Libertarian Short Stories: “Bakkan the last Cimarron”

This short story is a dedicated to African Americans and their struggles.

The story is the effort of the spirit to achieve freedom. – Friedrich Hegel

Author: Joseph Nolberts, 2019
Photographer: Marlen Vistorte
Photograph of Andres, the great-great-grandson of a rebellious slave. We met when I visited Cuba last summer. Here Andres is trying to show how Cimarrons looked during that time

***Bakkán, the las Cimarron ***

In 1879 still in Cuba, slavery was legal. Slavery was officially abolished in 1886. In 1878, as part of the Zanjon Pact, the slaves who participated in the Ten Years’ War were freed, but those who did not, remained in captivity. The Ten Years’ War was the first of the three Cuban wars of independence against the Spanish colonial forces. This war began with the “Grito de Yara” on the night of October 9-10 of 1868, at the Farm La Demajagua, in Manzanillo, which belonged to Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. It culminated in the Zanjón Pact that established the capitulation of the Cuban Liberation Army, called Mambises, guaranteeing the Spanish government that neither of the two fundamental objectives of this war: the independence of Cuba and the abolition of slavery would be granted by Spain to Cuban Mambises.

The landowners and slavers who settled around the village of Victoria de las Tunas, a small town, founded in 1796, around the church of San Geronimo consequently as the result of the ten years of bloody struggles, did not free their slaves. Instead and in retaliation increased their mistreatments and abuses. “Victoria de las Tunas,” which is also known as the terrace of Cuba, is located in the eastern part of Cuba, and many claims that it was once part of Camaguey. Our ancestors often stated that Camaguey and Holguin were always the most prosperous provinces in Cuba.

One of the ranchers, Mr. Rodolfo Valencia, who was part of one of the most illustrious and wealthy families in the region, known as the Valencia’s, became one of the cruelest slaveowners with their African captives. Valencia’s property was situated very close to where El Cornito is now, also known as the Cucalambe Park. In this picturesque place, five kilometers from the city, composed much of his work, the poet Juan Cristóbal Naples Fajardo, known as “El Cucalambé.” Mr. Valencia did force his slaves to work from very early in the morning until late at night. He whipped and tortured them without any particular reason. However, among his slaves besides including docile ones, also mixed gelfes who belonged to a tribe known for their great corpulence, pride, and rebellious character. According to some experts, this tribe was divided, and its members sold in Cuba, New Orleans, and Brazil.

Juan Napoles Fajardo, El Cucalambe

One of the slaves from that tribe, Bakkán, had long been unhappy with the slaveowner’s treatment and brutality of the pawns. Slaves worked in agriculture, and when they retreated to the barracks to sleep, they were chained. One day one of the pawns, Don Rafael, sent Bakkán to load firewood for the residence, and without any intention, the wood collapsed from his arms. Don Rafael whipped him without remorse until he saw blood flowing from the whole body of that burly slave. Bakkán confronted him, burst the chains that tied one of his hands to his right foot, disarmed him with dexterous movements, and with blunt blows killed him. He escaped to the fields that were very thick at the time. He ran barefoot through those forests without anyone being able to catch him. The slaveowner, his pawns, and their hunting dogs, trained to hunt slaves who escaped, were looking for him without result for several weeks. The slaves who escaped were called in Cuba “Cimarron.”

The Cornito or Park Cucalambe

Bakkán found a cave behind a small waterfall and in it hid. He only left early in the morning to hunt and look for food and went back into hiding. Thus, he lived almost ten years, completely isolated. According to the legend well known in Victoria de las Tunas, once Bakkán went hunting and stumbled upon a group of Spanish soldiers hanging around the area. Bakkán only had one machete, and climbed on a small hill, closed his dark black eyes expecting the worst, a shot from the muskets carried by the soldiers. However, the Spanish soldiers had what they called “The Code of Honor.” Today’s men find it difficult to understand what this code means. Instead of shooting, they went up one by one to fight with their swords with Bakkán. Today’s men would have climbed all at once or shot him without any compassion. Of course, Bakkán was much more robust and wounded and disarmed all soldiers. Conceding that they had lost the battle, they let him escape. Those were the rules of our ancestors, the Spanish army.

