Monday, March 24, 2014

Democracy Challenged by Cuban-Exile Extremists

How The Volatile Mix Hurts Democracy
{Thursday, March 27th, 2014} 
       A good map will reveal that Havana, Cuba's current capital, is a mere 90 miles from Florida. And Santiago de Cuba, Cuba's former capital and second largest city, is just a few miles west of the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. American history confirms that since 1803 the U. S. has been fixated on gaining control of the nearby island, finally achieving that goal by concocting a bloody pretext {blowing up the USS Maine in Havana Harbor} to justify the Spanish-America War, which resulted in the U. S. dominance over Cuba beginning in 1898. In 1903 the U. S. used that dominance to steal Guantanamo Bay from Cuba, a theft that continues in perpetuity because of the vast military superiority of the U. S. Yet, the loss of Guantanamo Bay has created much international sympathy for Cuba and continuing hubris for America. The theft of Guantanamo was an early precursor that the U. S. would not adhere to democratic principles when it came to Cuba and eventually to the Caribbean and Latin America. A glaring example came in 1952 when the U. S. teamed with the Mafia to support the thieving/brutal Batista dictatorship in Cuba so rich American businessmen could partake in the rape and robbery of the helpless Island. That trifecta {Batista, the Mafia and the U.S.created an unholy alliance comprising a vile dictatorship. The Batista dictatorship in Cuba should have, by all reckoning, lasted till the present day because, after all, Batista had a powerful police force plus the backing of the strongest nation in the world, the U. S., and the strongest criminal organization in the world, the Mafia. But it lasted only eight years. Why?
Reason #1:
     While literally robbing Cuba blind -- and using the island for lucrative drug, gambling, and prostitution enterprises -- the Batista-Mafia-U.S. dictatorship didn't even bother to toss bread crumbs to the majority poor on the island, such as this family. The lady above was responsible for seven children -- ages 3 to 8 -- and she had no help from the rich Batista government when it came to a job, shelter, food, medicine or education. By the time this photo was taken, Latin American newspapers and magazines had reported that the top 21 members of the Batista regime each had Swiss bank accounts exceeding $1 million {in 1950s moneyand it was presumed much more loot than that was shipped by each of them to banks in the Mafia havens in South Florida and Union City {NJ}, from whence Batista and top Mafia kingpins had converged on Cuba. But soon, the thieves would have to flee and join all that money.
Reason #2:
     In the 1950s, photos like this were featured in Latin American newspapers and magazines as well as the New York Times explicitly delineating the extreme brutality of the Batista dictatorship against even hints of dissent. The brave street march depicted above was one of many in which courageous women protested the murders of their children, murders apparently for no other reason than to send warnings to quell dissent. More amazing than despots murdering innocent people, an all too frequent occurrence, was the fact that the U. S. citizens in the 1950s did not care about the despotism taking place in their name on the nearby island. "If they had wanted to," Herbert L. Matthews of the New York Times wrote, "presumably the American citizens could have persuaded their government to stop what was happening in Cuba." As Mr. Matthews and others would learn, the American citizens chose not to lift a dissenting voice, not even a whimper. Not caring what was happening to innocent neighboring people was one thing. Not caring about the scars it was leaving on democracy was quite another thing altogetherMoreover, in 1959 after a female-powered revolution in Cuba overthrew the Batista-Mafia dictatorship, American citizens meekly permitted an immediate transition of those fleeing dictators to reconstitute themselves on U. S. soil -- namely Miami and Union City -- where a sudden avalanche of money and ruthlessness quickly and permanently overwhelmed the social and political  fabrics of,  first, those communities and, later, -- the hallowed halls of Congress in Washington. Democracy badly needed a denouement. 
Reasons #1 and #2 were engineered by:
A Cuban dictatorship led by {left to rightLucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky and Fulgencio Batista.
The Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba was ended by:
Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution on Jan. 1-1959.
   
