Friday, January 30, 2015

The Cuban "Lopsided" Quagmire

Miami & Tampa View Cuba Differently
Updated: Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015
     This photo was released yesterday {February 2nd} in Havana but it was taken last week {January 23, 2015}. It shows the 88-year-old Fidel being shown a newspaper article by Randy Perdomo Garcia, a member of the University Student Federation of Havana. Twenty such photos were released yesterday apparently to show the Cuban people that Fidel is still around. Back in December plans were afoot, yet again, in Miami to prepare for wild celebrations after a respected Spanish newspaper said the Cuban icon had died. In recent weeks, Cubans on the island have been worried.
     This is another of the photos released yesterday but taken in Fidel Castro's home on January 23, 2015. It shows Fidel looking at pictures given to him by Perdomo. Standing between them is Fidel's wife Dalia Soto del Valle. She married him in 1980 shortly after the death from cancer of his soul-mate Celia Sanchez. Dalia is the mother of Fidel's last five sons. He has not been seen outside his home since January 8th, 2014 when he visited an art gallery. There have been, in recent months, persistent rumors that the 88-year-old Fidel had died or was dying. He is, in fact, very ill and the devoted Dalia meticulously decides if and when anyone can visit him. It is known that, in recent months, she has consistently denied such visits even to notable friends that, in the past, routinely visited on short notice. The portent is quite obvious.
 The star-studded Caribbean Baseball Classic got underway yesterday {February 2nd} in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This AP/Ricardo Arduengo photo shows Cuban first baseman William Saavedra losing his bat as he takes a hefty swing. Cuba lost its opener to Mexico 2-to-1. In the other game Venezuela beat Puerto Rico 5-to-2. Today {Tuesday} Cuba plays the Dominican Republic. All these teams except Cuba feature players and top prospects from the U. S. Major Leagues. U. S. superstars from Cuba, of which there are many, are not allowed to play internationally for Cuba, but Cuba's roster does include several players that play professionally in Japan but return home to play in Cuba's professional league.
    Jose Marti was born on January 28th, 1853 in Havana, Cuba. He died on the battlefield fighting the imperialist Spanish army on May 19th, 1895 near Dos Rios, Cuba. He remains a national Cuban hero and an international icon as a sovereignty-loving Cuban patriot, a brave freedom fighter, and acclaimed poet. His birthday was celebrated this week -- January 28th, 2015 -- at the Jose Marti Memorial in Havana's Revolutionary Square. Such events in Cuba more and more indicate that, in future years, if left to their own devices, Cubans will pay such homages to Fidel Castro, the man who actually named Revolutionary Square.
    This Reuters/Alexander Meneghini photo shows Cuban schoolchildren celebrating Jose Marti's birthday on January 28th, 2015 in Havana's Revolutionary Square. It was also, as you can detect, a tribute to the very ill 88-year-old Fidel Castro. If Cuba is still a sovereign nation when he dies, August 13th will likely spawn similar celebrations in Revolutionary Square, which got its name after the triumph of Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959. Fidel Castro was born on August 13th, 1926.
     This Ramon Espinosa/AP photo was taken in a Cuban classroom on December 17th, 2014. The teachers and children had just watched Cuban President Raul Castro's televised announcement that Cuba and the United States, for the first time in over five decades, had agreed to try to normalize relations. Note the euphoria on the face of the little girl in the center. She had reason to be ecstatic, at least for that moment in time. What she didn't realize was that nefarious forces powerful enough to disappoint her and to adversely affect her future had also just heard the very same thing announced at the very same time by the President of the United States.
     While the little Cuban schoolgirl was still celebrating on the island, Senator Marco Rubio was racing before every network television camera he and his aides could find. He repeatedly bragged that he could stop President Obama's plans to normalize relations with Cuba, loudly and boisterously bragging that he was the "upcoming Chairman of the Senate's Western Hemisphere Committee," a hemisphere that includes Cuba. Rubio, a Presidential contender for 2016, has emerged as the leader of the already powerful, visceral, dictatorial Miami-based members of the U. S. Congress. As long as self-serving zealots such as Rubio can dictate America's Cuban policy, the rest of the democracy-loving world will feel sorry for the United States. I also believe they should feel sorry for that little Cuban schoolgirl. She deserves better than Mr. Rubio and so, by the way, does the Senate and the White House.   
    Susan D. Greenbaum is the author of the insightful book "More Than Black: Afro-Cubans in Tampa." Ms. Greenbaum is a Professor emerita at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her book was published by the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. She knows Florida. This week {Jan. 28th} she penned a long, insightful, internationally published article entitled "Florida's Lopsided Cuban Embrace." In the article she tackles the delicate issue concerning the contrasting manner in which the Florida cities of Miami and Tampa view the Cuban conundrum, a quagmire that engulfed Florida after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in the first week of January, 1959. The leading elements of the defeated Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba fled, switching their capital from Havana to Miami for all intents and purposes. But as Ms. Greenbaum astutely pointed out, the migration of Cubans and Afro-Cubans to Tampa many decades prior to Batista's 1952 till 1959 dictatorship shaped Tampa differently than the fleeing Batistianos shaped Miami -- leaving a contrast in how the two major Florida cities view the volatile Cuban issue today. She calls it "Florida's Lopsided Cuban Embrace." I would recommend that you go online and read it. However, instead of taking her words or my words or the Batistiano's words, I believe most of all, when it comes to Cuba, you should use your Google research engine to confirm or deny anything you read or are told about Cuba.