As mentioned before, in 1886, slavery was officially abolished in Cuba, and Bakkán was discovered by peasant creoles, while hunting around the waterfall, two years later. They took him to the city and explained that he did not have to fear because slavery had ceased in Cuba. The last Cimarron was frightened; ten years had passed since his escape to the beautiful fields of the Balcony of the Oriented. The peasants took him to the only church that had Las Tunas at the time and baptized him, giving him a new name Victor, a name that comes from the word Victoria. Victor married a beautiful mulatta, and they had two sons Miguel and Bakkán. Victor began working as a coachman, and his life was filled with the peace and love that all human beings deserve. In Victoria de las Tunas the transport of carriages tied by slender horses is a beautiful tradition.

Later in 1895, Victor joined the troops of Antonio Maceo, fighting this time for Cuba’s independence. In the invasion from East to West, Victor, crossing the fort from Júcaro to Morón, did not overcome seven gunshot wounds that reached his broad chest and buried in the province of Las Villas with all the honors of a Mambí warrior. The first independent President of Cuba, Tomas Estrada Palma, ordered the construction of a monument in close to the church where Bakkán was baptized, in honor of Bakkán. In the monument, they embedded the machete used by Bakkán for ten years and inscribed the following words: “Bakkán, the last Cimarron, and the bravest Mamba warrior.” Every time I visit Cuba, I go to the Church of St. Geronimo to honor our hero Bakkán.

Blessed be your lives

The short story is lightly edited.

With pristine reefs at stake, Cuba bets on coral nurseries

Cuba’s first coral nursery was created three years ago through landmark collaboration between Cuban and Florida aquaria.

Divers check a coral reef being raised for research by the National Aquarium of Cuba in Havana, Cuba [Stringer/Reuters] Divers check a coral reef being raised for research by the National Aquarium of Cuba in Havana, Cuba [Stringer/Reuters] Luminous yellow and blue fish dart through the fragments of coral hanging from rows of pipes anchored to the seabed in Guanahacabibes, western Cuba, while scientists in diving gear note down their observations on waterproof clipboards.

This is Cuba’s first coral nursery, designed to help the country repopulate its reefs, some of the most pristine in the Caribbean, and make them more resilient in the face of global threats like warming waters, overfishing and coral diseases.

The nursery was created three years ago through a landmark collaboration between Cuban and Florida aquaria during a short-lived Cuba-US detente since rolled back by US President Donald Trump.

“We want to recover the reefs’ original functions and health,” Pedro Pablo Chevalier, head of the Biodiversity Department of the National Aquarium in Havana, told Reuters.

Corals are animals that settle on the ocean floor and support more sea life than any other marine environment. They also draw huge numbers of tourists, scientists and divers, and provide a natural barrier to flooding.

But, since the 1970s, more than half the coral cover in the Caribbean has died, according to the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network.

Cuba corals

A general view shows a coral reef being raised for research by the National Aquarium of Cuba in Havana, Cuba [Stringer/Reuters] Cuba’s corals have been somewhat shielded by the relative underdevelopment of its coastline, lower use of fertilizer and establishment of protected areas covering a quarter of all insular waters.

But that does not protect them from one of the top threats to coral: bleaching, which occurs when the water is too warm, forcing coral to expel living algae and causing it to calcify and turn white.

Mildly bleached coral can recover if the temperature drops, otherwise it may die. Scientists believe climate change is the underlying cause.

“We are trying to make an assisted selection, an assisted evolution of these corals towards corals that are more resistant to high temperatures, ocean acidification and contamination of Caribbean sea waters,” Chevalier said.

The Aquarium of Florida, which has extensive experience in coral cultivation, donated the infrastructure for Cuba’s nursery and helped train its scientists, in return for the opportunity to study its reefs and scientific exchange.

Chevalier said those in-person exchanges had tapered off since Trump’s election but continued online.

“Cuba is like a living lab of resilient coral reefs, of the kind that have long disappeared from Florida,” said Dan Whittle, who heads the Caribbean program at the Environmental Defense Fund.

House Republicans urge Trump not to pull US troops from Germany; Germany is totally controlled by Russia

Germany is totally controlled by Russia, because they will be getting from 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline​,” he continued.

