Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
US Interests Section turns off its Havana news ticker
Of all the absurd moves by George W. Bush in his frenzied attempts to dislodge, or at least annoy, Fidel, the most churlish was his initiation in January 2006 of anti-Castro propaganda broadcast as a news ticker (á la Times Square) that ran across the high-rise U.S. Interests Section in Havana.
The streaming ticker-tape was briefly visible to nearby residents and anyone passing along the seafront Malecón boulevard. It took Fidel mere days to counter this boondoggle – an abuse of international law regarding the privileges and responsibilities of diplomatic missions abroad (the Interests Section, which is under the protection of the Swiss Embassy, is Uncle Sam's consulate in Cuba, in lieu of an embassy).
The infuriated Cuban leader immediately ordered that the Mission's car park be dug up and replaced with a forest of 138 giant flagpoles, 100 feet tall, to block the ticker, which ran across 25 windows of the entire fifth floor. Each flagpole is topped by a massive black flag representing the number of Cubans killed since the Revolution by U.S.-backed Cuban-American terrorists.
Castro announced that there would be no contact between Cuba's foreign ministry and Havana-based US diplomats until the ticker ended.
For three years the "battle of the billboards" continued, with the futile ticker unseen by all but a tiny handful of Cubans, who were fed such messages as: "Some go around in Mercedes, some in Ladas, but the system forces almost everyone to hitch rides." Fair enough! At times the messages bordered on the hilarious. For example, because the ticker couldn't spell Spanish accents and tildes, Uncle Sam's "Happy New Year" message sent in Spanish translated into "Happy New Anus"!
In June, the Obama administration turned off the ticker. That no-one noticed the ticker going blank until the White House announced it last week speaks volumes. Ostensibly the U.S. pulled the plug because it was "really not very effective as a means of delivering information to the Cuban people," according to a White House spokesman. In reality, it reflects broader efforts by Obama's adminstration to improve relations with Cuba. Amen!