     Recognizing Susan Greenbaum's intimate knowledge of Florida's history, I eagerly studied her January 28th article entitled "Florida's Lopsided Cuban Embrace" in which she contrasted Miami's visceral views of Cuba with Tampa's much more friendly views. Ms. Greenbaum wrote: "Tampa ties to Cuba date back to the late 19th century during Cuba's revolution with Spain." Those Tampa Cubans, she notes, later were strong supporters of Fidel Castro's fight against the Batista dictatorship and then were far more tolerant of Revolutionary Cuba than Miami's Cubans. Miami, unlike Tampa, was overwhelmed by remnants of the Batista-Mafia regime that, for two generations since 1959, have frantically tried to regain control of the island or seek revenge against it. Ms. Greenbaum wrote: "Although both Tampa and Miami have large Cuban populations, prospects for business with Cuba are obstructed by a handful of powerful Cuban exiles who wield outsize political influence. It is thus other ports and cities with far less connection to Cuba that stand to reap the largest benefits of the changing relationship between the two countries." She referenced the major ports of Norfolk and New Orleans as examples of cities that would take advantage of Florida's "lopsided" Cuban perspectives. Ms. Greenbaum began her article with this paragraph: "The warming of relations with Cuba would appear to be uniquely good for Florida. It is the state closest to Cuba, with the country's largest Cuban population and the largest history of trade and immigration with the island nation. But it also faces major obstacles in reviving this legacy. Two cities, Miami and Tampa, show why. But...even in Tampa an extremist minority has stifled the promise of better relations and a more prosperous future." {While Miami received the bulk of the Batistiano exiles, Mafia kingpin Santo Trafficante Jr. and a few other top Batistiano leaders fled Havana for the safety of Tampa, where Trafficante Sr. and Jr. were Mafia kingpins for decades both before and after Trafficante Jr. teamed with Batista in Cuba}.
This map shows Havana southwest of Miami and due south of Tampa.
       This photo is courtesy of Eric Barton. It shows a band in the main terminal of Tampa's main airport touting flights back and forth to Cuba, emphasizing Tampa's traditional friendliness towards the island.
           In stark contrast to the Tampa Airport strongly soliciting business to and from Cuba, study the above photo. It shows Vivian Mannerud, the President of a very successful company -- Airline Brokers Company, Inc. -- in the Coral Gables-Miami area. Vivian flew Americans, mostly Cuban-Americans, from Miami to Cuba.
       This photo shows Vivian Mannerud in April of 2012 the morning after she learned that her company had been totally bombed out of business. Similar fates, of course, had befallen other such businesses in the Miami area -- Marazul Charters, Maira and Family Services, etc. -- that dared to do business with Cuba, including businesses that were mostly serving Cuban-Americans. Vivian Mannerud told me that, "not surprisingly," she is "not at all pleased" with how the destruction of her business was investigated.
          Kathy Castor was born in Miami but she represents Tampa in the United States Congress. And she indeed represents the best interests of the people in the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg area, not the best interests of a few who seek revenge against Cuba or a few who personally benefit economically and/or politically from hostility towards Cuba. Ms. Castor has bravely taken Tampa-area entrepreneurs to Cuba to enhance their chances of beneficially engaging in legal business with the island. In the halls of Congress, where right-wingers dictate America's harsh Cuban policy, Congresswoman Castor bravely stands up and tries her best to inject a measure of decency, fairness and sanity into America's flawed Cuban policy.
   Like Congresswoman Kathy Castor, U. S. Senator Marco Rubio was born in Miami. But there the similarity ends. Ms. Castor advocates a sane, decent Cuban policy that would benefit the vast majority of her constituents; Mr. Rubio, like five other visceral members of the U. S. Congress from Miami, advocates a harsh, indecent Cuban policy, apparently because it benefits his cash-filled PACS and his presidential ambitions. {In the aforementioned article by Susan Greenbaum entitled "Florida's lopsided Cuban Embrace," she mentioned the contrasts between Castor and Rubio to emphasize the contrast between Tampa and Miami when it comes to Cuba. Also, Ms. Greenbaum referenced the bombing of Ms. Mannerud's business with these exact words: "In April 2012 arsonists struck the Coral Gables office of Airline Brokers, the main conduit for legal flights to Cuba."}.
       Perhaps to many the most gripping part of Susan Greenbaum's article "Florida's lopsided Cuban Embrace" was her stark account of the Bush dynasty's indelible ties to the most radical anti-Castro zealots in Miami. Ms. Greenbaum referenced 2002 -- when George W. Bush was President and Jeb Bush was Governor of Florida. She mentioned an episode when "both Bush brothers were ramping up opposition to Cuba." At the time, Alberto Fox, "a respected Tampa Democrat," had created the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation. He worked with the then Tampa Mayor Dick Greco to take Tampa business people, including the Chairman of the Tampa Chamber of Commerce, to the island on what were exciting and promising trips. The "pragmatic Greco" then naively requested help from Governor Jeb Bush to facilitate more such friendly and beneficial missions from Tampa to Havana. Ms. Greenbaum wrote: "All who went to Cuba were buoyed by the possibilities and eager to move forward. Greco contacted his friend Jeb Bush, who squashed his enthusiasm with menacing threats conveyed indirectly by a scary Cuban exile." Ms. Greenbaum opined that the dire threat imparted to Mr. Greco by the  "scary Cuban exile" that apparently had close ties to Governor Bush has had "long-term consequences" from that "scary" day in 2002 till this very day. 2002, the year referenced by Ms. Greenbaum, was the second of George W. Bush's eight years as U. S. President and the third of eight years as Florida Governor for Jeb Bush. In other words, they both had many years left to appoint and otherwise align with anti-Cuban extremists to bring the island of Cuba to its knees.
