The Corner

Valentine’s Day in Havana

Next month, NR will take a post-election cruise in the Caribbean. (Hope you are joining us!) Four years ago, we did the same. Let me give you an excerpt from my online journal of that year. I promise I have a purpose.

In this installment, I wrote,

One of our cruisers told some of his fellow passengers that he had received a gift from God. What was that? Well, he is normally a late sleeper. He likes to go to bed late, and get up fairly late. But, one morning, he found himself wide awake at 6:30. And he was moved to look out his porthole. There, he saw Cuba, for the first time in 51 years. He is a Cuban American. And you remember that Castro and his gang seized power in 1959. Seeing the island, after all this time, was a powerful experience for our friend, as you can imagine. He snapped picture after picture.

I said to our audience that I knew what my fantasy cruise was: a voyage to a free Cuba, a Cuba libre. What an NR cruise that would make. (The Nation should cruise there before it’s too late: while things are the way they like it.)

The Nation is, in fact, going to Cuba. They are going in February. It is not too late. Cuba is still a one-party dictatorship with a gulag. It has not yet been spoiled. The Castros and their fellow Communists are firmly in charge, as democrats and liberals in prison would be happy to tell you, if only they could speak to you.

I have in my inbox a letter from Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation’s editor. She says, “After our chartered flight from Tampa arrives the afternoon of February 14, 2015, at Havana’s historic José Martí International Airport, we’ll spend the week meeting with prominent Cuban professors, government officials, community activists, historians, journalists, students and artists.”

Note that the Nation crowd is landing on Valentine’s Day. Isn’t that sweet? And meetings with government officials will be especially cozy, I would think.

There will be no meeting with Alan Gross, the American hostage (imprisoned by the Castros since December 2009). (He was arrested at the airport. Is that why it’s “historic”?) There will be no meetings with political prisoners. If there were meetings with unimprisoned dissidents, I would be shocked.

Says the editor, “Our evenings will be filled with exclusive concerts by renowned musicians as well as with a performance by the internationally acclaimed Cuban National Ballet.”

You mean there are ballet dancers who have not yet been able to defect? Is Alicia still kickin’? (I believe she is.) And don’t forget the underage prostitution, for heaven’s sake! It’s a big reason people from all over the world like to go to Cuba. This is an open secret.

“We will also tour museums with art historians, relax on the island’s most scenic beaches, wander through the artists’ markets of Old Havana,” etc.

About those beaches: Some of them are segregated, reserved for foreigners only. This is known as “tourism apartheid.” The practice is officially abolished. Unofficially, it is still in place. In addition to the segregated beaches, there are segregated restaurants, hotels, stores, and medical clinics. Cubans who work in those places are carefully vetted by the Party. The Nation’s tourists should not have to mingle with ordinary Cubans, who might somehow reveal the truth about the dictatorship they live under.

What if ordinary Cubans, in their innocence, ask The Nation’s people for help? What if they ask some American to send an e-mail for them, for example? Will The Nation’s people be like Paul Robeson in Stalin’s Russia, and turn the wretched locals in to the Party?

The Cuban dictatorship has been in power for more than 50 years. It has been greatly helped by its fans and supporters in free countries. The Cuban Communists, of course, are responsible for the dictatorship — it’s their dictatorship, and I lift no blame from them. But the Free World supporters have done their disgusting part.

Maybe in the summer, The Nation could check out North Korea. The weather should be nicer than in tropical Cuba. For Valentine’s Day, Havana. For the Fourth of July, Pyongyang?

P.S. If I were Judy Gross, the American hostage’s wife, I might be inclined to sign up for The Nation’s Cuban jaunt. Maybe she could ask to see her husband. Nothing else has worked. But Mrs. Gross’s presence would crimp The Nation’s style.

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