CubaNews / September 2003
By Larry Luxner
When CubaNews was launched by the Miami Herald Publishing Co. in September 1993, it was difficult not to be optimistic about the future. The Berlin Wall had come crashing down, communist regimes in Eastern Europe were history, even the Soviet Union itself had collapsed into 15 independent republics of various political leanings.
In Cuba, possession of dollars was suddenly legal, and the regime began eagerly courting foreign investment for the first time since the 1959 revolution.
In our 12-page inaugural issue, editor Mark Seibel wrote: “We can’t predict where change ultimately will lead or how long Fidel Castro will remain at the helm. We do not promote investment in Cuba. What we can do is pledge to pull together into one place some of the world’s most knowledgeable Cuba-watchers. That way, you’ll be prepared to benefit from, or avoid the negative consequences of, whatever lies ahead in the Caribbean’s most populous economy.”
Well, it’s exactly 10 years later, and Castro is still around. So is CubaNews — despite early predictions that the little publication wouldn’t last six months.
And the experts who have been with us since the very beginning, including Washington correspondent Ana Radelat, political analyst Domingo Amuchastegui, feature writer Vito Echevarría and Miami-based cartographer Armando Portela, continue to provide top-notch content for our readers.
Among the stories we covered in that very first issue: an update on dollarization, a look at the Euromoney conference in Cancún, Mexico, a piece on Cuba’s optical neuropathy epidemic and a feature entitled “Cubans chafing under hardships.” We also instituted “In their own words” — a monthly roundup of interesting quotes that remains part of CubaNews to this day — along with lots of charts, maps and graphs.
In 1998, when The Herald decided to exit the newsletter business, CubaNews was sold to Washington-based Target Research and eventually shrank to eight pages a month. Finally, in May 2002, the struggling newsletter was rescued by Luxner News Inc. of Bethesda, Md.
The first thing we did was double CubaNews to 16 pages. We expanded our Havana-based business coverage, began using photos, added a geography section and launched a monthly newsmaker feature.
Since then, we’ve interviewed everyone from dissidents Elizardo Sánchez and Oswaldo Payá to Dagoberto Rodríguez, chief of the Cuban Interests Section. We’ve also profiled Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA), CANF official Dennis Hays, anti-embargo crusader Wayne Smith and half a dozen other Washington lobbyists on both sides of the issue.
CubaNews still doesn’t promote foreign investment in Cuba, nor do we endorse the U.S. embargo or any other position — yet we pride ourselves on being the world’s only Cuba publication that covers the secretive Castro regime while remaining 100% objective.
And so, on our 10th anniversary, we extend a big “thank you” to our subscribers — and can only conclude that if we’ve made it this long, CubaNews will certainly endure for another 10 years, maybe even 20.
Who knows? We might even outlast Fidel.