The island of Cuba, some say, is shaped like a crocodile, though you need a highly developed imagination to see it. The hatchery, located on one of its webbed feetâ€”whether front or back depends on which way you tilt your headâ€”has been solely dedicated to the conservation of the Cuban crocodile since 1974. The mission is straightforward in theory: secure the Cuban crocodile for the future and learn about the natural history of the little-understood species along the way. Yet as geneticist Yoamel MiliÃ¡n-GarcÃa of the University of Havana and others peer into the crocodileâ€™s cellular secrets, theyâ€™re revealing that thereâ€™s a lot more that needs to be considered when it comes to conserving Castroâ€™s croc.
In the wild, the Cubanâ€”one of the worldâ€™s rarest crocodilesâ€”is found almost exclusively within the 300-square-kilometer freshwater interior of the Zapata Swamp. The saltier stretches along the coast are the domain of Cubaâ€™s other native crocodileâ€”the widely distributed American (Crocodylus acutus), also found in coastal areas across Cuba and other Caribbean islands, and on the mainland from Mexico and southern Florida down to northern Peru and Venezuela. The Cuban is bolder and hunts during the day. It has a stubby snout, a reputation for jumping, and a tendency to walk with its belly high off the ground. The American is bigger, more apt to hide, searches for prey at night, sports dark bands on its back and sides, and has a long, pointed snout and extra webbing on its hind toes. The differences are as distinct as red from blue. Yet when MiliÃ¡n-GarcÃa analyzed their genetics a few years ago, he confirmed what zookeepers and scientists had already suspected: the two species are skinny-dipping in the same gene pool. …
By the time Castro had taken power, Zapata Swamp had already been altered by human ambition. Land reclamation projects here date back to the 19th century. And as researcher Claudia MartÃnez Herrera from Cubaâ€™s national archive explains in a report, in the 1940s, the sugar industry arrived in the swampâ€”trees were cleared to make way for crops and mills and to power production. Loggers also cut swaths of royal ebony, mahogany, and white oak for export and for coal production. The sediment released from logging changed the areaâ€™s hydrology, causing four distinct areas to merge together into one giant swamp. Inhabitants drove artificial channels deep into the interior to access remaining trees. When Fulgencio Batista was in power, he had even taken steps to slash a canal all the way from the swampâ€™s south coast to Havana, bisecting the country, as a shortcut for ships traveling between the United States and the Panama Canal, though it never materialized.
Castro embraced the notion of bringing economic development to the sparsely inhabited and impoverished region. In The Real Fidel Castro, the late former British ambassador to Cuba Leycester Coltman says that from the beginning, the leaderâ€”who has been heralded as an environmentalistâ€”â€œshowed a fatal attraction to gigantic schemes to conquer nature and change the landscape, the sort of projects that appealed to other modern pharaohs such as Mussolini and Stalin.â€ Castro wanted to drain the swamp, a â€œvirtually unpopulated region, infested with mosquitoes and crocodiles,â€ and convert it into â€œa rich area for rice-growing and tourism,â€ Coltman writes. Under his watch, Funes-Monzote confirms, more water was siphoned away and more artificial channels were driven deep into the swamp, into Cuban crocodile habitat.
Aspiring to save endemic species while simultaneously degrading their habitat is clearly contradictory, though awareness about the importance of saving ecosystems rather than focusing on specific species had not yet become part of the zeitgeist, and land reclamation was still generally viewed as a good idea, says Funes-Monzote. Plus, Castro was perfectly comfortable with contradictions. …
[A]lthough they look and behave differently, Cuban crocodiles and American crocodiles in Cuba are almost genetically the same to begin with. Only a 0.9 percent genetic difference exists between themâ€”which makes American crocodiles here much more closely related to Cuban crocodiles than to members of their own species elsewhere in their range. Perhaps considering them two species was a taxonomic miscalculation and they should be treated as one. Or, maybe the American crocodile in Cuba needs to be designated a second crocodile species entirely unique to Cuba. In that case, could allowing two separate but wholly Cuban species to hybridize prove more palatable from a social perspective?
Joel D. Hirst mourns the 57 years stolen from the lives of millions of Cubans by the bandidito tyrant.
I said I would write no more about the death of a tyrant. I lied. Well, perhaps only changed my mind. Because I read something yesterday â€“ something that nobody in Cuba would be able to read. â€œThe greatest evil of the tyrannyâ€ it said â€œwas the theft of six generations of life.â€
Forget the gulags and the concentration camps and the firing squads. Those are the stories that made the papers at least â€“ stories that were told. No â€“ the most important part of this tragedy is not what happened, but what didnâ€™t happen. The novels that were not written, stories of beach and mountain and freedom and loss; the beautiful paintings that did not come to be, which in turn did not inspire abounding love â€“ the love of storybooks. The cuisine that was not refined; the businesses that did not provide for families; inventions that do not help humanity; diseases that were not cured.
The life that was not lived.
This â€“ for me â€“ is the greatest tragedy of all. We have this life at our fingertips, those of us from America. To a greater measure than others; but even those from Panama, or Chile, or Paraguay can see that which they wish to attain. They can uncork the $1000 bottle of wine and dream of the day they will sit in front of the sheer white tablecloth and drink deeply. They can read the novel, and imagine how they would make the stories unfold, improving them. They can look at the girl across their own malecon and imagine how they will win their fortune and then come for her.
None of these things have been imagined â€“ for six generations â€“ in Cuba.
For those of us who are writers, the unwritten story of Cuba is the saddest of all.
