, the iron curtain did not fall because of Ronnie Reagan's policies, it fell because common people chose to be part of a larger world. As long as Cuba is isolated and dealt with dishonestly, nothing will change in that nation.

WILLIAM said...


Do you take holidays to Yanky land? Or Go south of the border?
I think before you speak such large words you should ask your self why did Cuba ended up this way.
Cubans,the majority got tired of the US. installing dictators there like the rest of South America.


For your rant about being a tourist in Cuba without involuntarily supporting the government is BULLSHIT, you can stay at any casi paticular Bed & Breakfast anywhere anytime. We have traveled freely anywhere we wanted to. As for changing its foreign policy soon how could it with the US demanding it change its health care policy etc. to US stile private care. In other words so the US Multi Nations can once more move in and exploit its people. Your totally ignorance on this issue disappoints me.

Anonymous said...

Bill. You have departed from the usual mantra of the NDP supporter who excuses Castro's human rights abuses either because Cuba has universal access to health care or because it is anti-American.Shame on you!

Anonymous said...

I believe the US arranged for an embargo between Canada and Cuban products.
The US had one too but they were still trading secretly under the table Yes Canada got screwed,by the yanks. Then there is Egypt that's run by a psychopath for thirty years. They buy all their military equipment from the US so he had to be protected. Same for Hussein, in Iraq, He had to much oil so the US terrorists.slaughtered the locals so they could steal their oil.
I don't believe the Cuban government is selling off their public assets to the highest bidder in
our corrupt democratic system .
That's where George Burns bought his cigars and smoked them till he was a hundred

Anonymous said...

How many people are murdered in Mexico every year. The drug capitol of North America? The police,and government are all in it together.

Krispy said...

What a hypocrite, Tieleman. When was the last time you wrote a rant against China? Where's half of your clothes and electronics manufactured, pal?

And where's the self-righteous condemnation of the ongoing US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, which completely denies all human rights to the detainees? Or the Patriot Act, which removes a citizen's right to privacy and allows government to access every citizen's private information and use it against them, without civilian oversight or ability to appeal being placed on a 'no-fly-list' for no reason?

First off, Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the US. They have a higher literacy rate too, and unlike either the US or Canada, university education is free, as is their universal health care system. They have a 'doctors-for-oil' program that sees Cuban doctors work in Venezuela's poorest barios helping people who have never had access to health care, in return for a preferred rate on purchasing oil.

I don't know what you're smoking, Tieleman, but it's time you took your head out of your butt and took a look around. Who the hell are you serving, numb-nuts... these days, you sound a hell of a lot more like a neo-con sell-out than a progressive.

outsourced said...

The saying goes, "so far from god and so close to the USA". I heard that in Mexico many years ago and it is so true. The USA is a drug nation and nearly every nation suffers because of US imperialism. The USA under many presidents tried to assassinate Cuban leaders, wreck environmental destruction and bio-chemical warfare as well as giving extensive encouragement to the mafia and to the cuban fascists that ruled before Castro. Cuba is not Haiti for a good reason. Its easy to criticize from the luxury of Vancouver. But what would you do to protect the people against the USA and the Cuban capitalists who, with the Mafia, would like nothing better than to return Cuba to pre-Castro days. Its nothing to do with socialism or communism. It has to do with choices to stop the USA from taking over. To make a long story short, Cuba deserves support more so than many other destinations for the socially conscious. The human rights abuses must be opposed and that, in the case of Cuba, is not done through continued isolation.

outsourced said...

Sorry, i forgot to comment on the title of your essay, "...Not while there is no democracy and political repression" I guess by that criterion, the middle class and rich would have no where to vacation. Name one vacation destination that can boast of democracy and "no political repression." In fact, name me one country that can boast of "no political repression." I suppose the police over-reaction in Toronto for the G-20 was an anomaly? The shootings in the 60s in the USA of students and the Chicago riots were not typical? The genocide by the Canadian government of Native children was accidental? Of course, there are degrees of repression. We need to be aware of what we can do to help truly fight for freedom - and that does not include arming and supporting military dictatorships around the world in the name of "freedom and democracy." I see so little truth and openness, let alone democracy, in our little province where corruption and deception rules the waves...

Anonymous said...

My father, a rabid right-winger who voted Socred/Liberal, cheered for Bush and introduced a much younger me to his Western Canada Concept candidate, went on vacation to Cuba with his fourth wife about decade before he died. He came back wholly impressed by the hospitality of the people, the peace in the country and the sights, sounds and life in the cities and on the beaches.

