Thursday, July 15, 2004

Cuba: True face of Castro's communist paradise

Taylor teacher recounts trip to Cuba

By Jim Garringer, Chronicle-Tribune. July 12, 2004.

UPLAND -- Shoreline gun placements, the constant sense of being watched, highly trained professionals who make only $15 to $17 a month, and bitterness toward the Russians -- those were the observations of life in Cuba made by Taylor University business faculty member Jim Coe and his wife, Linda, during a recent visit to Havana.

The Coes went to Cuba as educators, but they were the ones getting an education. The trip was made possible by Jim Coe's participation in an international academic conference at the Kojimar Pedagogical Institute in Havana. The couple traveled there in early July using special U.S. State Department visas.

They say their visit got off to a rocky start when $200 was stolen from Jim's suitcase, probably by someone at the airport. Later in the week, a member of their extended party had newly-purchased cigars confiscated by Cuban police who had seen his transaction with a street vendor from one of a series of cameras stationed along the streets to monitor the activities of the Cuban people.

"There were certain areas in Cuba where tourists can go that Cubans can't," Jim Coe said, adding that students at the Kojimar Pedagogical Institute were kept separate from the conferees. "People would ask us where we were from. If we told them we were from the States, they stuck to (us) like glue."

The couple said many of the Cubans they encountered said they felt betrayed and cast adrift by the Russians and former Soviet Union.

"It was amazing to me that every Cuban we spoke to mentioned the revolution," Linda Coe said. "All the billboards advertise socialism."

A college educator told the Coes he made $17 a month; a former doctor who only made $15 a month quit medicine to go to work for her mother.

"We asked some of the people, 'What would you think if Fidel (Castro) dies?'" Jim Coe said.

"We would be afraid," was the answer, he said, noting people cited fears that organized crime might establish a regime on the island. "With Fidel, we know what we have."

On the Coes' return trip, soldiers boarded their plane to question some of the Cuban nationals who were leaving the country, Jim Coe said.

When the aircraft touched down in Miami, a cheer went up, he said.

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