The original 1957 blonde bedroom set of the Havana Hotel Riviera, approved by the late mafioso Meyer Lansky, was still doing duty on the eve a futuristic sounding decade: 2010. Generous dresser drawers and nightstands with George Jetson's version of the future accouterments were separated by a headboard that would bear tales of affairs and loss if it could only accept an offer that could not be refused and spill its Cedar guts.
But a more vexing story of benign neglect and decay was the real headliner. Moth heaven musty closets, rancid midnight blue carpets with a penchant for obscuring stains and moldy walls that smack you in the face; dank clothes drawers, unruly and fetid curtains blown indoors by the sea breeze, a cheap mattress and torn lampshades brown with water stains... It was enough to make you hold your breath while paring back the bed sheets to see what else might be revealed. Years ago I heard a rumor that J. Lo, her trademark rear end insured for a billion dollars (no joke), would not sleep on a hotel bed with sheets and blankets less than a certain regal thread count. Here on the "executive floor" of Lansky's erstwhile Caribbean jewel, it was a relief just to find that the bed linen was cum stain free. I chuckled and recalled the coarse remarks the Jewish capo purportedly made when Ginger Rogers was whisked down to Havana from Hollywood for the hotel's opening gala, broadcast live on American television: "she can wiggle her ass, but can't sing worth a god damn note."
The Hale Old Man and the Septic Tank
Cuba and Haiti are both nearly on the Tropic of Cancer, which means it's always warm or hot. Good 75 degree Fahrenheit water in the Gulf of Mexico is what's needed for a big blow.... That's how Katrina was spawned... but I digress. I write these lines a few days shy of the Winter Solstice -- and a monster snowstorm hovers over the eastern seaboard of the U.S. The same cold front is churning up high winds and from my perch I can see a good 30 miles out. Presently the azure waters in front of the Havana Malecon will have turned U.P.S. brown, but there's no mistaking the contents for anything Christmasy or kosher. It's sewage. Meanwhile, the Copenhagen Climate Summit is under way as protesters' heads and T.V. cameras roll. The Latin American left is bashing Obama and his nation. Oblivious to history, the Left pretends that painting industry Red will make it green. Perhaps they never heard of the Aral Sea. Are they unaware that 94% of Venezuelan crude goes to... the U.S...the great climate antagonist? Why is it so important to the Great Leaders of the Cuban and Venezuelan Revolutions that Obama's campaign message of joyous reconciliation be converted to an elegy of disillusionment? Speaking of revolutions, what is to become of Haiti, which was a failed society long before the Great Earthquake of biblical proportions?
"There is a natural humanitarian crisis that tugs at our
conscience, but there is also a fear that instability could lead
to massive waves of immigrants. Haiti is a long-term crisis."
-Robert Pastor, former President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser for Latin America.
Magnanimous U.S. troops bearing humanitarian aid have a geopolitical mission: to prevent the hemisphere's poorest country from becoming a "failed state" a la Somalia... a destabilizing nexus of illegal (fill in the blank.) The U.S. is committed to helping Haiti "today, tomorrow and for the time ahead," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared on a January 16 visit to Port-au-Prince.
En el patio de mi casa...
Tengo una mata de almendra.
Con un letrero que dice...
El que no sabe que aprenda.
It's not difficult to divine what the Castro brothers really think. No eavesdropping is required. No spy satellites, no cloak and dagger. Just turn on Cuban television and connect the dots. If the sages who make U.S. policy had any sense they would be listening to Cuban broadcasts instead of trying to ram VOA programming down Cubans' throats. Cubans already know their society doesn't work as advertised, but it sure looks good compared to Haiti, even before the earthquake. In Cuba, all consequential matters are decided at the very top (no need to name names) and everybody else, from broadcast personalities on down to the general public, automatically tows the line or falls silent. Favorite news topics are those of global scope and issues far removed from Cuban influence. The latest example is across the ninety mile Windward Passage to Haiti. Fidel, whose legal guardian as a child was Haiti's consul in Santiago so many years ago, has correctly pointed out that the appalling death toll is the byproduct of Haiti's condition as a Third World hell. The genial Castros are quite correct in their critiques but blind to the failure of their own solutions. This is the byproduct of dictatorship. When they are mistaken or wrong by omission, especially in business affairs and the economic and social realities confronting Cuba, Cuban "public opinion" follows them like three blind mice into a black hole at the end of a dead end. Of course, in a nation of knaves, fools and Forrest Gumps, "public opinion" has little meaning and no significance. Free higher education guaranteed notwithstanding and for all the sunshine in Cuba, you would be hard-pressed to find a Cuban who doesn't have his head where the sun don't shine.
