Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A New Brand for Struggle (Part 2)

In other words, are sacrifices being made fairly by the collective group?

Last month, I caught a great documentary on the local PBS station called "Victory is Your Duty." It is perhaps the best documentary that focuses on Cuba's youth boxing academies and provides a very rare and intimate glimpse into what many boxing fans have been dying to know: how does Cuba train champions?

In 2002, BBC reporter Daniel Schweimler went to Cuba to answer this question. He found out what many had suspected about the effective Cuban sports system: state priorities to provide athletic facilities throughout Cuba, a rich sports history, attention to young athletes, a competitive system between regional academies, a coach's good eye for talent, and a mixture of national pride and sacrifice.

In 1996, a Canadian sports psychologist (and accomplished athlete herself), Susan Butt, believed that Cuba's many athletic accomplishments were mainly due to "feelings of competence and co-operation" that were promoted within the Cuban sports system, instead of emphasis in "aggression and competition" as seen in other developed nations. Cuba, at the time, had achieved more medals in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta than other developed nations, such as Britain, Japan and Canada. Furthermore, Cubans were still suffering the economic hardships of the Special Period, and 1996 only saw a recovery that Carmelo Mesa-Lago [PDF] described as "extremely weak."

But, Cubans still live in desperate times, and are still making sacrifices.

Andrew Lang, director of Victory is Your Duty, captures these elements and more in his film. Lang, in his production notes comments: "To train for five hours a day, be constantly hungry, and live in poor conditions is a lot to ask of anyone, let alone a ten-year-old child." It is a great responsibility that Cuban children learn to carry, sometimes by force. In one scene in Victory is Your Duty, a father bluntly tells his child in training that his failure in boxing academy will have a negative impact on the entire family. Its the same father that earlier in the film cries for not having enough to feed his family a decent meal each day.

Sports fans agree: Cuba is a boxing powerhouse (at least in the amateurs). But behind it all, as Lang points out: "despite this warmth and joy, there's often sadness behind the smile."

Hans De Salas-del Valle, a research associate at UM's Cuba Transition Project, believes that Cuba's youth have given up on the Revolution. According to Salas-del Valle, "Cuba is really losing its future, its young generation, which either [is] opting to try to hustle to make a dollar from tourists on the island, instead of pursuing higher education, or willing to risk their lives by venturing out into the Florida straits to reach the United States."

The latest news about the two Cuban boxers,
Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara, seems to indicate that they did in fact try to defect, despite their several comments on Cuban state media to the contrary.

[Photo by Errol Daniels]

[Part 3]


Agustin Farinas said...

Mr. Watch said:
" Cubans still live in desperate times, and are still making sacrifices". How could you say that?
And furher down he writes:
"Its the same father that earlier in the film cries for not having enough to feed his family a decent meal each day."
Shame on you for repeating the Miami Mafia propaganda Mr. Watch. Obviously you have been brainwashed by the "gusanos" in order to say that. If you want the real truth about how people in Cuba really live and how these things you said are nothing but lies, just ask Leftside cause he has the real scoop on Cuba. According to his well informed sources, Cuba's economy is growing at a higher rate per year than Chile's and China and everything is rosy and people are really happy and content there. In fact the Cuban economy has been growing at the rate of 9.5% last year alone. Despite the evil and murderous blockade that prevents our fighting and brave people from achieving their full potential. The fact that they get paid in pesos and everything at the shopping is sold in dollars, has nothing to do with that.
What has prompted you to repeat these lies? I used to read your blog and everything was ok in Cuba and suddenly you are saying these awful things about the revolution? What happened to your resolve and objective reporting about Cuba? Why are you saying these awful things about our boxers? Why do you say they really wanted to defect? Don't you know that they were really a little overweight and decided to go shopping in Rio and so they just happen to miss their fights? And you should know that no pressure of any kind was applied to their families, they just missed the greetings of the Comandante and were homesick for the Revolution. That is why they returned to their homeland full of repentance. Really I am surprised at you Mr. Watch, here I thought you were in Cuba's corner and then I read these "lies" you wrote and I am amazed. Maybe you should come to our country and stay a while and see how the real Cuban people live. Please stay a while with us and live like a regular Cuban and enjoy all the benefits of our system and then you will get a different point of view from that distorted view you get in the heart of the Imperialism.

Mambi_Watch said...

And, thanks for commenting. Hope you didn't overdose on your sarcasm. There's more posts to come, so save your energy.

Agustin Farinas said...

