Cuba Diaries: "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" Cuba 4.2

Cuba Diaries

“Tie a Yellow Ribbon”

Cuba 4.2 (4th Trip; 2nd Day)
September 10, 2013
Cindy Sheehan 

Rene Gonzalez and his partner, Olga Salanueva

Today was a rare day for me being in Cuba, or elsewhere---a day off! I hardly know what to do with myself with free time because it has now become so rare.

Every time I have come to Cuba before, my time has been very closely scheduled, but most of the time it’s hardly a chore because the people are so wonderful and they have been struggling on a daily basis since the Revolution and asinine US blockade and I try to do what I can do.

After my long trip through Panama to Cuba, I slept well and awoke ready to head down to the breakfast buffet.

I try to moderate my calorie intake even more when I am in Cuba because the society almost collapsed in the late 80’s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The people here call that period the “Special Period” when they were literally starving. This was the time we saw the boat people coming to Florida fleeing starvation. During that time, the US could have stepped in and lifted the blockade and helped our neighbors, but the Empire to the north wasn’t very neighborly, it just increased the sanctions.

A friend of mine here in Havana named Alberto who has translated for me in the past told me that the mothers of Cuba saved the country during the Special Period—they even ground banana peels to imitate ground beef for their recipes. During the Special Period is when Cuba invested heavily in neighborhood food gardens and organic farming. In fact, their program to eradicate hunger has been a model for many people around the world. Unfortunately, the country still needs to import about 75% of its food.

It’s pretty incredible that such a tiny and poor country leads the US in many measurable standards pertaining to Human Rights: infant mortality rates are lower here in Cuba than in the States; Cuba kicks US butt in literacy rates with a 99.9% literacy rate; and childhood hunger has been eradicated but in the “wealthiest” country on the planet, millions of children go to bed hungry every day.

Homelessness is non-existent in Cuba. Most of the people (including high government officials) live in very modest homes or apartments. The philosophy of gluttony in all things and over-consumption isn't here. Additionally, violent crime is practically  non-existent in Cuba, but also the presence of a police state that we have in the US is not in evidence. One does not even need to take his/her "terrorist" shoes off when going through airport security. The people of Cuba have also been victims of terrorism.

The second time that I was invited to Cuba was for International Human Rights’ Day on December 10th. December 10th is when the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights was signed. A document signed both by the US and Cuba, but seemingly only enforced internally by Cuba. With more military intervention looming in Syria, it seems like the US only uses the promise of “Human Rights” to justify war and gross human rights violations.

On that occasion, my sister Dede Miller and I flew from Miami to Havana. We were going to Cuba on a religious license—so we had to be photographed at the Cathedral in Old Havana—but it’s the only time I really had “permission” from the US.

I have unending problems whenever I fly to, or through, Miami. It’s a conservative place heavily influenced by Cuban counter-revolutionaries who fled the country after the Revolution taking several billions of dollars with them. This trip was even worse. American Airlines has a shuttle service that at the time flew once a day from Miami to Cuba and one of its female employees followed my sister and I around the airport for awhile yelling at us and SHE threatened us with security when we were just walking. We lost her when we went through security and had no more problems from there.

That time we stayed in a Casa de Protocol (Protocol House) that are maintained by the government in a very ritzy area of Havana where many ambassadors lived under the dictatorship of Batista. 

The Houses are staffed with drivers, cooks, housekeepers and gardeners. I learned that being a staff member in one of the Hospitality Houses is a very prestigious position because the people are descendants of those who helped the Castros and Che in the Sierra Maestra during the Revolution. Dede and I were treated as VIPs, and again, the food was amazing and tastes like, wait for it, wait for it, FOOD!

On that trip, we visited the International Medical School where Cuba trains doctors (including North Americans), for free, from all over the world. The only requirement is that the students must return to their own countries and, after obtaining a medical license go to work in a poor community for a certain length of time.

Cuba sends doctors all over South America and other poor nations in her program of true humanitarian intervention, while the country I live in sends bombs and big oil to despoil countries that are already tainted by international capitalism.

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was also invited to the conference. The other USAian was filmmaker Saul Landau, R.I.P., who made many films about Cuba, Fidel, the Revolution and the Cuban5. Saul Landau (click here for more info about him) passed away from cancer the day I flew to Cuba. He will be missed by the international solidarity campaign.

This trip was in 2008: right after Obama had been elected for the first time. I was in the office of Ricardo Alarcon (President of the National Assembly) and he told Dede and I that even in Cuba, Obama’s election gave them a glimmer of hope—frankly, I was shocked since Cuba has been steeped in the harsh reality of Empire for over five decades! Of course, Obama has turned out to be a profound disaster for almost everybody, except the 1% of the world.

Except for lifting the Bush restrictions on travel between Cuba and the US for citizens of Cuba and people who have family here, the asinine US policy towards Cuba has remained largely unchanged.

