From: Frank Rivas <>
Sent: Monday, March 22, 2004 3:22 PM
Subject: strait-talk

After reading part of your reference articles, I am astonished as to how much dis-information or lack of knowledge you have about Cuba.

I saw no mention of Castro's assassination squads, that have murdered by firing squads, tens of thousands of Cubans, and still do. I saw no mention of how Che illiminated the Cuban peso overnight, under the pretense that everyone should have the same equal share, then he lived in a huge mansion in the suburb of Miramar in La Havana, with a ocean view, and was driven around in a Mercedez-Benz by a personal chauefer.

I saw no mention of how still today thousands of Cubans risk their lives to come to the U.S., even though according to you Cuba has the best health care and university system ever. Another false fact, my mother got a doctorate in education from the University of Havana, in the 50's, and I attended very good public schools until I was forced to escape due to the forced Marxist indoctrination mandatory to all school aged children.

I saw no mention of what Castro did with the 4-5 million dollars a day he was getting from Moscow. It didn't go to the Cuban people. Castro is the one that kicked out Coca-Cola, Pepsi, the sugar refineries, the oil refineries, and any other industry that had roots in the U.S. before the U.S. closed relations. He confiscated property that was not his by changing the Cuban constitution. He is solely responsible for the people in Cuba having nothing to eat. He is truly responsible for the people in Cuba having to resort to inner-tubes to leave Cuba and choose where they want to make their lives.

But, you don't mention any of this. Either you didn't do well in your research, or a very well trained communist. I find it even more disturbing that you are taking this false slanted message to high schools, where you are portraying Che and Castro as heroes and victims of the U.S. policy towards Cuba past and present, when they are nothing more than murdering goons! Che's best contribution to this world was when he got himself murdered by Castro in South America.

You don't mention the Peter Pan flights. When parents desperate to get their children out of Cuba, put them on flights by themselves bound for the U.S., Spain, wherever, with no hope of seeing them again. Forced to separate by the man who several decades later made a world issue of Elian Gonzales, proclaiming to the world that a son's place is with his parents.
When his only interest was to not "loose one" to the U.S.

I escaped from Cuba with my mother in 1961, she would have rather seen me dead than live under the Castro regime. We were not rich, we were working people, my mother a superintendent of schools,my father an office manager. We came over with no money. When my dad came to the U.S, almost a year later 'cause Castro would not let him be with his family to punish him for my mother escaping, my mother had 60 cents in her purse to give my father. If you did some research you would find thousands of Cubans with similar circumstances. The Cubans that risked their lives through escaping, or just by filing paper work to ask to leave the country, were not just the rich and well off as you portray in your papers. The majority of these people were working class citizens. Like any other society, the wealthy in Cuba only represented about 2% of the total population.

The reasons that lifting the trade embargo with Cuba will not work are many I am sure, but I know of two. First, the Cuban people will not see any of the benefits. Cuba has just about everything now, but the locals can't shop in the abundantly stocked stores because they have no dollars. Castro wants the U.S. dollar, but he doesn't want his people to have it, and they will never get it. Second, you will never get an uprising against a man that will shoot you dead just for vocalizing opposition to the regime, or at least a 30-40 year jail sentence. He came in with his firing squads and killed thousands of Cubans, televised it for weeks, the killing of innocent Cuban men, women and children for daring to question his revolution.

These are facts, that you chose to keep out of your communist slanted point of view. I am very familiar with this tactic, its not new and what you are saying is not new. You are just another pawn used by Castro and his government to improve his public image.

Do you really think that in a country that is controlled by one man, one ruthless man that doesn't care about anything or anyone, people are going to tell you their own feelings? They will tell you what Castro wants them to tell you. If you are going to teach your lies in schools full of impressionable kids, please let them hear the other side, the truth of what happened when Castro came in and what is happening now. I doubt you will do that because I truly believe you are a communist and a Castro sympathizer. I bet you are even spreading his word for free, just for the privilege of meeting that murdering son of a bitch!


From: John Locke <>
To: Frank Rivas <>
Sent: Monday, March 22, 2004 4:51 PM
Subject: Re: strait-talk

Thanks for your feedback. You've made quite a few assumptions about my personal motives, and I've learned over the years that it's pointless to argue, or even discuss such topics with someone so firmly entrenched in their beliefs.