     In the late 1980s Jeb left his family mansions in Massachusetts and Texas for Miami. When a reporter for the Miami Herald asked him why, he said, "to get rich." He was already rich because of his grandfather Preston and his father George H. W. Bush. So, apparently he wanted to "get rich" on his own by taking advantage of his last name. Any google search of Jeb's early "get rich" years in Miami would reveal his highly controversial real estate deals with highly controversial Cuban-Americans. But an even better way to get rich in Miami, it seems, was entering politics. He did, as Campaign Manager for Havana-born Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, one of Miami's all-time most visceral anti-Castro zealots. This photo shows Campaign Manager Jeb Bush celebrating Ros-Lehtinen's 1989 election to the U. S. Congress from Miami. And 27 years later, she's still there and still one of the most anti-Castro zealots on the planet. That 1989 Ros-Lehtinen election elevated Jeb to his two-terms as Florida's governor. In the decade since his political term ended in Florida, Jeb has gotten much, much richer. Now at age 61 he easily has the billion-plus dollars from rich Republicans to aim at the Presidency in 2016. Of course, once he made that decision Jeb first of all resigned from a host of lucrative but, uh, politically damaging corporate deals. You may want to google those deals.
         Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio -- two peas in one pod that were both prominently mentioned in Susan Greenbaum's article this week -- are both campaigning hard for the presidency in 2016. Jeb is the favorite because he has the most money. But Marco is catching up; he had a very successful western trip last week to beg the billionaire Koch brothers for a bundle of their millions. Charles Krauthammer, the renowned nationally syndicated journalist and Fox pundit, has said that if he had to wage money in Las Vegas on the presidential race, he would bet on Marco. Regardless, as a lifelong democracy-loving conservative Republican, permit me to simply say this: If either Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio ever becomes President, it will signify that the Batistianos have captured the United States of America before they re-captured Cuba.
       And study this AP Photo. It shows the Havana-born Ileana Ros-Lehtinen paying homage to her mentor Jeb Bush, He, remember, was her Campaign Manager when she was elected to the U. S. Congress from Miami in 1989. Still there, she was the first of six anti-Castro zealots from Miami who have, essentially, been allowed to dictate America's Cuban policy since the 1980s. The only checks-and-balances related to Cuba come from the Executive Branch, the Presidency, but only when Democrats are in the White House. Jeb's last name was his entry into politics but his move to Miami in the late 1980s to align with the Cuban-exiles was his smartest political move, largely thanks to the fact that the nefarious aspects, for the most part, remain unknown to the general public, including those who cast their votes without bothering to use their google search engines. While Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen was Jeb Bush's protege, Marco Rubio, a fellow Cuban-American, was Ros-Lehtinen's protege and worked for her. Interestingly enough, Ros-Lehtinen has already said she will favor Jeb over Marco in their bids for the Republican presidential nomination. That is not a surprise to anyone who has even a basic comprehension of the Bush dynasty's stunning connection to Miami's most anti-Castro community. Robert Parry, the great investigative journalist for the Associated Press, Newsweek, etc., wouldn't be surprised by this photo nor by Ros-Lehtinen's presidential choice. Ask him. {Google "Robert Parry" or his superb "consortiumnews.com."}
And by the way................  
      .......Susan Greenbaum's article about the lopsidedness of Tampa-Miami and Castor-Rubio when it comes to Cuba reminds me of the above photo. It was taken in 1956 in Tampa. Fidel had spent two years in a Batista prison and when he got out he needed money to continue his revolution. This photo, which he autographed, shows some of the cash he got in Tampa. He got lots more in New York City and Mexico City before arriving back in Cuba in December of 1956 to hook up with Celia Sanchez in the Sierra Maestra to resume his revolution to topple Batista. It was the historic event that predicated a lot of things, including this week's article by Susan Greenbaum.
 Castro's trek from Mexico to Sierra Maestra to Havana.
And by the way #2..............
   ........someone said these were the nine most vicious anti-Cuban zealots in the U. S. Congress. But...they just look like lions to me, probably just heading out to lunch.
*******************************

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cubans Await Normal U.S. Ties

The Island and U. S. Adjust to Detente
Updated: Friday, January 30th, 2015
      This AP/Roberto Carlos Sanchez photo was taken this week {Wednesday, Jan. 28th} at the Summit of the Community of Latin American States in San Antonio de Belen in Costa Rica. It shows Cuba's 83-year-old President Raul Castro addressing the forum and making a very pertinent reference to the detente that Mr. Castro and U. S. President Barack Obama announced to the world on Dec. 17th, 2014. The ongoing detente is attempting to accomplish what many consider the impossible, which is to normalize relations between the two countries. At this week's very friendly forum in Costa Rica, Raul Castro said: "If three problems aren't resolved, this diplomatic re-approachment wouldn't make any sense." He then stated three basic demands:
#1: U.S. must return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba.
#2: U.S. must lift the trade embargo.
#3: U.S. must remove Cuba from its Sponsors of Terrorism list.
       As strong as those three "demands" were this week in Costa Rica, the early word is that key Obama diplomats were not surprised or "taken aback." They realize Mr. Castro was speaking to the choir because all Caribbean and Latin American nations agree with him on those three points. The above photo shows Mr. Obama and Mr. Castro when they met briefly at the Nelson Mandela memorial in South Africa in December, 2013. Raul Castro took advantage with this comment, "Mr. President, we need to have sane relations." It was, many believe, enough to expedite Mr. Obama's efforts in that regard, quickly resulting in secretive but high-level diplomacy at various locales, including Canada. That led up to the December 17th announcements in both countries and then the January 22nd and 23rd diplomatic meetings in Havana. The three points Raul Castro raised in Costa Rica Wednesday will convince pro-embargo zealots that Cuba does not want to normalize relations. That is wrong, of course, just as the U. S. Cuban policy, dating back to 1952 when the U. S. teamed with the Mafia to support the brutal Batista dictatorship in Cuba, has been wrong and just as hurtful to the image of the U. S. democracy as it has been to the island of Cuba.

