Media Talk: Viva la Revolucion: Cuba at 50

Talk Wednesday 7th January, 2009

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Nearly one year on since Raul Castro officially took power from his brother, Fidel, and with a new US president about to take office, the change that has inevitably been creeping up on Cuba looks set to continue into 2009. Amid celebrations of the Cuban Revolution’s 50th anniversary, we remember its achievements and  legacy, while assessing the implications of Obama’s Presidency for the island.

How have Cubans and the exiled community received the news of Obama’s election and what are the expectations on his promises to open dialogue with Cuba and lift the embargo? Has the inevitable "opening up" of the economy and wider access to the internet and communications changed the nature of Cuban society? And are the glory days of the Cuban Revolution now firmly in the past?

Richard Gott is a British journalist and historian with forty years experience of Latin America. He was for many years on the staff of The Guardian newspaper in London. He is currently an honorary research fellow at the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of London. He has recently published Cuba: A New History (Yale University Press), and Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution (Verso).

Pedro Pérez-Sarduy  is a poet, writer, journalist and broadcaster living in London. He is the author of Surrealidad (Havana 1967), Cumbite and Other Poems (Havana 1987 and New York 1990), and a new novel, Las Criadas de La Habana, The Maids of Havana. He has been a radio journalist since 1965, beginning with Cuban national radio as a current affairs journalist and with Cuban television on the first African and Caribbean music show. He was then with the BBC Latin American Service from 1981 to 1994. His latest book of poetry Malecón Sigloveinte (2005), has just been published in Cuba.

Stephen Wilkinson first visited Cuba in 1986 and has been travelling to and writing about the island ever since. Now assistant director at the International Institute for the Study of Cuba, Stephen has a PhD on the subject of Cuban literature. He has written numerous articles on such questions as the history of US-Cuba relations, Cuban attitudes and policy towards homosexuals and the nature of the Cuban state. Stephen’s book: Detective Fiction in Cuban Society and Culture was published in 2006 by Peter Lang. He frequently comments on Cuba issues on The Guardian newspaper’s Comment is Free website.

Emilio San Pedro has been the BBC World Service’s Americas Editor for the last three years, and worked as a journalist for two decades, mostly in radio. He is currently based in Miami.

Nick Caistor is a former BBC Latin American analyst and is now a freelance writer on the region for various publications. He has been an expert on Haiti since 1990, when Aristide first came to power.