Ralph Maraj’s Myopia

By Dr. Selwyn Cudjoe
October 22, 2014

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeRECENTLY, I had a lively debate with Ralph Maraj on Cuba and its successes on i95 FM Showdown programme. Mr Maraj insisted that nothing good could come out of Cuba because Cuba has failed as a socialist society and there is “no freedom in that country”. I tried to convince him that Cuba has emerged as a leader on the world stage in areas of health care and education and there is little crime to speak of in that country. He insisted that Cuba was worthy only of condemnation.

Lo and behold, I opened up The New York Times on Monday only to find the society that Maraj had called a failure being described in glowing terms by one of the most influential newspapers in the world. Its editorial reminded me of the misinformation that is spewed in our country under the guise of information and opinion.

The New York Times observed: “Cuba is an improvised island that remains largely cut off from the world and lies about 4,500 miles from the West African nations where Ebola is spreading at an alarming rate. Yet, having pledged to deploy hundreds of medical professionals to the front lines of the pandemic, Cuba stands to play the most robust role among the nations seeking to contain the virus.”

Not satisfied with this congratulatory note, the editorial continued: “Officials in Washington seemed thrilled to learn in recent weeks that Cuba had activated (its) medical teams for missions in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. With technical support from the World Health Organisation, the Cuban government trained 460 doctors and nurses on the stringent precautions that must be taken to treat people with the highly contagious virus.”
This seems to be quite a feat for a failed government.

Maraj cited as evidence of Cuba’s failure its inability to produce any writers of note over the last 20 years. I tried to convince him that the production of writers and cultural figures was not and cannot be the only measure of a country’s success. I insisted that Cuba’s exemplary behaviour was there for all to see, particularly in its efforts to assist in the freeing of South Africa from apartheid. This is why, once Nelson Mandela was freed, Cuba was one of the first countries he visited. I am not too sure Mr Mandela cared whether Cuba had produced any first-rate writers or dancers.

I also tried to convince Mr Maraj Cuba was undergoing many hardships because of the crippling embargo that the United States had imposed upon it. I even drew the analogy of Haiti which, after its independence in 1804 paid France an indemnity about 17 billion British pounds (in today’s currency). In 1947 Haiti was still paying off this debt.

Today, the tide is changing. One can be assured this is so when a conservative a newspaper such as The New York Times argues for the restoration of diplomatic ties between Cuba and the US. It recognises how wasteful it is to estrange this progressive state from benefiting from the enormous economic and scientific contributions the US can make to Cuba. It certainly recognises that the lack of freedom of which Mr Maraj speaks is not the most pressing factor between these two countries.

Over the last 60 years Cuba has been in the forefront of the progressive tendencies in the world and has struggled mightily to strengthen international ties. It has shown the world that all of us can benefit by working together for the common good. It was with this view in mind The New York Times declared: “Cuba has a long tradition of dispatching doctors and nurses to disaster areas abroad. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Cuban government created a quick-reaction medical corps and offered to send doctors to New Orleans. The US, unsurprisingly, didn’t take Havana up on that offer.”

The New York Times did not tell its readers Cuba has become one of the most effective countries in the world with dealing with hurricanes which it experiences so frequently. It has developed the art of disaster preparedness. Since 2001, only 35 deaths have been caused by the 16 hurricanes and tropical storms that visited that land.

The New York Times concluded its article by endorsing the sentiments of Fidel Castro, something it would not have thought of doing a decade ago. It said: “In a column published over the weekend in Cuba’s state-run newspaper, Granma, Fidel Castro argued the US and Cuba must put aside their differences, if only temporarily, to combat a deadly scourge. He is absolutely right.”

This is a lesson that even Mr Maraj should heed rather than spew his inanities about a country and a system of which he knows little. Cuba has its faults. However, it has achieved notable successes, which no serious observer can ignore. We in T&T can learn a lot from Cuba and how it organises its society.

9 thoughts on “Ralph Maraj’s Myopia”

  1. “Its editorial reminded me of the misinformation that is spewed in our country under the guise of information and opinion.”(CUDJOE)

    Cudjoe describes one of the most serious problems in T&T: the flamboyant and authoritative spread of misinformation. In this debate on Cuba, Cudjoe is on the right side.
    However this issue of spouting off misinformation has become a national and cultural trait of the people of T&T, and they do it with such authority and conviction on any topic under the sun.
    Cudjoe’s arguments are based on facts and evidence, while Maraj’s responses seem to be subjective and reflective of traditional American propaganda characterized by the usual “lack of freedom” defense.