I must confess that I spent much of today catching up on news from the Empire regarding Syria. I just finished watching Obama’s nothing speech. He doesn’t have me, or many others (except the talking Blah-Blah heads on CiaNN) fooled. The only reason he is not asking Congress for permission at the moment is because he wasn’t going to get it. The UK House of Commons told him “NO!,” the UN has told him, “NO,” Putin told him, "NO," and he got many cold shoulders at the G20 in St. Petersburg. For now, there will be no bombing (by US Tomahawk missiles in Syria), but Obama didn’t rule it out, of course.

One thing that Obama said made be yell, “bullshit” at the TV was when he said he didn’t want to lead the US into another war because he has spent his administration trying to get us out of wars. He claims to have ended Iraq, where the violence is still intense and the US still has troops and mercenary soldiers there. Afghanistan has been all but forgotten in the corporate media, but its also far from over.

Let’s talk about Libya—tens of thousands of Libyans were slaughtered by the US/NATO forces and Qaddafi was brutally murdered, along with many members of his family. Obama did not get Congressional permission for that war crime. Let’s talk about drone bombing—Obama has increased the use of UAVs 500% over his predecessor. Obama has greatly expanded Africom and his rhetoric is Cold War Chilly in regards to Russia and China.

Here in Cuba, the people are also very distressed about another potential Imperial war.

Anyway, besides watching CiaNN (my only option in English), I visited some Cold War relics here in Cuba. Right on the grounds of the hotel where I am staying, there were cannon nests and tunnels pointed at US warships during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Eduardo took me on a tour in the tunnels and showed me where Cuban troops were poised to defend their country and Revolution from US aggression. I told Eduardo that I was only 5 when that actually happened, I remembered it and the tenseness that pervaded in the adults around me.
Cannon "Footprint" from Missile Crisis, 1962

I am not a huge drinker of alcohol, but today, I took a Cristal (Cuban beer) from my mini-bar and went down to the pool to take a dip and lay in the sun.

At six this evenin, many Cuban 5 solidarity campaigners met in the lobby of my hotel to tie yellow ribbons around the 12 old palm trees at the entrance to the Hotel Nacional.

This year one of the 5, Rene Gonzalez was allowed to return to
Me, Rene, and Olga
Cuba to finish his three-year parole and I was honored to meet him. He told me, “Cindy, I have dreamed of meeting you and I always wanted to tell you how sorry I am that your son was killed if I ever did get to meet you.” We hugged and kissed, and his wife Olga, hugged and kissed us as she radiated with joy that her husband was at long last home. Olga and one other wife, Adrianna, wife of Gerardo, have never been granted a visa from the US to visit their husbands—which also goes against international human rights law.

Rene has called for the international community to “tie a yellow ribbon” for the speedy return of the rest of the 5 and that’s why we were outdoors tying yellow ribbons for the 5. Here is a great story in the Washington Post, of all places, about Rene's initiative.

Free the 5 (4) and all political prisoners.

End the asinine blockade!

Personally, I have never liked this song, but I think it's sweet what the families of the 5 have done with it:


  1. I have conducted nine mission trips to Cuba and fully support the people and the end of the Blockade. When she first came out on the scene after her son was killed I empathized with Ms. Sheehan. But reading this anti-American trash, she should be banished to Iran or Syria

    1. I guess the truth that I quoted here, like statistics, is some people's trash. I thank you for supporting the people of Cuba, they deserve it, and invite you to use your right to stay away from this blog.

    2. I beg to differ, I thin she should be treated like a heroine, for that anti-American campaign is to defend your rights, my rights. I don't agree on every thing she says or does, but to me she has more cojones than you and I put together. Yes people have gotten us into this predicament, sound "patriotic" a la tea partier with the lives of others, or stand up for the Constitution and Ms. Sheehan and I have chosen the latter. She, Manning, Assange should be considered heroes and our government should be tried for war crimes.

    3. I guess like our ruler Barack Obama, Paul LeBon doesn't support freedom of speech and freedom of the press and wants to get rid of anyone who exposes US government crimes.

  2. Re: "Anti-AmeriKKKan" trash.

    Somehow one suspects there is a swastika mixed in there somewhere. If the war-criminal-in-chief [Emperor Obama I] has his way, Cindy will not have to travel to Syria or Iran. They will be in AmeriKKKa.

    I leave Paul LeBon with this quote from Ambrose Bierce

    "Patriotism, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name.

    In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary, patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer, I beg to submit that is it the first."

    LeBon should go wrap himself up in his flag elsewhere. It's liable to catch on fire.

    1. What Paul LeBon means about "anti-American trash" is actually telling the truth about Empire and Obama. I am sure he only supported me when I was speaking out against Bush. What it is is simply hypocrisy.

  3. You keep up the good fight Cindy, I admire your courage. I hope I get to sing and play guitar for you at another rally. I currently sing for "the Veterans For Peace"
    Francis, from San Francisco


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