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US: Interest in international affairs - CUBA

Lulled by promises, Palo Alto sold its cable system to AT&T, which promptly dropped my favorite program SCOLA, which rebroadcasts foreign news programs in the original languages. A flyer from DirecTV persuaded me to log on to its elaborate home page. I could find no reference to news, let along foreign or international news. The stress was on blockbusters and sports; there was a long list of sports, asking us to indicate which was our favorite. At a time when the US may attack Iraq, with heaven knows what results, the American people show virtually no curiosity about international affairs except for the plans and actions of its own government.

I must thank Alberto Gutiérrez, a Cuban exile living in Miami, for a video cassette in Spanish, entitled "Silla Vacía", "Empty Chair". I feared it would be-rather crude anti-Castro propaganda, but it is excellent. Like so many dictators, including Batista, Castro seized power with credible promises to re-establish democracy. Once in power, it becomes clear that they are motivated by a lust for power rather than by democratic ideals. The film is a survey of the Ibero American summits, and simply as a documentary about them it is useful. The US and Canada do not take part in these summits, and except for an occasional outburst, they have shown no inclination to demand that Castro respect the declarations signed at the end of each summit which include a resolution on democracy. Castro is not qualified to occupy the Cuban chair at these meetings. The chair is morally empty, hence the title of this documentary. While it is an indictment of Castro, it is also of these summits at which national leaders meet and make eloquent speeches that have little or no effect. The film was produced by Mothers and Women Against Repression in Cuba. Those who speak are clearly highly educated, and their cause is just. All the participants in these Ibero-American summits should see this film. Unfortunately the outlook for democracy in Latin America is cloudy.

The issue of freedom in Cuba has acquired a new international dimension with the award by the European Union of a prize for the defense of democracy to the leader of the Varela project. which, in accord with the letter of the Cuban constitution collected signatures for a referendum on freedom. Castro, whose agents have been making his life difficult, refused him permission to leave Cuba, despite the appeals of the European Union.

Ronald Hilton - 1/1/03