GOP members of the House Armed Services Committee are putting up a united front in an effort to convince President Trump to not go through with his plan to withdraw US troops from Germany.

In a letter sent to the commander-in-chief Tuesday, 22 Republicans led by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) urged Trump to reconsider the move.

“We are very concerned about reports that the Administration is considering a significant reduction of U.S. troops currently based in Europe as well as a cap on the total number of U.S. troops which can be present there at any one time,” the letter read.

“We believe that such steps would significantly damage U.S. national security as well as strengthen the position of Russia to our detriment.”

Earlier this month, Trump ordered the Pentagon to cut the number of US troops stationed in Germany by 9,500. The order, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, would also cap the American troop presence at no more than 25,000.

Currently, there are 34,500 American service members permanently assigned in Germany as part of a longstanding arrangement with America’s NATO ally.

The decision came amid rising tensions between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Those tensions reached a new peak recently when Merkel rejected his invitation to the 2020 G7 meeting that was supposed to occur this month, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

A senior administration official disputes that Merkel played any role in the decision to pull the troops, however, telling the Journal that internal discussions had been ongoing since September, long before anything occurred related to Merkel deciding not to attend this year.

This is not the first time Trump has voiced some objection to a large troop presence in the region.

During a July 2018 NATO meeting with Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump questioned why the US protects Germany, ostensibly from Russia, while the country is involved in an energy deal with Russia.​

“I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where you’re supposed to be guarding against Russia​,​ and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” Trump ​told Stoltenberg at the time. “So we’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France, we’re protecting all of these countries. And then numerous of the countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they’re paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia. And I think that’s very inappropriate.”

​”​But Germany is totally controlled by Russia, because they will be getting from 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline​,” he continued.

In their letter to the president, House Republicans conceded that Germany was deserving of some scrutiny.

“We strongly believe that NATO allies, such as Germany, should do more to contribute to our joint defense efforts. At the same time, we also know that the forward stationing of American troops since the end of World War II has helped to prevent another world war and, most importantly, has helped make America safer,” they wrote.

The White House has not yet publicly responded to the letter.

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Cuba shares experience against Covid-19 at meeting called by China

Beijing, Jun 10 (Prensa Latina) Cuba shared its actions and experience in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, during its participation in a videoconference organized by the Communist Party of China (CPCh), diplomatic sources informed on Wednesday.

Jose Angel Arzuaga, deputy director of the International Relations Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (PCC), represented Cuba at the meeting, held on Tuesday under the motto ‘The superiority of socialism in the combat against Covid-19’, the Cuban Embassy in Beijing said.

In his speech, Arzuaga noted that his country prepared a preventive plan before reporting the first Covid-19 case, and pointed out that among Cuba’s strengths is being a socialist State with high responsibility, political and human sensitivity, plus a free and universal public health system.

The Cuban leader mentioned the adoption of measures such as social and physical distancing, the reinforcement of epidemiological surveillance, a system of active surveys, visits to people at home, and an early diagnosis.

He referred to the efforts to guarantee the availability and capacity to produce 22 medications that are used to treat the disease, including Interferon alpha 2B, Biomodulina T, CIGB 258 and the monoclonal antibody Itolizumab, all of which have been developed by Cuban scientists and the national biotechnological industry.

Arzuaga added that the people are informed about the disease in real time and in a veracious, trustworthy and transparent manner in order to raise their perception of risk, and experiences are exchanged with several countries and the World and Pan-American Health organizations.

‘Cuba, a small country, with a hot and humid climate, more propitious for viruses, bacteria and fungi, subjected to a cruel blockade and an economic warfare for more than half a century, has succeeded in guaranteeing its people’s health and providing friendly medical assistance to other nations,’ he underlined.

In that regard, the official informed about 34 Cuban brigades made up of 3,337 experts who are fighting Covid-19 in 27 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Arzuaga condemned recent unilateral sanctions by the United States against Cuba with the objective of tightening the economic, commercial and financial blockade and affecting the Cuban people.

He called for ‘a new socioeconomic and political order worldwide that globalizes solidarity over greediness, cooperation over selfishness, peace over war, dignity and all citizens’ and peoples’ rights over the barbarism of capitalism.’