      This graphic depicts a pugnacious and cute little Cuban schoolgirl proudly toting a Cuban flag while she lets Uncle Sam, the U. S. scrooge, know how she feels about the harsh U. S. embargo. Undoubtedly, she feels just as strongly about the U. S. theft of Guantanamo Bay. And she probably would also like to give Uncle Sam a whack on the noggin for keeping Cuba on its State Sponsors of Terrorism list. And you know what? Every nation in the Caribbean, every nation in Latin America, and every nation in the world {except the U. S. and U.S.-dependent Israel} agrees with her. Go girl!
The fourteen provinces of Cuba
***************  
Up, up and away toward Cuba!!
      American Airlines President Scott Kirby has announced that he plans to begin regular flights to Cuba from Miami. Delta, United, JetBlue, and Southwest airlines say that they will compete for such flights. Already American Airlines has about 20 charter flights a week to Cuba. U. S. ports, farm enterprises, and many other American businesses are also mulling ways to benefit from President Obama's plans to create at least a degree of detente with Cuba. Thus, similar daily headlines will occur.
     Fidel Castro has issued a public statement about the ongoing diplomatic efforts of Cuba and the United States to normalize relations. He wrote: "I don't trust the U. S., nor have I exchanged a word with them. But this does not mean I reject a peaceful solution to conflicts. We will always defend cooperation and friendship with all the people of the world, including our political adversaries. My brother Raul has taken the pertinent steps in accordance with his prerogatives and the powers given to him." The statement by the 88-year-old Fidel Castro was first published in Monday's Granma newspaper on the island but then quickly picked up by the international news media.
      The photo above was taken on January 8th of 2014, over a year ago, and is the last time Fidel Castro has been seen in public. He attended an art exhibit in Havana that day. The last photo taken of him in his home was on August 21, 2014 with Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro. In July of 2014 Fidel's son Alex took photos of his father hosting China's President Xi Jinping and Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Castro's home. Fidel's last "Reflections" column was on October 18, 2014 when he wrote about Africa's Ebola crisis. Because he had not been seen in public since January 8, 2014 and not photographed at home since August 21, 2014 and not been published since October 18, 2014, reports surfaced that he had died. A respected Spanish newspaper briefly reported online that he had, in fact, died. That was quickly squashed but not before it predictably set off the latest rounds of celebrations in Miami. He has had three very close calls...the last one was in December...since he almost died back on July 26, 2006 when he was first felled by an omnipotent respiratory illness.
    On Saturday and Sunday of this past weekend {Photo courtesy: AFP} a major sports event took place in Havana. Agence France Presse and other international news organizations gave it front-page headlines. Some 372 athletes from 29 nations took part in the Triathlon as they biked, swam, and ran in a hugely exciting and successful event. The 25 Americans who participated raved about how they were received, with several of them shedding very visible tears as they stood for the U. S. national anthem and then staunchly advocated further U.S.-Cuban detente.  
     Cuba has announced its roster for the upcoming Caribbean Baseball Classic that will be held in Puerto Rico from February the 2nd through the 8th. {Photo: baseballdecuba.com} The Cuban squad headed to Puerto Rico will feature the three right-handed pitchers shown above -- Norge Ruiz, Freddy Asiel Alvarez, and Hector Mendoza. The competition will be stiff from other strong teams -- the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Major League scouts from the U. S. will be on hand to particularly monitor the Cuban and Dominican players. Also, as Cuba realizes, non-baseball scouts will be looking to entice Cuban players to defect as an added bonus, which is to hurt Cuba, and to make money on human trafficking.
    Alfonso Urquiola will be the manager the Cuban team in the Caribbean Baseball Classic next month in Puerto Rico because his Pinar del Rio squad, celebrating above, is Cuba's reigning championship team. {Photo: baseballdecuba.com}.
      Frederich Cepeda, this switch-hitting outfielder, will lead the Cuban squad in the Caribbean World Series the first week of February in Puerto Rico. Last year Frederic led Cuba to the championship in the highly competitive Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico. In 2009 Frederich hit a resounding .500 with 3 homers in six games and 24 at bats in the World Baseball Classic. He has been the best player in Cuba in the past decade. He has also seen a plethora of lesser Cuban players defect to the United States with guaranteed contracts in the $70 million range. Cepeda, while playing for Cuba in other countries, has also had numerous opportunities to defect and, for sure, he has had to resist continuing pleas to leave the island for the American Major Leagues and live as a multi-millionaire in the U. S.
      Frederich Cepeda, shown above in his #23 uniform for the Yomiuri Giants in the Japanese Major Leagues, has become a millionaire thanks to his contract in Japan. The Cuban government allows Frederick to play in Japan as long as he promises to return and play for his Cuban team, which is Sancti Spiritus. Frederich has kept that promise out of his love for the island and his family. Cuba has normal relations with every country in the world, except the United States. If, although it's a long-shot, Cuba normalizes relations with the U. S., the extreme recruitment of the island's abundance of baseball talent by the 30 U. S. Major League teams would be drastically altered.
