Bush's Cuba Detour

Bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan,
obsessed with Iran's rise as a regional power (a direct result
of the wars in the aforementioned countries) the State Department
has woken up to the fact that South America is in turmoil.

By Tariq Ali
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Their
last major intervention in the region was a crude attempt to
topple the democratically elected government in Venezuela. This
was in 2002, a year before the adventure in Iraq. Since then
a wave of Bolivarian unity has swept the continent, successful
in Bolivia and Ecuador, creating ripples in Peru and Paraguay
and, above all, breaking the long isolation of Cuba. It is this
that is causing the panic in Miami.

This tiny island that has defied
imperial intervention, bullying and blockade for almost half-a-century
remains an imperial obsession. Washington has been waiting for
Fidel to die so that they could try and bribe senior military
and police officials (and no doubt some well-chosen party apparatchiks)
to defect. Bush's speech of 24 October is a sign of panic. They
were so convinced that mega-bucks would do the trick that they
had not done too much in recent years.

But yesterday we are told,
without any sense of irony, that Raul Castro is unacceptable
because he is Fidel's brother. This is not the transition that
Washington had in mind. It's a bit rich coming from W, given
his own family connections, not to mention the fact that if Mrs
Clinton is nominated and wins, two families will have been in
power for over two decades. And dynastic politics is now so deep-grained
in official culture that it is being happily mimicked in tiny
circles (the editorial chair of the neo-con mag Commentary has
been smoothly handed over from father to son Podhoretz).

What has worried the Bush brothers
and their clientele in Florida is the fact that Raul Castro has
inaugurated a debate on the island encouraging an open debate
on its future. This is not popular with apparatchiks, but is
undoubtedly having an impact.

State censorship is not only
deeply unpopular but has crippled creative thought on the island.
The new opening has brought all the old contradictions to the
fore. Cuban film-makers are publicly challenging the bureaucrats.
Pavel Giroud, a well-known director explains how the censorship
works:

"Censorship works here
just like it does everywhere, except that because it's Cuba,
it's closely scrutinized. It isn't a national monopoly. Every
television network and publication in the world has its guidelines
for broadcasting or editing, and whatever does not fit the requirements
gets left out. HBO in the States refused to broadcast Oliver
Stone's documentary about Fidel Castro, because it didn't take
the focus that the network wanted. So they insisted on another
interview with Fidel. In other words, what Stone wanted to say
about his interviewee didn't matter -- what mattered was what
the network wanted to show.

Personally, I prefer that a
work of mine not be broadcast, rather than be told to change
my shots or remove footage. Nor am I interested in hearing their
explanations. The mere fact of being silenced is so serious that
the reason why pales in comparison, because it will never be
a good enough reason for the person who is silenced ... Banality
and lack of creativity are favored everywhere. Turn on any music
video channel in the world, and you'll see that for every artistically
worthwhile video, you have to put up with several others. the
same buttocks writhing around the machista reggaeton star, the
same seductive gestures by the "in" singers, the same
slow-moving shots of love scenes at sunset, the same sheen on
the biceps, the same sensual moves, the same phony little smiles.
I think we in Cuba are definitely not the principal producers
of these.

"The same happens in politics
-- there is opportunism on both sides, by the makers and by the
broadcasters. The broadcasters know that a video full of praise
for the system won't make any trouble for them, and the creators
know perfectly well that they will get on television much faster
if they write a song, produce a video or film, or paint a picture
in praise of a political figure"

That the Cuban system needs
to be reformed is widely accepted in the country. I have been
told often that the decision 'forced on us by the embargo' to
follow the old Soviet model was 'not beneficial.' The choice
now is Washington or Caracas. And while a tiny layer of the Cuban
elite will be tempted by the dollars, most Cubans would prefer
a different model. They will not wish to see an end to their
health and education systems, but they do want more economic
and political diversity, even though the model of the Big Neighbour
under whose shadow they live does not exactly offer that choice.

Tariq Ali's new book, Pirates
of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope
, is published by Verso. He
can be reached at: tariq.ali3@btinternet.com