‘Covid-19 has confirmed what we have known for a long time, the essence of capitalism as a system is the exploitation and oppression of workers (?) socialism, instead, fights for the peoples’ life, justice, equality and prosperity,’ he stressed.

Among other matters, Arzuaga noted China’s results and support for other nations, expressed gratitude for Beijing’s assistance and donations to Cuba, and condemned the United States’ politically motivated campaigns against China.

The videoconference was chaired by Song Tao, head of the CPCh International Liaison Department, and was attended by leaders of the Communist parties of Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Chile, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela, among other countries.

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The Pitfalls, and Promise, of Israel’s Historic Annexation Bid

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the first working cabinet meeting of the new government at the Chagall Hall in the Knesset in Jerusalem, May 24, 2020. (Abir Sultan/Pool via Reuters)
Grasping for a short-term gain, Netanyahu takes a long-term risk.
Facing Israel’s plethora of political parties with different agendas, and with a narrow timeline before U.S. elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is attempting to pass a historic annexation of areas in the West Bank. It would reverse more than 50 years of Israeli policy and potentially damage Israel’s relations with European countries and the few Middle Eastern states it has relations with. Netanyahu is gambling on a symbolic move for his legacy — and taking a huge risk.

On June 8, Netanyahu met with leaders of Israeli communities in the West Bank and tried to spell out what his annexation plan looked like. There were no final maps, and a rushed schedule awaits before the July dates when the governing coalition wants to move forward. How did it come to this? How did Netanyahu, the “Mr. Security” of Israel, heralded as “King Bibi,” lead the country for ten years only to end up scrambling for this legacy?

Israel has annexed before. In 1980, it effectively annexed what was once Jordanian East Jerusalem, as a new law gave hundreds of thousands of Palestinians municipal residency but not citizenship. Israel also extended its laws to the Golan Heights in 1981, enabling members of the Druze minority who live there but are Syrian citizens to get Israeli citizenship. In the West Bank, however, where hundreds of thousands of Jewish Israelis live, Israel has been cautious to upset the status quo. Peace accords signed with the Palestinians in the 1990s were supposed to be a road map to a Palestinian statehood. But that never happened. Instead, wars followed and the Palestinians were divided between their institutions in the West Bank and Hamas-run Gaza.

For decades Netanyahu has warned of the dangers of a Palestinian state that does not renounce terror. During the Obama administration, he worked to slow Washington’s drive for yet another round of peace talks. Team Obama got revenge in 2016, just before leaving office, when it enabled passage of a U.N. resolution condemning Israeli settlements. The Trump administration vowed to reverse that policy on Israel and has recognized Israel’s control of the Golan Heights and moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Despite the Trump administration’s pro-Israel policies, it was the Israeli government that ran into troubles with the latest U.S. peace plan. While the Trump administration wanted to roll it out after moving the embassy in 2018, it hit a snag, as Netanyahu was facing new elections. It’s difficult to roll a peace plan when Israel lacks a coalition government and is in the midst of an election cycle. Netanyahu called elections in December 2018. His Likud party couldn’t form a coalition, either in April 2019, after a first round of elections, or in September, after another round. Trump announced the plan in January 2020, hoping to prod Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz, to set aside their differences. It wasn’t until mid May of this year that a unity government, in which Gantz and Netanyahu alternate as prime minister, was finally formed.

Now Netanyahu, facing a trial for corruption, has to work with parts of the Trump peace plan, hoping that Trump wins the November election so that the plan can be carried through. The problem is that Israel would effectively change 50 years of policy by rushing annexation of a few parts of the West Bank while ignoring the peace-plan provisions that would lead toward the creation of a Palestinian state. Most European countries, as well as Egypt and Jordan, have warned Israel against extending its laws to the West Bank. Even U.S. officials appear to hint that Israel should take it slow.