Thanks, anyway, for taking the time to read my papers. If you would like to suggest some texts that present your point of view, I'll be happy to post them on my site as well.

I'll understand if you'd rather not converse. I'm not a communist, but I also don't accept, blindly, what I've been told by my government and the media for years. I met many people in Cuba who were very happy and loyal to Castro. They thought of him as their savior. These were not officials, and, as far as I could tell, they weren't being coerced. Those who were not happy with the government complained more about economic issues, rather than social issues or human rights. I came to the conclusion that lifting the embargo would help. Maybe not. Could it make matters worse? I don't see how.

As for "murdering firing squads," other than the three hijackers last year, I've found no mention of executions in quite a while. Please enlighten me.

Thanks again for your comments. Learning is what it's all about. I don't see how it can be done without exploring the issue from all sides.

On 3/22/04 5:49 PM, "FRANK RIVAS" <> wrote:

let me give you a recent incident that received very little attention by the media left of this country. about 3-4 years ago, a boat full of escaping cubans, women and children, was confronted by Castro's navy or coast guard. in cold blooded move, they opened fire and killed everyone aboard. look in the miami herald cuban section for reference. I also said that you could suffer jail sentences, how about the recent 75 dissidents jailed by Castro, for speaking up. no mention of them anywhere on your website.
Of course there are some people who will be loyal, either through fear or ignorance. They have been living under that system for 45 years. Do you really believe that with a camera rolling, or talking to a reporter they are going to speak truthfully. You want the truth, talk and interview the million or so cubans in the U.S. that left everything including family to get out from under Castro.

I served in this country's air force as a pilot and officer, and although I am not stupid enough to believe everything I do know the difference between right and wrong, evil and good. You are very lucky that you live in a country that lets you talk bad about your government, a government that protects you, lets you pursue the career you choose, practice any religion that you want without the fear of being jailed or assassinated.

Try that in Cuba, go over there and talk against the human rights violations, against the revolution, and see how long your speech will last.

The Castro government has served no one but Castro and his followers, way up at the top. The ones that live in the mansions they confiscated from people that worked hard and provided jobs for the population.

I could give you more insight but it is useless...your kind doesn't listen, I have ran across people like you for the past 42 years, from school teachers to college professors. Only this time it concerned me because of your visits to high schools, and the pro-Castro propaganda you are feeding these kids. I was lucky growing up here when confronted with communists, because I lived it, and knew better than to swallow the shit they were trying to serve up. I feel sorry for the kids that will be hanging up posters of a ruthless, hypocritical, murdering bastard like Che.

Well, against my better judgment I will say one more thing that I mentioned in my last letter. When Castro and Che took over they kicked out all the national brands that had factories in Cuba. They attempted to make Pepsi, but even Che admitted that he had no idea what he was doing, and the ensuing product was a failure. In fact, things got so bad that tv ads were eliminated because there only existed one product of each, all government owned and all crap, just like Russia. So Cubas economic failures rest purely on Castro's and Che's shoulders, they got rid of everything, and now the embargo is only an illusion, because thanks to the Canadians and French and so on, I understand that everything can be had in Cuba, if you have dollars. That?s why when you go over there you have to spend u.s. dollars, Castro wants them, but the local Cubans can't have them. They are not allowed in the nice stores, they still have to stand in line for the little food there is, because Castro wants them oppressed so he can point the finger at the u.s., he needs an enemy . But I will bet my yearly salary that you didn't go hungry while in Cuba. The food is there, why won't this great humanitarian give it to his people?

From: John Locke <>
Sent: Monday, March 22, 2004 6:55 PM
Subject: Re: strait-talk

Well, I'm sorry you feel the need to generalize about me, considering we've never met. (your reference to "your kind.") But I suppose I could say the same thing about you. You are more firmly entrenched in your beliefs than I am in mine. My goal is simply to point out that there are more sides to the story.
I'll check out the story you refer to in the Miami paper. Brutality by any government against its own people is inexcusable.

As for the "dissidents" that were arrested last March, what were they thinking, taking money from the US Interests Section??? If an American took money from the Castro government to organize a movement to promote a "rapid transition to a socialist government," I bet the'd end up in jail, too (and rightly so!). I've seen the receipts. Maybe they were forgeries, but I doubt it.