     Josefina Vidal, Cuba's audacious and no-nonsense Minister of North American Affairs, addressed the issue of Cuban baseball last week when she represented Cuba in the historic diplomatic meetings in Havana. So, her thoughts on the topic are pertinent because if, indeed, the U. S. and Cuba are able to normalize relations it can come about not by intimidating her but by reaching accords with her. When the question surrounding "the barrage of $70 million offers from the U. S. to entice Cuban baseball players" came up, here is the way Josefina Vidal addressed the issue:
               "I am aware that this island produces far more great baseball players, far more great doctors, and far more great ballet performers -- per capita -- than the United States can ever hope to produce. That is because, I believe, that Cuba devotes a much bigger portion of its wealth to training such young talent and giving them the opportunity to evolve. I am also aware that extremely rich American entities, such as the 30 Major League baseball teams, can shower defecting Cubans with, as you said, 70-million-dollar guaranteed deals if they defect. That, of course is a lure many cannot resist. Yes, I understand the greed of U. S. baseball teams intent on improving their teams. But, coupled with that, what I most resent is the fact that the other motive -- to hurt Cuba -- comes into play from revengeful criminal elements. Cuban baseball players on the island and when they play in other countries are besieged with offers from both elements -- the rich baseball teams and the criminals who only want to hurt Cuba. But, please understand, those criminals besiege Cuban doctors serving abroad and Cuban ballet stars performing in other countries for two unmistakable reasons -- because we have devoted the most to training baseball players, doctors, ballet stars, and such. The U. S. doesn't really need to recruit Cuban doctors but our doctors serving abroad, whom we have trained totally free, are repeatedly offered obscene bonus dollars to defect because it hurts Cuba. The same with our baseball players, our ballet stars, and others. The Miami Ballet regularly entices Cubans to join the Cubans it has already enticed. The ballet units in New York, San Francisco, London and other cities also desire Cuban stars even more than natives of their own countries, apart from hurting Cuba. But the U. S. allows criminal activity related only to Cubans because it hurts Cuba. As this island's main defender of such policies, I am amazed that the Western Hemisphere's most famed terrorists are anti-Cuban terrorists freely protected and honored in Miami. The special U. S. laws related only to Cuba entice Cubans to risk their lives to touch U. S. soil, in which case they are home free with special privileges not available to people in nations not named Cuba. Lastly, having lived in the United States and to this day closely monitoring the U. S. media, I am aware that the U. S. Congress is totally controlled by anti-Cuban extremists on anything related to Cuba. But what astounds me is that the main U. S. media...newspapers, television news...is either unwilling or unable to tell the truth about relations between our two countries. Americans, I have noticed, are thus unable to judge such things as...well, whether are not a civilian Cuban plane loaded only with innocents, mostly children, should or should not have been blown out of the sky by terrorist bombs, and whether or not such well-known terrorists thrive in the U. S. while the U. S. lists Cuba as a Sponsor, not the victim, of Terrorism. The rest of the world can make such judgments. But not Americans. What does that say about Americans and their love of democracy? Oh, gosh! I'm sorry. I did not mean to ask a question. That's your job. Did I answer your question about Cuban baseball players?"
      Josefina Vidal has a reputation for tirelessly answering questions related to Cuba's relations with America. Karen DeYoung, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalist, made that very point in her coverage of last week's diplomatic meetings in Havana. Ms. DeYoung seemed amazed how "easily" Ms. Vidal confidently detailed her replies in fluent Spanish or English. Other major unbiased and un-intimidated journalists -- such as DeWayne Wickham of USA Today, Sarah Rainsford of the BBC, and Daniel Trotta of Reuters -- have long considered Ms. Vidal the best source for truthful and insightful information regarding U.S.-Cuban relations. She is the single best hope if there is soon to be anything resembling a normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States. For all those reasons, she has emerged, after the Castro brothers, as the most pilloried Cuban by propagandists who benefit from and thus powerfully desire a continuation of hostile relations between Cuba and the United States. Asked about that, she gave Reuters this reply: "I sleep very well at night because I don't fight for dollar bills or to condone criminals who harm Cuban children and then brag in the U. S. media that such things are 'big blows' against Fidel. If that doesn't answer your question, say so and I will gladly explain it further."  
******************************

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cuban-U.S. Negotiations Will Fail

Normalizing Relations Has No Chance
      Roberta Jacobson, America's very capable Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, made history yesterday when she landed in Havana. She is the highest U. S. delegate to go to Cuba for serious diplomatic discussions in decades. Her trip is so historic that top American journalists -- such as NBC anchor Brian Williams -- hosted their programs from the island. Sadly, Ms. Jacobson's courageously hopeful mission on behalf of President Barack Obama is doomed to fail and will end up as yet another waste of time and money in yet another sincere but hopeless effort to normalize relations between the two neighboring countries.
       Alex Lee, Roberta Jacobson's top assistant, actually did much of the talking on behalf of the U. S. in yesterday's first round of diplomatic talks in Havana. That's Mr. Lee in the center above. At the end of the day he spoke highly of "the production and collaborative nature of today's discussions." But a later quotation Mr. Lee made to reporters was far more telling because it was a statement that reveals why these heralded discussions will be fruitless. Mr. Lee said: "The policy locally known as Wet Foot/Dry Foot very much remains in effect." You may re-read that sentence, because it was the highlight of Wednesday's round of U.S.-Cuban diplomacy.  And as long as the U. S. is not willing to budge on that issue, there is zero chance that Cuba will seriously consider normalizing relations with its superpower neighbor.