    But after being booted off the island of Cuba, the Mafia and the Batistianos quickly returned to safer, friendlier environs -- Miami and Union City, U. S. soil, no less. And like the situation in Cuba, the retrenched marauders found little resistance from the U. S. government and precious few complaints from the U. S. citizens who, unfortunately, were the last vestiges of defense for the world's greatest and most admired democracy.
      The U. S. Congress consists of 535 members. Three of the 100 U. S. Senators are Cuban-Americans -- Bob Menendez, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. Four of the 435 Representatives are Cuban-Americans -- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart, Joe Garcia, and Albio Sires. As a lifelong, democracy-loving Conservative Republican, I wouldn't mind if all 535 members of the U. S. Congress were Cuban-Americans -- as long as they didn't trample on democracy. But since 1959 a handful of Cuban-American extremists have dictated America's revengeful, repugnant, resentful, regrettable and anti-democratic Cuban policy that the vast majority of Caribbeans, Latin Americans, Cuban Americans, Americans, and citizens of the world oppose. The seven aforementioned members of the U. S. Congress -- along with ultra-powerful, self-appointed Cuban-American rulers and benefactors such  as Mauricio Claver-Carone, Otto Reich, Gus Machado, and Frank Calzon -- are today able to ignore public and world opinion regarding Cuba to merely suit their self-aggrandizements. In other words, a handful of the very minority that should be the first to recuse themselves from dictating America's Cuban narrative and America's Cuban policy are the only ones controlling that narrative and making those laws. And that's precisely what America's Founding Fathers tried to avoid when they crafted history's greatest form of governance, a governance most severely challenged, since the 1950s, by a handful of extremist Cuban exiles who have had no trouble aligning themselves with economic and political power-brokers such as the ongoing Bush dynasty {Jeb, a huge Republican fund-raiser, is a serious presidential candidate in 2016 AND his son George P. Bush has just been elected to his first major political job in Texas. WOW!}. 
    And now, after you pause to check out the foregoing indisputable conclusions, let's return to this 2014 map that shows the close proximity of Havana to Florida and Santiago de Cuba to the American military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- not to mention a plethora of military bases in Florida. The Cuban Revolution astounded the world and still confounds historians by being the first popular revolution that ever dislodged a U.S.-backed dictatorship. However, even more remarkable is the fact that Revolutionary Cuba has survived for 55 years {and counting} although each day from Jan. 1-1959 till today two generations of the overthrown Batista-Mafia dictatorship, headquartered on nearby U. S. soil and supported by the strongest and richest nation in history, have tried desperately and with no holds barred to re-capture the island. Those two phenomenons -- the overthrow of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba and then the reconstitution of the Batistiano-Mafiosi dictatorship on American soil -- have turned out to be two of the most cancerous events in the long and mostly glorious history of the United States of America. Because of that and because I have a visceral love of democracy, I have had a lifelong passion with Cuba. I believe the U. S. support of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba in the 1950s started the U. S. democracy on a precipitous decline that was markedly accelerated when the Batistianos and Mafiosi in Cuba were allowed to flee and reconstitute themselves almost seamlessly on U. S. soil. Oh, yes, I am aware that such a correct analysis of the U.S.-Cuban imbroglio is politically incorrect in the United States, not to mention a tad dangerous, but its fascination is both overwhelming and irresistible. So, with a small measure of trepidation, let's continue on with some modern, inalienable, and indisputable facts concerning repercussions of those two great American phenomenons -- the Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba followed by its transfer to U. S. soil after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. 
     First off, remember that the U. S. democracy has faced many challenges since 1776 and managed to survive them all, albeit with some deep scars. The internal challenges have included the Manifest Destiny belief that it was a sacred right to destroy native Indians to clear their land for white settlement; slavery in the South but also the North; the Civil War; the Great Depression and the rise of the Mafia in the first half of the 20th Century; and the integration of lobbyists with their special interest money as the basic fabric of congressional and presidential elections. The greatest external challenge came in the 1930s and 1940s when vile dictatorships in Germany, Japan, Italy, and the Soviet Union threatened to conquer the world, at least till Hitler double-crossed Stalin to turn the mighty Soviet Union into America's ally as opposed to Germany's ally. That lucky break, and the victory in World War II in 1945, left the U. S. as the strongest and richest nation in world history...and it also left America's Democracy as the most beloved form of government the planet has known. But by the 1950s right-wingers in the U. S. government realized that, by telling the American people of dire and imminent threats from foreign despots, the unchecked powers of the U. S. military and contaminant agencies such as the newly created CIA, could do vile things overseas and get away with it -- such as overthrowing democratically elected governments in the Congo, Ecuador, Chile, and elsewhere to install U.S.-friendly dictators who would allow rich Americans to partake in the robberies of those nations...spawning such infamous U. S. companies as the United Fruit Company. And it was that mindset that led the U. S. government to team with the Mafia, and a vast assortment of U. S. businesses such as the United Fruit Company, to support the thievery and brutality of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba beginning in 1952. It was all done in the name of the American people who -- overcome with post-World War II cowardice, ignorance or complacency -- simply didn't care. The resurrection and maturation of that overthrown Cuban dictatorship on U. S. soil has also been allowed to evolve as perhaps the major challenge to the U. S. democracy in the year 2014 as evidenced by the fact that a handful of self-serving Cuba-exile extremists now dictate all of America's Cuban policy and much of its other policies to the detriment of democracy and against the best interests of everyone else, including the majority of Cuban-Americans as well as America's best democracy-loving friends all around the world.
  Yet, there are many democracy-loving organizations in the United States -- such as the Washington-based "Center for Democracy in the Americas" -- direly concerned with the challenges facing America's Democracy, particularly the threat from Cuban-exile extremists and their profiteering sycophants. Individually, many of America's greatest journalists and historians -- such as Sarah Stephens, Peter Kornbluh, Wayne S. Smith, Ann Louise Bardach, Julia Sweig, etc. -- regularly present truthful, unbiased assessments of how harmful to democracy Cuban-exile extremism has been and continues to be. And therein lies a problem because, for the most part, the Cuban narrative within the U. S. media and the U. S. government is controlled by these same Cuban-exile extremists. And that, unfortunately, has been the case since 1959. 
      Sarah Stephens is the Executive Director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas. She personally writes the Cuba Central update that is posted on the CDA website each Friday. Ms. Stephens is a brilliant journalist, a democracy lover, and surely one of the greatest and fairest experts in the world when it comes to U. S. - Cuban relations. And those credentials, sadly, are precisely why you will seldom, if ever, see her on television news programs discussing Cuba. That's because those outlets cater only to anti-Cuban pundits and propagandists because {1} they are simply biased; {2} they are simply dishing out what they perceive propagandized Americans expect to hear about Cuba; or {3} they remember what happened to great journalists like the car-bombed Emilio Milian and the fired Jim DeFede when they bravely and fairly reported on Cuba-exile extremists in Miami. As far as the U. S. media covering Cuban issues is concerned, it might be said that Emilio, a Cuban-American broadcaster in Miami, and Jim DeFede, the former top columnist for the Miami Herald, were the last two main-stream journalists who told the truth about Cuban extremists. That's why going to a little trouble to read Sarah Stephens once a week on the Center for Democracy in the Americas website is essential, for Democracy's sake if not for Heaven's sake. 
         For example, in the latest {Friday, March 21, 2014} posting on the Center for Democracy in the Americas website, Sarah Stephens discusses "the historical error represented by the U. S. hanging onto Cuban land," namely the lush Guantanamo Bay that the U. S. stole from Cuba in 1903. {Currently the U. S. is going ballistic over Russia grabbing Crimea although, unlike the U. S. grab of Guanatanamo, the Crimeans speak Russian, border Russia, consider themselves Russian and want to be "grabbed" by Russia}. The U. S. grabbed the plush 45-square-acre Guantanamo Bay port in 1903 and to this day the territorial theft angers every Latin American nation and shames all of America's international friends...as well as democracy. It also, of course, is being used to mock democracy when the U. S. bellows about Crimea.
     