As for the high school aged kids... I was approached by a Spanish teacher at the school. She and another teacher that teaches Latin American studies invited me to show my documentary. I was a little apprehensive, not because of the content of my film, which, as I've said does present both sides of the story, but because I doubted if high school students are really interested in such a complicated and relatively obscure topic. But I did show parts of it. I concentrated on the parts where the speakers were speaking Spanish. I figured it was a good opportunity for them to hear the language as the Cubans speak it.

They receive plenty of anti-Castro information from the mainstream media and from their text books. If my documentary makes them question what they read and they decide to research the topic further, they will undoubtedly come across much of the information you are referring to (and I was serious about citing the references on my site if you supply them). The sad truth is that in the one school that I presented my documentary (which is not quite as biased as you imagine), there seemed to be little interest. The students didn't ask any questions and seemed more interested in simply getting to the next class on time. Politics, whatever the subtopic, seems to be of little concern to our youth. As passionate as you are, and with your personal experience, you should consider speaking to students. I'm sure you'd be welcome.

I, too am a veteran. I served in the US Navy and helped evacuate the dead and injured from the US Embassy in Beirut. But that doesn't make me accept blindly our alliance with the Israelis. There's a government that has had no trouble oppressing a group of people for years with little or no pressure from the US. Doesn't it make you wonder as to the sincerity of the US Government's policy against Castro? Don't you think that, under the right circumstances the US could have overlooked Castro's civil and human rights abuses? We've done it in Iran in the 60s and 70s, Iraq in the 70s and 80s, South Africa...etc. How can I-- having not experienced what you did-- accept, without question, that what the government is telling me about Cuba is not skewed?

I know. You think I'm a just a commie sympathizer. So I guess there's no point in trying to reason with me. All I can say is that, as a rule, I don't preach to anybody. If there is one thing that I wish students would walk away from my presentation with, it would be a desire to check out all sides of a story before making any determination. Surely, if they do, and you're position is correct, they'll come to that determination on their own.

One more comment. I had a wonderful time in Havana. The people (your people) are incredibly friendly and hospitable. I'm not a "big-time reporter," or even a successful professor. I was just a simple graduate student. But I met some fantastic people. They weren't communist, but they were loyal to their government. They deserve to live in peace. I just think there's a better way for us to influence the situation than to strangle the whole island in an effort to punish Castro.

I do hope that there comes a time when the positive social achievements that the Castro regime has attained can be salvages (can you at least admit that there has been some good? Their high literacy rate? Low infant mortality rate?), while a more open society can be established. Constructive engagement worked in South Africa, I just don't understand why it can't work in Cuba.

I respect your point of view. As an American, I think that's what sets apart from the rest of the world-- the fact that we can live next to each other and disagree. I'm happy you've made a life for yourself in the US. And I hope the day will come that the people of Cuba and the US can freely and openly exchange ideas-- maybe even co-exist. The Cubans seem ready. It's our government that is keeping the restrictions in place. I firmly believe that if the travel ban were lifted, the face of Cuba would change just as it's changing in China and all the other Communist countries that we constructively engaged with in the past.

My best wishes to you.

On 3/22/04 10:25 PM, "FRANK RIVAS" <> wrote:

Mr. Locke, where do you get the idea that the us media is anti-Castro? Our media has had a honeymoon with Fidel since he took power. I have never heard or read any media outlet denounce Castro for his assassinations, imprisoning innocent men, women and children, separating children from their parents at age 6 to learn Marxism crap and learn to cut sugar cane, carry a weapon, and turn into informants against their own parents. How come I don't hear anything about Cubans not allowed to travel in and out of Cuba freely, to just go visit their relatives in the us, or anywhere else?

Just recently, private internet exchange has been eliminated. One of my cousins used to be able to receive e-mail from her husbands niece in Cuba. Castro just clamped down on that little privilege. I didn't read this in our anti-Castro media.

Yes, you are right, I am firmly entrenched in my believes as an anti-Castro, anti-Communist, and I will believe this country 1000 times more than I will ever believe a Communist Dictator! How can you believe anything else? You have to ask yourself, who is gaining anything here? I saw my family have to leave behind the country they love, where they were born, had made a life, leave our extended family behind and come to a foreign land with nothing but the clothes they had on. And how did my parents achieve success here, able to send their children to college as first generation immigrants? Through hard work, relentless dedication, even during the first years when they thought we would only be here for a "few more months". They would not accept any handouts or financial aide. This was the spirit in Cuba, of hard work and perseverance. Both my parents came from very poor families, but they worked hard, my mother got a Doctorate in Education from the University of Havana, my father an office manager. The opportunities were available to everyone, black or white.

