International Writers Magazine:
was January, 1973 and I was at the Grand Cayman international operations
terminal of the telecommunications brain centre when
Paul*, one of my technicians burst into my office yelling, Jim,
theres a bullet riddled trawler being towed into Georgetown!
I picked up the phone and called our main office next to the harbour
and, sure enough something serious was going on down at the docks.
The island in those
days was pretty calm with very few tourists, usually Americans, no television
or newspapers, no cruise ships or fancy hotels, and the only entertainment
was scuba diving, sailing, listening to short wave radio stations, going
to local parties, reggaeing whilst downing dozens of Heineken,
and of course plenty of sex. Paul and I went down to the garage of the
building and jumped into one of the Landrovers and within ten minutes
we were pushing our way through the gathered crowds. By the time we
arrived, the fishing boat had been docked and tied up alongside. One
of the police sergeants and two other policemen greeted me. What
gives? I enquired. Cubans, Gov! There must be about 40 of
By this time the only medical team on the island had turned up as well
as the official on duty from Government House as the Governor
was over on Cayman Brac on a routine visit with the manager of our outfit.
I walked over to the boat and looked down onto the deck. A collection
of expressionless humans were staring up at us on the wharf. It was
the first time in my life that I witnessed the look of fear on the faces
of a group of refugees who had escaped from a dangerous ordeal of being
shot to pieces trying to escape from the oppression in their homeland.
Luckily, only a couple of them had been injured, neither of them seriously.
The rest were in good shape and were soon taken into custody to be housed
and resettled as victims seeking political asylum. The international
law stated that they were not allowed to leave Cayman for 5 years thus
avoiding the impossible dream of entering the promised land
of the United States of America.
As I could speak fluent Spanish I was one of their main interpreters.
I found out that they were not ordinary peasant folk. There were engineers,
medical students and all sorts of educated persons amongst them. Apart
from being allowed to stay they also had the right to work on the island.
As I was in need of two extra hands at the terminal I immediately hired
Julio*, an electrical engineer and Pedro* a carpenter. When they were
offered the standard wages for their level of employee on the payroll
they burst into tears. They had never seen so much money in their lives.
It had been my first contact with people from Cuba; yet it would not
be my last. Years later, as part of a consultancy team I visited the
island on three occasions staying for weeks on end, I learned a great
deal of what was going on; about the people, their culture, the politics,
the economy and their way of life in general.
To appreciate the present day situation it is essential to understand
the history surrounding this Caribbean paradise.
Christopher Columbus discovered it in 1492. It was Spains first
colony and stepping stone for future conquests into mainland America.
As part of the Spanish Empire and over the next few centuries Cuba became
a thriving worldwide producer of sugar, tobacco and other agricultural
products. However, by the end of the XIX century it was one of the last
remaining colonies and the population, now consisting of afro-Americans,
Cuban natives and Spanish descendents decided to seek independence.
With the help of the 7th Cavalry under President William McKinley, who
declared war on Spain the Cubans finally obtained their freedom. As
the country entered the XX century it welcomed the beginning of several
years of turmoil based on corruption and irresponsible administration
that passed through the hands of several heads of state until finally
a Cuban military man called Fulgencio Batista took hold of the reins
and turned the country into a large United States backed brothel. Besides
the continuing wealth achieved from the sugar cane and tobacco fields,
there were hundreds of dollars pouring in from the North. This was thanks
to gambling, liquor, prostitutes and other high class living by wealthy
Yanks. Many Cubans became millionaires whilst the majority of the population
was uneducated and lived in squalor. The country was ready for change.
Fidel and Che
the beasts of Sierra Maestra lead by one Cuban doctor
called Fidel Castro Ruz supported by his right-hand-man, Ernesto
Che Guevarra who marched into Havana on the 2nd of January, 1958
and established the first ever Communist regime in America!
Politics aside, Castro introduced a solid social program that increased
the level of literacy and state of health to the extent that it
had one of the highest rates of life longevity in Latin America.
Equal examples of prosperity were investment in sport, music, art
and culture in general. Before 1959 Cuba had 100 libraries and six
museums; today it has approximately 2000 libraries and 250 museums.
The island hardly suffered from a crime rate or social unrest rampant
in todays democratic societies.
However, Cuba was
supported by Russia up until the fall of the USSR and was a thorn in
the side of Uncle Sam that has continued to this date. Trade embargoes,
invasion threats, political rhetoric and other insults failed to topple
Castros government although the Cuban administration eventually
opened the doors to a limited amount of foreign investment and tourism.
In 1992 I was on a working mission and contacted a great deal of Cubans
that worked for Castros government. They talked about the Revolution
as well as their personal financial hardship yet they expressed no regret.
They felt safe with Fidel at the helm. I also spoke to taxi
drivers, teachers, cigar growers, hotel staff and many others who were
eager to learn about the outside world but when asked if
they would change their way of life, most shrugged their shoulders and
said, we have everything, what else do we want!
Things had changed however. The northern Bear was no longer
their mentor. The cheap oil, military support and commercial exchange
with the Soviet Union had vanished. In todays Cuba, there are
not only signs of economic deterioration but also of a slow disintegration
of the social services that once offered first rate education and medical
facilities as well as overall security. Prostitution and crime are back,
and what is worse, Fidel Castro is an ailing man that no longer has
the strength of the leader he was 50 years ago today.
So what about the future when he is finally gone?
Despite support coming from Chavez in Venezuela, Cuba will have no choice
but to revert to some sort of democratic state over a medium to long
period of transition. A good example to follow would be that experienced
by Spain when Generalissimo Franco died in 1975 after 40 years of dictatorship.
It is worth remembering that although Spain was declared a monarchy
with Juan Carlos (the present king) being declared Head of State, it
took another 4 years to produce a proper constitution that laid down
the foundations of todays democracy based on a state of law.
The main issue today is that Cuba is no longer a threat to the USA,
nor is the USA the world power it was when Fidel Castro took over. As
we all know the international scenario has been turned on its head with
Islamic Fundamentalism, climatic change and a world economic slump being
at the forefront of the White House agenda.
How to proceed?
When Fidel finally passes away, the international community through
the auspices of the United Nations should assist and allow whatever
interim system of government is installed to set its own course of action.
It is obvious that there will be radical changes; if anything because
Cuba no longer exports revolutionary communism nor does it economically
wish to do so. Fidels successors know full well that in the world
of globalisation, the old communist regimes no longer survive.
If the USA appreciates this form of hands off transition
period, it will be the one to most benefit, even though it may take
several years. If Uncle Sam decides otherwise, well be back to
* Fictitious names.
© James Skinner. January 2008.
a Mad World
do we feel about whats being going on and what lies in store for
us in the coming year?
Read an extract of James Skinner's
Goa File Author: James G. Skinner
(pp: 395) ISBN: 978-81-8253-079-9
Availability: In Stock (Ships within 1 to 2 days)
Publisher: Cyberwit.net, Allahabad, India
Pub. Date: Jan 2007
James G. Skinner, as he is know to his friends in Vigo, Spain was
born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is a retired telecommunications
expert who has travelled the world over having worked for some of
the greatest of todayıs conglomerates such as Cable & Wireless,
US Sprint and British Telecom. Having lived in many different and
disparate countries spread across several continents, his knowledge
of and experience with people from different ethnic groups and social
backgrounds is second to none. He is a regular writer in Spanish
in the local papers of Galicia and is currently the Honorary British
Consul in the region. (read more)
James Skinner is
a journalist and commentator on contemporary Spanish affairs.
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.