      Amnesty International calls the U. S. prison at Guantanamo Bay "the Gulag of our time"  and it is one of many international human rights organizations that have deplored the torture that has been documented there. In its last posting Friday the Center for Democracy in the Americas lambastes the United States for not "returning rightful ownership to Cuba of land that's been wrongfully under U. S. control for over a century." By ignoring such words, Americans are showing no respect for their democracy.
   
    Americans are not supposed to care about such things as Guantanamo Bay, according to Cuban-exile extremists.
  But the majority of the world that does care about democracy does care about such things.
    

    Democracy-loving Americans, for example, have a right -- and perhaps a duty -- to know why and by whom a beautiful American named Ronnie Moffitt was murdered within sound of the White House in Washington at 9:32 A. M. on September 21, 1976...and why the U. S. government didn't cooperate with the initial investigation, thus leaving the culprits, well known to history, unpunished. Both Ronnie Moffitt AND democracy deserved better than that. And they still do to this very day.
   And Americans have a right -- and perhaps a duty -- to know why and by whom a civilian airliner -- Cubana Flight 455 -- was blown out of the sky by a terrorist bomb on October 6, 1976, three weeks after Ms. Moffitt's murder, killing all 73 passengers on board, including two dozen teenage athletes. Who was the CIA Director in the fall of 1976? How many well-known Cuban-exile extremists were tied to the Moffitt murder and the airplane bombing, and who helped them avoid punishment?
     Jim Defede was the top columnist at the Miami Herald, at least until he wrote a famous column in which he excoriated Miami's then 3 members of the U. S. Congress -- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balart brothers -- for their incredible support of Miami-based Cuban-American terrorists who targeted innocent Cubans. DeFede bravely made the point that terrorism against Cuba was no different than terrorism against the U. S., England, etc. Sadly, Jim's column was like a voice in the wilderness, barely a blimp in the Cuban exile-dominated media world in Miami.
   
   
   After losing his high-profile gig at the Miami Herald, Jim DeFede transitioned mostly to electronic {TVjournalism in Miami.
     
       If Alexis de Tocqueville were still around to write Volume 3 of his masterpiece -- "Democracy in America" -- he would sadly have to include such seminal events as the murder of Ronnie Moffitt and the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 to get a balanced, updated portrait of how extremist Cuban exiles have impacted democracy in America since 1959. And you know what? It might take a skilled democracy lover like Alexis de Tocqueville to navigate around the stultifying, uncategorizable obstacles that lie in the path of those expressing the truth -- obstacles such as.........................................................................................



    ................the car bomb that silenced the superb Cuban-American journalist Emilio Milian in Miami on April 30, 1976. The 45-year-old Cuban-born Emilio was News Director at WQBA Radio when he denounced the terrorist acts of Cuban-American extremists in Miami. 