Paul Lafargue and the Right to be Lazy
"If, uprooting from its heart the vice which dominates it and degrades its nature, the working class were to arise in its terrible strength, not to demand the Rights of Man, which are but the rights of capitalist exploitation, not to demand the Right to Work which is but the right to misery, but to forge a brazen law forbidding any man to work more than three hours a day, the earth, the old earth, trembling with joy would feel a new universe leaping within her. But how should we ask a proletariat corrupted by capitalist ethics, to take a manly resolution ...Like Christ, the doleful personification of ancient slavery, the men, the women and the children of the proletariat have been climbing painfully for a century up the hard Calvary of pain; for a century compulsory toil has broken their bones, bruised their flesh, tortured their nerves; for a century hunger has torn their entrails and their brains. 0 Laziness, have pity on our long misery! O Laziness, mother of the arts and noble virtues, be thou the balm of human anguish!"
Thus spoke the Cuban son-in-law of Karl Marx, Paul Lafargue, from St. Pelagie Prison in 1880. His father once owned coffee plantations in Oriente, Cuba, and may have been part of the exodus of criollos from Haiti to Cuba after the establishment of the Negro Republic of Haiti in 1804. The family later immigrated to France. Paul Lafargue was born in Santiago de Cuba, and counted a French republican, a French Jew, a mulatto and a Caribbean Indian among his grandparents. In the words of the American syndicalist Daniel De Leon, 'Paul Lafargue had a constitutional affinity with the oppressed.'
Paula Lafargue's utopian vision of an advanced industrial society of leisure enjoying the fruits of ever-increasing labor productivity brought on by technology has in a limited sense been achieved in a few developed countries today. But in Third World, commodity-based economies with low human development and capital investment in a nation's key resource - it's people -- the laws of market economics are astringent on society's progress even as they become less compelling, i.e. the reward side of the marketplace vanishes to a point while the downside remains a slippery slope. The wretchedly needy people of the world live in the midst of great natural resources but Capitalism is unable to provide for them no matter how high commodity prices go...hence illegal immigration all over the world. Recall, gentle reader, that when your grandfather's grandfather, or your grandfather's grandfather's cousin, set sail for the Americas, he needed not a passport nor visa, nor a Green Card, nor a Social Security number nor government issued I.D. Now in the Age of e-commerce, merchandise and their payment flow seamlessly across borders at the speed of light while boatloads of Haitians regularly perish at sea attempting to reach the Promised Land and eight year old American children languish on the Department of Homeland Security's no-fly list.
Socialism and public-sector economies make more sense for an impoverished nation when looked at from the miserable vantage point of survival and subsistence in a mean world. This creates a grand opening for the Left and makes comity with the United States difficult. Like most of Latin America, Cuba and Haiti are birds of a feather; conceived as outposts of slave empires in the infamous Triangular Trade and molded as colonies to produce sugar, coffee and tobacco ...as sovereign nations today they are destined to be societies maladroit; economic pantywaists at the mercy of world markets and their thirst for cheap labor and raw materials. The productivity, wages and living standards of these nations will never reach First World expectations and, indeed, big business interests and their governments have a long, sordid history of foiling weak nations' attempts to even the playing field.. To paraphrase the world's richest man and greatest philanthropist Bill Gates, Capitalism has forsaken the wretched of the Earth.
