Monday, 24 January 2011

Obama Loosens Regulations on Travel to Cuba

       We noticed that Obama has cleared the way for "certain academic groups, working for academic credit and religious groups doing religious work in Cuba".... and these groups will have permission now to go to Cuba.   Two things:
       (1)     Immediately upon announcing this "new openning" to Cuba, Raul and Fidel kick sand in the face of Obama, America, Cubans here, Cubans there, and to general tourism and investment throughout America by eliminating existing programs of contact and currency interchange, electronic and direct.    I do not know if this was the "hope" part or the "change" part.
      (2)      The permits to go were going to be issued exclusively to "friendly" academic and religious groups.   The rabidly pro-communist, psuedo-Evangelical "Pastors for Peace" comes to mind....they have about as much to do with pastoral service and peace as the "Reverend" Jim Jones of Jonestown fame.....although they may lack the Kool - Aid still.    For years they have come through the McAllen - Reynosa port of entry area, on their way to and from Cuba.   They arrive with much fanfare saying they are taking "necessities" to the Cuban people that they are denied by the "blockade" against Cuba promulgated by imperialist, counter-revolutionary forces funded by special corporate interests.    Their caravan is always compose of beat-up old busses, shabby rattle-trap vans and stationwagons....true poverty-mobiles.    They present themselves as shabby, unshaven, dirty, dishevelled "Grapes of Wrath" extras...and smell of "exotic" fragrances.
      Envision Peter, Paul, & Mary, Pete Seeger, Woodie Guthrie, and maybe Bruce Springsteen all without a bath for more than the normal three weeks, all singing, "This Land is My Land, This Land's Not Your Land", "God Bless the Grass That Grows Through Concrete", "Little Boxes", and of course, "If I Had a Hammer (and sickle), It would be 'Made in China'"
   They proceed to Tampico where a specially arranged Cuban tramp freighter loads them up and delivers them and their "relief supplies" to the Comite' Revolucionario del Pueblo Cubano.   Only religious groups that are approved by the tightly controlled, pro-liberation theology Cuban Roman Catholic Church can have access to the populace.
    We can only imagine how many delegations from the National Council of Churches and graduate schools of the elite universities were celebrating this new opportunity to express solidarity the Revolution efforts to advance the efforts of Marti', Bolivar, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Mao, Marx and Benito Juarez.   (Their words, not mine).

      It brings to mind another time, another rub-a-dub-dub, three-men-in-a-tub.    Fidel Castro Ruz, Raul Castro Ruz, and Ernesto Guevara de la Serna....on tour in Texas....a long time ago.
     Back in 1958, the little threesome, along with eight or nine other rough looking thuggish types made landfall at the tip of South Texas...docking in Port Isabel with a beat up fishing boat. They cleared customs there with supposedly valid Cuban passports, while a few of them had legal resident alien permits from the United States, along with papers which entitled them to seek remunerative employment. Others had Commonwealth, American Passports, being from Puerto Rico.
     Later, it turned out that the ones with work papers had actually bought or stolen the papers, and that the documents pertained to Mexican nationals who had reported the papers stolen in Houston. Two carried emergency entry permits, directly issued by the United States Department of State....issued from Washington, D.C. (???)
      They made their way inland in station wagons provided and driven by waiting friends, arriving finally to McAllen, Texas where they checked into the venerable Hotel Casa de Palmas in that city's centermost point. While there, they went about meeting with various people of public and private importance, and also held long, midnight-oil-burning meetings in their rooms with persons unknown and/or unremembered.

      Oddly, they held a press conference which was attended by the local print media and the two local television stations, KGBT - Harlingen and KRGV - Weslaco. They declared that they really were "freedom fighters" engaged in the overthrow of the tyrannical dictator Fulgencio Batista, and that they were in the Lower Rio Grande Valley to raise money, buy supplies, and establish communication systems that would help in their long term efforts to expulse the hated Batista.

      I remember that they went to the public schools in McAllen, visiting the two junior high schools, Travis and Lamar, and the High School....and talking to students during their home room periods. The wore olive drab fatigues with military caps and combat boots. Most had scruffy beards and smelled a little different from regular folks. They were very dedicated to their cause and left no coin unturned.....requesting and collecting even the silver quarter/dollars many students had for lunch money or for squandering on corn nuts and soda pops.

       Being only a seventh grader, I had the pleasure of having only one of the lesser liberators hustle our loose change and tell us that every dollar will be spent on feeding the children of the "freedom fighters" who are trying to rid Cuba of oppression, just like the Hungarians fought the Russians, and to help "finish the work started by America when they helped us break away from Spain a half-century ago". In the large recess yard, after the bell, we were treated to "El Comandante" , a fellow named Fidel, signing autographs and speaking almost totally un-accented English with a large gaggle of enthralled junior high mushheads.

       It was two or three days later that the news showed footage of the "freedom fighters" boarding their unlikely craft in Port Isabel to make the "dangerous voyage to an even more dangerous duty....Opposing tyranny where ever it might be found in the Americas". We thought we had really been living something important, fine, and great.
     There was one old curmudgeon...(.perhaps I, as a trainee curmudgeon, carry his spirit)....who railed against Castro and all his crowd,     Jason Matthews, an eccentric, wealthy genius, publisher, artist, poet, investor, and adamant anti-Nazi and anti-Communist. He establish a large John Birch Society group in the McAllen area....probably 200 people....conducted youth instructional clubs in many cities, and published the right-wing magazine "Mercury" for many years....At one time it had a monthly circulation approaching 500,000. That is a subscription, mailed circulation .
       Mr. Matthews set the record straight in various forums, and was immediately poo-poo'd and discounted by the  more intelligent, informed, and enlightened people. Reasonable people......moderate people....."Mr. Matthews is an extremist, he is a racist, he is an advocate for the wealthy special interests." 
       They assured us that Fidel Castro is a "freedom fighter" like a agrarian reformer.....a defender of the impoverished who are enslaved by the Spanish system of haciendas and peones...of those with privilege and those of want....of a people enslaved by discrimination and corruption of a regime that is owned by the Mafia." they informed us with authoritative smirks.
      Of course, it turned out that Edward R, Murrow and the smart people were half-right and all wrong.     Before seven years had passed, Cuba was reduced from 4th highest per capita income of all nations in the Americas to next-to-last.....where it has stayed after 50 years of revolution.

 How's that "hope & change" working for you?

More information will be coming out later to-day.   Thank you all for your comments and observations....Bless the folks who understand my pitiful attempts at humour....and feel free to question, advise, and participate.    Your transmissions will not be used on this blog without explicit permission.   They are never otherwise revealed away from this computer.
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El Gringo Viejo