  2. I see your point TMan, and yes you may be correct on that score ,re T&T.Maybe we should just be appreciative of the fact that the T&T, your UNC dominant ,PP government inherited, is a thriving democracy, where freedom of speech -as laid out under the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is alive and well, si? Let’s hope it continue that way long after your Siparia Queen, and her political gangs , have exited de grand political stage , eeeh?
    As to the subject under review :-Cuba as a Socialist model of success under Fidel?
    If we are objective, we can agree that both Ralph Maraj, and Dr Cudjoe are both correct in their assessments of modern Cuba.
    Sure, Castro has done quite a lot , to enhance the ‘proxy war’ efforts, of the USSR, in her battles with 4 decades, so called rival, USA – PRIMARILY , in Afro- Bantu countries, and their confused , self serving leaders- but at what price for ordinary Cubans stuck back home?
    It’s great that much adored socialist elite, octogenarian Castro, an his equally irrelevant military brother Raul,was able to give the middle finger , to dem allegedly evil Yankees , for 6 decades, even after the financial windfall/subsidies from the former Soviet Union subsided, at the end of the barbarian COLD War, but Otra Vez , at what price, and who is really checking outside of Dr Cudjoe , and the disingenuous blokes at the New York Times ?
    Would most folks like to hop on a plane to Cuba , in similar fashion to ‘de phony Christian- Sando Political – Everready Bunny- Patrick Manning,’ so as to get high end medical attention, not accorded to sick Trinis without means? Maybe. Would most like to see Trini kids too, get cheap scholarships to study , like Jamaicans, or Guyanese got , when Michael Manley, Forbes Burnham, and Chedi Jagan, were the rage in those social dungheaps?
    The fact remains , that Cuba ,amidst all it’s so called glorious achievements , remains a dismal failure , as the resilient , yet neglected citizens -chiefly of color -have paid too dear a price.
    Social injustice , institutional racism, elitism, nepotism, and a host of revolting socio -economic -com political maladies, remains the norm unfortunately.
    I do however understand why many Afro intellectuals , budding politicians , activist,and dinosauric leaders, remain enamored with Castro however.


    Let me see , Nelson Mandela forgave White ,evil South Africans ,who raped his country, and abused his people ,then died , and yet did not leave a single Rand in his Will,for a great female revolutionary in Winnie, even though, she was at the forefront of the Anti Apartheid struggles , all during his 25 year incarceration.
    That 90 year old Zimbabwe megalomaniac , called Mugabe, after what seems like 70 years in power, is about hand over reign to his equally corrupt extravagant wife, Princess Grace, as ordinary citizens – not of his tribe, or party suffer.
    Patrick Manning, the Tobago hater ,will do anything in his power , to halt the political success/progress of his PNM nemesis , a la de Mason Hall Kid – Dr Rowley, all because that vindictive , delusional, nepotistic bastard ,blames the Doc ,for his downfall,at the hands of a political lightweight call Kamla, and perhaps subsequent illness, 4 years ago.
    See a pattern here folks?
    In de words of my late, extremely wise, Tobago Granny. ..”Show me your companion, and I’ll tell you who you are!” Put differently,”birds of a feather, flock together!”
    Not you Dr Cudjoe, for we know your are an adoring , lifetime Yankees Capitalist, who one day -along with fellow Caribbean, conscious Afro Americans, and other global African intellectuals -would have the courage to hold your Uncle Obama hands to the symbolic fire, for his lack of any political initiative on Cuba, during his 2 terms , that could have eventually help fully liberate folks that look like his authentic African Papa, and Mid Western American Kansas Mama, in equal measure.


    Say no to all forms of neo imperial elitism! I personally despise the proponents , whether they emerge from the left or right of the political spectrum, Y tu?


    Are there similarities in British fiefdom Trinidad and Tobago ,and Spain’s Cuba , even though we had 6 leaders, and they one? Maybe.Would Ralph Maraj, and Uncle Cudjoe , be willing to touch this issue with a 19 ft pole? ‘Me think not! ‘
    Luv Humanity people!

  3. Having visited and vacationed in Cuba, I can say it is an amazing country. The beaches are beautiful and the Cuban culture is strong. Old Havana took me back to the 15th century where the house of the governor stands today in its original condition. A statue of Christopher Columbus marks the front entrance of the house. The historical innocence that is apparent everywhere with cars dating back to the 50s kept in good working condition.

