CubaNews list begins its fifth year
by Walter Lippmann, August 30, 2004

Read anniversary greetings received Click here

From time to time it's helpful to take some time out from the regular flow of news gathering and commentary to look in a broader way at the work and service this list is providing.

CubaNews began four years ago when a group of internet activists who had worked together in the struggle for Elian Gonzalez' put together an on-going resource for news and information about the island. The Elian struggle marked a great turning point in the US-Cuban relationship. For the first time, the majority of the people of the United States got to see some of the reality of the behavior encouraged by the wealthy rightist minority of the Cuban exile community. And for the first time in years, perhaps since the Bay of pigs, the Cuban exile rightists were defeated in a key battle, and justice prevailed with Elian.

Some of us knew one another from other struggle, some of us had never, and have never actually met, but we've learned to work together to share lots of useful information

Following the Elian Gonzalez fight we decided that an ongoing mechanism was needed to share information among ourselves, and to share it with others who wanted to follow the progress of the Cuban Revolution. We wanted to inform ourselves and anyone interested about Cuban reality, on political, social, cultural and many other levels.

Readership has grown steadily. When we began we had something like 125 or 150 subscribers. Now we've got over 600. The main items on this list also are posted to a separate "best-of" list which goes to another 120 subscribers. Many of those are also posted to some other sites as well, so we're getting the information out to lots of people. No money is charged, and all we ask is that people take a careful look at the material. Readers who wish to participate in this ongoing process are welcome to contribute their thoughts and energies to the process as well.

This list has posted over twenty-nine THOUSAND e-mails from, about or related to Cuba in these past four years. This list draws from the Cuban, US, international and left and alternative media to provide readers with a wide selection of information on Cuba.

The list not only collects and shares information on the island's politics and the political links between Cuba and other countries but also provides information on cultural reflections, from music to theater, the movies and so forth. Things that are taking place on the island or in the Cuban diaspora are subjects of interest for the readers of this list.

For myself, this has been my full time, and more than full-time work from the first days. I try to find as much material which adds to our understanding as possible. It's daunting task and one which can't ever be completed. I'm glad that we have others also participating, and whose work brings us materials which no one person could ever bring. I'd like to acknowledge the work of Heikki Sipila who checks Radio Havana daily and sends us notes in from there. New York Transfer News is a comprehensive service on a full range of issues. They've been sharing material which they glean from the Cuban and international media as well, as has Dublin's Simon McGuinness. I'm grateful to each of them, and others for their active role in producing CubaNews.

My formal title in the Yahoo system is "moderator", and I'm more or less the editor in chief and am ultimately responsible for what goes out to the lists. We need to know what's being said both by Cuba's friends and its adversaries, and to see how Cuba fits in and relates to the broader international struggles for social justice and national self-determination. That's why you'll find so many different kinds of articles from so many different perspectives. You decide what's most useful to you and save or else disregard the rest.

Sometimes I find that I am so involved in the day-to-day work of finding and sharing that it's necessary to take some time away, and to pull back and try to look at the broader picture. Last week I took some time to visit friends and family up in the Bay Area. I got to meet some other readers of these lists, to see some new faces and places, and was able to find several new books which you'll want to know about. It's amazing go me how much literature is pouring out about Cuba these days and quite a bit of it is valuable. Two new (to me) books are:

OPEN YOUR EYES AND SOAR: Cuban Women Writing Now, a collection of short stories by Cuban women on the island telling about life and its challenges and contradictions. Another one is HAVANA: Two Faces of the Antillean Metropolis, revised edition, a detailed look at the city's history, politics and development projects. Readers who find books like these are encouraged to send in reviews so we can all learn more and more over time.

Take a look at the very first messages which were posted to the list when it began. You'll find familiar messages and posters in the earliest messages which were sent out here:

Cuba's close relationship with the United States, mostly one of antagonism since the triumph of the Revolution's triumph in 1959, has meant we've had to both cover events on the island as well as the discussions and debates over Cuba which occur in the US as is the case from time to time. For the most part, the US media has avoided saying anything good about Cuba over the years since the Revolution's triumph. Occasionally some nice story about music gets through, but Cuba is normally ignored. When it's not ignored, Cuban society is reviled or its problems are dwelled upon without end. Reading about Cuba in the corporate media, for the most part, though not entirely, has a dreary predictability, it's sad to say.

