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Cubans and Americans



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For many years, one of the bravest and most inspiring Cuban dissidents has been Martha Beatriz Roque, an economist. She has stuck her neck out in ways that most of us could not fathom. She now seems to be at the end of her rope: She is on a hunger strike (in behalf of others, not of herself).

For an Associated Press report, go here. You have to put up with the AP’s usual snottiness toward the Cuban opposition. For example, this report refers to Roque as a “state-trained economist.” Does that mean she is supposed to be grateful? There’s not a lot of private education under a totalitarian dictatorship, you know.

Via Capitol Hill Cubans, I have learned about an article in the University of Iowa newspaper. It talks of the university’s program in Cuba, made possible by President Obama’s new policy on travel.

“Hemley [a professor] said one of the students on the trip last year wrote an excellent piece on an American fugitive who had escaped the country and taken asylum in Cuba. The exile met 13 UI students who had enrolled in the UI’s study abroad program to Cuba last winter.” Isn’t that sweet? I wonder who the fugitive was. We have so many lovely killers down there. Was it Charlie Hill? Was it the glamorous Assata Shakur?

Earlier this year, I had occasion to write a piece called “Aren’t They Cute? America and some special criminals.” Here are three paragraphs, if you can possibly stand them:

Like George Wright, many of the killers fled abroad, and mainly they fled to Cuba — Castro was happy to receive them and show them off. Something like 70 American fugitives are in Cuba. One of them is Charlie Hill, who, after killing a cop in New Mexico, hijacked a plane. But probably the most famous of them is Joanne Chesimard, a.k.a. Assata Shakur. She killed her cop in 1973. (His name was Werner Foerster; Hill’s was Robert Rosenbloom.) In 1979, she escaped from prison, whereupon she found her way to Castro.

Oh, the press she enjoys! In 1997, Essence magazine published an interview with her: “Prisoner in Paradise.” (“Paradise” would be totalitarian Cuba.) She said things like “I represent someone who has dedicated her life to the liberation of my people.” Two years later, the New York Times published an article by a Princeton theologian, defending her. He called her an “activist” — which is one way of putting it. He also said she was “vibrant” and “articulate,” which no doubt she is. More vibrant and articulate than a dead cop. 

She has been the subject of many songs, poems, and other tributes. One of them is by a rapper called Common: “A Song for Assata.” One line goes, “All this sh** so we could be free, so dig it, y’all.” A year ago, Common was invited to perform in an “Evening of Poetry” at the White House. Law-enforcement associations and other squares objected, but they were easily brushed off. In the White House, President Obama made sure to give Common a big hug. 

The other presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, said this, in his convention speech: “When every new wave of immigrants looked up and saw the Statue of Liberty, or knelt down and kissed the shores of freedom just 90 miles from Castro’s tyranny . . .”

In some remarks on the speech, I wrote,

Would Barack Obama ever, ever utter the words “Castro’s tyranny”? Are they imaginable from his mouth? I don’t think so. He would no more say “Castro’s tyranny” than would Rashid Khalidi or Billy Ayers.

I would love to be wrong about this — comforted.

Finally, let me share a reader letter with you. This may be judged McCarthyite, but, you know? In my present mood, I don’t much care:

When I heard that “Castro” was going to address the Democratic convention, my first thought was, “Gosh, I didn’t think Fidel was healthy enough to leave Havana!” A week later, I was talking to my son, who is in law school at Ann Arbor. He said, “Dad, when I heard that, I thought the same as you!” Here’s the thing: We’re both from San Antonio. But neither of us made the connection to Julián Castro, our mayor.

Perfect.



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