Viva Cuba!


It’s hard to know how Cubans could have had a better Christmas present.  On second thoughts, it’s easy actually: the US could have declared an end to its small-minded, bullying economic blockade of Cuba which has been going on for well over fifty years. But it’ll come. President Obama has declared moves to normalise diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba, which he described as “out-dated”. Cuba’s President Raoul Castro welcomed the shift. Apparently the improved relations were helped a great deal by Pope Francis, and it’s expected that the US will open an embassy in Havana in the coming months.

But there’s one group that’s not joining in the outbreak of good cheer and hostility-ending. Anti-Castro Cubans, based in Miami, are livid about the eighteen months of negotiations between the two governments. Why? Because nobody told them. They had no say. And why would Obama make sure they were kept outside the loop? Because he figured that the Cuban exiles would do all they could to wreck the negotiations and maintain the status quo. “A slap in the face and a threat to national security” was just one of the yelps to be heard.

Sound familiar? It should, especially if you’re of a certain age. When Maggie Thatcher and Garret Fitzgerald signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985 at Hillsborough, unionism went bananas. Every or nearly every town in the state had its own “Ballygobackwards Says No”  banner. Paisley addressed a quarter million unionists at Belfast City Hall and promised that “Never, never, never, never” would there be south of Ireland interference in the running of the northern state. Unionists were furious at what had been agreed and were particularly enraged that it had been conducted without involving them. And why did Garret Fitzgerald and Co not involve them? Because they knew that agreement would never get off the ground if Paisley and Co got wind of it.

But he didn’t, and the Anglo-Irish Agreement helped pave a way for the Good Friday Agreement, and anyone who says that hasn’t left us better off must be very fond of conflict and bloodshed. Paisley learned that “Never!” could be softened  to “Oh, OK”, power-sharing was agreed and new possibilities emerged. Whether or not the best use has been made of those possibilities – sin sceal eile. But while the dinosaurs here haven’t become extinct, their ranks have been thinned. So a message to the Cuban exiles lepping up and down and howling “Betrayal!”  this morning. Get used to it, guys, and carve out the best deal you can for yourselves. While there’s still time.



31 Responses to Viva Cuba!

  1. Freddy Mallins December 18, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    Fully agree Jude. As you correctly say however, the cataclysm in NI wasn’t sufficient to wipe out the dinosaurs. I was listening to one of them on the radio this morning in the guise of Paul Giivan of the DUP. He is in the vanguard of the “conscience clause” variety of dinosaur who want to allow bakeries and bed and breakfasts to dust off their, “no Gays allowed” signs and place them back in the windows.
    That’s bad enough in itself, but it would be only a matter of time before this so called Conscience clause were used against, Black people, Muslims and Taigs.
    It must be strangled at birth and Givan must be told by right thinking people, that like it or not, most of society has in fact evolved.

  2. neill December 18, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    Once again Obama proves why he has completely failed as President.

    Doing backdoor deals with a dictatorship that has severely curtailed human rights especially focusing on the Gay community and yet you ask the Cuban exiles to simply accept that Cuba has to remain under a dictatorship instead of moving to democratic values .

    Still its always nice to see Judes commitment to democracy and individual human rights

    • Jude Collins December 18, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

      Cuba actually has elections, has a health system and an education system (despite US blockade) which is the envy of many countries. And anyone I’ve ever spoken to who has visited there speaks of it and its people with admiration and joy.

      • neill December 18, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

        Jude can you remember the last time a right wing govt got elected in Cuba?

        has a health system and an education system (despite US blockade) which is the envy of many countries. And anyone I’ve ever spoken to who has visited there speaks of it and its people with admiration and joy.

        Well that’s ok then lets get rid of democracy and civil liberties in Europe then and perhaps things will improve.

        • Jude Collins December 18, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

          Explain how the voting system in Cuba = dictatorship, neill.

          • neill December 18, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

            I suspect this is the moment Jude that your blog jumped the shark.

            This comes from the Guardian

            The US embargo against Cuba is nothing less than an act of vindictiveness and spite; the fact it is finally crumbling will alleviate the suffering of millions of Cubans. It’s “just another concession to a tyranny”, wails Republican senator Marco Rubio. Such politicians risk drowning in their own hypocrisy: their selective interest in human rights does not extend to imposing an embargo against Saudi Arabia, a vicious, woman-oppressing tyranny that decapitates people for being gay or “sorcerers”. Despite sending tens of thousands of American soldiers to die (and killing countless civilians) in Vietnam, the US normalised ties with the ostensibly Communist-ruled south-east Asian nation in the 1990s. So why not Cuba?

