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The casinos of Havana were looted immediately after the overthrow of dictator Fulgencio Batista on January 1, The great majority of Cubans saw casinos — as well as the parking meters that had been installed in the capital a few months earlier — as odious expressions of the oppressive corruption of Batista and his henchmen.
Revolutionaries charged Batista henchmen with torture and murder — not casino operations — when they put them on trial.
Cuba had an official national state lottery that had existed since Spanish colonial times. The lottery drawings were broadcast over the radio featuring a peculiar mixture of modernity and the Middle Ages.
But the fact that even the smallest fractions of the official lottery tickets were relatively expensive stimulated the growth of an informal, illegal lottery based on the results of the official lottery that accepted bets as small as five cents.
The anthropologist Ulf Hannerz suggested in his book Soulside that the numbers game of the American black ghettoes may have originated in Cuba.
What the bolita bankers and casino owners did have in common was that they had to pay off high government functionaries and the police.
But for many poor and even some middle-class people, la bolita also became a means to support or to supplement their income by working as apuntadores, or numbers runners.
Even my parents, immigrant small-business people whose obsessive dedication to work and saving could not have been further removed from any gambling mentality, participated in the bolita.
For a long time, several Mafia families entertained the idea of taking their business to Cuba both as a means to expand their enterprises and to escape the reach of the FBI and the IRS, among other US government agencies.
But under heavy American pressure, the Cuban government deported Luciano in February of Even Richard Nixon had complained to the US Embassy in Havana about the victimization of one of his rich and influential friends.
According to historian Rosalie Schwartz, in response to the threat that these games posed to the Havana casinos, Lansky opened a school to train and screen casino employees.
Only trained and trustworthy individuals were to gain access to the world of blackjack dealers, croupiers, and roulette stickmen. It was a hugely significant event, because it was the first time a country so close to the United States had achieved a successful socialist revolution.
This set off a great deal of paranoia on the part of the U. Cuba became a chess piece in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, inspiring the United States, particularly the CIA, to use the anti-Castro movement for all kinds of dirty politics and covert operations, like the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Four of the five burglars in the Watergate break-in were also Cubans from Miami, who were talked into it by CIA agent E. Howard Hunt. Anti-Castro activists were manipulated by the right wing of the U.
You were recently in Cuba again. The famous old American cars are still there too. You can go to Havana and walk the streets and still feel the ghosts of that history.
Explore the deepest corners of Cuba's culture and history, and discover the startling transformations happening now. Continue or Give a Gift.
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Chip is used condition as shown in scans. Shop with confidence on eBay! State Department, but by an act of Congress. So Cuba will remain off-limits until Congress passes another act.
Unfortunately for both Americans and Cubans, Congress is unlikely to act, until well after the election. The problem is purely political.
The Cuban revolution of January led to the communist dictatorship of Fidel Castro and the nationalization of all private industry and property.
The wealthy ruling class left with whatever they could carry. Many ended up in the U. They naturally hated Castro. For five decades, these Cuban refugees determined the direction of American policy.
Cuban-Americans still exercise power much larger than their numbers. Florida is a notorious swing state in presidential elections.
And voters with ties to Cuba have the money and numbers to swing the state. Or at least they did, when they were all unified in their hatred of Castro.
But to the children and grandchildren of those original immigrants to the U. And other Cubans have come to America, including , in the Mariel Boat Lift of Many have family members they left behind.
In fact, it is probably the billions of dollars Americans send their relatives in Cuba that kept that country from complete economic collapse.
I was fortunate to be able to travel to Cuba, legally, a couple of years ago. What I saw was not only a land frozen in , but what happens to an economy when it is led by men who are completely nuts.
We had a walking tour of Havana, led by an old revolutionary who had become a professor of architecture.
He was practically in tears over the state of decay of what were once magnificent buildings. The problem, he explained, was that after the Revolution, Castro declared that everyone now owned the apartment they lived in.
Only nobody owned the building, not even the government. Every day in Cuba buildings simply collapse due to lack of upkeep. And the new owners could not even sell their apartments.
It is against the law to buy or sell real estate. So people actually get married and then divorced so that they can legally transfer property.
Cuba is a massive island, by far the largest in the Western Hemisphere south of Canada. At miles in length, it is longer than Florida.
It is also the most populous, with 11 million people. Historically, it has always been of great strategic importance. It is not a coincidence that Columbus spent so much time sailing around Cuba during his voyages of discovery to the New World.
The prevailing currents and trade winds forced most shipping within range of the island. Cuba has always been tied politically and economically with the United States.
At its closest point, Cuba is only 90 miles from America. Miami is as close to Havana as it is to Orlando. So, it was naturally drawn to the Confederacy.
It is interesting to think how the U. Civil War would have turned out, if plans to buy Cuba from Spain and make it a state in the s had been successful.
He may not be dead. I was told by both American and Cuban experts that he is beyond retired.