Saturday, November 28, 2015

Blocking U.S.-Cuban Thaw

It's Easy As Pie, Really
{Monday, November 30th, 2015}
       With the exception of The Tampa Tribune, there are very few news outlets in the United States that have the necessary combination of courage-competence-integrity to tell the truth about U.S.-Cuban relations, a nexus that has drastically affected both nations since the USS Maine mysteriously exploded in Havana Harbor in 1898, giving the U. S. the pretext to gain control of Cuba from Spain in the Spanish-American War. On November 27th, 2015, an article in The Tampa Tribune written by excellent journalist Paul Guzzo expertly updated those ramifications. The article was illustrated by the Associated Press photo above that depicts Cuban fishermen. Guzzo's first sentence was: "It has been six months since the United States removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, but the legacy of the past designation has lingered on, hurting attempts to finally normalize relations between the two nations."
        Guzzo mentions that "There are over $8 billion dollars outstanding in property claims against Cuba." Those claims, of course, date back to January 1, 1959, when the Cuban Revolution overthrew the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship, chasing the leaders to safer havens, mostly nearby Miami. Guzzo added, "Under U. S. law, the Cuban embargo can only be lifted after the two nations settle the property claims."
             In other words, there is zero chance that the U. S. embargo of Cuba, first imposed in 1962, can "be lifted" despite the optimism following the announcements on Dec. 19-2014 by Presidents Obama and Castro they they had agreed to "normalize relations." The abnormally bellicose relations between Cuba and the U. S. since 1959 have simply enriched and empowered too many Cuban exiles, especially in Miami. From 1959 till 1962, all-out efforts by the U. S. and the Cuban exiles to recapture Cuba included...assassination attempts against Cuba's revolutionary leaders, the Bay of Pigs military attack, and the U. S. embargo of Cuba that exists to this very day. And then by 1966 the U. S. Congress had come under the total control of anti-Castro extremists as far as America's Cuban policy was/is concerned. Thus in 1966 the infamous Cuban Adjustment Act began an endless stream of "legal" U. S. laws powered by two purposes: {1} Hurt Cuba, and {2} enrich and empower the Cuban exile anti-Castro leaders. Both purposes have been infinitely realized, thanks to unchallenged post-1966 laws such as The Torricelli Bill, Helms-Burton Act, etc. In that milieu, overwhelmed by fear or political correctness, American politicians and jounalists, with few exceptions, were persuaded to either support or at least not object to even excesses of the U.S. Cuban policy. That has particularly been true since 1976 when anti-Castro terrorists bombed the civilian airliner Cubana Flight 455, killing all 73 on board, and loudly proclaiming in the Miami media that it was "the biggest blow yet against Castro!" The top Cuban-American newsman in Miami, Emilio Milian, voiced opposition to such things, and he was car-bombed. Since 1976 very few U. S. politicians or journalists have taken up for people like Emilio Milian -- or former Miami Herald columnist Jim DeFede who denounced terrorism against Cuba -- but a lot have supported an American Cuban policy that the rest of the world, as indicated by a yearly United Nations vote each October, opposes as extremely partisan and an affront to the supposed pillars of the U. S. democracy. Along the way, propagandized Americans don't much care.
            Paul Guzzo's Nov. 27-2015 article in The Tampa Tribune discussed ramifications of a U. S. Cuban policy designed to hurt Cuba and enrich/empower Cuban-Americans. He wrote: "6 months ago the U. S. removed Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism." It had been on the books for 33 years as a prime excuse for the Cubans in Miami, backed by the U. S. government, to sue Cuba in Miami courts without Cuba being represented to defend itself. The verdicts, of course, in the Miami courtrooms were pre-ordained. Guzzo wrote: "In 2003, when a Cuban plane was hijacked and flown to Key West, for instance, Cuba demanded the plane's return, but it was instead auctioned. The money was used to settle part of a $27 million judgment won by a Cuban-American woman who said she had unwittingly married a Cuban spy as part of his cover." Guzzo referenced other successful anti-Cuban lawsuits: "...one granting $2.8 billion that, with interest, is now $3.2 billion." Yes, billion with a "b." He also mentioned "another for $49.3 million and another for $454 million" awarded to Miami families for men allegedly killed or executed on missions to Cuba. Guzzo added, "In each of the lawsuits the plaintiffs won by default when Cuba chose not to defend itself in court." 
            Paul Guzzo's Nov. 27-2015 article in the The Tampa Tribune indicated that the U. S., even with Cuba off the terrorist list, can still "freeze" Cuban assets. He mentioned the "over $200 million in Cuban assets the U. S. government has frozen" relating to Cuba's share of money from U.S.-Cuban phone calls. Guzzo pointed out the George W. Bush administration, tightly aligned with the Miami Cubans, "seized more than $100 million in long-distance fees in 2002 to pay some of those judgments" that were routinely made.