            But here’s a quid pro quo. Now this long-lasting foreign policy outrage is finally having a rendezvous with common sense, opponents of the embargo need to talk a lot more loudly about democracy in Cuba. Yes, the Cuban revolution has delivered many achievements that have transformed lives: they are all the more the impressive given the nation has been embargoed by a global superpower located 90 miles away for so many decades. Its healthcare system is recognised by the World Health Organisation as one of the world’s finest. Its life expectancy is roughly the same as that of the United States. The island sends tens of thousands of doctors abroad to save lives in developing nations. It has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. It is a pioneer of sustainable development and a keen promoter of urban agriculture, or “organopónicos”. All of these are examples that nations – rich and poor – can and should learn from.

            And yes, the revolution overthrew a human rights-abusing US-backed dictator, Fulgencio Batista, who presided over corruption, gangsterism and chronic social and economic injustice. But that was 55 years ago. Yes, Cuba was spared the horrors of the US-backed regimes in Latin America that disappeared thousands and threw political dissidents out of helicopters. But – with the glaring exception of Colombia – the sordid era of US-backed brutality in Latin America is at an end, thanks to progressive governments that promote social justice as well as democracy. They have lifted 56 million people out of poverty this millennium, and have done so without imposing a dictatorship.

            Cuba’s human rights have been steadily improving: as Human Rights Watch – arch-critics of the Cuban regime – have put it, the government has released dozens of political prisoners (although they now face exile), and punitive prison sentences and “draconian travel restrictions” are being relaxed. But it is not good enough. Cuba is not a nation where the people can freely determine who represents them. Freedom of speech is curtailed, as is a free media. Social and economic rights are not compensation for political rights; they should complement each other.

            There were many dictatorships that called themselves “socialist” in the 20th century: almost all fell, and their lasting contribution has been to sully the cause of socialism. Democracy is a universal right, not something that only some peoples or some cultures deserve. Having an exceptional healthcare and education system, or defying a concerted attack by a global superpower, does not mean being let off the hook when it comes to allowing your people to vote for whoever they want. Supporters of the Castros have long argued that a transition to democracy is made impossible by US hostility. Well, that excuse may now disappear. If Cuba establishes democracy – while maintaining the grand achievements of the revolution – it could become a beacon for those who desire an alternative once again. But those who defend the political status quo in Cuba do a disservice to both democracy and to socialism. The embargo is disappearing; so, too, must dictatorship.

        • Billy the kid December 20, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

          Can you remember the last time a left wing government got elected in the USA?

  3. Mick Early December 18, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    good comparison Jude! I always compared our Loyalist brethern with our white South African brether and Zioist brethern, same same backwatd looking, opressive ideals.

    • neill December 18, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

      Good mass generalisation there Mick I suppose by your logic SF have no problem with child abuse after all their leader ignored it and did nothing about it for years….?

      • Mary Jo December 18, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

        Just one word in response to the ongoing smearing of Adams: Kincora.

        • Jude Collins December 18, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

          Stand by for a Sindo headline calling for it to be thoroughly investigated. On second thoughts, maybe not…

        • neill December 18, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

          Aye what Unionist party is being lead by a person who ignored child abuse and rape?

          If you have facts please release them

          • Jude Collins December 18, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

            Ditto, Neill

          • Ruaidri Ua Conchoba December 18, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

            The Cuban revolution was wholly jusitifed in its overthrowing of an extreme right-wing dictatorship.
            The USA tried to undermine the building of a new Cuban socialist society on its doorstep – you are presumaby aware of the USA’s farcical ‘Bay Of Pigs’ invasion force?
            Obama has probably done a deal with Cuba to prevent Russia again offering Cuba the sort of “assistance” the USA is offering Ukraine in USA’s efforts to undermine Russian interests in its region.

            Child abuse, Neil, you really want to play that whataboutery card? Ok.
            Have you seen the video of founding DUP party leader Ian Paisley being challenged reference him covering-up child abuse at Kincora boys home; watch it here
            And don’t bother moving onto the evil of child abuse within the ranks of the Catholic Church, as such evil was equally prevalent within the Protestant faith; read the facts here and here

            Jude, this is an execellent blog post 🙂

        • Wolfe tone December 19, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

          Never mind kincora, what about Dolphin square, Pimlico just around the corner from Westminster? Were the people who make the law and uphold the law, breaking all sorts of laws in their spare time??
          The people who pontificate about the prospect of an alleged protector of a child abuser taking power in Dublin, are strangely silent about such a scenario having already happened and happening in London.
          Anyone know where I can get a ted Heath (xmas wreath)? ; )

      • paddykool December 18, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

        No need to generalise about child abuse either Neill. Every one of us is responsible for all kinds of abuse…”child ” or otherwise. Check the source of that shirt you are wearing and you might be surprised at the age of the person who stitched it together and the pittance that person is being paid….you never know where the abuse arises and how it is supported.

