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?
The Russian-made jeep carrying the ashes of the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro broke down in the middle of his funeral procession on Saturday, forcing soldiers to push the vehicle until it could be repaired.
Nearly every major news website buried the news, though it was perfectly symbolic of the Cuban regimeâ€™s economic failures, and those of socialism in general.
Still an irredentist Communist himself, philosopher/clown Slavoj Å½iÅ¾ek nonetheless refuses to join the rest of the Left in worshiping Fidel.
We all remember the classic scene from cartoons: a cat walks over the precipice and magically goes on, floating in the airâ€”it falls down only when it looks down and becomes aware that it has no ground under its feet. In the same way, one can say that, in the last decades, Cuban â€œsocialismâ€ continued to live only because it didnâ€™t yet notice it was already dead. …
One gets tired of the conflicting stories of the economic failure and human rights abuses in Cuba, as well as of the twins of education and healthcare that are always trotted out by the friends of the revolution. One gets tired even of the really great story of how a small country can resist the biggest superpower (yes, with the help of the other superpower).
The saddest thing about todayâ€™s Cuba is a feature clearly rendered by the crime novels of Cubaâ€™s literary icon Leonardo Padura, which features detective Mario Conde and are set in todayâ€™s Havana. Paduraâ€™s atmosphere is the one not so much of poverty and oppression as of missed chances, of living in a part of the world to a large extent bypassed by the tremendous economic and social changes of the last decades.
All of the above mentioned stories do not change the sad fact that the Cuban revolution did not produce a social model relevant for the eventual Communist future. I visited Cuba a decade ago, and on that visit I found people who proudly showed me houses in decay as a proof of their fidelity to the revolutionary â€œEventâ€: â€œLook, everything is falling apart, we live in poverty, but we are ready to endure it rather than to betray the Revolution!â€ When renunciations themselves are experienced as proof of authenticity, we get what in psychoanalysis is called the logic of castration. The whole Cuban politico-ideological identity rests on the fidelity to castrationâ€”no wonder that the Leader is called Fidel Castro! …
So what about pro-Castro Western Leftists who despise what Cubans themselves call â€œgusanos/worms,â€ those Cubans who emigrated to find a better life? With all sympathy for the Cuban revolution, what right does a typical middle-class Western Leftist, like too many readers of In These Times, have to despise a Cuban who decided to leave Cuba not only because of political disenchantment but also because of poverty? In the same vein, I myself remember from the early 1990s dozens of Western Leftists who proudly threw in my face how, for them, that Yugoslavia (as imagined by Tito) still exists, and reproached me for betraying the unique chance of maintaining Yugoslavia.
To that charge, I answered: I am not yet ready to lead my life so that it will not disappoint the dreams of Western Leftists. Gilles Deleuze wrote somewhere: â€œSi vous etes pris dans le reve de lâ€™atre vous etez foutu!â€â€”If you are caught in the dream of the other youâ€™re ruined. Cuban people paid the price for being caught into the Western leftistsâ€™ dream.
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.
Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro on Thursday declared passage of American health care reform “a miracle” and a major victory for Obama’s presidency, but couldn’t help chide the United States for taking so long to enact what communist Cuba achieved decades ago.
“We consider health reform to have been an important battle and a success of his (Obama’s) government,” Castro wrote in an essay published in state media, adding that it would strengthen the president’s hand against lobbyists and “mercenaries.”
But the Cuban leader also used the lengthy piece to criticize the American president for his lack of leadership on climate change and immigration reform, and for his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, among many other things.
And he said it was remarkable that the most powerful country on earth took more than two centuries from its founding to approve something as basic as health benefits for all.
“It is really incredible that 234 years after the Declaration of Independence … the government of that country has approved medical attention for the majority of its citizens, something that Cuba was able to do half a century ago,” Castro wrote.
I agree with Castro. It is incredible that the United States managed to preserve freedom so long.
In a presidential race in which unwanted, damaging endorsements seem far more plentiful than endorsements that actually could help, Barack Obama has had the unfortunate distinction of being a magnet for such well-wishers.
The latest unsought praise for the Democratic front-runner came from Fidel Castro, who wrote in a column for Cubaâ€™s Granma newspaper Monday that Obama is â€œthe most progressive candidate to the U.S. presidency.â€ …
In mid-April, Hamas adviser Ahmed Yousef told WorldNetDaily that â€œWe like Mr. Obama, and we hope that he will win the elections.
â€œI hope Mr. Obama and the Democrats will change the political discourse,â€ he said. â€œI do believe [Obama] is like John Kennedy, a great man with a great principle.â€
Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal noted the human costs of General Pinochet’s suppression of leftist revolution in Chile.
The official death toll of the Pinochet dictatorship is some 3,197. An estimated 2,796 of those died in the first two weeks of fighting between the army and the Allende-armed militias.
In the course of 17 years of military rule, the Chilean military extra-judicially eliminated permanently a total of 401 revolutionists, i.e., 401 persons actively engaged in a violent conspiracy against the political rights, private property, personal freedom, and prosperity of 16 million Chileans.
It was obviously the successful elimination of precisely this leadership cadre which prevented the capture of the government in Chile by Communism. Germany should have been so lucky that an aristocratic general staged a coup when Hitler became chancellor and began dismantling the Weimar Constitution, subdued the revolutionary Brownshirts and Blackshirts, and restored democracy, along with freedom, prosperity, and the rule of law, at so small a cost.
The International Left, and its sympathisers in the media and the Entertainment Industry, have waged an incessant and continuing public relations campaign against General Pinochet and his military regime, attempting to portray them in the most sinister of lights, but the Left’s hypocrisy is patent.
Allende would unquestionably have followed the model and example of Fidel Castro, who has killed far more people and driven many more political opponents into exile than the Chilean military. And there exists the important difference that Castro’s victims were innocent, and Pinochet’s were guilty. There is also the second important difference that Pinochet undertook a coup against a rising dictatorship in order to restore democracy and law, while Castro’s coup replaced a more benign dictatorship with a far more vicious and lawless one. The Left which defends Castro is in no position whatsoever to criticize Pinochet.