Do you love your country Mr. Locke? I am sure you do, so let me ask you, how bad would things have to get before you leave, or put your loved ones on a plane with no hope of ever seeing them again. How many liberties would you accept be taken from you before you risk crossing Lake Ontario on an inner tube at night in whatever weather to escape the oppression? This is what Castro and Che brought to Cuba.

Before Castro Cuba had a very high literacy rate, top notch medical services, and a prospering economy. Yes, there were very poor people like we have here, we had all three social classes. You might not know this, but most of the new cars from Detroit were unveiled in Cuba, new television sets, washing machines etc...The Cuban peso was equal to the us dollar...until Che declared the currency worthless and came out with his version. Can you imagine if someone came in and said your life savings is now gone, the government took it and issued new currency that was totally worthless.
Mr.Locke, Cuba was a beautiful island, with equality for all. In fact the Cubans that suffered most when they had to leave Cuba were the Black Cubans. They were appalled at the neighborhoods they were forced to live in here. You see in pre-Castro Cuba, there was no segregation, blacks and whites lived in harmony in the same neighborhoods. It was after Castro that the blacks, homosexuals and anti-revolutionaries had no place in the new Cuba, and were forced to live in poverty.

Castro is a murderer, a thief, and a communist. Does he deserve your admiration? How can you believe a man like that? Do you think I am making all this up? Go to Miami, if you really want to learn the truth, and interview a bunch of exiles. The same story will keep repeating itself, the pain and suffering brought about by one man. I am insulted that you a veteran, would believe Fidel Castro, before you believe your own country!

You can print all these exchanges on your website if you want, your readers might find it interesting, and you might convince me you are not one of Castro's agents.

By the way, I don't know what us interests these dissidents had. Are you saying you can only pursue your freedom if no one else helps you. They just used the referendum allowed in Castro's constitution to get the 10000 signatures required, but when Castro saw they had gathered 11,000 signatures he changed the constitution again and jailed them!

And by the way, those are not "my people" if they spoke fondly of Fidel, whether they were coerced or not.

Do you really think I'm a communist agent? What about Congressman Flake? He's been trying to get the travel ban dropped for years. Is he a communist agent? What about Jim McGovern from Massachusetts? He believes in working toward a normalization of relations. How about Congressman Nethercutt? He's a Republican and I believe he's spoke favorably for at least dropping the travel ban.

I just want to reply to one of your comments:
"I am insulted that you a veteran, would believe Fidel Castro, before you believe your own country!"

There are many in the government of my "own country" who agree that relations should be normalized— and not all "Liberal Democrats." If you want Castro gone, I think there's no better way than to make him irrelevant. Trading with the people of Cuba and allowing Americans to travel there might be just be the ticket. So far, after 40 years, the present policy has not been effective.

OK. If you are giving me your permission, I will post this exchange, verbatim. Please respond once more and tell me specifically that I have your permission. Do you want me to delete your email address from the text? It's up to you.

On 3/23/04 12:44 PM, "FRANK RIVAS" <> wrote:

First, you have my permission to post these exchanges on your web site.

Do I think you are a an agent for Castro? I think that anyone who would take the time to study Castro's revolution in Cuba, read about the death by firing squads, the 30 year prison sentences without a trial, the elimination of religion, the forced education of school children in Marxism, the imprisonment of anyone that tries to speak up for the freedoms that all humans are entitled to, and still believes that opening up the doors to allow Castro to make more money and benefit himself is working form Castro.

Maybe you haven't read my past e-mails. Europe, Mexico and Canada trade with Cuba. Cuba has everything now that you would want if you have dollars, u.s. dollars. Castro does not allow his people to have u.s. dollars, therefore they are not allowed in the stores that sell the nice things, the restaurants that sell food, the hotels that the tourists stay in. As I mentioned before, the embargo is an illusion, Castro could give his people access to everything the tourists get but he does not let them. Its his way of maintaining control and power. Do you really think that if the u.s. eased its stance he is all of a sudden going to let the locals partake in the benefits? Or have that big of an economic and cultural change, when all of Europe and the other countries already trade with Cuba? And forget about a peaceful uprising, it is not going to happen. I don't hear any screaming from the liberal left about the 75 dissidents that were jailed for just trying to gain some basic human rights by obtaining some signatures in a legal matter as put forward by Castro's own constitution. As you mention in your paper about Che, it is easy to gain respect and a following when you blow your oppositions head off at the first sign of resistance. Castro does not want the embargo lifted. He needs to maintain that the u.s. is his enemy to legitimize his revolution and the suffering and hardship of the people living there. Every time some one gets close to a positive change he squashes it by putting them in jail, ex. the 75 dissidents. People that are pushing this lifting of the embargo are Castro's "useful fools", he is laughing as he sees this country divided over something he will never let happen.