Cuba may not be "the best place on earth", but it helped to soften an old man's heart before he died. And for that, I am grateful.

Krispy said...

One more comment and I'm done with this. Here is a link to an August 2006 news story in the Guardian newspaper about more than 600 attempts by the US government and CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro:


This was chronicled in a documentary film by Britain's Channel 4 documentary entitled "638 Ways to Kill Castro."

How's that for an egregious violation of human rights, Tieleman, not to mention a complete violation of international law? Write about that in 24 Hours.

Deep Throat said...

A big improvement over your last post…are you still supporting Adrian Dix?

Anonymous said...

"Government critics continued to be imprisoned; many reported that they were beaten during arrest.”

Hell we have innocent citizens here in Canada being beaten, tazered, strip searched, tear gassed...

rogerout said...

I was in South Beach Miami in the 60's and met an ex-pat Cuban who lamented Castro's insurrection a decade earlier. He seemed a trifle unbalanced. Almost breathlessly, he regaled us, young men that we were, with fantastic stories of young prostitutes and superman sex shows that I'm sure he thought would excite us. Whether he was a pedophile I can't say but I understand that Castro cleaned up the decadent, Mafia-funded, exploitation going on there so he hasn't been all bad for Cuba. I don't support tyranny anywhere but I can understand what it must take to fly in the face of U.S. hegemony.
I read this blog a fair amount and find lacking a balanced perspective that includes reasonable explanations of inevitable, if unsavoury, outcomes such as tyranny in Cuba. The matter of American tyranny has to be factored in re Cuba. How else was Castro to remain alive and to improve things there? What the hell would anyone else have done in his stead? I know blogs are designed to stimulate debate but they need not deteriorate consistently into black and white schoolyard dust-ups.

DPL said...

Another big tourist place is Egypt. A country run by a dictator for 40 years. Always supported by the US and Israel. I recently read a book about Cuba and how they lend out doctors to other countries. It covered the time since before the US worked with the guys to do the Bay of Pigs, an event that, the incoming President Kennedy found out about as it was happening. By the way, Cuba sells water to the US base in the country. Money talks most everywhere.

But happy holidays to all, no matter where you decide to go and visit. My Gosh, my wife did two China trips years ago and has hit some other hot spots with her gang of traveling women.

I stay home because after 22 years of going most everywhere there is to go,( we couldn't do East Germany at the time). A stop in Spain resulted in us all getting bounced out of the country( Lots of tourists go there) it’s better for all parties involved.

Landing in Saigon during the war, hoping the old UN Flag would keep us alive, or Beirut during a civil war makes Mexico or Cuba, seem pretty tame to me. Part of the thrill of travel is learning to keep your head down now and again.
I always enjoy Bill's comments, even the ones I don't always agree with.

Anonymous said...

A big improvement over your last post…are you still supporting Adrian Dix?

Of course he is. Why wouldn't he?

It's like old times.

Fighting the 1990's once again.

Back then there were no blogs and everyone was using Mosaic or Netscape. Facebook was something that had pictures in it kept at the police station.

Anonymous said...

Rural areas in Guatemala (where I come from) are deeply grateful to the cuban doctors who stay there not for a two-week visit, but for years doing preventive medicine and helping people to get healthy. Also, the cuban government is given medicine scholarships to guatemalan students who don't have the economic means to attend University in Guatemala. Then they get back to continue the work that cuban doctors started in the first place.
Still, my country, since 1954, when the american intervention happened is an insecure place for dissent. Check your numbers and the picture of Cuba is going to look a lot different.

e.a.f. said...

Cuba may not be "the best place on earth" but it is a hell of a lot better than a lot of other places lots of canadians go to visit.
Yes I am sure there is political repression but then there is a lot of that going on all over the world and Cuba has at least made an attempt to ensure their citizens have a better standard of living, well they do stay alive unlike other countries which simply kill people on the streets.
Mexico springs to mind first as a very dangerous place to go and about 30,000 people are killed in drug wars.
Then there is China, with its political repression and how it has treated Tibet.
Now then we could go on about the Philipines, Thialand, a number of south american countries.
For that matter there is a great deal of political repression in Canada or did you forget about the G20 in Toronto. Then there is the USA which has violated its own constitution in the name of "national security" and has more prisioners than most countries in the world.
Oh, lets not forget Saudi, Russia, etc. Why pick on Cuba who has managed to at least deliver a safer community to its people than when the USA used it as its whore house, or did you forget that.
Bill I can only think you are suffering from a holiday hangover when you wrote the column.

