A Tale of Two Cuba’s? - By Emiliano Antunez -Price of Liberty
A Tale of Two Cuba’s?
By Emiliano Antunez

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May 25, 2005

On May 20th 1902 Cubans officially gained independence from Spain, one hundred and three years later freedom seems to elude the island nation’s inhabitants. The celebrations on the twentieth of May take place throughout Cuba and in Cuban enclaves in Miami and New Jersey, here in the United States. This year hopes were raised when Martha Beatriz Roque (a Cuban dissident) called for an assembly to promote civil society on the communist controlled island on the same day Cubans would mark their 103RD anniversary of “independence.”

On the island dissidents risking life and limb invited diplomats and dignitaries like Vaclav Havel and Mikhail Gorbachev to their assembly. The Cuban Government did everything within its power and succeeded in blocking the attendance of the better known invitees, though many European and some US diplomats were able to attend. Many Cuban Exiles had hoped to be able to witness the historical event, but the realities of travel restrictions imposed by the US (that ironically many of the exiles favor) and the probable denial of entry by the Cuba’s tyrannical government made it practically impossible for them to attend.

Since they realized that they would not be able to attend, Cuban Exiles in Miami set up a headquarters to monitor and support the assembly on the island. Radio and Television stations broadcast and covered the event locally, though many exile were present at the headquarters the numbers were not impressive especially when you consider that Miami is home to hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles. In the meantime between 200 and 400 Cubans (depending on whose account you believe) risking extreme consequences showed up either to participate in the assembly as delegates or to lend it moral support. Chants of “Libertad” (Liberty) and “Abajo Fidel” (Down with Fidel) spontaneously broke out throughout the assembly.

In Miami, exiles had more on their minds since earlier in the week Luis Posada-Carriles, a man some consider a freedom fighter and others a terrorist, was detained by INS in Miami. Mr.Posada- Carriles faces possible deportation or less likely extradition to Venezuela were he escaped from prison (awaiting an appeal) after being acquitted twice of charges of taking part in the 1976 bombing of a Cubana de Aviacion DC-8 that killed more the 70 people on board. He has admitted (and later recanted) to having been involved in the 1997 hotel bombings in Havana that caused the death of an Italian tourist. In 2000 he was arrested and later convicted in a foiled bomb plot to kill Cuban tyrant Fidel Castro that would have more than likely killed dozens more. Panamanian President Moscoso commuted his sentence before leaving office. Though many share in his despise for his intended target (Castro), just as many question his methods.

In Cuba, Fidel Castro staged one of his many marches to ask that the US extradite Posada-Carriles to Cuba to face “justice” (fat chance). The Cuban tyrant has a few skeletons of his own in his closet. The Cuban Government (AKA Castro) has yet to prosecute anyone involved with the downing of two unarmed civilian aircraft over international waters in 1996 (Killing four American Citizens) or the sinking of the Tugboat 13 of March that sent dozens of men, women and children to their deaths on the ocean floor.

President Bush recorded a gratuitous speech for exiles on May 20th. Like most of his predecessors, President Bush expressed his wish for democracy and freedom in Cuba (hopefully not like his vision in Iraq), while reminding everyone (who cared to listen) of all the travel and trade restrictions he has placed on his own subjects.

The weekend events in Miami were not solely dedicated to the problems posed by Posada-Carriles or concerns about the outcome of the assembly. Cuba Nostalgia, an annual exhibit filled with exhibitors and vendors was up and running. Those wanting to relive moments that had long ago passed into clouded memories, or others who were simply curious about the past of what has become the equivalent of a dilapidated island prison, strolled through the exhibits. Booths exhibiting art, selling drinks like Mojitos or Cuba Libres (rum and Coke), serving “pan con lechon” (pork sandwich), peddling hand rolled cigars, were bustling as was a well attended dance contest. Hundreds gathered around the dance floor to watch couples show their prowess in the many dances created in Cuba. As the multitude watched the participants dance mambo, salsa, danson, and conga, not far away stood booths that only a trickle of souls visited. These booths were collecting donations for Martha Beatriz Roque’s organization and selling books about Cuban patriot Father Felix Varela.

On the island the assembly passed many resolutions, most dealing with human rights and democracy issues. One resolution (if anybody bothers to read it) should show cause for concern. This resolution states, “the government of Cuba claims that it’s Marxist-Leninist when in actuality it’s Stalinist.” Do the delegates and Ms. Roque believe that a Marxist-Leninist government is viable as opposed to a Stalinist regime? Apparently, some on the island see a difference, while any difference is impalpable by most Cubans in exile.

There is little doubt that Cuba will be better off once Castro has left the planet (the question is to what degree), but what does the future hold for Cubans on the Island and those in exile? Will Cubans on the Island ever experience true capitalism and freedom? Will exiles be able to rekindle moments that today are nothing more than perfectly faded memories? Will the United States government back a “transition” government headed by Raul Castro and his minions? Will chaos erupt once Fidel Castro’s rule expires? The future of Cuba is uncertain and precarious but one thing is certain, regardless of how it all plays out, Cubans all over the world will continue to chew on pan con lechon, drink cafecitos, sip Mojitos and dance to their heart's content.

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