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Changes for Cuba?

11/11/08 5:55PM By Ted Levin
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(HOST) At a time when everyone is talking about the need for political change, commentator and naturalist Ted Levin says there's one change in American foreign policy he'd really like to see.

(LEVIN) When compared to the Smithsonian, the Museum of the Revolution in old Havana is neither a cultural masterpiece nor an unbiased assessment of Fidel Castro's rise to power. Its a downtown mansion nationalized in 1960, a sprawling edifice that symbolizes the disparity of wealth that dogged Cuba during much of twentieth century - massive oak doors, marble stairs, mahogany balusters. Whoever lived here was once clearly insulated from the economic hardships that plagued the island nation. Now, their former home is a testament to Cuba's schizophrenic view of the United States.
    
Inside the portico, beyond the admissions booth, a wide, horseshoe-shaped staircase leads to the second floor. Where the ends of the staircase converge, there's a landing where three very prominent marble busts gaze cold and stony-eyed on the vestibule below.  The six Vermont schoolboys who accompanied me to the museum immediately recognized the middle of the three figures.
   
No, it wasn't Fidel . . . or Che . . . or even Raul Castro. It was Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, the great emancipator, and apparently an important role model for Fidel Castro, who fancies himself the emancipator of the Cuban peasantry.
   
Other exhibits were not so kind to American presidents, particularly Ronald Reagan and the George Bushes, who were all unflatteringly satirized in life-sized murals.
   
Elsewhere in Havana, I saw a highway sign that our translator told us said: "George W. Bush is trying to dismantle our education and health care system, which took years to assemble.
   
I visited Cuba last August with Vermont's District Two Little League champion baseball team, fourteen players and five other coaches. 

After most games, the opposing Cuban coach gave a speech thanking us for coming, and for helping to normalize the relationship between two countries separated by the Straits of Florida, less than a hundred miles of turbulent ocean current - but also by an ideological gulf that seems to go on forever. And here's a point of geographic proximity: Miami is closer to Havana than Hanover, New Hampshire is to Boston. 
   
In the course of their speeches, the Cuban coaches often evoked the spirit of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, which, like the bust in the Museum, told
me two things: first, Cubans know more about our history than we do about theirs; and second, they honor the principals upon which our country was founded - principals
we have sometimes fought to uphold.
   
Cuba gave us Salsa music. We gave them baseball. We're neighbors. They need to buy goods. We need to sell goods. If Vermont can bring dairy cows and Little
Leaguers to Cuba the economic noose around the island must be loosening. I hope the new administration will be able to do away with it completely.
   
That would be a change that would benefit everyone.
 
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