Obama’s visit to Cuba is almost entirely gestural. He would need Congressional approval to lift completely the trade embargo, so he is just exploiting every little legal loophole he can, and applying the prestige of the US presidency and the symbolism of a fawning presidential visit to buff up the Cuban revolutionary cause.
Obama’s photo represents a humiliating day for Americans, as this US president, one more time, demonstrates his personal admiration for, and agreement with, America’s prime enemies. And it constituted a real slap in the face to Americans of Cuban, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Hungarian, Czech, Slovene, Croatian, Serbian, Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, and every other Captive Nations background.
Barack Obama in eight years was only able to nationalize one sixth of the US economy, but he was unfortunately able to disgrace the country one hundred per cent yesterday.
OK, the leftist in the White House is disgracing the United States by relaxing the embargo on trade and talking about restoring diplomatic relations with the communist despotism in Cuba.
If the libs get to vacation in the Workers’ Paradise sipping Mojitos, we Republicans ought to get our share of the deal by new trade policies permitting American importers to bring in Russian and Czech guns from Cuba. More Mosin Nagants and SKS-s, along with Czech Mausers and VZ52-s.
The Washington Post‘s story makes it clear that Walter Kendall Myers is going to plead insanity and beat the rap for spying for the Communist Cuban regime on the basis on Bush Derangement Syndrome, a disorder afflicting numerous Ivy League graduates, and one particularly epidemic within the State Department.
You can picture the scene now.
Walt (or it is “Ken?”) flings down his London Review of Books indignantly, livid with rage after reading the latest Monbiot editorial describing the misery of oppressed Americans who were denied entry to Mercersburg and Brown. Gwendolyn sympathetically brings him a glass of Chardonnay, and sighs, “Oh dear, if only there were something we could do!”
“There must be.” returns Walt (or Ken) with determination.
He was a courtly State Department intelligence analyst from a prominent family who loved to sail and peruse the London Review of Books. Occasionally, he would voice frustration with U.S. policies, but to his liberal neighbors in Northwest D.C. it was nothing out of the ordinary. “We were all appalled by the Bush years,” one said.
What Walter Kendall Myers kept hidden, according to documents unsealed in court Friday, was a deep and long-standing anger toward his country, an anger that allegedly made him willing to spy for Cuba for three decades.
“I have become so bitter these past few months. Watching the evening news is a radicalizing experience,” he wrote in his diary in 1978, referring to what he described as greedy U.S. oil companies, inadequate health care and “the utter complacency of the oppressed” in America. On a trip to Cuba, federal law enforcement officials said in legal filings, Myers found a new inspiration: the communist revolution.
So much for that “reset relations” button that Hillary delivered to the leaders of the Kremlin.
The Russians have an almost 50 year old tradition of testing democrat wimp presidents. John F. Kennedy conspicuously failed that test in 1962 when he abandoned the Monroe Doctrine, and traded US missiles in Turkey and a promise to leave Castro in place for Russian removal of missiles from Cuba and an ersatz public victory.
A Russian general said on Saturday Venezuela has offered the use of its La Orchila island airfield for Russian strategic bombers on long-range flights.
Russia has been keen to build relations with a rival to the United States in the Western hemisphere in an effort to counter U.S. influence in formerly Communist countries in eastern Europe and central Asia.
“If certain political decisions are taken, it is possible (for Russian bombers to use the base),” Interfax news agency quoted the head of Russian strategic aviation general-major Anatoly Zhikharev as saying.
Zhikharev also said Russian bombers would be prepared to use four or five airfields on Cuba if the political leadership of the two countries allowed the use of Cuban bases.
Two Russian long-range bombers flew to Venezuela last year in a visit designed to show off Moscow’s military strength and build ties with a foe of the United States.
American oil companies are not permitted to hunt for oil on the continental shelf adjacent to the Florida coast, but Canadian companies are already pumping 19,000 barrels a day 90 miles from Key West, and Communist Cuba is now exploring for oil even closer, aided by Canada, Spain, and China.
My wife finally had a chance to see Andy Garcia’s new film The Lost City, and Karen complained to me today that she could not understand why so excellent, and unusual, a film (one that actually tells the truth about Communism) is not receiving greater attention and support from the right side of the media and the Blogosphere.
I reviewed it with discretion myself, not wanting to give away all the details of the plot, since I expected many readers would not yet have seen the film. I have, however, promised Karen that I would supply some links providing more commentary and appreciation.
Andy Garcia’s independent film The Lost City officially opened April 28th, but is only gradually beginning to show up on the screens of suburban art theatres.
Made with a budget of only ten million dollars, TLC was a personal labor of love begun by Garcia more than twenty years ago, in 1983, which arose from an idea of portraying pre-Castro Havana as a kind of Casablanca.
The protagonist (played by Garcia himself), “Fico” Fellove, is a member of the younger generation of an upper-class Cuban family. His father, Don Federico Fellove, is a humanist professor at Havana University. His uncle, Donoso Fellove, manages the family tobacco plantation and produces cigars. Fico is an apolitical man-about-town, content to preside amiably over his popular nightclub, El Tropico, passionate only about the music and dance of his native Cuba.
Fico admires Aurora (played by Spanish supermodel Inés Sastre), the beautiful wife of Luis, his liberal idealist brother (who is actively engaged in a conspiracy of patriots to topple the corrupt dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista), and serves as her friend and confidante. But family is the most important thing to Fico, and he is devoted to both his brothers, even to Ricardo, the self-righteous and fanatical radical leftist.
The Fellove family’s pleasant way of life is soon, of course, destroyed by Revolution. TLC combines the story of the family’s unhappy fate with a lyrical portrait of a Lost City, a lost country, a lost way of life. Garcia delivers both a remarkable performance and a very moving film.