A Good Exchange Rate


Driving from Santiago de Cuba, near the eastern end of the island, all the way west to Havana, one passes through a score of towns and villages, none of which seems to have had a coat of fresh paint in the past half century. The ubiquitous shabbiness of today’s Cuba is even more noticeable in Havana. Once one of the most beautiful cities in the world, today Havana is divided between the restored glories of Habana Vieja (plus the resort areas visited by tourists) and the rundown sectors where most of the people live. Even the patriotic billboards and murals of Fidel, Che, and the endlessly repetitive slogans look old and long neglected. With one exception: signs celebrating Los Cinco Héroes, the five “heroes” known in much of the rest of the world simply as “the Cuban Five.” They were part of a spy network that reported to the Cuban Directorate of Intelligence on the activities of anti-Castro groups in the United States. In September 1998, ten members of this network were arrested in Florida and convicted of various crimes under U.S. law. Five of the accused pleaded guilty, but the Cuban Five fought the charges. The freshly painted names and faces of these men—who are serving their terms in U.S. jails—adorn buildings and billboards throughout Havana and other cities in Cuba.

One gets the impression that the cause of the Five is the Cuban government’s most active propaganda ploy today. The economic...

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About the Author

Tom Quigley is a former policy advisor on Latin American, Asian, and Caribbean issues to the U.S. Catholic bishops.