Saturday, February 04, 2006

Fashion statement

I have zero patience for those who are soft on communism. Said apologists tend to be part of my social circle: artists, social liberals, malcontents ... ironic since they are the very types who suffer most under totalitarian regimes.

So before you slip on that Che Guevara T-shirt, you might want to read this diary --- which first appeared in the Oct. 25 edition of El Mundo --- written by a Spanish tourist who recently visited Cuba:

"We arrived in Cuba without political prejudices, without any intention to set foot in Varadero beach, intent on seeing the country outside the much-lauded tourist areas," recalls Spanish backpacker Isane Aparicio Busto. "The blow was shocking. We left with our perceptions about the reality of the Cuban Revolution -- and even with our prior social and political principles -- demolished.

"All we'd heard about from many Europeans who traveled to Cuba was the rum, the happiness, the salsa, the Caribbean party atmosphere. But they hadn't mentioned the prostitution either -- so we should have known they weren't totally leveling with us. We'd traveled to Mexico City and Caracas and seen the horrible slums on the outskirts of these cities. But through old Havana we found ourselves walking constantly through a miasma of pestilential odors, with morose faces looking at us from decrepit doorways. My friend and I kept looking at each other asking, 'Where in the hell have all the people traveled that kept telling us poverty didn't exist in Revolutionary Cuba?'

"We saw police everywhere. And it soon became obvious that Cubans are the victims of the 21st century's version of apartheid. Hotels for foreign tourists, stores for foreign tourists, buses for foreign tourists -- a world set apart from the Cubans themselves as they are prevented by the police from entering. So we asked a few Cubans how they felt about this system.

"And they all answered -- while looking around -- that it was fine, had to be done that way. That it was the proper way to protect tourists because many Cubans are scoundrels. So was this that proud nationalism of Revolutionary Cuba we'd heard about? The nation's impoverished people forced to treat foreigners with such meekness and deference -- to grovel before them?

"We wanted to stay away from the hotels and tried staying at the house of a Cuban lady named Mari. On the first day there, the block chieftain for the local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, shows up and says she's out of line and either she pays her the fee we've been paying or she'll promptly report this to the police. So we leave.

"We learned that the Cuban system is nothing but misery, moral mendacity and abuse. The system simply smothers you. And yet this revolution (with it's Che Guevara banners) has sold itself to the youth of the world as a paradigm of equality, liberty and national liberation. And the leaders that govern my country (Spain) simply refuse to come out and call this place a dictatorship. The Cuban people's personal aspirations seemed completely mutilated. I've never felt such anguish about a nation and a people in my life. If I were a Cuban, I'd certainly be on a raft."

It should be noted that, prior to Castro's revolution, Cuba's per capita income was nearly double Spain's.

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