    • Jude Collins December 18, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

      I seem to remember just that, PK. I’m surprised they weren’t arrested by the dictator…

  4. giordanobruno December 18, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    I don’t detect much sympathy for the Cuban exiles from your piece.Many were genuine refugees fleeing Castro’s worst excesses.
    There is however, much to be admired about Cuba and there is an interesting article in the Guardian about this issue, calling for democratic reform by the Castro regime.
    I am sure you wholeheartedly endorse such a move and an end to government by dictatorship.
    Leaders should not hold on to power too long.
    30 years is more than enough, eh Jude?

    • Jude Collins December 18, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

      Some people call Cuba a dictatorship, some call it a democracy. It certainly holds elections. Cuba spends 10% of its annual budget on education (Britain spends 2%) which probably explains its 99.8% literacy rate. It also has an outstanding health care system – despite the US blockade, life expectancy and infant mortality rates are nearly the same as those of the US. Its doctor-to-patient ratios equal any country in Western Europe.
      30 years more than enough? Depends on the quality of your leadership. Some leaders, one year is too much. Eh David?

      • paddykool December 18, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

        That’s a good point about the Cuban health service , Jude .Didn’t some of our own politicians make the trip there within this past few years to see how it was done?

      • giordanobruno December 18, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

        Still no sympathy for the exiles then?
        The health service does seem to be remarkable and there are other things to admire too. But you should to take your head out of the sand and see reality.
        Both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have plenty to say about Cuba and repression of dissent, prisoners of conscience, exiles etc. Have a look for yourself.
        I doubt if most Cubans could even see this blog.
        No point in viewing the world through rose tinted spectacles.

        • Jude Collins December 18, 2014 at 6:53 pm #

          Nope, gio, not even a smidgin. I assure you, having lived here as long as I have, rose-tinted specs have been discarded long ago. Maybe the flaws in the Cuban system could have something to do with a 50+ year blockade? Context, my dear boy, context…

          • giordanobruno December 18, 2014 at 9:24 pm #

            No doubt that is part of it.
            But the blockade did not cause the regime to exile or imprison dissenters. I don’t see why a blockade would cause the benevolent dictator to mistreat Cuban citizens?
            So for the third time of asking….any sympathy for the people exiled?
            It’s ok to criticise Castro you know. It’s not as if we are talking about Gerry here.

        • Ruaidri Ua Conchoba December 18, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

          Cuba, I imagine, is no less brutal than the British, Amercian, Chinese, Russian and other nation states toward their so-called dissenters – how many of those being mistreated in Cuba are in truth agent provocateurs for the USA whose only purpose is to undermine the Government the people of Cuba elected?

          • neill December 19, 2014 at 7:40 am #

            The Cuban revolution was wholly jusitifed in its overthrowing of an extreme right-wing dictatorship.

            To be replaced by an extreme leftwing dictatorship.

            Isnt it interesting that many people on here actively support the prevention of basic human rights being spread to Cuba and yet the same contributors support SF doesnt that really tell you need to know about the party and its supporters.

          • giordanobruno December 19, 2014 at 9:18 am #

            Damning Cuba with faint praise there!
            Are you agreeing with me that a move to a more open democratic system is now required?

  5. Sherdy December 18, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    ‘In 1985 unionism went bananas’ – was it not ever thus?
    Even though the late Brian Faulkner declared that NI was not a banana republic, some of his followers seemed to contradict him.
    One thing I noticed about obamas declaration yesterday was that there was no apology for the deliberate damage American politicians had inflicted on this much smaller and weaker country.
    And all because they did not like the excesses of capitalism which we have seen over the past six years wrecking the world economy.
    Another lessen will soon be upon us with the US manoeuvrings of the world oil market to damage the Russian economy, but will hit the rest of the world up the backside, especially the US, in the next couple of years.
    If America is the showcase for democracy, for God’s sake somebody find another system!

  6. paddykool December 18, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    The world is a vastly different place now than it was in 1960 but a lot of people can’t seem to see that or have been left hoking and poking about in ancient history .

    • RJC December 18, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

      1960 would be a huge step forward for those of us still living in 1690…

  7. michael c December 18, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

    Ireland can claim credit for the Cuban revolution.Che Guevara ‘s father put down the success to the fact that “the blood of the Irish rebels flows in his (Che’s ) veins!

  8. ANOTHER JUDE December 18, 2014 at 9:01 pm #

    Fair play to Pope Francis, it is about time Cuba was left alone, President Obama deserves credit too.I do worry for his safety though, wasn`t JFK about to start normalising relations with Fidel just before he was shot? The right wing hawks do not look kindly on peace moves of any kind, bad for their military hardware sales.