Washington's desire to overthrow the Cuban Revolution, and thus to return the island to the barbaric regimes of the past, are themes which have dominated US political discussion form the beginning. Both of the dominant candidates for the US presidency are fully committed to the overthrow of the Revolution. They differ on the tactics best calculated to carry this goal out.

For example, in Miami last week, George W. Bush told a group of Miami rightists, in his words, "We will not rest until the Cuban people enjoy the same freedom in Havana that they enjoy here."

John Kerry, the Democrat, sounds a similar note: "I am committed to seeing the end to the Castro regime, which I have long condemned for its flagrant human rights abuse and political oppression. There is no excuse for the Castro regime to hold down over 11 million talented and hardworking citizens of the Americas, some of our closest neighbors. Let there be no mistake about my view: I will support effective and peaceful strategies that will hasten the end of the Castro regime as soon as possible, and enable the Cuban people to take their rightful place in the democratic community of the Americas.

Kerry, however, then adds, "But the policy of this Administration punishes and isolates the Cuban people while leaving Castro and his consorts unharmed, free to blame the United States for their own failures." 
Read Kerry's full Cuba policy here: 

The US media and most people in the United States receive little or no information on Cuban life beyond its problems (both real and imagined). For two countries who are so closely interlinked, this is most unfortunate. In Cuba they pay a great deal of very careful attention to politics in the United States. Here's an interview done a few weeks ago with Ricardo Alarcon, President of Cuba's National Assembly in which he pays the closest kind of attention to the details of US politics. I'm sure you'll find his comments worth considering carefully:

The role of the Cuban exile rightists in US political life is something quite few people in the United States really know about. The stolen US presidential election of 2000, where the Democrat Gore received half a million votes more than Bush, yet Bush then became President of the United States following a tainted Florida vote, had national and ultimately international implications.

Particularly in light of the recent recall referendum held in Venezuela, don't we wish we had such a procedure to recall a president in the United States?

Barring that, at least maybe we could have some of those same international observers who helped validate the Venezuelan election could, and certainly they SHOULD, go to a much closer place and go to work quickly in Florida. This is another area where Ricardo Alarcon has made some thoughtful proposals which need wide circulation: 

While Bush was telling Cubans in Miami that he wants to bring the Cuban people "the same freedom" as in the United States, a group of three Cuban exiled terrorists, each one convicted of terrorist activities including IN THE UNITED STATES ITSELF, were welcomed into the United States by the US government:

The four men who were "pardoned" by the Panamanian regime have a heavy and well-documented record of violent terrorist activities. Take a look at what the Washington Post reported:

Here are their records, listed by the Cuban foreign ministry: 

While these four terrorists have been released and three of them made welcome by the United States government, just in time for a Bush campaign event in Miami (and one even appeared on Miami TV in a featured slot on Spanish-language TV there.) the five Cuban men who came to the United States to monitor terrorist groups and their activities, and who are known as the "Cuban Five", remain locked in prison facing decades long terms. They are being held in maximum security prisons though they were not convicted nor even CHARGED, with a single violent act, or even of any intent to commit a single violent act.

CubaNews follows the case of the Cuban five closely, and you can obtain complete detailed information on their case here:  Please keep in mind that one of the most persistent quotes we've heard from George W. Bush has been his famous "Those who harbor a terrorist are as guilty as the terrorist himself." But the warm welcome which was given these Cuban exile terrorists surely means they're now being harbored in the United States, doesn't it? What else could it mean???

Since Bush has pledged to bring to Cuba "the same" freedoms we have in the United States, CubaNews from time to time points out what some of those freedoms really are. While Cubans have their problems, even a small, poor and blockaded country such as Cuba has been able to provide cradle-to-the-grave medical care for its entire population, because it's gotten rid of the crime, violence and greed-based private profit social system.