James King said...

Have you ever been to the Czech Republic?

Havel, not to put too fine a point on it, would probably have to admit that there's an awful lot of nasty stuff going on in his own country too.

In fact, I have been there and I'd put Cuba's treatment of its population up against the way Czech treats its Roma any day.

Maybe you should pay a visit to Prague and Brno or Ostrava one day - now that you've decided Cuba is off your list.

I don't think you'll be impressed.

Reckless said...

Tick, tick, tick. Time's almost up. It's been three weeks since we heard from you about how wonderful the Recall-Ida charade was going, Friday marks the second week of the Don McRae Recall campaign and tomorrow is the start of the 3rd campaign against Terry Lake. But not a peep from you Bill. Are you suddenly embarrassed to have your name associated with this nonsense because of the impending first failure? Yep, Recall is going over as well as ... umm, your Cuba lashing? Glad to see so many insightful responses. It makes me hopeful that you're not fooling people as much anymore. By the way, I highly recommend Mr. Vander Zalm's latest editorial over at FightHST. He's as mental as you.

outsourced said...

When I read "reckless" and the various brave "anonymous" writers, I have no choice but to support Bill as much as I can. Why can't these guys conduct a civil discussion even when we disagree. They really need to stay on their meds or get some therapy. They are just plain nuts. We can disagree without being stupidly nasty. We have all made our points about being fair to Cuba. With respect to Ida, she has to go. It might not be now (unfortunately) but soon. Everyone who was party to the HST lie has to go. The recall is about direct democracy. Voters in BC need to feel they can have a say. Through them out and get a BC Rail Inquiry. Campbell was heard to say, "Please, no BC Rail inquiry. I'll loose my pension!"

By the way, Adrian Dix is on record calling for an inquiry into the BC Rail fiasco.

Stewart MacKenzie said...

Two of our children spent time working at Moa, near the Southeast end of Cuba, at a nickel mine which was a joint venture and employed contingents of Cubans, Canadians, Chileans and various others.

Our daughter was there in September 2008 when hurricane Ike hit, and saw much of the town of Moa damaged, 90% of the trees down, etc.

The next morning the Canadians, of their own volition, were out working to help the locals clean up, with Quebecois running chainsaws and everyone kicking in, while the Chileans and others mostly sat in their rooms.

She says she has never been so proud to be Canadian, and that the local people recognized who was helping and who was sitting it out!

By setting this kind of example, our people down there made an impression that has nothing to do with official politics and everything to do with developing good relations at the most basic level.

Apparently the Cubans in Moa have also become proficient at street hockey; our son and others brought all the sticks and equipment they could carry, and tell us the Cubans picked up the moves almost immediately - if Cuba ever has a street hockey championship the Moans will have a big advantage!

Who knows what else rubs off when there is grassroots contact among people of different nations - perhaps even some ideas about freedom and democracy?

By earning respect and affection in such basic ways we can facilitate awareness which in the long run is the key to any kind of progress.

For insight into the forces aligned against Castro, read James Ellroy's "American Tabloid" and "The Cold Six Thousand" which presents as dark a vision as Ellroy's LA crime novels.

Our son, who is part Tsilqot'in and Cree, and pretty dark, was often mistaken for a Cuban and ID'd by police. This happened while he was being shown around by a Cuban - who would have been in some doodoo if he'd been the one asked to show ID.

His older sister actually married a Cuban, but he was sent to Venezuela for a long stretch of government service within days of his superiors finding out about the marriage and it became obvious he would have a terribly difficult time trying to leave Cuba once he returned there.

Chris said...

There's also no McDonald's and no Walmarts - which makes it a perfect holiday getaway.

Anonymous said...

God Bill, why don't you just make it official and change your name to NED.

Reckless said...

Actually "outsourced", I think you do have a choice. If you choose to support Bill (despite showing flaws in his point of view), well that's up to you. I think Bill is entitled to say whatever he wants, especially on his own blog. But when he deliberately misleads people for his own agenda, then he deserves all the flak that comes with it. As far as name calling goes you are on the same level as anybody else. I can't speak for others but I am quite certain of my sanity and my reasons for my extreme views. I will not back down until I see positive change in our political system and by extension global equality. I don't honestly expect to see that in my lifetime but that doesn't mean I should stop trying. So until Tieleman admits his own guilt in keeping repression alive and well, I'll be here. And if you intend to support him, then count on getting similar earfuls from me as well.