What do Netanyahu and Israel stand to gain from annexation? Annexation changes the status quo forever and chisels away at the decreasing size of a potential Palestinian state. That state is already unlikely to be created, but the illusion of it drives polices of the EU and Arab states. Israel has much to risk, including the possibility of some new clashes in the West Bank and a a further scarring of already depressed relations with neighboring Jordan. Israel also faces condemnation from 19 U.S. senators, dozens of former Canadian diplomats, leading members of the British Jewish community, China, Russia, Israeli centrists and leftists, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab League. Netanyahu has indicated that Palestinians in West Bank areas annexed to Israel would not get Israeli citizenship. That means that “annexation” would not change what things look like on the ground, but it could change Israel’s foreign relationships for years to come.

Militarily, Israel is at its strongest point in history. It enjoys unprecedented diplomatic relations with countries such as India and even with Russia, which were once sour on Israel. The annexation gamble, which even Israelis who support annexation think is too meager, seems to be intended for Netanyahu’s domestic legacy and based on the assumption that a future U.S. Democratic administration would oppose it but not be able to undo it. That’s a huge short-term gamble for a country that wants long-term peace and prosperity and is still weathering the COVID-19 crisis and an Iranian threat. Netanyahu never liked bold gambles, he was always a pragmatic incrementalist. Now, with the clock ticking as the U.S. election approaches, he must rush and try to avoid hurting Israel’s relations too much in the process.

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China’s telecom companies in the United States are in trouble, and one of them, China Mobile International

An influential US Senate subcommittee, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, has issued a strongly negative report about Chinese telecoms operating in the United States. While the subcommittee stopped short of saying the Chinese telecom companies should be removed from the US telecoms market, the report is tilted strongly in that direction. China’s telecom companies in the United States are in trouble, and one of them, China Mobile International, has already had its license pulled by the US Federal Communications Commission.

The report, titled “Threats to US Networks: Oversight of Chinese Government Owned Carriers,” reflects not only the subcommittee’s position, but both the prevailing views of the US Congress and the Trump administration.

The current chairman of the subcommittee is Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. He previously served as the 14th US trade representative and the 35th director of the Office of Management and Budget. The ranking member of the subcommittee is Democrat Tom Carper of Delaware, who had served in the House of Representatives and as governor of the State of Delaware. Before starting a political career, Carper was a US Navy flight officer, serving three tours of duty in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and continued to serve in the Naval Reserve as a P-3 aircraft mission commander until retiring with the rank of captain in 1991 after 23 years of military service.

The Permanent Committee on Investigations has been one of the Senate’s premier organizations. Originally set up in 1948 to replace the War Investigating Committee headed by then-Senator Harry Truman, it has had a variety of tough leaders including the now notorious Joseph McCarthy (subsequently censured by the US Senate) and hawkish Democratic Senator Henry (“Scoop”) Jackson of Washington. Important past members of the subcommittee include Richard Nixon, who became the 37th US president and subcommittee general counsel Robert Kennedy, who served under his brother President John F Kennedy as US attorney general.

The report argues that the Chinese government “exercises control over China’s telecommunications industry and carriers.” It stresses that while China has access to the US telecommunications market, the same is not true for US operators in China. “China does not provide US telecommunications companies reciprocal access to the Chinese market and requires foreign carriers seeking to operate in China to enter into joint ventures with Chinese companies. These joint ventures often require US companies to give their technology, proprietary know-how, and intellectual property to their Chinese partners.” In the two decades since China acceded to the World Trade Organization, “not a single foreign firm has succeeded in establishing a new joint venture” to access China’s basic telecommunications services market,” the report says.

China will be center stage at the upcoming US presidential election.

Steve Bannon, former senior White House strategist and CEO of Donald Trump’s winning 2016 presidential campaign, believes China will be center stage at the upcoming US presidential election.

Trump was lagging in the polls against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton when Bannon joined the campaign in August 2016. The former investment banker is widely credited with designing Trump’s successful economic populism and attacks on Clinton’s alleged corruption during the campaign’s last three months.

Today, Bannon denies rumors that he will take an official role in Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, but he strongly advises the president to focus on China – particularly on what he calls the Chinese Communist Party’s “war” on the United States, and on Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s China connections.

He holds the Chinese Communist Party responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic consequences, and sees no room for compromise with the rising superpower. Bannon says he wants to help the Chinese people overthrow the Communist Party and advises a self-styled government-in-the-wings, what he terms the “Federal State of China.”