      Josefina Vidal, Cuba's Minister of North American Affairs, is second from the right in the above photo at Wednesday's crucial diplomatic session in Havana. Like Mr. Lee, her initial statement summarizing the meeting was diplomatic: "Cuba aspires to have a normal relationship with the United States, in the broader sense but also in the area of migration." When pressed by reporters to expand on that sentence, she was not as diplomatic. She said: "U. S. programs designed to hurt Cuba by enticing our baseball players, our ballet stars, our doctors, and others of our best-trained talent is reprehensible. Rich and powerful countries like the U. S. should cooperate with smaller countries to mutually benefit everyone. It is no secret to anyone that the U. S. brain-drain and talent-drain from Cuba is designed purely to hurt Cuba. It also entices and endangers lives, creating a gravy train for human traffickers and other despicable criminals. U. S. laws relative to Cuba, such as Wet Foot/Dry Foot, are enacted and enforced to benefit a few powerful but unsavory characters while hurting Cubans on the island and everyone else. Such laws also mock the U. S. democracy, but superpower status can make them facts of life, decade after decade. We are here to discuss such things, but not to be mistreated and not to be disrespected because we are an island and our enemies, while very few on the international scale, happen to have the support of the world's biggest treasury and the world's strongest military. Cuba has moral right on its side regarding its sovereignty. Cuba has the world on its side regarding its sovereignty. Cuba hopes it will also, someday, have the U. S. democracy on its side."
  Any sane, rational, unbiased person on the planet desires a normalization of relations between the U. S. and Cuba. Although Cuba is a mere island, its larger-than-life impact on the international stage, far out of proportion to its size and wealth, is based purely on the failed, greedy, and cruel relationship it has with the United States, whose incomparable world influence is based on its unmatched military and economic power. Democracy lovers around the world, and the most patriotic Americans, are {or should be} ashamed that the world's greatest democracy maintains a Cuban policy that mocks both democracy and decency. Yes, Cuba's government since 1959 leaves a lot to be desired, but so did the U. S.-backed dictatorship that preceded it and, based on that historical example, so would a U.S.-backed government that succeeds it. Thus, Cubans on the island should chart the course Cuba will take -- not self-serving revengeful Cubans hiding behind the skirts of the world's richest and strongest nation, and not a foreign country in a region that has fought so hard to defeat imperialism. But the current status of U.S.-Cuban Relations will not be markedly altered by the heralded and historic diplomatic sessions now taking place in Cuba. That's because normalizing relations between the two neighbors, while benefiting the vast majority of people, would mitigate against the interests of a few who have the wherewithal, thanks to a right-wing cabal in the U. S. Congress, to maintain a policy that most Cubans, most Americans, most Cuban-Americans, and most people around the world abhor. In a saner, better world, Americans would be expected to admit that America's Cuban policy is undemocratic.
Alex Lee, USA: 
"The policy known as Wet Foot/Dry Foot very much remains in place." 
Josefina Vidal, Cuba:
"This is reprehensible."
     In his State of the Union message Tuesday night, President Barack Obama received universal praise when he described America's Cuban policy with this sentence: "When you do something that doesn't work for 50 years, it's time to try something different." The next day President Obama sent a diplomatic delegation to Havana led by Roberta Jacobson and Alex Lee. Except for providing a big show for visiting journalists, they may as well have stayed home. The prime anti-Cuban salvo aimed at Cuba's Josefina Vidal was: "The policy locally known as Wet Foot, Dry Foot very much remains in effect." That's both a no-brainer and a no-starter as far as Ms. Vidal is concerned. It appears that Ms. Jacobson and Mr. Lee purposely sabotaged this week's diplomacy in Cuba because they well knew Vidal's firm position on such anti-Cuban tactics as Wet Foot/Dry Foot and the noxious USAID-funded efforts to stir up dissent on the island. Since December 17th, President Obama's announced plans to normalize relations with Cuba have garnered far too many headlines. A ten-foot snowstorm will blanket Havana before Josefina Vidal will agree to what Ms. Jacobson and Mr. Lee proposed yesterday. But thanks anyway, President Obama. At least your announced plans sounded sane and brave, which in itself was briefly refreshing.
     This Reuters photo shows a calm, collected, and confident Josefina Vidal representing Cuba in yesterday's first day of diplomatic discussions with the United States in Havana. Most unbiased U. S. journalists seeking pertinent information relating to Cuba depend on Ms. Vidal. In June the Washington Post sent a staff to Havana for a long interview with Ms. Vidal. She stunned them with comments such as: "The U. S. is facing the risk of becoming irrelevant in the future of Cuba." Coming from the highly respected Ms. Vidal, the Post subsequently has written many articles referencing that quotation. The huge article in today's Washington Post about yesterday's diplomatic overture in Havana was written by renowned journalists Karen DeYoung and Nick Miroff. They called Josefina Vidal "A powerful, up-and-coming figure in the Cuban hierarchy." She is indeed powerful already and there are many Cubans, including Fidel Castro, who hope she will one day be the leader of Cuba. As I have documented in this space, five years ago Fidel Castro personally told Ms. Vidal, "You are the closest thing to Celia Sanchez that Cuba will ever have. You will have my support if you ever want to be the next leader of Cuba." She replied, wiping away a tear, "That is not my plan or desire, but I will never stop fighting for Cuba. Your words alone are the greatest honor I have ever received or will ever receive. Thank you."
     This Getty Images photo shows Josefina Vidal yesterday in Havana standing between Cuban and American flags. She said, "Geography has made us neighbors. Diplomacy should make us friends. We were not meant to be enemies, now or ever."
      As Cuba's top diplomat and minister on all things related to the United States of America, Josefina Vidal is very much at ease negotiating or answering questions.
        Today in Havana Cuba's Josefina Vidal and America's Roberta Jacobson will discuss opening important embassies in the two capitals of Havana and Washington.