    This photo taken by Jamie Francis shows Alberto Milian standing beside a portrait of his father, Emilio. Alberto was at football practice when he heard that his dad had been car-bombed after being warned not to denounce Cuban-American extremists. Alberto went on to fight in the U. S. Army during the 1989 Panama invasion and the 1991 Gulf War. He became a prosecutor in Broward County and then Director of Political Affairs and Staff Counsel for the Miami-Dade County Police Benevolent Association. He is a conservative Republican. In an interview with David Adams of the St. Petersburg Times Alberto said, "Some in the Cuban-American community...made anti-Castroism a cottage industry. They hide behind the Cuban flag." Alberto also told David Adams, "Americans should read Ann Louise Bardach's book 'Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana' to understand why Miami is the center of terrorism in the United States."
  I happen to agree with Alberto Milian that Ann Louise Bardach's "Cuba Confidential"  is a must read for anyone seeking the truth about terrorism related to Miami and how a handful of Cuban-American extremists in Miami came to dictate America's anti-democracy Cuban policy...via the horrendous Torricelli and Helms-Burton congressional acts as well as commandeering all other pro-Cuban exile vestiges within the bowels of America's once-sanctified economic and political apparatuses.


     
      And then -- after you have studied and taken written notes from Ann Louis Bardach's "Cuba Confidential" -- you should meticulously study the updated 2013 edition of Julia E. Sweig's seminal book "CUBA: What Everyone Needs to Know." Yes, in America everyone needs to know sources you can depend on for factual, unbiased, and important information regarding Cuba, the neighboring island that says so very much about America. Ann Louis Bardach and Julia E. Sweig are the two best sources in that regard in America.



And by the way...........
      Adolpho Suarez, shown in the center of this Eloy Alonso/Reuters photo, was a great democracy-lover. He died Sunday {March 23rd} at age 81 in Madrid. He was Spain's first elected Prime Minister in 1975 after the Franco dictatorship and he is revered to this day as the key figure in Spain's transition back to democracy. Thus, he was truly one of the world's greatest statesmen in the past century.
    Cuba has purchased an AN-158 airplane {right} to begin regular flights to and from the eastern Caribbean island of Martinique starting Thursday {March 27, 2014}. The Cuban News Agency says the French Embassy in Havana helped with the contract. Cuba's Cubana de Aviacion is the only airline in the Western Hemisphere that flies the AN-158 jets. Three of them already fly from Havana to Santiago, Guantanamo, and Holguin in Cuba and to Nassau, Santo Domingo, Cancun, and Caracas. Cuba has also ordered seven more of the 85-seat AN-158 jets because Cuban tourism increased to 2.85 million in 2013 and is projected to reach 3.15 million in 2014. The AN-158 jets are manufactured by a Ukrainian-Russian company with the final assemblage taking place in Kiev, Ukraine. The AN-158s are made from French, German, and American parts with the U. S. components comprising less than 10% to comply with the embargoed U. S. sanctions against Cuba.
       This Ramon Espinosa/AP photo depicts a major event going on in Havana now. It is the 8-day International Rodeo Festival. Top rodeo performers from Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Panama are participating at sold-out events. The Cuban girl entering the arena in this photo is a trick-roping star.
        The 8-day Rodeo Festival in Cuba celebrates 200 years of Spanish influence on the island. It features all the traditional rodeo favorites -- steer wrestling, bull riding, calf roping, barrel racing, tricks on horseback, lasso demonstrations and what the Associated Press called, "remarkable feats of daredevilry."
     While Major League baseball in the U. S. is just finishing Spring Training prior to the "regular season," the 53rd National Baseball Playoffs start in Cuba March 27th after this week's end of the regular season. Villa Clara is the defending champs in Cuban baseball and its 57-30 record was the best in the regular season. Villa Clara will open the best-of-seven semi-finals against Matanzas. The other semi-final will have Pinar del Rio against the Industriales of Havana. The finals will also be a 7-game championship series.
       Ramon More is the manager of Villa Clara, Cuba's defending baseball champs. "I expect the usual tough run in the playoffs," he said. "We had the most regular season wins with 57 but the three other playoff teams all won at least 50 games." Many of Cuba's best young players are now stars in the American Major Leagues but Ramon says, "This island is still a baseball mecca. Baseball is in our DNA. We can keep the American Major Leagues afloat. Sometimes our stands are filled with American scouts and agents, with good reason. Their Major Leagues would be Minor Leagues without us Cubans just like their military would be pathetic without Guantanamo Bay. HA! HA!"
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Is Revolutionary Cuba Doomed?

