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is a blog to give a fresh angle on a fascinating and beautiful Caribbean Island country that, despite being relatively small and with only 11 million people, has been a major player in American and world politics for a half century. I also suggest you try

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Cuba and US Together on Baseball and Hurricanes

By Circles Robinson

The governments of George W. Bush and Fidel Castro may have different views on many issues, but cooperation on hurricanes and baseball are an indication that despite the official animosity, the United States and Cuba could work together on a wide range of areas for a safer and fairer world.

An estimated 70 percent of Cuba’s 11.2 million inhabitants were born after the United States imposed its nearly half-century blockade on the Caribbean island, which stymies scientific, academic and cultural exchange and trade between US and Cuban citizens and businesses.

But there are some small cracks in the climate of conflict Washington has maintained to cater to a Miami special interest group –the hard core Cuban American self-exiles who supported the dictator Batista before the country’s 1959 revolution.

Just this week, ongoing cooperation on storm tracking took place and ironically, Florida’s residents were the main winners. The Miami Herald, not exactly a pro-Cuba publication, acknowledged Tuesday that such cooperation has been going on for three years but that, for the first time, National Hurricane Center in Miami-Dade weather forecasters had publicly thanked Cuba for its cooperation to help save lives.

Working together “did not spark any international incidents – but they did help South Floridians indirectly prepare for Tropical Storm Ernesto,” noted The Herald.

“Between Sunday and Monday, U.S. Air Force C-130 ''hurricane hunters'' flew into Cuban airspace at least twice a day, sampling storm conditions such as wind speed, barometric pressure and other meteorological measurements,” reports the daily.

The Herald goes on to note that “US forecasters publicly thanked Cuba for granting access to island airspace so they could obtain data vital to tracking Ernesto.”

''We are both in the same business -- we're trying to save people's lives,'' said Lixion Avila, a Cuban-born hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in West Miami-Dade, quoted by the newspaper.

Forecaster Stacy Stewart, who was tracking the storm overnight, tossed in a brief note of appreciation in one of his storm advisories: “Special thanks to the government of Cuba for permitting the recon aircraft to fly right up to their coastline to gather this critical weather data,'' adds The Herald.

Meanwhile, while the weakened storm hit eastern Cuba and headed for Florida, the US and Cuba were leading the charge in both countries national pastime, baseball, in a 2008 Beijing Olympics qualifying tournament being played in Havana.

Before play began on August 25, Cuba’s Communist Party newspaper Granma ran stories praising the US team managed by Davey Johnson and following its tune-up play against Canada in Tampa, Florida.

A week later, the two teams Cuba (5-0) and US (4-1) both led their respective six-team tournament pools that will eventually yield two births for the Americas in the next Olympics. As occurred in the World Baseball Classic in March, where Cuba played its semifinal and finals game in the US, comradeship reigns and the grand old game gets beyond a worn out political situation that seems to live on inertia.

Virtually everybody in Cuba wants to see the best two teams meet in the second round of play that begins on September 1, not because of politics, but because they just want to see good baseball.

The same atmosphere that brings Cubans and US citizens together on hurricane watch and sports could take place in many other spheres and be beneficial not only for both country’s citizens but those of many other nations around the globe.


The Cuban government has repeatedly offered to work together with the US in fighting the evils of illegal and deadly people smuggling, drug trafficking and terrorism. The island promotes scientific and academic exchange between the two countries and would like to see artists and intellectuals freely visit each other for international events.

So far the stumbling block has been nine previous US administrations, and made worse during the Bush era, that has put up a wall, which albeit not without its cracks, keeps the potential of joint efforts to a minimum.

Let’s take the battle against HIV/AIDS as an example.

On World AIDS Day on December 1, 2005 President Bush stressed “the importance of the global fight against HIV/AIDS and renewed America’s commitment to turning the tide against the deadly disease.” In recent days former President William Clinton said: "It is our duty as citizens of the same planet to pool our energies and banish the scourge of AIDS from the headlines of our newspapers to the chapters of our history books once and for all."

One idea on the issue put forth years before by Fidel Castro, if implemented, could change the healthcare situation on the planet.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly on June 28, 2001 Cuban VP Carlos Lage outlined Cuba’s offer to send 4,000 doctors and health personnel free of charge to create a network to supply prescription medicine to the population of the most hard hit countries, as well as vital follow-up. He said these same professionals could train a large number of local care providers.

Cuba, like nobody else, has the human resources to make such a commitment, and has shown so in the last year after natural disasters in Guatemala, Pakistan, Bolivia and most recently Indonesia. Besides immediately sending its medical personnel, Cuba provided dozens of field hospitals as well as free medications.

Simultaneously, it also has thousands of doctors working in Venezuela, Haiti and numerous African and other Latin American nations to help establish or improve ongoing health care programs for low-income people.

However, in the case of AIDS, Cuba does not have the means to produce enough of the drugs that would greatly prolong the lives of patients and allow them to live more normal lives. That capability is in the hands of major US and European pharmaceutical companies and Cuba suggests a joint effort to make a real dent in a deplorable situation.

“All it would take is for the international community to provide the raw materials for the medicines, the equipment and material resources for these products and services,” noted VP Carlos Lage at the UN.

Nonetheless, to date, Cuba’s call to join together to make real progress on AIDS has fallen on deaf ears.

The question many, even in Miami, are quietly asking, is when will stale politics and special interest groups cease to control United States foreign policy?

If that happens, the US and Cuba could together have a lot to offer their own people and the world.


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