    I visited the place where Castro made his famous 5 hours speech. It is the center of the Cuban government with their parliament and National Defence buildings gracing the area and a huge murial of Che with his famous barret extending the height of a 5 story building. Castro has given instruction that no monuments be built of him.(unlike the North Korean government where monuments are all over the place). Out of all the places I visited I felt the safest in Cuba.

    The American Embargo should have been lifted years ago. I was disappointed that Obama having shook hands with Raul did not move quickly to normalize relations with the Cubans. Cuba along with North Korea may be the only true communist nations remaining. Cuban communism is propped up by the punishing embargo.

    The Cuban Health care system is one of the best in the Western world. A three teir system that works to the benefit of the patients. It is not an American style profit driven, money devouring system. In comparison to the American system the Cuban sysytem is affordable.

    My hope for Cuba is the same as Caribbean leaders. America needs to stop behaving as a backyard bully and end the embargo. Give the Cuban people a chance to live their dream. If investment enters Cuba in time communism will take a diffrent shape, may even come to an end…

    1. Why does the newspaper give such dingle berry data time. We all know,and now the world knows that Maraj is in the back pocket of the Oil Rich Texans. So he has to speak like a “Simple Caveman” and his cousin the Neanderthal.

      Cuba is already the next big exploration. The billionaire companies in the US are salivating to get in. They are thinking…, sell, sell, sell and profit, profit, profit. If the sanctions are lifted then there will be a McDonald and KFC on every corner…kinda like Trinidad.

      The CIA really tried to pull one on Castro. After he won the revolution (and he truly advocated for the poor of Cuba whose President was owned by the US government), the President (Eisenhower and JFK) promised that they would continue with imports. They invited him to the US and he spoke at the UN. He advocated and literally begged for help on behalf of his people. There was so much passion and truth in his voice. But the US did not care and while he was here they were planning an invasion. It basically failed and then they wanted to crush Castro and his economy by implementing sanctions. Kinda like what Martin Luther King did in the US by having thousands of AA not ride the bus, etc. You can really feel the pinch when there are economic sanctions.

      So Castro was alone and Russia steps in and things pick up, and now Cuba is the next big thing in economic investments.soon the US sanctions will be lifted. I think the American population are frustrated with the sanctions and want to travel to Cuba. Many are from the X gen and do not care about it and they know the truth…that the sanctions were based on a failed invasion. Now everyone sees how irrelevant they are and investors are also drooling to get in. So it looks promising.

      When the US lifts the sanctions, people will see how incredible Cuba is…pristine beaches, clean streets, no pollution, and an educated population that speak both correct English and proper Spanish. Cuba has a 99.98% literacy rate. Everyone can read except babies..
      Crime is almost nonexistent and people are friendly and protected.

      The funny thing is that almost all Cuban Americans visit Cuba 5-6x per year. They visit family and friends and stash their U.S. dollars in investments. They are also planning for what is coming up.

      Trinidad must have good relations with Cuba because the world economy is changing…that is why China is pumping money in Trinidad because they are securing natural resources. When Panama regains control over the Canal, the boom will begin and we need to have cautious government agents representing the interest of the people of Trinidad in all areas of export. The bidding process in T&T is convoluted and appears biased.

      We do not need idiots like Maraj making comments about Cuba…he comes across as inept and daft.