If work doesn't pay, indolence and crime become systemic. Where material and moral poverty abound, a money fetish takes hold. In Cuba, a great social experiment has been underway for half a century. The right to higher education, healthcare and employment are enshrined in the constitution but, alas, the right to be lazy and its exercise thereof is the upshot. But unlike say, France, Cuba cannot afford leisure: once the world's number one sugar producer, today it cannot even feed itself and its economy does not produce enough wealth to purchase the basics from abroad. Like Mexico, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, remittances sent from expatriates are now a prime source of G.D.P, as important as any export. Unlike these nations, Cuba recuses itself from world trade under the mantra "socialism or death," and the U.S. has a tailor-made embargo that unwittingly assists the Cuban government to maintain its monopoly over the economy.
Evil... runnin' through our brain,
We and evils about the same.
Bad blood, through our body flows,
Where's the love, nobody knows.
Beauty, in our face you see,
Tryin' to hide all our misery.
Leaders reared in failed states and societies are often backward, gimpy and corrupt. If enough individuals develop a personality disorder, the national traits of an entire nation begin to change for the worse. Cuba, like Haiti, suffers a permanent economic dislocation, but on a higher plane of poverty under the direction of a disciplined, well organized group less chaotic than its surroundings. Regardless, the bonhomie of cheery islanders born in "paradise" is reduced to levity in both nations. The ennui of poverty is standard. The stellar Cuban-American entrepreneur has his diametric opposite in the feckless nincompoop running Cuba's state enterprises at a loss. He doesn't care, its no one's property. The successful Haitian businessman is outnumbered 100 to one by Haitians living on less than two dollars a day. He doesn't care either... he got his. Fallow fields in Cuba at an opportunity cost and deforestation in Haiti at a profit. In the Third World, churlishness in thought and deed, at work and at play; stupidity and mediocrity, like a slow -motion earthquake, rumble underfoot for years until all their latent chaos is released in the avalanche of a "natural" disaster. Thus, the jerry-built housing stock of Haiti, its concrete mix watered-down with too much sand and supporting beams lacking Rebar , its housing inspectors bought off for a song, collapse on the wicked and the innocent alike, and presently the mighty cavalry of the North swoop down on the Apocalypse, nor will they soon depart.
Daniel Bruno Sanz writes about economic and political affairs. His work has appeared in the Huffington Post, the History News Network and numerous foreign language newspapers. He is the author of Why Obama Will Win in 2008 & 2012.
Dr. Sergei Khrushchev Endorses Cuba at a Crossroads, The New American Strategy by Independent Author Daniel Bruno Sanz.
"Cuba at a Crossroads reflects Daniel Bruno Sanz's uncommon vision of Cuban development. His book is the first complete and detailed analysis available on the counterproductive and futile U.S. embargo on Cuba." - Dr. Sergei Khrushchev
Cuba at a Crossroads, The New American Strategy, is the most detailed account of Cuba-U.S. relations to date. The index has over 500 entries. The book states that the U.S. embargo assists the Castros by creating a permanent state of emergency that links dissent to foreign interference and the embargo encourages the dissaffected to abandon Cuba. The book chronicles the influence of the Mafia and the military's role today. For a must read for scholars and policy makers, click here.
Dr. Sergei Khrushchev is the son of the late Nikita Khrushchev, whose assistance was key to the consolidation of the Cuban Revolution and the rule of Fidel Castro after 1959. Dr. Khrushchev lectures on Russian economic and political reforms, U.S.-Soviet relations, the Soviet space program and Nikita Khrushchev's economic, political and security reforms. He is profiled in Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in the United States, Who's Who of Contemporary Achievements, International Authors and Writers, International Who's Who of Intellectuals and Contemporary Authors Gala Research. He received the Lenin Prize for scientific research, the Prize of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R., The Hammer and Sickle Gold Star as well as several awards for achievements in space and computer research. He is a full member of the International Academy of Information (1993), the Russian Space Academy (1994), the Russian Society of Informatics (1990), and the Russian Engineering Society (1970).
Today he is a U.S. citizen and teaches at Brown University and the Naval War College in Newport, RI.