Back to Index

MEXICO and CUBA: Conflicting viewpoints

The Marcos issue has divided WAISers sharply, and I have received long pieces disagreeing with Tim Btown's position. Most Americans disagree with Linda Nyquist, but one supported her in the strongest terms. She said she disagreed with Tim, but he took it personally, and has sent a long rebuttal. I read Linda's statement not as an attack on Tin, but rather on Americans who, unlike Tim, have no real interest in Mexico. Tim provides evidence that he is compassionate, and he has an extraordinary knowledge of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, not to mention other parts of the world. I am sure that even those who criticize his position respect him. The key issues are not the merits of individual WAISers, but the facts, about which Tim disagrees sharply with Linda, who too feels that criticism of her has been unfair.

There are two central issues. The first is the plight of the Mexican Indians. Tim asks: "And who are the Indians on whom Linda bases her portrait of them as people who invariably live in squalor, have no rights whatsoever, eat contaminated food, drink filthy water, sleep on the ground, and have no health care for sick family or themselves? This is a caricature not a portrait. I have known dozens, even hundreds, of Indians and other indigenous persons over the years, and have often lived in their homes for weeks, even months on end. Unless your definition of squalor is anything worse than a Texas colonia, only a handful lived in such conditions. All had rights, edible food, drinkable water, and access to folk medicines that usually worked. Throwing food and medicine at them, as Linda suggests, would have insulted not pleased them because they were not up for sale. To suggest they we is incredibly paternalistic and culturally insensitive" On this matter of fact, we have many WAISers of varying persuasions. who live in Mexico or know Mexico. It would be interesting to know how they view the situation.

The second important point Tim raises is a comparison between Mexico and Cuba under Castro. Tim, like most Americans, think that Mexico is on the right track and that Cuba is not. Since the two countries are very different, the comparison is not easy. Linda quotes statistics on education and health, but Tim looks at the broader issues. Cuba is a litmus test. Some WAISers who have visited Castro's Cuba give favorable reports, others like Tim, who knows the island well, have the reverse viewpoint. The burning question is whether Mexico should follow the American model, as Tim strongly recommends, or the Cuban model. The practical question is what will Mexico do and how will the Bush administration react.

On these questions, European WAISers feel less strongly and presumably react more impartially than Americans do, and I would like their comments. I would strongly recommend that WAISers not take these differences personally, and WAIS cannot publish any more recriminations. The facts are more important than personal feelings.

Ronald Hilton - 3/10/01