Or Is It Just In Transition?
{Monday, March 24th, 2014}
  
   ESPN the Magazine is just about the largest {in size} and most popular {in readership} of all the magazines in America. A recent issue {rightwas devoted to the dominant role young Cuban stars are playing in Major League Baseball, such as the ESPN cover-boy Yasiel Puig, the superstar for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
     
     Chris Jones is probably America's best pure writer on topical subjects, such as the massive baseball tsunami that is currently crashing against America's shores. Jones is a writer-at-lodge for high-brow Esquire Magazine and he is also a Contributing Editor for sports-crazed ESPN the Magazine. Chris Jones was awarded the last full page in the aforementioned ESPN edition devoted to Cuban baseball. The essay that resulted is worth your attention even if you are not interested in his expertise concerning either Cuba or baseball. His journalistic style and his special gifts as a writer are among the primary attractions for this artistic gem.
      ESPN used this image to highlight the essay by Chris Jones that concluded its edition devoted to Cuban baseball's impact on America. Here are excerpts:
      "Havana might be my favorite city in the world. It is warm and crumbling and beautiful. It is safe and exotic and teeming with marvels. I fly down there with my boyhood friends, and we smoke black cigars by the boxful and swim in rooftop pools, and we walk along the seafront, and we hide away at night in tiny pocket bars, drinking goofy drinks that we wouldn't dream of drinking anywhere else. It is paradise for me, and it's made even more of a paradise because I know too well that Havana, this current and latest edition of Havana, is doomed.
        "You might think less of me in this instant for having gone there -- for having propped up the Castro regime, for indulging my gross northern appetites in a city marked in some ways by the suffering of its citizens, for ferrying whatever other random sins you might believe I stowed in my carry-on bags. I don't care. First, I'm Canadian, and we don't have the same psychic burdens about Cuba that Americans do. Cuba is just another escape pod from our godforsaken winters. But more important, because I know that today's Havana will vanish tomorrow, that soon it will be jammed with armies of tourists in their wide-brimmed hats, and the stray dogs and belching old Chevys will be taken out back and shot, I can't afford to let your judgment get in the way of my love.
         "One day, though, if you're lucky, and if you haven't already, you'll come back. You'll realize that perfection is a lot to demand, especially from a stranger. You'll get better about keeping the parts of someone you need and overlooking the parts you don't. You'll grow less certain, not more, and in your doubt you'll return to your old anchors. You'll walk shamelessly through the streets of your own particular Havana one last time, and you'll remember who brought you there in the first place, and when, and you'll be so grateful that they did."
Comment:
      Like Chris Jones, I've been to Cuba and I share his nostalgic views of the island, especially Havana. Because I admire his writing, I get to sample his journalistic skills on many topics and often disagree with what I consider his too-liberal opinions. I'm also a generation older than Mr. Jones. Plus, he is a democracy-loving Canadian and I'm a democracy-loving American. It's obvious he didn't grow up being banned from visiting Cuba and he didn't grow up being incessantly bombarded by depictions of Cuba from only two generations of the most vicious Cuban exiles who were booted off the island, with reason, by the Cuban Revolution in January of 1959. Thus, Mr. Jones has not been proselytized into thinking that all the good Cubans are in Miami, Union City, and Washington while all the bad Cubans are still stuck on the island. In other words, he is an unbiased, un-propagandized first-hand observer who can judge Cuba for what it is -- the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly. Mostly, it's good and beautiful but not flawless. "I'm Canadian, and we don't have the same psychic burdens about Cuba that Americans do." That seminal, sensible, sensational sentence by a great writer familiar with Cuba says all that needs to be said about the deleterious effect America's Cuban policy since the 1950s has had on the U. S. democracy -- starting with the U. S. support of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba from 1952 till 1959 and then with the U. S. support of the Batistiano-Mafiosi dictation of America's Cuban policy from 1959 till the present day. Uh, no! Not all the good Cubans are in Miami, Union City and Washington. And not all the bad, mischievous Cubans are the ones still on the island.

  As to whether Chris Jones' beloved Revolutionary Cuba is "doomed" or merely in "transition," study this photo taken Wednesday. The young man on the left is Rafael Ramon Santiesteban. He hails from Holguin and was named Cuba's new President of the National Association of Small Farmers. Sitting at his left and chairing the ceremony is 83-year-old Juan Ramon Machado Ventura, Cuba's 2nd Vice President, which leaves him as the 3rd most powerful Cuban in 82-year-old Raul Castro's government. The news conference reminded Cubans that elderly revolutionary icons are still in charge but massive economic reforms are underway, reflected by the island's fresh emphasis on "small farms," private entrepreneurs, and the solicitation of foreign investments. Does it mean the revolution is finally "doomed" or is it merely in a "transitional" stage? Daily clues reveal that the answers are slowly but surely evolving in Cuba.
       
     
       Since 1959 Ramon Machado Ventura has been in the Top Five of revolutionary leaders and a Fidel loyalist since March 10, 1952, which is the date the Batista-Mafia dictatorship moved from South Florida to execute the coup that took over Cuba. Machado Ventura, who graduated from the University of Havana in 1953, was a medical doctor and Fidel a young lawyer. In October of 2014 Machado Ventura is due to turn 84 while Fidel will turn 88 in August. Along with the 82-year-old Raul Castro {He turns 83 in June}, these two old revolutionaries epitomize at least a transition to a new Cuba as dictated by a natural phenomenon -- mortality. But every step of the way -- from March 10, 1952 till today -- Ramon Machado Ventura has been at Fidel Castro's side. 
     
