Thursday, March 27, 2014

Former militant questions revolution (part 6 of 6)


Former militant questions revolution from Tracey Eaton on Vimeo.

Even after Cuban authorities jailed William Potts for hijacking a plane, he held out hope he'd found a revolutionary utopia.
He became a believer. He had faith in the Cuban revolution.
But after three decades in the country, he became disillusioned and said that is one reason he decided to send his two young daughters to the United States to live with his parents.
Cuban leaders "can't come up with any original ideas," Potts said. "They've lost their way."
For years, Cuban officials told the people they had to sacrifice, Potts said. Then they treated them "like lemons" and "squeezed out all the juice. And now you're throwing taxes at them."
Potts said he can't understand why the Cuban economy can't produce enough food for the people.
"You have old people going hungry. Food should not be a problem. There's no way you can justify it."
Young Cubans, he contends, "would sell this country in a heartbeat for the Internet" and other amenities of more developed nations.
The new man that Che Guevara envisioned "has not yet been produced."
Potts also criticized blacks in America, saying they have no political consciousness. And he faulted Barack Obama for backing some of the same policies as George W. Bush, "universally recognized as the stupidest president ever to occupy the office."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Scent of a woman (part 5 of 6)


Ex-hijacker describes first conjugal visit from Tracey Eaton on Vimeo.

"Perversions and gang rapes" aren't a part of Cuban prison life, ex-hijacker William Potts said.
But conjugal visits are important and help keep families together even when one family member is behind bars, he said.
Prisoners are allowed as many as two conjugal visits per week. Potts said there was a "hotel" on prison grounds where these visits took place.
He said by the time he earned the right a conjugal visit, he hadn't been with a woman for five years.
Just as he was about to have his first conjugal visit, he said he began sweating, felt nauseous and experienced "hot and cold flashes."
"Perfume mixed with the essence of woman," he said, was overwhelming and he had to excuse himself to go to a bathroom and throw up.
After that, he said:
We got it together. Everything went all right.
Potts spent 13 1/2 years in a Cuban prison. He said:
They don't have much else, but they have conjugal visits. God bless 'em for that.

Potts: Conjugal visits boosted discipline (part 4 of 6)


Life in a Cuban prison from Tracey Eaton on Vimeo.

Food in a Cuban prison "was really horrible," said William Potts, who served time for hijacking. "It looked like anything on any farm that you would give to pigs."
Fellow American prisoners, most of them in jail for drug trafficking offenses, "just couldn't cope," Potts said.
Potts said he managed to obtain better food after he started working and earned the right to have family visits.
He said if had to stay in his jail cell for all 15 years, "You might as well just give me the bullet right now."
So he worked and soon had the right to receive visitors.
Conjugal visits were especially coveted. Potts said the prison used these visits to maintain discipline. If one prisoner violated a rule, the entire cell block could lose conjugal visiting privileges, he said.
Inmates saw these visits as "something very important."
Prison officials, he said, "all about keeping the family together. I was the only foreigner who had conjugal visits."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ex-hijacker homesick for Cuba, not the U.S. (part 3 of 6)


William Potts: I'm not the "homesick hijacker" from Tracey Eaton on Vimeo.

William Potts denied feeling homesick for the United States before leaving Cuba in 2013, despite persistent media reports calling him "the homesick hijacker."
Instead, Potts expressed some ambivalence toward the U.S., saying:
It's a crazy place, but it's home.
Potts said he will likely feel homesick for Cuba and envisions returning to the Caribbean country to live once he settles his legal problems.
His trial on air piracy and other charges is set for April 14 in Fort Lauderdale. Potts said once his legal problems are settled, he envisions returning to Cuba.
But he made clear his roots and family are in the U.S. He's not a man without a country. He said:
I'm not a black Nathan Hale.
Nathan Hale was an American patriot executed in 1776 for spying on British troops. His famous last words were:
I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ex-hijacker rejects "terrorist" label (part 2 of 6)


Ex-hijacker rejects "terrorist" label from Tracey Eaton on Vimeo.

When William Potts hijacked a plane to Cuba in 1984, he wanted it to be a discreet affair and asked the flight crew to avoid announcing to passengers that the plane had been commandeered.
Potts told me in an interview that he even made sure passengers got refreshments.
So how does he feel when he's called a terrorist?
He replied:
Well, technically, I guess I might fall under that category. But the actions - I did everything I could to make the people comfortable. A terrorist is Posada Carriles, who lives comfortably in the United States.
Potts was referring to Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative who has been linked to a series of anti-Castro attacks.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

American explains why he hijacked a plane to Cuba (part 1 of 6)


William Potts: Why I hijacked a plane from Tracey Eaton on Vimeo.

Before grabbing a gun and hijacking a plane to Cuba in 1984, Potts was an aid to Roy Innis, one of the most outspoken black militant leaders during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Innis was president of the Harlem branch of the Congress for Racial Equality, or CORE.
Potts said he and Innis "kicked ass and took down names" in New York while pursuing equal rights for blacks.
By the 1980s, Potts said he had become disillusioned with CORE and with Innis, who had grown less militant and moved to the right.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Flashback: Radio Free Dixie

Rob Williams, at right, in Cuba
Radio Free Dixie crackled to life at 11 p.m. on Fridays from Havana and Rob Williams took to the air.
Williams' hour-long program targeted blacks in the South and featured music from such artists as Otis Redding and Nina Simone, along with blistering attacks on the U.S. government.
Williams was from North Carolina. In 1956, he became president of the NAACP in Monroe, N.C. At the time, Ku Klux Klan rallies in the South routinely drew thousands of followers. Racial discrimination was widespread and white supremacists sometimes attacked and killed blacks for real or imagined crimes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Last female Moncadista dies

Melba Hernández with Ricardo Alarcón
Melba Hernández died March 9. She and Haydee Santamaria were the only women who took part in Fidel Castro's failed attack on the Moncada barracks on July 26, 1953.
Santamaria died in 1980. Alan Woods wrote in El Militante:
Haydée always opposed the "Sovietization", ie, the attempt to impose on Cuba rigid Stalinist bureaucracy and dogmatic thought and methodology. Tragically, she committed suicide in 1980.
A lawyer by profession, Hernandez remained faithful to Fidel and Raúl Castro. She was a constant presence in the front row of rallies marking the July 26 attack that began the Cuban revolution.
Reaction to her death at age 92 was mixed.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Tribe in Trouble

Those lottery tickets still haven't produced any winners, so I'm looking for other ways to pay for my reporting projects this summer.
I've applied for a fellowship and a grant for video journalism projects in Cuba. We'll see if either one pans out.
With Huaorani Indians along Cononaco River, Ecuador
I also submitted a project - unrelated to Cuba - to a crowdfunding site called Vourno. I am asking friends - and strangers - to contribute $10 or more to send me to Ecuador to report on the impact of oil drilling on a pristine jungle forest and the Indians who live there.
Please check out the video I made about the project, called "Tribe in Trouble." Thanks!