******************************

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cuban Diplomacy Gets A Chance

The Best Chance In Five Decades
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
     This Getty Images photo was taken yesterday -- Tuesday, January 20th -- a few hours prior to President Obama's State of the Union message in which he affirmed his determination to normalize relations with Cuba, and one day before top diplomats -- America's Roberta Jacobson and Cuba's Josefina Vidal -- begin face-to-face meetings in Havana today trying to negotiate a normalization of relations between the two neighboring countries. This photo shows a Cuban mother and daughter strolling through a vegetable market in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana yesterday.
*********  
SBeBeginning today, Wednesday, these two veteran diplomats will meet in Havana and engage in the first truly serious attempt in five decades to minimize the antipathy between two important neighbors, the United States and Cuba. On the left above is Roberta Jacobson, the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. On the right above is her Cuban counterpart -- Josefina Vidal, Cuba's Minister of North American Affairs. These two brilliant, dedicated diplomats have held important but mostly un-publicized face-to-face meetings before, both in Washington and Havana and even in Canada. But this week, their sessions in Havana will be spotlighted amid grave expectations, hope, and, to be sure, fierce opposition from self-serving dissidents on the island and from self-serving Cuban-Americans in the U. S. Congress. But President Barack Obama, unlike ten previous American Presidents, has confronted that opposition, leading to the diplomacy in Havana this week. Jacobson and Vidal have now developed special rapport. They respect each others acute dedication and skill in representing their respective countries. Moreover, unlike many high-ranking American and Cuban officials since 1959, they trust each other. If, indeed, there is a real chance to normalize relations between the two nations, the opening salvo this week is in good hands -- the steady and remarkable hands of two women who have their nations, not themselves, as their prime interests.
     While most American journalists lack the courage or impartiality to report fairly regarding Cuban issues, Gwynne Dyer has a bit more freedom to discuss the core issues of U.S.-Cuban relations. He is a London-based Canadian journalist, syndicated columnist, and military expert. His columns are in 175 major newspapers across 45 countries. On the eve of this week's U.S.-Cuban/Jacobson-Vidal meetings in Havana, Mr. Dyer wrote these words in The Christian Science Monitor: "President Barack Obama's decision last month to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba was a good idea. Unfortunately, Obama's good idea is not really going to change things that much. The Republican Party now controls both Houses of Congress and the embargo cannot be ended except by Congressional consent. That will not be forthcoming. It makes political sense for Republicans to oppose Obama's initiative and they have no interest in allowing him a victory that they have it within their power to thwart." Mr. Dyer is among the many top international journalists who find it hard to believe that a nation as great and as powerful as the United States has, for going on six decades and through two generations, allowed a handful of self-serving Cuban-Americans, and their right-wing Republican sycophants, to dictate a Cuban policy that remains so devastating to America's reputation.
     Starting today in Havana, Roberta Jacobson, America's top diplomat when it comes to Cuba and the Western Hemisphere, will represent America. She will tell her Cuban counterpart, Josefina Vidal, that the U. S. does not want Cuba to impose a travel restriction on its diplomats in Cuba once the U. S. embassy is opened there. And she will insist that there must be no limitation on the number of U. S. diplomats in Cuba. Also, Ms. Jacobson will demand that Cubans have free access to visit the American embassy. And she will insist that the United States be allowed unimpeded shipments of goods and materials to the embassy.
     Josefina Vidal will tell Roberta Jacobson that Cuba will agree to all those things as long as there is mutual reciprocity, meaning the island must be treated with respect as a sovereign nation. Ms. Vidal and Ms. Jacobson are not strangers; in their previous meetings they have both represented their nations well and gained mutual respect for each other. Ms. Jacobson has assured President Obama that Ms. Vidal is both sincere and dedicated and that she does not have to double-check with anyone before she speaks for Cuba. "She wants normal relations with the U. S. but she wants respect for her country's sovereignty," Ms. Jacobson told President Obama. "But she knows the U. S. is a superpower with 315 million people while Cuba is an island with 11 million people. So, she knows Cuba needs normal relations with us more than we need normal relations with them."
   One indication as to how effective Josefina Vidal has been in representing Cuba in the past fifteen years is the fact that the ultra-powerful and usually unchecked anti-Cuban forces in the U. S. spend a lot of time disparaging her. More often than not, the well-financed anti-Cuban blogs refer to Ms. Vidal as "the Cuban spy expelled from the U. S." Caroline Kennedy invited Ms. Vidal to be a guest speaker at a major historic function at the Kennedy Library in Boston, and Ms. Vidal was the one who received the standing ovation. Ms. Vidal was exemplary when she represented Cuba at its Interests Section in Washington. She is today held in high regards by President Obama and Roberta Jacobson.
     One sticky topic Ms. Vidal will bring up to Ms. Jacobson this week is America's Wet Foot/Dry Foot policy, one of many U. S. laws designed to benefit only Cubans off the island while harming everyone else, including Cubans on the island. Cubans who touch dry U. S. soil are the only would-be immigrants in the world who are home free. All others are subject to incarceration and/or deportation. This has long irked Cuba as well as all other nations, especially those in the Caribbean and Latin America. It is a part of the Cuban Adjustment Act and codified by such blatantly pro-Cuban exile congressional laws as the infamous Torricelli Bill and the even more infamous Helms Burton Act. All Democratic presidents have been ashamed of such discriminatory laws but each of them, including Obama, have repeatedly been told that only Congress can change those laws and Cuban-exile extremists control Congress when it comes to Cuba, with or without a Republican majority.