     It is interesting to note that the post-Castro leader of Cuba will not have a last name of "Castro" nor will he have any direct connection to the island's iconic revolutionary glory. His name will be Miguel Diaz-Canel. That's him in the middle of the photo on the left. Miguel is 53-years-old. He was born in Santa Clara on April 20, 1960. Fidel Castro has 8 sons. All are well educated and accomplished in areas such as medicine, science, and law. And all 8 are very loyal to their father. But, it should be remembered, Fidel once fired his oldest son, Fidelito, as head of Cuba's Science Federation. At the time, Fidel famously said, "This is not a monarchy!" Miguel Diaz-Canel is proof Fidel meant those words.

   However, many Cuban experts in the U. S. government still believe Luis Alberto Rodriguez {left} is the person most likely to be the post-Castro leader of Cuba. Rodriguez is 54-years-old and a Major General in FAR, Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces. More significantly, he heads the Enterprise Administration Group that controls about 80% of the Cuban economy. Also, he is married to Deborah Castro Espin, the oldest daughter {52} of Raul Castro and the late Vilma Espin. It is believed that Rodriguez's economic skills, not nepotism, have accounted for his staying power and advancements although it is well known that he has had major differences with both Deborah and Raul.
    
    
    
    Of Raul Castro's four children with revolutionary heroine Vilma Espin, the 52-year-old Deborah has the most influence with her father. She is often beside him at meetings, as shown here, and she is perhaps his most trusted adviser, especially on domestic and women's issues. Her power is one reason many expect her husband, Luis Alberto Rodriguez, to one day be the leader of post-Castro Cuba. 
    
   It should also be noted that Raul Castro's favorite grandson is Raul Guillermo Rodriguez, the son of Deborah and Luis Rodriguez. Raul Guillermo is also the primary bodyguard for his grandfather, President Raul Castro. 


   Photos of Raul Castro often show a young man attentively beside him but few have known the young man's name -- Raul Guillermo Rodriguez -- or his role as his grandfather's main bodyguard. In addition to his father Luis Rodriguez and his grandfather Raul Castro, Raul Guillermo has an uncle, Luis' brother Gustavo, who lives near Naples, Florida. Gustavo's wife Maria has a daughter by a previous marriage to Alexis Castro Soto del Valle, one of the five sons Fidel has had with his current wife Dalia Soto del Valle. Raul Guillermo's 52-year-old mother Deborah has two sisters -- Mariela, 51, and Nilsa, 46 -- and one brother, 48-year-old Alejandro. So, Cuba's Castro clan has an extended list of blood relatives, both male and female, but the post-Castro leader of Cuba will be Miguel Diaz-Canel, a non-Castro who was born in Revolutionary Cuba in 1960 -- meaning he is also a non-revolutionary like 54-year-old Luis Alberto Rodriguez, Raul Guillermo's dad. Fidel Castro's 8 sons have no political leadership ambitions.
Bluebirds photographed by Linda Bumpus for Birds & Blooms Magazine.
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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Crucial Days for Cuba

Anti-Cuban Forces Align In Venezuela
{Tuesday, March 18th, 2014}
     The AFP/Juan Barreto photo above shows Venezuelan opposition activists marching toward the Cuban embassy in Caracas Sunday, March 16th. The protesters, at least for a day, shifted their venom to focus on Cuba, a major supporter and benefactor of President Nicolas Maduro's now shaky Venezuelan government.
     On national television President Maduro has told the Venezuelan people that Cuban-exile extremists in the U. S. are behind an attempted coup against him just as they "for a few hours" successfully executed a coup against the late President Chavez in 2002. He also used a television address to invite the U. S. to discuss the issues with his government. The protests began in student enclaves on February 12th and now have killed at least 28 people and injured about 300. Maduro is solidly backed by the Venezuelan military and it would take an extremely bloody coup to overthrow him. He considers Sunday's anti-Cuban protests to be proof that Cuban-exile extremists in the U. S. are "funding and encouraging this stuff in hopes of getting a reaction that would get the U. S. to attack us or the CIA to assassinate me, a bus driver who has African bloodlines like President Obama." Maduro, however, was narrowly elected a year ago over a U.S.-educated opposition leader and Venezuela is suffering mightily from excessive crime, high inflation, and shortages of food, diapers, and other necessities. The bulk of Maduro's support lies with the military and the poorest Venezuelans. He is also bolstered by the fact some of the key opposition leaders are now ashamed of the prolonged, ongoing violence.  
   
      Josefina Vidal is Cuba's Minister of North America Affairs and as such she has a primary responsibility for assessing threats to Revolutionary Cuba from anywhere in the region. Vidal, who has worked as a Cuban diplomat in Washington, is a key reason the revolutionary government has, against all odds, survived for 55 years and counting. This week Vidal's assessment of America's Cuban exile-dictated Cuban policy focuses on the violent demonstrations that have stricken Venezuela, a key Cuban ally, since February -- resulting in 28 deaths and at least 300 injuries.

