Cuba Hosts Michael Moore and US Teens
The United States government forbids its citizens from getting on a plane and flying to Havana, Cuba. Nevertheless, Michael Moore and a group of New York City high school students were recently on separate trips to the Caribbean never-never land.
The filmmaker traveled to the island on a low-profile trip to get some footage for his new movie “Sicko,” about health care in the US.
Moore is known for his comical but hard-hitting documentaries aimed at exposing fraud, greed, corruption and pretension. He was able to get a special US Treasury Dept. License to travel to Cuba as a journalist. Such permission is denied most citizens.
The director hopes to premiere “Sicko” at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival in May.
His Oscar winning “Bowling for Columbine” (2002), about the tragedy at a Colorado High School, was back on people’s minds Monday when a man opened fire on students at Virginia Tech University killing at least 32 and wounding dozens more.
“Bowling for Columbine” showed how easy it is to purchase powerful weapons in the United States, a policy steadfastly supported by the current administration.
Moore’s last major film, “Fahrenheit 9/11” (2004), gave viewers a critical look at the people running the United States, their close associates, their self-serving response to the 9/11 crisis and the real roots of the war on Iraq.
PUNISHMENT FOR VIOLATING US BLOCKADE ON CUBA
A dozen New York City Beacon High School students and their history teacher, Nate Turner, decided to use their spring vacation to discover what Cuba was really like. The school has often sponsored trips to foreign countries.
However, unlike Michael Moore, they had to go illegally. Upon returning to the US via the Bahamas, the students now face fines of up to $65,000 for daring to disobey the Bush administration.
Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he is “investigating the matter.” David Cantor, the NYC Dept. of Education spokesperson, was noncommittal on whether the City would take action against the teacher and the students.
AP quoted one Beacon parent, Lee Kalcheim, as saying: “Our policy toward Cuba is nonsense. You antagonize. You just make things worse. We should have normal relations with them.”
TRAVEL BAN PROMOTES US ISOLATION
The Cuban government welcomes students from around the world either to study or simply to visit. However, during the last three years the Bush administration has cracked down on exchange, preferring a policy of intensified isolation in regards to the island.
Even Cuban-Americans are forbidden by the US government from visiting close family members on the island more than once every three years.
Invited US Jazz musicians are prohibited from playing in the yearly Havana Jazz Plaza Festival and authors banned from attending and presenting their works at the annual Cuban Book Fair. In February this year, a US Cycling Federation team was not allowed to compete in the Tour of Cuba event.
The University of Pittsburgh lost its permission from the US Treasury Dept. a couple years ago to dock in Havana during its semester abroad program. On several occasions the students had been able to converse with top Cuban officials including President Fidel Castro.
Likewise, Cuban scholars, artists, musicians, athletes and economists are routinely denied visas to attend events in the United States.
Cuban scientist, Vicente Verez-Bencomo who discovered a low-cost vaccine against meningitis and pneumonia in small children was denied a visa to receive an award for his achievement at the Tech Museum in San Jose, California.
At the age of 76, the legendary Cuban singer Ibrahim Ferrer (1927-2005) was denied a chance to receive his last of three Grammy Awards. The singer from the Buena Vista Social Club was dumbfounded to learn that the Bush administration invoked a law that applies to terrorists, drug dealers and dangerous criminals to deny him a visa as a threat to US national security.
Several bills that would end the US travel ban on Cuba are currently before the US Congress. However, President Bush has previously threatened to veto any legislation that deviates from his hard-line approach to Cuba policy.