Sent to me by the author. ~ Lo
By Jim Ryerson
(jim at travelingman dot net)
The writer is a documentary film producer specializing on Cuba, which he’s visited more than 30 times. He formerly worked as a television news reporter in Los Angeles, and won all of the major broadcasting awards.
They did what they said they were going to do, so now what?
“Can you believe all the Cuba news on TV?” The question was from Cuban dissident Roberto Monticello, who has spent the last 15 years trying to get people to pay attention to his homeland. All it took was for Fidel Castro to announce he wasn’t running for reelection and for the Cuban congress to elect his brother Raul, and you couldn’t stop the discussion on Cuba. After growing up supporting the revolution, Monticello left Cuba over issues involving human rights. But when the Russians left, the New York based film director went back and has been fighting since then to end the U.S. embargo.
“Why do they spend so much time in Little Havana, talking to people, with no solutions? You don’t make change in Cuba hiding in Miami, you’ve got to go back to the island and help out”, Monticello told me. His are more than mere words, since he gathered medicines and made some 16 trips to the island in boats filled with supplies not available in Cuban hospitals. For that he received the gratitude of doctors on the island, and the scorn of the U.S. Treasury Department which charged him with trading with the enemy, and wiped out his bank accounts.
But that has never stopped him from going back, and I was with him on the day when change actually may have taken place.
December 2, 2006, unofficially was the celebration of Fidel’s 80th birthday. Since he had taken ill that summer, he’d been out of the spotlight, and this was to be his return, with hundreds of thousands on hand for the celebration. Word on the street was that Fidel would be there, on the reviewing stand and, of course, to speak.
I was filming Monticello for my documentary Looking for Cuba and there were so many people you could not get within blocks of the Plaza de Revoluccion, So we just got in with a group of fumigation workers and marched right past the reviewing stand. But when it came time for speeches, it was Raul who stepped up, and at that moment many Cubans suspected that something was happening. That’s been more than a year, and although he has been mostly out of the public view, Fidel has kept up a regular commentary on world affairs through Cuban media. More importantly, Cuba has kept going, with a transfer of power that the U.S. administration won’t recognize, but which to the rest of the world, is just fine.
The real action has been taking place away from Fidel’s recovery bed. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro signed agreements providing for oil for the Cubans in exchange for doctors. Then there are the Chinese, whose trade with Cuba grew last year to more than $2 billion. And the president of Brazil just proclaimed his friendship with the Castro’s by offering credits for food, drugs, roads and hotel repairs. He also signed a deal to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. All of these are areas that U.S. businesses could be part of, but because of the embargo, the jobs and income are all going overseas.
2008 marks 49 years in power for the Revolution, and every one of those years has contained predictions of its demise by the U.S. However as the Cuban government begins its second half century of existence, the rest of the world sees a great business opportunity, while the U.S. loses thousands of jobs and millions of dollars. Every day that we continue to hold our breath and demand that Cuba change into the country we want, more European, Asian, and Latin Americans are moving in, accepting Cuba for what it is. It may be 1958 in Miami, but for the rest of the country, its time we found a 21st century calendar.
Website coming soon: http://lookingforcuba.com/