Thanks,but no, thanks. In don't think I will stick around. My visits here are few. I can only stomach so much of this before I have to stay away for a while to regain my health and prevent my acid reflux from overwhelming my digestive system.
Tellechea must have a very strong stomach.

Agustin Farinas said...

Stasi had shoot-to-kill policy to deter Berlin Wall escapes
By Allan Hall in Berlin
Published: 13 August 2007


Mr. Watch,
one of Fidel's most trusted allies East Germany, seems to have employed the same tactics the current regime in Havana uses to deter would be escapees. Of course, Fidel's minions are more sophisticated and they used water cannons. We don't want anyone to say Cubans are not imaginative when it comes to implement repression, don't we? You can read the whole article on the link provided above. But then, the Stassi used to provide training for the Cuban Security forces, so we can say the Cuban pupils learned their despicable trade well. Well what do you know?
Disclaimer: Any Cuban actions similarities with previous actions by another european communist regime is pure coincidence.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

"The latest news about the two Cuban boxers, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara, seems to indicate that they did in fact try to defect, despite their several comments on Cuban state media to the contrary."

Wow, catching up with the rest of the world finally? Serves you right for believing the Cuban state media (btw, what other media is there in Cuba besides the state media?).

Mambi_Watch said...

Mr. Farinas,

Your comments are always welcomed (make sure you take your Tums) and I look forward to any serious contributions.

Thank you for the link to the Allan Hall article in the Independent. I urge anyone interested to read the revelation of this sinister policy.

I'm not surprised that you have accepted this fact as PROOF that the Cuban government must have the same policy, and thus the "13 de Marzo" massacre (never mind the various other interceptions that have not resulted in massacres).

I'm NOT saying that the Cuban government doesn't have a "shoot-to-kill" policy, but neither am I saying that they do. We shall know in the future if such a revelation appears.

But, we do have a responsibility NOW to avoid such violence.

My opinion, like many others, is that the US should have normal relations with the Cuban government in order to improve the dire migration problems between the two countries. The two nations must work together to allow the most beneficial migration for its citizens. This principle should also apply to relations with other nations, such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Normalizations would open up vast opportunities for many, even to those who seek justice for past crimes committed by the Cuban government.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


Welcomed? Yes, I should think so.

leftside said...

The fact remains that the boxers were "free" in Brazil living it up. They were given every opportunity to remain in Brazil and apply for asylum. They refused. They had a change of heart. If you believe this is because of pressure on the families, then you are really naive. No family member of a defector has even been locked up. Yeah, they had their gift car taken away - but not the PC. With the money they could have gotten in Germany, they could have bought their families ten cars.

If Arena claims the boxers signed contracts, why haven't these pieces of paper been shown to the press? If some "functionary" at the German Embassy claims they filed for visas (in person or through proxies), why is there no proof shown? If their families were pressured, why don't we get any reports of that?

Human Rights Watch should be ashamed of themselves for calling the Brazilian authorities liers and malfeasant. Everyone is looking for an angle in this, since the truth appears to be too hard to look in the eye. And i am not claiming the boxers stories were 100% the truth either...

Agustin Farinas said...

Mr Watch said:
"never mind the various other interceptions that have not resulted in massacres"

I have to assume that the 3 black youths that were shot in 2003 after a sham phony trial actually commited suicide, didn't they? Or how many youths shot for attempting to escape does it take, to make a massacre in your august opinion?

Mambi_Watch said...

You are jumping to conclusions and going off topic.

leftside said...

The case of the "3 black youth" is actually the case of 3 hijackers, who used the same methods as the 9/11 terrorists and put hundreds of people at serious risk. I was actually in Cuba when this took place - and watched Fidel walk into a building across the street from my hotel. I only saw because the spontaneous street clapping and screaming for Fidel was very loud. He was going on air to talk about he incident. He even aired interviews with the young men, who said they deserved the punishment.

These hijackings appeared part of a coordinated plan, organized from outside Cuba, likely intended to sow chaos and provide a pretext for who knows what. Cuba deteceted many other similar plots that week.

Trials were indeed summary, but were fair. There were immediate appeals to the Supreme Court. There is no doubt about the guilt under the terrorist statute of the 3 sentenced to death. 8 others involved were given various prison terms, from 2 years on.

Let us also remember, these types of crimes - like in Berlin - are only made possible because the US wanted to explicitly encourage them and made generous offers to anyone brave enough to test their luck. In Cuba's case this is because of the Cuban Adjustment Act, whereby even hijacking terrorists are likely to be given asylum in the US.