A Tunisian mural depicts Latin American revolutionary hero Che Guevara, who is widely admired in the Arab/Muslim world. This is what some people would like you NOT to see, much less connect with current events.
Ever since the shit hit the fan in Tunisia and Egypt, there have been idiots on the Internet trying to use the Arab revolutions to tell Cuba (and Venezuela) that “this is how it’s done”. Look, they say, pointing to the falling dictators of northern Africa–you can do that with yours, too! Go on, what are you waiting for? Embrace freedom! You have nothing to lose but your…
The problem with all this faux-Marxian throw-off-your-chains rhetoric, especially if it comes from the US, should be obvious. It just plain stinks coming from anyone stuck in the hypocritical duopoly of US politics, where presidents of both parties have hardly been what anyone would call friends of democracy in the Arab/Muslim world. For decades, virtually all Arab dictators* (including monarchs) have been propped up by USAID financing, CIA training and the like. Their tanks, their fighter jets, their guns, even their bullets, were all sold, sealed and delivered with love and kisses from Washington.
In other words, the chains being thrown off in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and elsewhere are Made in the USA.
Meanwhile, the “dictators” of Venezuela and Cuba are strictly home-grown. They arrived in office by way of popular revolts against a tame dictator (in Cuba) and a slew of tame, weak, phony “democrats” (in Venezuela). One waged a successful guerrilla war, the other a failed military uprising. They ARE revolutionaries already.
And, in the case of Hugo Chávez, the “dictator” is not even a dictator, but democratically and popularly elected (and re-elected, with the constitution amended by popular demand to allow him to stay on as long as the people of Venezuela want him). Six out of ten Venezuelans voted for him, and an even greater number currently approve of his reign. You’d think, with such a broad popular mandate, he’d be an acknowledged democratic hero. And he is–but not in the United States of Amnesia.
As for the Brothers Castro, Fidel is now retired, Raúl probably will do so eventually himself, and believe it or not, Cuba does have elections–and even non-communist political parties! So it’s not exactly the closed one-party state of Castro-communism you may have been led to believe it was. The Brothers Castro enjoy genuine and widespread respect among their own people; the first large estate they nationalized under land reforms was their own. If they had wanted to rule the island with an iron fist, they could have done so easily enough as old-school oligarchs. If the people of Cuba wanted them gone, they could have toppled them at any time, and in the same way as the Castros did it with Batista. In fact, they could have done so with surprising ease during the Special Period, when Cuba lost its main trading partner, the Soviet Union, and handfuls of balseros started fleeing for Miami (and often, drowning like Elián González’s mother) on makeshift rafts. The counterrevolution could have happened long ago in Cuba, but it didn’t. Why? It’s not as if they lacked the revolutionary guerrilla experience! Why, oh why, did the Cuban people remain overwhelmingly loyal even in the darkest times, instead of turning against their long-established leaders?
Things like this, I’m sure, have the wonks in Washington endlessly scratching their hoary heads.
While the Arab countries have only just now begun to demonstrate that they are tired of tame dictators (or what Washington calls “great friends of liberty” and crap like that), the Latin Americans have done the same for decades in many countries already. And continue to do so by NOT falling for the “embrace your USAID-financed freedom!” hype. Venezuelans are hyper-vigilant against the CIA black propaganda that led to the success of OTPOR in Serbia, and they’re not fooled by OTPOR wannabes like the violent, fascist “youth” group JAVU. Meanwhile, Cubans just roll their eyes at the narrow, self-centred demonstrations of mercenaries such as the Ladies in White, and the easily debunked blogorrhea of “award-winning” Yoani Sánchez, who has the kind of internet service that probably even the Brothers Castro can only dream of.
Why aren’t they fooled? Well, when you’ve been dealing with this kind of thing since the Bay of Pigs invasion, if not much earlier, you already know what rank bullshit (Made in USA!) smells like.
You also know that a real grassroots Cuban blogger doesn’t have her own dedicated server, let alone get her work translated into dozens of foreign languages by hand, not Babelfish.
And you just know that if it were really so oppressive in Venezuela and Cuba, if there really were the kinds of censorship the Miami-based opponents of the “rrrrrégimenes” claim there is, you wouldn’t even be able to read about it on the tweeter. If Hosni Mubarak could succeed in shutting down the Internet in Egypt for even 24 hours, do you think his supposed Latin American counterparts would hesitate to do the same?
And yet, they haven’t. And life goes on as usual in both countries. No mass uprisings. No major demonstrations. Except in support of their leaders, which is something you won’t see the anglo whore media publicizing anytime soon.
Oh yeah, and before I forget to mention this: It was Twitter that recently censored Cuba, not the other way around. So much for the notion that corporate capitalism supports freedom of expression, eh?
Oh, and then there’s the salient and interesting fact that Chavecito is on the tweeter himself, and has urged his supporters to sign on, too. Venezuela is now one of the most Twitter-pated countries in Latin America, with Chavista tweeters well represented. In fact, ALL the internets are vibrant and buzzing in Venezuela, regardless of political affiliations.
And have I mentioned yet that Chavecito is also very popular in the Arab world, precisely because he is a democrat who stands up to Washington? I seem to recall having done so before. But just in case I haven’t, here’s a link. It’s still as fresh and relevant today as it was five years ago.
You can see that Venezuela and Cuba have nothing to “embrace” that Washington and Miami have to offer. Radio Martí may still be wasting the US taxpayers’ dollars (which could have gone toward a nice, Cuban-style universal public healthcare system, say), but no one’s listening. Radio Rebelde (Che’s original channel!) is the truly popular station on the dial. And Radio Bemba–good old-fashioned Latin American word of mouth–saved the day when Chavecito was briefly ousted by a bunch of fascist putschists who had ample military backing from Washington. Even when the putschists shut down all the public, alternative and community media (including pirate radio stations), the word still got out that the elected Chavecito–friend of Fidel and Cuba–was missing and in danger of being killed. Word of mouth literally saved him–millions of ordinary Venezuelans mobilized, much as millions of ordinary people in North Africa are doing now.
So, all you idiots out there in Internet-land, stop making stupid noises about how Venezuela is “the next domino”, or that Cuba should take a lesson from the Arabs. The truth is, the Arabs have been taking lessons and inspiration from both those countries for years, and it’s clear that they have learned those lessons well. That’s why Washington is in such a panic right now, unable to truly embrace the Arab revolutions itself.
Meanwhile, Chavecito and Fidel are doing just that. And they’re doing it in the face of sustained attacks on their respective revolutions. Those revolutions succeeded for a reason, and it wasn’t US backing. It was and still is the popular backing of their own people.
If I were one of those noisy numbskulls, I’d be feeling pretty foolish right now.
*The obvious exception is Libya. Libya has oil, and has long been targeted by the US, unsuccessfully, for takeover. Don’t anyone believe they would install a “better” dictator than you-know-who, though…they don’t really care how brutal he is, as long as he’s tame.