  4. Ralph’s response should be publishhed in thhe interest of fair debate.

    Cudjoe’s cokey eye
    By Ralph Maraj
    Story Created: Oct 22, 2014 at 10:50 PM ECT
    Story Updated: Oct 22, 2014 at 10:50 PM ECT
    When you “cokey eye’’ you don’t see clearly. Prof Selwyn Cudjoe, like many Caribbean intellectuals, refuses to see Cuba in totality. I have acknowledged that Cuba has an impressive health and education system but I maintain it constitutes suppression of the human spirit if you are qualified in medicine and other fields but are not allowed to express yourself freely, especially if your views run contrary to Castro’s dictatorship; it is terrible oppression if you don’t enjoy democratic rights like ownership of property, freedom of political association and artistic and journalistic liberty.
    Where is the free media in Cuba? Where are the trade unions? Who dares criticise Fidel Castro? For the past 55 years, thousands, including artists and intellectuals, have rotted in Cuba’s prisons for believing human dignity means vastly more than living mechanically as medical personnel; for wanting a society where you learn to read, not to regurgitate antiquated communist propaganda, but to explore the vast, diverse heritage of humankind and become a free, independent mind.
    And I too, like The New York Times, have congratulated Cuba for sending hundreds of medical professionals to fight Ebola in Africa. But, like me, that paper’s editorials and columnists have also blasted Castro’s tyranny and failed economic policies. We have both condemned the US trade embargo. But I make the point again. Lifting the embargo alone will not solve Cuba’s economic woes. Cuba must discard its effete command economy and allow free enterprise to flourish. It must unleash the creativity and entrepreneurial energy of its people, suppressed, stifled and suffocated for more than half a century. And incidentally, Prof Cudjoe, it is outstanding nonsense for anyone to describe The New York Times as “conservative’’. The description best fits Fox News which is always in rivalry with The New York Times.
    Cudjoe’s “cokey eye’’ also fails to discern the big lie, that under Fidel, blacks in Cuba have been liberated from marginalisation and underdevelopment. After 55 years, Afro Cubans are nowhere near the top of the social, political or economic ladder. And, “most Cuban academics estimate that between 60 to 70 per cent of the population is either black or mulatto”. Given their largely underdeveloped and impoverished state, the vast majority would flee to Miami, if Castro would set them free.
    Blacks are invisible in the government, run by mainly white males. Compare their plight with co-ethnics in the Anglophone Caribbean where blacks have dominated politics for the majority of years since independence and have a strong presence at the middle and upper levels of their societies. Compare Cuba with South Africa after apartheid. Black leadership is today entrenched in that country; and 51 per cent of the middle class is now black with 32 per cent white, a dramatic shift from 2004 when whites were 52 per cent and blacks 32 per cent.
    To see how black leadership was deliberately destroyed in Cuba, examine the case of Eusebio Penalver, a black revolutionary who participated in the overthrow of Batista. When Castro hijacked the revolution, Penalver broke away rather than “sell my soul to the same devil that here on earth is Castro and communism.” He was captured in 1960 and jailed for 28 years, enduring daily brutal treatment. As Penalver later revealed, “they made men eat grass, they submerged them in sewage, they hit them with fence posts until their bones rattled”. Penalver wanted freedom for all Cubans but suffered more because he was black. “He interfered with the revolutionary narrative, so crucial to Castro’s ‘progressive’ international image that the regime emancipated black Cubans.”
    But Caribbean politicians and intellectuals have all been “cokey eye’’ with Cuba. They have refused to ask searching questions, instead lavishing praise on a “white military junta’’ that inflicted brutality and suppressed millions of “the Caribbean family’’. Always ready to bleat about Cuba’s progress in health and quick to robotically condemn the unfair US trade embargo, they have accepted Castro’s dictatorship, thousands of “dissidents’’ in jail, absence of free media and political choice, suffocation of entrepreneurship and retardation of the country’s economy. But when Sir Shridath Ramphal gave a speech in the 90s, nudging Fidel towards democracy and the dictator lashed back, not a single Caribbean voice defended the distinguished West Indian.
    And as I observed two years ago, “in 21st century Port of Spain, at a meeting with Castro junior, Caricom leaders were still the predictable chorus to Cuba’s unchanged back-in-times melody, condemning the US but saying nothing about democracy and the rights of the Cuban people.” So much “cokey eye’’, Cudjoe?

    1. Ralph does make some salient points in terms of the Cuban black experience. Nobody wants to live under such oppression. There are “dissidents” living under horrible conditions in Cuban jails. Of course people would prefer to live in Maimi under the “freedom banner”. Many years ago Castro opened the jails and released many of them telling them they can go and live in the U.S.

      The hand of Castro was strengthened by the embargo. Citizens became totally dependent on the government and so the government had/has more control. While America ignored Castro and the Cuban people because of the Miami voting block they engaged China. That started when Nixon visited China and was treated as an “angel from heaven”. Nixon visited India and pompous Nehru did not greet him and serve him “hydrogenated vegetables”, so the story goes…

      The U.S. Engagement of China when they were amongst the most oppressive communist nation, resulted in Communist China now “owning” the American economy. If China was to sell off the billions in T Bills the American economy will take a nose dive. As for oppression China’s history speak for itself, under “the Great Leap Forward” when cabbage became the crop of choice and 20 million Chinese lay dead as a result of Mao experiments. That famine was the worst any nation ever experienced. Yet the U.S. Engaged China.

      The U.S. Has chosen to ignore Cuba and as such kept Castro in power despite the C.I.A. trying to kill Castro and introducing “ring worm” to destroy their sugar industry. But all of that means nothing today. The U.S. Must end its hypocracy and clear a new pathway in U.S./Cuban relations. But I suspect that ain’t going to happen anytime soon. The bully will be a bully..

