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DATELINE: CUBA : THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, THEN AND NOW

Havana, 1901:

The Cuban Constitutional Assembly ratified a Constitution that was drafted in Washington. It included the Platt Amendment, which gave the United States the right to establish permanent naval bases on the island. The United States still maintains a Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in eastern Cuba.

Havana, 1991:

Swimming? As if we care. Gymnastics? Same old flips and flops. Track and field? Same old, same old. Now we start the serious part of the Pan Am Games.

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The bowling alley is ready.

“One of the best in Latina America,” said a proud Wilfredo Lemus, head of the Cuban Bowling Federation.

Competition begins today. Cuba is prepared for anything in these Pan Am Games, even for athletes who rent shoes.

Twenty-four lanes. Japanese technology. Cuban labor.

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“Exemplary fraternal ties were an additional bonus resulting from the joint Japanese-Cuban effort,” said Lemus, who should know by now that bowling and exemplary fraternal ties go hand in hand.

The lanes are seven miles from downtown Havana. Gerald L. Koening, an International Bowling Congress executive from the United States, gave the facility his personal approval.

The lanes seat 350 spectators, which should make things tough on scalpers. Also, you never know who might show up.

“El Commandante bowls,” said one worker at Pan American Bowl.

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“Fidel Castro bowls?”

“Si. He is good.”

“Does Fidel smoke his cigar when he bowls?” he is asked.

“No! Because the cigar, she would be across, you know, this ,” the worker said, and he pointed to the foul line, bringing new definition to why the use of tobacco can be foul.

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