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Issue #1726      April 13, 2016

On freedom and revolution

A reflection on the speech by US President Obama to the Cuban people and the reply by Fidel Castro.

Many people around the world will have followed the visit by US President Obama and his wife Michelle to Cuba with some interest. They are not alone in this as I have also been following the visit with keen interest – not only what was said but what was not said and done.

That tortured and silly handshake was the least of it.

What was of most interest was the speech by Obama to the Cuban people from the Alicia Alonso theatre. It is disingenuous to say that, “People in both of our countries have sung along with pop singers Celia Cruz or Gloria Estefan and now listen to reggaeton or Pitbull.

Cruz and Estefan are or were both openly against the Cuban Revolution – especially Estefan and her hankering for a Cuba that did not have socialism as can be heard on her song, “Mi Tierra” (My country).

Cuba has its own home-grown exponents or representatives of Salsa and many other types of music which the Cuban people perform. As for the Rolling Stones playing in Havana, big deal! A performance at the Club Tropicana is worth a lot more with its high standard of music, dance, pure entertainment and real culture.

Obama used Martin Luther King Jnr’s quote, “We should not fear change, we should embrace it”, to take a shot at the Cuban Revolution, when it could just have easily been applied to himself and the US. The US should embrace socialism as the free market only makes capital free; it does not make people free. The social democrat in the US presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders, is giving change a shot. I wonder if Obama has seen the movie about the global financial crisis, The Big Short.

The US media did not give much attention to the quote by the Cuban apostle Jose Marti used by Obama when he said, “Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think and to speak without hypocrisy”

Really!

How much hypocrisy was there in Obama’s speech? He was a hypocrite on the very next line!

“Every person should be equal under the law”. Were the Cuban Five accorded that treatment by the US legal system?

“I believe citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear and to organise and to criticise their government.” I’m sure Professor Noam Chomsky, the author of Manufacturing Consent and Deterring Democracy could give you an argument about how the corporate media controls what will be said and how it will be said. One need only to read the opinions in Cuba’s nation newspaper Granma to see the difference.

Don’t talk to me about freedom of the press in the US. The only place I could find the entire text of the speech by Obama in English was on the Cuban government website. It is also on YouTube if people want to watch the performance.

The New York Times, LA Times and Miami Herald for instance only reported those parts of Obama’s speech that were critical of Cuba, said nice things about the US, nice things about the Cuban people, but left out completely those parts of Obama’s speech that were critical of the US – “Flaws in the American system – economic inequality, the death penalty, racial discrimination, wars abroad ... and too much money in American politics.” There is no private money funding election campaigns in Cuban democracy. All citizens are free to nominate for public office and all are free to vote and more than 90 percent participate in the regular elections of the National Assembly.

Obama spoke of the US election system as not being pretty at times and at other times frustrating but he couldn’t bring himself to say the name Donald Trump as it would have shot his argument down in flames.

But the proof of the US government’s good intentions will be when the Economic Blockade is lifted and territory of Guantánamo Bay that was taken from the Cuban people through the trickery of the Platt Amendment, is returned to the Cuban people (and not just the closure of that horrible prison with its legacy of rendition and torture).

On March 28, Fidel Castro offered his reply in Granma to Obama’s speech. Fidel reminded Obama and his fellow Cubans of the struggle to achieve independence from US imperialism around the time Obama was born in 1961, (at the time of the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion by exiles, funded and organised by the Kennedy administration) saying, “Nobody should be under the illusion that the people of this dignified and selfless country will renounce the glory, the rights or the spiritual wealth they have gained with the development of education, science and culture.”

Fidel concluded by warning, “We are capable of producing the food and material riches we need with the efforts and intelligence of our people. We do not need the empire to give us anything.”

Next article – Trump and Clinton: Censoring the unpalatable

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