  5. An erudite, explicit and well researched article TMan that literally summarizes how much information is misinformation. Sometimes we tend to look at progress and growth in Health and Education in Cuba that has taken international recognition and forego the human aspects and the freedom and democratic rights of the people in general. One of Eric Williams books entitled ‘From Columbus to Castro’ gave recognition to the misinformation we have been fed about Columbus during our younger days. http://vimeo.com/14099323 just as how he underpinned the economics and not human compassion involved in ‘Capitalism and Slavery’. The same can be said of VS Naipaul, controversial by description by many but there are also truisms that are spouted by him in his writings that shake us to the core in acceptance. It comes down to this that the author beit an accountant who can turn dismal figures into a positive balance sheet, a preacher who can stand up at a pulpit and literally say do as I say but don’t do as I do etc. can give so much information with epithets of misinformation cloaked in. The solution is time that unravels the truth for us.

  6. In many cases , politics to the naive / uninitiated, can be a cut and dry/Black White affair.Those of us in the know….ummmmm, the more learned/sophisticated, would however appreciate, dat , often ,’what you see, ain’t always what you get ,’or better yet, to quote my late, extremely wise, Tobago Granny, “there is more than the pestle in the mortor,’ si?
    In America,we have two very powerful , and influential lobby groups.One headed, by Jews, AIPAC, the other by Cuban exiles.
    It is impossible to decipher life , politics , struggles, and other conflicting challenges, in Israel, or Cuba, without likewise , fully grasping the wider historical roles played by these two bodies.
    There are por ejemplo,numerous progressive Jews ,in both Israel , and America , who knows , that eliminating every Arab , or Islamist- be they Palistinians, Iraqis, Turks , or Iranians,won’t ensure peace , and security for citizens.
    They also know that mammoth American aid, vast military expenditures – including nuclear arsenals- continually indulging in land grabs , using every bit of influence to deny Palistinians , long overdue Statehood ,starting on the UN ,and an intransigent stand , re the issue of Islamist terrorism, without also recognizing the role of ‘State Terrorism,’ as practiced by Israel, won’t ever ensure , win/win,sustainable, yet elusive Middle East Peace. Yet business continues as usual , irrespective , of who sits in Washington, or Tel Aviv.

    As for Cuba, not only would prospective Presidents/ Cuban American rising star such as Mark Rubio, blatantly lie, to achieve narrow ends, but over zealous, anti Castro elements , would not hesitate to ‘throw out that symbolic baby with the water,’ ummm, engage in terrorist activities, that would harm their country folks – unable to escape like they did to distant shores.


    Translation:-narrow self interest has always upstage common good, for the benefit of all involved .



    It’s really a senseless debate , if the discussion is merely whether
    Castro is/was, good or bad for Cuba-especially descendants of millions of slaves ,who were dumped to the island by Spain , and allegedly lived a life of degradation , ever since.
    The bigger question should be , how can meaningful changes ensue?
    Is it from outside quarters, such as Washington, Miami, Wider Latin American region, politically comatose /constipated EU,or rather the politically docile English speaking CARICOM countries, led by resource leaden T&T? Can Civil Society play a role? No se!
    It’s the Cuban people , living on the island ,who must decide what they want, and how to go about it.

    I am planning a visit To Cuba myself, to savor a bit of the island health tourism , lap up some of its rich culture, and perhaps try and improve my Espanol. It’s a language, I am quite fond of. Maybe I would be able to gain a better perspective on prevailing realities.
    As Ralph Maraj warned – we cannot trust the New York Times, and we should throw in ,Miami Herald. Ain’t sure if they are Conservative, or Liberal enough to be objective.
    Viva Cuba! Hope I got that right. Since parang is dead in T&T, it’s Salsa for me. Baila!

  7. Thank you Mr. Cudjoe, Your discourse with Mr. Maharaj should
    be a wakeup call to him urging that he seek facts before spreading his false information. Hopefully if he succumbs to one of the many illness now plaguing the world, he will remember not run to CUBA in search of advance medical assistance. It is good to note that the New York Times has seen the light in promoting the important strides which Cubs has made inspite of the senseless 6 decades old imbago which continues at the expense of both countries. As the Tourist industries continue to redevelop with European investment, the US will eventually lose out since they will constitute the greater number of visitors with little or no funds returning to the US.

    Finally, I am saddened that intellectuals such as Mr. Cudjoe has not seen fit to rise to the leadership of T&T before
    it is too late.


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