Last week all the major US media reported that those lacking health care in this model country have risen to all-time record heights. As of this year, 45 MILLION people in the US are without health insurance while 100% of the entire Cuban population is covered, from the cradle to the grave. And so if what the US has is what Washington wants to impose on the Cuban people, reports like these, which are covered in the Cuban media regularly, can help disabuse Cubans of whatever illusions some of them have about life in the United States.

We've sent out materials comparing the educational options open to Cubans with those in the United States. Whenever I go to a movie here and pay up to nine or ten DOLLARS a seat, I keep in mind that movies in Cuba cost but two Cuban pesos to get in. Arts in general are available to Cubans for what people in the United States would consider a pittance. While housing is difficult in Cuba and moving is very difficult, there are no homeless people and no one is starving though food is expensive and not always available. We like to look at these differences and try to understand them as we watch the United States trying to impose the "American way of life" on the people of Cuba.

As I said, Cubans have many challenges, difficulties and problems, but they also have open public governmental discussions of racism, women's empowerment and homophobia. The lists here are endless, but you get the general idea.

Another story which does get reported, but not as prominently as it should, is the expanding business links between the US and Cuba. It constantly amazes me when I tell people that the United States has become a leading supplier of food and other agricultural commodities to Cuba. Cuba is indeed the best customer US businesses have, since under US policies, Cuba, unlike other countries, cannot use conventional financing, but must pay for everything in cash. And while this is a cumbersome and expensive process, a growing section of the US business community is seeing opportunity in Cuba.

Earlier this summer a San Diego biotechnology company signed an amazing $35 MILLION dollar contract to work on a cancer cure with a Cuban biotech firm. And while the US prevents Cuba from receiving these payments directly in the form of money, Cuba can use these funds to pay for its food purchases from the United States. If only Cuba could freely sell its goods and services in the United States, and if only restrictions on travel to Cuba were lifted, US companies could do a lot more business. These are fascinating stories as they develop and we will be continuing to follow up on them as much as we can.

Though we cannot predict the future in more than general ways, we can, I think, draw hope and optimism from the growth of a culture of resistance, both in the United States and beyond. The exposure of the tortures which Washington and its allies in Iraq have carried out have helped the public learn what Washington's methods and goal are. They're not new, but to millions of people, learning about them is new. The incredible success of such anti-war phenomena as Michael Moore's wonderful FAHRENHEIT 9/11 demonstrates that there is a public out there anxious to learn and rightfully distrustful of the dominant corporate media. This is why our work getting out genuine news about Cuba is both timely and practical, though it may not always seem that way from day to day.

Another special feature of this list is our goal of providing translations of news and analysis from the Cuban media which wouldn't otherwise be made available to the English-speaking public. To this end we've found lots of materials one a wide range of subjects, from movies to sexuality, from the history of the world socialist movement through tattooing and they've been made available, largely through the work of people who have these abilities and can help us. If your Spanish is up to this task and you'd like to help, we could definitely use more assistance in this area. We've got plenty of materials ready and needing translation, so please volunteer!

CubaNews comes to you free of charge and is powered by the commitment of its readers and active participants. Well, this isn't completely true. We all pay in that Yahoo which provides this service to us, and makes money through the sales of the advertising we see embedded in the mail. But we do not have to pay our own money directly out of pocket.

Please take the time now, to write in a note to CubaNews telling us how the information you get from this list helps you follow and improve your understanding of Cuban life, how it helps further the defense of Cuba's right to self- determination, and any suggestions you might have to make the list serve these purposes better. I'd like to see them and other readers would as well. 

Subscribers to CubaNews can send their comments to

Others should please send your comments directly to me at  and know your comments will be both listened to and appreciated. I promise to share some of the most interesting and useful of these. And please tell us a bit about yourselves and your interest in Cuba, if you wish.

CubaNews is a completely free service. It depends on the active participation of posters and readers. Please pass this message on to anyone you know who would be interested in Cuba and US-Cuban relations. Public interest in Cuba is growing, and the atmosphere in the United States and elsewhere is more open now. Hundreds of thousand came out to protest against the Bush administration and the war in Iraq over the weekend. We know there's an audience out there who needs to know more about Cuba. That's what this list is all about.

Thanks very much for your time and interest reading this lengthy message, and for your interest in Cuba.

Walter Lippmann, Moderator, CubaNews