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Monday, November 06, 2006

November 6, 1960: Max Frankel Describes Cuba as Land of Rumors

"The one thing the [Cuban] revolution appears not to have disturbed in Cuba is the national production of bolas," Max Frankel reports from Havana on this day in 1960. "A bola is a ball, and in Cuba it is a fastball, a rumor that rolls out of control through the sunny streets and muddy can fields. Customarily, players in and out of revolutionary and counterrevolutionary uniforms take part in the bola game, vying for status and incidentally frightening one another to death.

"This week has been especially productive here. It has also been revealing, for it demonstrated that the Cuban Government was the prize boa player of them all. While the street-corner whisperers were playing on Monday with the bola that the Government was ready to wrest all children over 6 from parental control, on Tuesday with the bola that all escape routes to the United States were about to be sealed, and on Wednesday with the bola that all Cubans who failed to don militia uniforms would be shot in case of trouble, the Government successfully created the specter of invasion and handily captured every imagination. ...

"Above all, the Castro Government this week was engaged in purveying warnings of 'imminent' invasion. The warnings were broadcast hourly and headlined morning and evening in huge black and blue type. They were sounded by Premier Castro on the field and by his Foreign Minister, Dr. Roa, at the United Nations, and they were played back in endless echoes to the accompaniment of dire pledges of support from Premier Khrushchev and Communists around the world. ...

"It is certainly no secret that the United States Government wants Dr. Castro deposed. And the memory of Big Power intervention and engineered coups is etched deeply into the Latin American mind. Miami and Dade County in Florida are crawling with Cubans vowing vengeance and the Fidelista mind cannot be expected easily to separate these asylumed exiles from the designs of the nation that is their host.

"But other observers here insisted that the Castro Government was better informed, that it knew -- as others know -- the exiles to be hopelessly divided into more than sixty groupings, poorly controlled, poorly trained and poorly armed -- hardly a match for the Castro army and militia in sovereign command of a fortified island.

"And these observers believed the Castro Government sufficiently sophisticated to realize that the United States could not afford the diplomatic defeat of a military victory over the Cuban revolution."