     Josefina Vidal is a student of both American and Cuban history. After a 2002 speech at the Kennedy Library in Boston, she received by far the longest and loudest standing ovation at a session that was hosted by Caroline Kennedy and featured a roster of some of America's best historians, such as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. So, what's happening in Venezuela is not surprising to Ms. Vidal and, perhaps, her assessment is most pertinent of all considering that she is a Cuban firewall against invasion. Because Cuba is a two-pronged {not one-sidedequation, topical compendiums of what Josefina Vidal is thinking are worthwhile but generally foreign to Americans.
   "The three main opposition leaders fueling the violence in Venezuela," according to Ms. Vidal, "are all closely associated with the Cuban-exile extremists in the U. S. Congress and the operatives related to the Bush political dynasty in America. All that is well known. We understand their frustrations, through two generations now, over not being able to re-capture Cuba for use once again, as in the 1950s, as a piggy-bank and playpen. The Cuban exile leaders and Bush people also realize that, after all these decades, the worldwide UN vote each October sharply condemns, in unanimity, America's Cuban policy. Further, America's influence in the Caribbean and Latin America is amazingly small considering it is the strongest and richest nation in the world...and its Cuban policy is one reason for its lack of overwhelming regional influence, I think. And further, recent national polls in America show more and more majority opinions oppose the U. S. Cuban policy. And further still, the two top pollsters in Florida, as reported by even the Miami Herald, reveal that Cuban Americans in South Florida, even more strongly than the national average, oppose America's Cuban policy."
    In regards to Venezuela, Josefina Vidal said: "The Cuban exiles in the U. S. Congress are quite aware that Cuba has good to excellent relations with every nation in the region except the United States and, with that new poll in Florida, I'm sure they feel the need to tighten their grasp on control of the U. S. policy regarding Cuba. After a half century, they probably realize Cuba will not be re-captured as soon as next week. Thus, they attack our friends when they see an opening -- such as their bills recently to sanction/punish Argentina and President Cristina Fernandez. The U. S. should not assail Cristina because she is Cuba's friend and a few Cuban exiles don't like that. They see this week that Michelle Bachelet, one of Cuba's best friends, has been overwhelmingly re-elected President of Chile. They see that President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil is doing all she can to help Cuba. So, it is no surprise to me that the usual suspects -- the Bush-related Cubans from Miami and Union City entrenched in the U. S. Congress -- jump at an opening to overthrow President Maduro in 2014 similar to their short-lived coup against President Chavez in 2002. However, as in 2002, I believe the region tired of U. S. dominance in decades past when America saddled us with the Mafia, Batista, Pinochet, Trujillo, Samoso, Videla and all the other so-called U.S.-friendly thieves and fiends. And to allow two generations of Batistiano and Mafiosi exiles to rule America's Cuban policy is not exactly what I would call a feather in America's democratic hat. Of course, being the world's economic and military superpower, they can ignore regional and world opinion. That doesn't make it right. And fanning the flames of violence in Venezuela is not right. For two generations now, the Batistianos and the Mafiosi have denigrated American democracy."
   And lastly, in echoing a sentiment she expressed in that Kennedy Library speech in 2002, Ms. Vidal said, "We are merely an island trying to maintain our sovereignty when our nearest neighbor, the strongest nation in world history, threatens it on a daily basis at the behest of a handful of the last foreigners who ruled us. We did not extricate ourselves from them, nor have we shocked the world by keeping them at bay for so long, by being stupid or cowardly. In my capacity I spend much of my time, maybe most of it, anticipating what the most visceral Cuban exiles in Miami and Union City will concoct to provoke us into a reaction that, they hope, will have the full weight of the CIA, the U. S. treasury, and the U. S. military thrown at us. That's what, I believe, history confirms what such things as the Brothers flying over Havana and dropping leaflets was all about, that's probably what the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 was all about. And that, I believe, is what the Cuban exile support of the Chavez coup was all about. So, yes, that's what the Maduro coup is all about. Naturally, all along the way, my hope has been, and remains, that the American people will understand that there are two sides to the Cuban story...and two sides to the Venezuelan story that is now unfolding."
      As the violence in Venezuela roars through a second month, the New York Times used the photo above {by Leo Ramirez/Agence France-Presse/Getty Imagesto illustrate its report from Caracas heading into last weekend. It shows an anti-government protester after her arrest being taken away by Venezuela's national police. The NY Times article said the protests "began in February with student demonstrations against the country's high rate of violent crime." Whatever the reasons, Sunday, March 16th was an especially crucial day. It revealed to many Latin Americans that the influence of a few Cuban-American zealots in the U. S. Congress can have dire ramifications against any of Cuba's vulnerable friends in the region. Like sharks reacting to blood in the ocean, the Menendez/Ros-Lehtinen/Rubio/Diaz-Balart anti-Castro coalition in the U. S. Congress in the past two weeks has marshaled the incomparable might of the United States against what they perceive as vulnerable Cuban-friendly governments, particularly Venezuela but also Argentina...or so Presidents Maduro and Fernandez believe. Presumably, Presidents such as Bachelet in Chile and Rousseff in Brazil are safe...for now. At the moment, Latin American political blood is being shed only in Venezuela and the majority of the U. S. Congress should, perhaps, try to stop it, not increase it. However, don't hold your breath! For over a half century now, the U. S. Congress has not reacted to such anti-democracy catastrophes as...the Bay of Pigs, the bombing of Cubana Flight 455, the 2002 coup in Venezuela, etc. Thus, whatever happens in Venezuela will be permitted...to happen.