           There is, of course, no logical reason in a democracy for such laws that benefit only Cuban exiles with the revengeful bonus of hurting Cuba. Ms. Vidal will remind Ms. Jacobson of that again this week. Ms. Jaconson, in turn, will ask Ms. Vidal if Cuba is willing to seriously discuss property the Cuban government naturalized after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Ms. Vidal will say, "Yes, we will but please understand that you must also consider important Cuban grievances in that regard and you must also consider that much of the property claims against Cuba are false claims or the property in question was obtained by fraudulent means." Ms. Vidal in the past has complained bitterly about anti-Cuban judgments in Miami courtrooms when Cuba was not represented. This time, however, it appears such decisions and such negotiations will be conducted in Havana and Washington, not Miami. Thus, Cuba will be represented.
       Both Josefina Vidal and Roberta Jacobson are quite familiar with the famed movie "Scarface." They have discussed its theme before and they will again this week in Havana. In "Scarface" Al Pacino stars as Tony Montana, a Cuban who arrived in Miami courtesy of the Mariel Boatlift that took place in 1980 when Fidel Castro, mourning the death of Celia Sanchez, invited any Cuban that wanted a free and permanent trip to the U. S. to get on boats at the Marial Port. Some 125,000 took him up on it. History registers the fact that Fidel emptied his prisons and mental hospitals with thousands of Cubans he wanted to get shed of. Among them was...Tony Montana. "Scarface" begins with actual black-and-white footage of Cubans from Mariel arriving in Miami. Soon, Tony Montana and other Cubans murderously controlled Miami's lucrative and out-of-control drug trade, not unlike the way Miami was when President Reagan sent Vice President Bush to Miami to "stop that slaughter." On Monday, January 19th, the New York Times had a long article written by Lizette Alvarez and Kristin Hussey entitled "Cubans Convicted In U. S. Face New Fears of Deportation." Unlike all other immigrants in the United States, Cubans cannot be deported after serving prison time, even for murder and rape. However, as the New York Times pointed out, Cubans fear that if the U. S. and Cuba normalize relations, all those special laws pertaining only to Cubans may go by the wayside. Wow! As if the Republicans in the U. S. Congress needed another reason to oppose Obama! Tony Montana, if he had survived that bloody shoot-out in his Miami mansion in "Scarface," would have understood how vital it is for a few Miami Republicans in Congress to forever keep U.S.-Cuban relations...abnormal. 
 
   Ed Cox is a big-time lawyer-lobbyist in New York. He is the son-in-law of former President Richard Nixon. He is also the State Chairman of New York's Republican Committee. Not unexpectedly, Mr. Cox has spent the last few days excoriating New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Governor has informed his staff to arrange a trip to Cuba so he can lead a delegation to the island in hopes of helping secure business deals that would help the people of New York State. Of course, right-wing Republican politicians such as Mr. Cox believe government officials should only help the people already rich enough to contribute to political campaigns, a prime reason conservative Republicans like me are not too fond of right-wing Republicans.

    Rich, liberal Democrats like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sometimes believe even those who are not super-rich must be considered important members of a democracy, especially when they constitute a rather large majority. Ed Cox called Cuomo "Castro-like" for planning a business trip to Cuba. "Castro-like," "Nixon-like," "Obama-like,"...whichever is more democratic should come out the winner. Right now, the Obama-like and Cuomo-like efforts to normalize relations with Cuba are far more democratic and much more decent than being "Cox-like" or "Nixon-like."
 In recent years even Democratic Presidents have not mentioned Cuba in their State of the Union speeches. That will change tonight. President Obama will mention his efforts to begin the process of normalizing relations with the neighboring island, a process that already entails more guts and more success than the previous ten American presidents combined have managed to accomplish. Also, in his State of the Union message tonight President Obama will speak eloquently about the vast and growing wealth disparity in the United States. He will outline sane and decent plans to narrow that gap, knowing full-well that his efforts to do so with outrage money-hungry right-wing Republicans in Congress.
    This Stephen Crowley/New York Times photo shows Alan Gross and his wife Judy shortly after he was freed from a Cuban hospital-prison back in December. Tonight Mr. and Mrs. Gross will sit with First Lady Michelle Obama during President Obama's State of the Union address. Mr. Gross was a part of a five-person prisoner swap between the two nations, a deal that preceded the December 17th announcement that the U. S. and Cuba had agreed to try to normalize relations.
     The deal that freed Alan Gross attests to the acumen and diplomatic skills of Josefina Vidal, Cuba's Minister of North America Affairs. She truly epitomizes David vs. Goliath. She direly wanted to send Mr. Gross home three years ago and she surely didn't want him to die or, as he threatened, to commit suicide in Cuba. She was aware the American people were being told that Cuba out of pure meanness arrested Mr. Gross while he was merely a tourist on the island. But Ms. Vidal held an international news conference, complete with evidence, to show that the well-paid Mr. Gross was sent to the island by a U. S. entity that knew he was violating Cuban laws. Her news conference convinced unbiased skeptics, and she also stressed that Cuba needs tourists and they are totally safe on the island as long as they are lawful. She also, for three years, maintained that the anti-Cuban zealots in the U. S. hoped Mr. Gross would languish in his Cuban prison so they could use it to assail Cuba. But while making her points on the matter, Ms. Vidal, a quintessential diplomat and a shrewd negotiator, was not going to back away from her contention that Mr. Gross was "lawfully convicted and the U. S. government, if not the U. S. people, knows it." In the meantime Allan and Judy Gross sued those who had sent him to Cuba on the dangerous mission. And guess what? Within a few days after leaving Cuba, Mr. Gross got a check for $3.2 million. And it wasn't a Cuban check.
The United States and the island of Cuba.
Diplomacy at last!
Come hell, high water, or Republicans.
****************************** 
  

cubaninsider: Cuba Welcomes A Friend

cubaninsider: Cuba Welcomes A Friend : Canada   Visits  Again !!      Canada's Foreign Minister  Chrystia Freeland  will be back in ...