Andrew Phillips said...

Bill - You must cringe when you go to the USA with their highest rate of prison incarceration per population in the world (the large majority being non caucasian - I wonder why that is?), their murdering 600,000 plus in Iraq, their billions of dollars going to Israel to repress the Palestinian people and buy their 4th largest military in the world, their billions of dollars going to Egypt to repress their people, and so forth. When was the last time you went there? Have you recently been to narco state of Mexico with it's fraudulent democracy and it's hundreds of millions of US dollars for it's "war against drugs" (read military support)? They kill thousands in the service of a bankrupt US agenda.
Cuba secures it's social services for it's people in spite of concerted attempts over the years by the hemisphere's "democratic" superpower to return it to the dark ages of Batista dictatorship. They have done extremely well by their people in spite of all that has been done to over throw them.
You really were off target with this one. The nasty dictator flavor of the month is Mubarek. Or haven't you noticed?

NeoDude said...

That's somewhat noble of you Bill. Not sure if you're being hypocritical or wilfully ignorant, possibly neither but I don't think you're that far out of touch with reality. Still, good on you for promoting and being a participant in a worthy boycott.

But many of your arguments against Cuba could be applied to Canada also, although certainly to a lesser degree. While we wait for you to boycott Canada, a couple of thoughts from your column.

"Ultimately only democracy can respond to the interests of Cubans"

Hmm, not ALL Cubans are interested in democracy and since those are the only people that could bring such a change to happen directly, then democracy will continue to ignore such requests of Cubans who are not in power. No, if political change is desired, it will need to take place by force, not necessarily different than what keeps the dictatorship in place.

"After all, unlike Cuba, (Canada's) a free country."

Such a well written article that I was actually sold on your shenanigans until this final line. I should know better, can't drop my guard for a second around such a sly devil as yourself. But you slipped up, suggesting that Canada is free - tsk, tsk. Not even close, we are so over-regulated it becomes silly at times and we as a nation oppress other countries even more than our own less fortunate. You might want to check out Canada's employed that live in poverty or the further criminalized poor on welfare. I'm sure you could manage that so that our own slave labor market continues unchecked. Is that how you define free?

Maybe you will want to encourage ways to make democracy work here in Canada before you try forcing it down the throat of people elsewhere.

Or not. After all, it's a personal choice for any Canadian to maintain a perfectly good snake oil enterprise.

Deep Throat said...

“ Bill Tieleman | February 4, 2011 4:41 PM | Reply
Shocking! Not just kitties but rat-ffffing in the BC Liberals! Ha-ha!”


I am very disappointing in you.

Look closely at what you said!

Look closely and you will see that your nihilism has destroyed your moral compass.

How can you laugh at this when it would appear from his most recent comments that Adrian Dix has the same attitude towards the Asian community!

Anonymous said...

"There's also no McDonald's and no Walmarts - which makes it a perfect holiday getaway"

You can have a perfect getaway anywhere.

No one is forcing you to go to any of those stores. I won't buy at Wally Mart, and McDonald's is not a stop for me while travelling in the United States.

It's your choice.

Sue said...

Thank you so much.

As a Venezuelan I lived through the start of a regime modeled after Castro, since in February 4th, 1992 Chavez made a (failed) coup against Carlos Andres Perez (+).

And for the past 12 years I had to see how my country was destroyed, now to unrecognizable ways by a tyrant, so closely advised by the Castro brothers.

It saddened me so much to read some comments regarding this article. I know hundreds of Cubans who were thrown out of their houses, their hard earned houses, and had to leave Cuba with only what they were wearing and had to start from zero. And some of their loved ones never made it out and only have their imagination in order to survive.

Cuba might be beautiful, yes. But a prison is a prison, no matter how beautiful it could be.

There are thousands of stories that those who comfortably go to resorts and tourist only beaches will never understand.

Comparing Mexico to Cuba or Cuba to Canada is absolutely absurd. People would need to be born in another country, with another skin colour in order to understand what it is like. Being born into freedom is not to be taken for granted and I pray to God NONE of you will ever have to live through what Cubans have had to live and die through.