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Cuban Leaders Strangely Silent on North Korea's Sinking of the Cheonan

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In what I believe to be an exaggeration, Cuba is often compared to North Korea. It's true that Cuban newspapers may be the only ones in the world which have never published a comment on the famines suffered by that Asian country, and perhaps it is only on this Island that the triumph of socialism on that peninsula "under the wise direction of comrade Kim" is celebrated. But no, we are not alike. In fact, the existence of a regime like North Korea's is the consolation of fools; it simply confirms that we are not the worst.

United in "the confrontation with Yankee imperialism," there has been no dispute of one not supported by the other, nor any vote in international forums on which both governments have not agreed. But this harmony only happens at the official level, since ordinary Cubans have little or nothing to do with the strict posture promulgated by the leaders of the Workers Party. The same Cuban officials who smile and bow in Pyongyang roar with laughter in Havana when they tell their acquaintances how stilted they find Korean officialdom. I know a poet who almost ran and hid on his brief trip to that far off land, on finding himself under pressure to dedicate a few lines of verse to Kim Il Sung. Later, he told the story - in the bar of the Cuban Writers Union - amid the hilarity of his fellow members. Of course we are not alike.

For the first time, in the midst of mortal danger, our Asian friend does not feel the solidarity of its Caribbean ally. In a small note the official daily paper, Granma, lets its readers know that the South Korean boat, the Cheonan, has been sunk by the impact of a torpedo "supposedly" of North Korean origin. In the brief lines there was no mention of the 46 crew members killed, nor of the scientific evidence offered by an international commission, but neither did the Foreign Ministry or the Cuban Institute of Peoples Friendship issue statements in support of their one-time traveling companion.

The Defense Council of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has put an end to one of the few existing agreements remaining from the Cold War: to maintain a ceasefire on both sides of the 38th parallel. The news must have found resonance and support in this Latin American ally, but in their coverage of world events our newspapers have given more importance to the economic crisis in Europe, the deployment of Patriot missiles in Poland and the agreements between Brazil and Iran. Not even Fidel Castro, in the reflections he publishes from his convalescent suite, has mentioned the incident or the international condemnation it has garnered.

Given that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a nuclear power, and given the historical tension and hostility of the opponents, it would not be unreasonable to compare the current situation to October 1962, during the famous missile crisis. Then, voices from all over the world were raised in solidarity with our country, or at least so they made us believe at the time. My grandparents told me that the people of Havana were singing a rumba with the catchy chorus, "If you come, you'll die here!" and the city was full of provocative billboards mocking our northern neighbor. Meanwhile, many of the world's mothers put their children to bed at night feeling they might not live to see the morning.

In the Cuba of today, overwhelmed by the economic crisis and with a huge ideological vacuum, we can't handle any more problems. Plus, no one wants to follow the leaders of North Korea in their demented positions, nor appear to be close to them in international forums. Those struggling to find some detail to demonstrate that there are changes in the largest of the Antilles, could point out this significant indifference, bearing no resemblance to the outbursts of revolutionary passion of earlier decades. At other times we would be hearing about sending international missions to "defend our comrade threatened by imminent aggression," and drum rolls would echo in our streets, calling for us to close ranks against the South Koreans. The absence, even today, of these kinds of statements, is a source of hope. It gives us the impression that, at least with regards to some lunacies, we have been cured.

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.