    Maria Corina Machado, Venezuela's leading U.S.-backed right-wing congresswoman, called for the most massive anti-government protests to commence on a memorable day -- Sunday, March 16th. And her themes for the huge demonstrations were aimed directly at Cuba, perhaps to appease her Cuban-American allies. She claimed that Venezuela's "brutal repression orders come from Havana." Thus she said Sunday's mass protests were "against Cuban repression and for Venezuelan dignity." It is believed that the genesis for Corina Machado's anti-Cuban belligerence recently had its origin in the U. S. Congress where the usual contingent of the most virulent and revengeful Cuban-Americans -- Menendez, Rubio, Diaz-Balart, and Ros-Lehtinen -- backed bills demanding that the U. S., at the least, institute drastic sanctions against Venezuela and anything attached to Venezuela, an important Cuban ally. While Corina Machado and her Cuban-American backers in the United States Congress are fully capable of fanning the fires in Venezuela, it should be noted that they are also capable of creating and fomenting backlashes that might well rally the majority of Venezuelans to support Corina Machado's mortal enemy, the besieged democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro, the former bus driver and band member.
     While it is politically incorrect in the United States to say so, throughout Latin America Maria Corina Machado is considered to be closely allied with the Bush dynasty that has always been tightly allied, economically and politically, with the most radical Cuban exiles. That fact has greatly enhanced Corina Machado's power in Venezuela but it also represents a colossal warning to Venezuela's masses that she yearns for a return to the days when Venezuela was ruled by foreign-backed elites who happened to be Venezuela's richest families, such as the one that produced Congresswoman Maria Corina Machado herself. Furthermore, most Venezuelans and Latin Americans firmly believe that the coup that briefly overthrew the presidency of Hugo Chavez in 2002 was inevitable from the moment President George W. Bush named anti-Castro, Cuban-born zealot Otto Reich to a recess {without Senate approval} appointment to essentially dictate America's Latin American policy. Although the coup lasted a mere 72 hours, the U. S. quickly and embarrassingly recognized the new government and documents later proved it was a a new government supported by...Maria Corina Machado. Beyond doubt, Maria Corina Machado is the most important opposition leader in Venezuela and she holds a strong hand. However, as was quickly revealed during the 2002 coup, it remains to be seen if the majority of Venezuelans will capitulate to being ruled by a rich elite supported by the foreign coalition powered by the Bush dynasty and Cuban exiles.
The protests in Venezuela will provide clues.
Meanwhile..........
     Juan Orlando Hernandez has taken over as the new President of Honduras, which is very interesting from Cuba's and Venezuela's standpoints. After the 2009 coup that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, Cuba and Venezuela withdrew their ambassadors to Honduras. But the first thing President Hernandez did in March was to fully normalize diplomatic ties with Cuba and Venezuela. Hernandez, a lawyer and businessman, is only 45-years-old and he got his Masters degree in public education at the State University in New York. Also, he is the leader of the right-wing National Party of Honduras.
   
   54-year-old firebrand Xiomara Castro lost the Honduran election to Juan Orlando Hernandez by only 250,000 votes.
Since 1976 she has been married to Manuel Zelaya, the Honduran president ousted by the 2009 coup. Honduras is a troubled nation with the continued marginalization of indigenous communities. And Xiomara Castro will doubtlessly remain a political force.
      This photo is a reminder of just how fascinating, odorous, audacious, and unpredictable the volatile mix of love, war, and politics really is in the Caribbean and Latin America. On the left, that's Manuel Zelaya, the Honduran president ousted by a coup in 2009. On the right is his wife, the fiery Xiomara Castro. In a heated and contested election, she barely lost to new Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez. Considering the turmoil in Honduras, allow me to make a prediction: Xiomara is a future President of Honduras!



      This AFP/Adalberto Roque photo shows U. S. Congressman Jim McGovern in Cuba this week listening to Ada Rosa Alfonso, the head of the Ernest Hemingway Museum outside Havana. The U. S. and Cuba are engaged in a joint effort to preserve and digitize the Nobel Prize-winning author's personal effects.

This Getty Images photo shows Congressman McGovern admiring Hemingway's typewriter.
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