and Cubans, an End to 'Phantasmagoria' (Folha, Brazil)
contacts at the highest level between U.S. and Cuba authorities (including their
respective presidents) will bring an end to Cuba as a ghost comprised of a few
facts and lots of mythology. … My first trip to Cuba was in 1977 when
Brazilians were prohibited from traveling to the island. … It was clear to me
that there was a profound mutual ignorance between Cuba and the outside world that
served to feed the mutual phantasmagoria. … The Americans will now make a
New York Times cartoonist
Patrick Chappatte perfectly encapsulated the new
situation between Cuba and the United States since the 7th Summit of the
In his drawing [top of the page], Obama, hand on Raúl Castro's shoulder, says: "Cuba will be removed
from our terrorism list." In the following balloon, the president continues:
"And put on our tourism list."
Bingo. The contacts at the highest level between U.S. and
Cuba authorities (including the respective presidents) will bring an end to
Cuba as a ghost comprised of a few facts and lots of mythology.
I will tell you a tale drawn from personal experience. My
first trip to Cuba was in 1977 when Brazilians were prohibited from traveling
to the island.
[Editor's Note: These were the waning years of Brazil's military
dictatorship, which began in 1964. Ties with the United States were quite
strong, and the John F. Kennedy Administration strongly backed the 1964 "anti-communist"
coup that brought the generals to power. Of chief concern to the White House: growing Cuban and Soviet influence].
I had to take a crazy route: go to Paris to get the entry visa
to Cuba; from Paris to Madrid to catch an Iberia flight (with layover) down to Havana.
I had read the book The
Island by journalist Fernando Morais which praised the regime, a rare
Brazilian publication about Cuba.
The book said that Cubans, full of revolutionary ardor, didn't
accept gratuities - a thing of decadent capitalism. I believed it, and when the
"boy" (actually not really a boy) put my bags in the hotel room, and I
awaited his departure. He waited for me to give him the tip the book said Cubans
wouldn't accept. He won the waiting game and took the tip - Revolutionary pride
was not so widespread.
Upon my return to Brazil, as I learned long thereafter, the
coronels of the-then 2nd Army wanted to arrest me at the airport, even if the journey
On the contrary, I had sent five texts into Estadão, for which
was then employed, two of them published and duly signed "Special Envoy to
Cuba" (the other three disappeared during transmission from Havana to São
The head of the colonels, General Dilermando
Gomes Monteiro, prevented my arrest, telling his
subordinates that he preferred to invite me to talk to him (and them) at the Ibirapuera
The invitation did indeed come. The general and I sat on the
sofa and behind us, a group of coronels wore frowns.
Dilermando asked: "So, how is
the island?" I responded: "General, for such a people it can be very
good, but for us, the bourgeois, it is shit. One must stand on line for
This relaxed the tense atmosphere a bit because it was clear
that the general didn't want to conduct an ideological interrogation about the "enemy."
He just wanted to satisfy his curiosity about the prohibited "ghost."
Posted By Worldmeets.US
There was also curiosity from the other side. During my stay
on the island, the Brazilian government announced the so-called "April
package" of restrictive measures to prevent the opposition from achieving
an election breakthrough.
The next day, a member of the Cuban Communist Party Central
Committee appeared at my hotel with the same curiosity about Brazil that
General Dilermando had about Cuba.
It was clear to me that there was a profound
ignorance on both sides that served to feed the mutual phantasmagoria.
The Americans will make a similar discovery now.
Clovis Rossi is a special correspondent and
member of the Folha editorial board, is a winner of the Maria Moors
Cabot award (USA) and is a member of the Foundation for a New Ibero-American Journalism. His column appears on
Thursdays and Sundays on page 2 and on Saturdays in the World Notebook
section. He is the author, among other works, of Special Envoy: 25 Years
Around the World and What is Journalism?