Do I think you are an agent for Castro? You seem to do a lot of criticizing of this country aiding the Nicaraguans in their fight against the Castro-Communist backed Sandinistas. For that matter, any other country that is fighting against communist aggression, all backed by Castro. Have you been to Nicaragua? Have you read about how the Sandinistas took over? It was a textbook Castro revolutionary takeover. From the rampant killing of civilians, to the take over of land and industry, to the leaders living in the lap of luxury they so publicly denounce. I have spent time there, and let me tell you that Nicaragua has been thrown back to the stone age, corruption is everywhere, and so is hunger, unemployment and despair. They were lucky, and only had to live under that system for ten years but the after shock of having the communists come in and rape the country clean of everything will last for a long time.

Maybe you are not an agent for Castro, and maybe you are not a communist, but your views are definitely pro-Castro. To me that's the same as being a communist, and that applies to anyone, Congressman, Senator or janitor. Even your statement about the 75 dissidents..."what were they thinking...", gee, Locke, maybe they were just trying to gain the same freedoms you have, the same freedoms all human beings have a fundamental right to, so that no one man should control a country to the point that its his country to do with it and its people as he pleases.

If you are going to study Cuba, look up Jose Marti. He was a real patriot, that truly loved Cuba and its people. Also, look up a book by Armando Valladares, Against All Hope, he spent the better part of his adult life in a Cuban political prison for saying at work out loud that he did not like Fidel. He was subjected to torture for 20 years, the least of which was being put in a cage and having the guards dump the shit they collected from the other prisoners on him. His crime was expressing his opinion. Remember, in Cuba no one acts on their own free will, the guards were ordered by Castro to torture him.

You can post all of this with my e-mail if you like.

you are right, I am very passionate about this because I have lived it, I have seen my parents, aunts and uncles forced to come to a foreign land, forced to separate from their children not in search of economic gain, just in search of freedom and life. Life, because if you want to control anyone, just take away any reason they have to get up in the morning, take away initiative and free thinking and dreams, then you truly control them. That's what the Castro revolution did to Cuba, and that's why so many Cubans risk their lives and their children's life's, because there is no reason to stay and live under that system, no reason to get up in the morning, you would rather be dead. So, risking your life on the ocean on some makeshift raft at least gives you a choice on how to face the next day and hope.

Maybe I'll catch one of your presentations some day when you change from anti-american/pro-castro to the opposite. Theres hope.

Thanks for your permission. And thanks for the referral of the Valladares book. I just ordered it from Amazon and put posted it to the Strait Talk site in the bibliography.

I have been reading your emails, but I haven't bothered responding to much of what you write simply because, as you said, you are firmly entrenched in your point of view. I'm not going to change your mind, and I don't want to. I just want to learn why for you, and those who feel the way you do, there is no middle ground. I could respond with arguments, but as with my remarks regarding the issue of the 75 dissidents, you're not willing to consider any other point of view. That's OK. This is America and you don't have to.

So, basically, I'm giving you an opportunity to express your point of view without the annoying distraction of someone arguing with you. As I said, I appreciate your willingness to converse, and I value your opinion. I think it's important that others hear it, so I'm especially happy that you'll let me post your comments.

As for the possibility that you'll someday attend one of my presentations... you'd be welcome, but I won't hold my breath. If time permits over the next few years, I would like to do a sequel to my video documentary. It would focus on the exile community's point of view and try to see if there is ANY room for compromise (I guess it could be a pretty short film, huh). If you are interested, I would be happy— no honored— to interview you on tape. But I won't be ready for quite a while. This project was very draining in many aspects. I've got quite a few projects (commercial, not political) that take priority.

By the way... Stand by for heavy rolls (Navy jargon). I hear that Oliver Stone is about to release a documentary on Castro. I have a feeling you'd find mine way more objective.