The Reagan Room in the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort was abuzz last Friday during a luncheon that featured international journalist and best-selling author Ann Bardach as well as longtime journalist Sander Vanocur. The event, which was well-attended by area residents and visitors, was hosted by the Channel City Club of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Committee on Foreign Relations. Bardach and Vanocur discussed Bardach’s latest best-selling book, Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington. Special guests at the luncheon included the board of directors of the American Committee on Foreign Relation who were all in Santa Barbara for their semi-annual meeting.
Bardach and Vanocur, both part of the local Santa Barbara community, talked back and forth about Bardach’s recent publication, Fidel Castro’s role in Cuban history, and the current state of affairs between Cuba and the U.S. For guests in the audience who had less extensive knowledge on Fidel Castro and Cuban history, Bardach gave a brief description of the complicated and intertwined 50-year rule of Castro and its relation to U.S. Bardach, who is considered the “go-to journalist on all things Cuba and Miami,” gained international recognition more than 15 years ago when she landed an interview with the Comandante Fidel Castro himself.
Her passion for Cuban government and fervor over Fidel Castro’s oppressive regime was obvious throughout Bardach’s descriptions, and she boldly labeled Fidel as the “Convalescent-in-Chief,” referring to his extensive health issues and multiple brushes with death. She laughingly commented that her most recent book was supposed to be titled The Death of Fidel but, three years later, he’s still living and her book has morphed into a trilogy of the end of his life. She described Castro as gritty and determined and said, “If there will be someone who never dies… he’s the one.” Bardach described the Cuban government as “provocative” and noted horrific occurrences such as the purging of 20 Cuban government officials on March 3, 2009. If these powerful men could be taken down based on Fidel and Raul Castro’s personal vendettas, Bardach posed the audience with the question, “What happens if you are just a normal Cuban citizen? What does this say about the quality of life there?”
The Vice President of the Channel City Club claimed after the presentation that Bardach’s visit had been “one of the most fascinating discussions [they] have had.” During questions and answers from the audience, and one gentleman asked Bardach what she suggests the U.S. do about the trade embargo with Cuba. Bardach advised that we just accept our losses, lift the embargo, and infiltrate Cuba with innovative ideas, people, and communication tools.