            Remember what Guzzo wrote: "Under U. S. law, the Cuban embargo can only be lifted after the two nations settle the property claims." Guzzo says there are "$8 billion" worth of claims outstanding. Even if Cuba had that much loose change lying around in Havana, it wouldn't pay such U. S. claims even though, indeed, it has settled property claims with other countries. But against the U. S., Cuba has claims of its own that it would love to have arbitrated by international courts. Cuba has minutely made the case about the untold billions of dollars the U. S. embargo has cost it since 1962 and Cuba believes an international court would rule the embargo illegal. Moreover, Cuba can easily document numerous terrorist acts against innocent Cubans that have been victims of coastal airplane and speed-boat strafings, hotel bombings, and, of course, the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 that killed 73 civilians including teenage athletes.
         Even Cuba's brilliant, influential, and highly respected news anchor, 27-year-old Cristina Escobar -- on air via Cuban and regional newscasts and while covering the U.S.-Cuban diplomatic sessions in Washington earlier this year -- has referenced the Miami court decisions against Cuba that Paul Guzzo himself referenced on November 27th in The Tampa Tribune. Escobar frames it this way: "Miami courts make outrageous and successful lawsuits against Cuba when Cuba it is not even represented. So, I wonder if the U. S. would be so kind as to allow Cuba to be represented in an unbiased international courtroom, like in the Hague, when Cuba would be allowed to defend itself and then present its lawsuits against the U. S. for such things as the theft and continued illegal occupation of Guantanamo Bay since 1903 and the illegal embargo/blockade since 1962, not to mention the long and deadly lists of terrorist acts against us." 
         Even if Americans dismiss the facts respected journalist Paul Guzzo referenced in his Nov. 27-2015 article in The Tampa Tribune or conveniently dispute the points raised by Cuba's superstar news anchor Cristina Escobar, no one can deny that there are two sides to the U.S.-Cuban conundrum. Moreover, perhaps it is time for both sides to be fairly aired in both nations. In the U. S., that would mean my democracy would have to cease allowing just a handful of revengeful Cuban-Americans to mandate, decade after decade, biased and undemocratic U. S. laws that harm everyone but them.
Meanwhile:
             This beautiful little Cuban girl is a reminder of the uniquely and long-standing enigmatic nature of U.S.-Cuban relations. Her name is Gema Hernandez Perez.
        Famed American actor Danny Glover kicked off the Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season by flying to Cuba to meet Gema. Her parents -- Gerardo Hernandez and Adriana Perez -- were glad to oblige. Danny had visited Gerardo when it was believed he would spend the rest of his life in prison in Victorville, California. As the most famed member of the famed Cuba 5, Gerardo had been sentenced to life in prison by a Miami court for being an alleged Cuban spy. The Cuba 5 gained international fame as many tried to prove they were in Miami trying to prevent terrorist acts against innocent Cubans. After serving almost 15 years of their sentences, the Cuba 5 are back in Cuba as heroes. Gerardo arrived back in Cuba in December of 2014 in the famous swap for the imprisoned American Alan Gross, a stunning exchange that allowed for Presidents Obama and Castro to announce plans for a thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations. Adriana, badly wanting a baby by her beloved husband Gerardo, was not allowed to visit him in his U. S. prison. Also, she was convinced he would never be released. That's when, amazingly, a lot of friendly people -- including Danny Glover and a powerful U. S. Senator {you can google that information} arranged for Gerardo's sperm to be flown from California to Cuba to impregnate Adriana!!!!!!!!!! Sorry for all the exclamation points, but neither I nor a great novelist could make this up. Shortly after Gerardo was freed, he was there when Adriana gave birth to Gema in a Cuban hospital. On his trip to Cuba to see the little girl that owes him so much, Danny Glover told the press: "When I joined the liberation committee for the Cuba Five and studied the men, I saw in them a bridge to the world of justice and equality that we want to build."
Gema and her proud parents, Adriana and Gerardo.
Danny Glover saying and waving good-bye to Gema Hernandez Perez.
Uh, did I say amazing?
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Unraveling U.S.-Cuba Detente

It Was Doomed From The Start
        This photo was taken yesterday -- Friday, November 27th, 2015. It shows angry Cubans protesting at the Ecuadorian embassy in Havana. The sign, translated to English, reads: "Justice! My visa or my money." Ecuador had been the only nation that allowed Cubans onto its soil without a visa. But that, coupled with fears that U.S.-Cuban detente might spell the end to United States laws that favor only Cubans, prompted thousands of Cubans to fly to Ecuador and then trek north before finally stepping onto U. S. soil at the Mexican border. Cubans, and only Cubans, have permanent U. S. residency and instant welfare the moment they step onto U. S. soil. Thousands were on that journey till they were stopped by Nicaragua at its border with Costa Rica. Tired of the turmoil, Ecuador changed its no-visa rule for Cubans. These Cubans still in Havana were demanding either their visas or the prompt return of the money they had paid for them.
            The New York Times this week used this photo to show anti-Cuban demonstrations in the section of Miami known at Little Havana. From Kennedy in 1963 to Carter in the 1970s to Clinton in the 1990s, Democratic U. S. presidents have tried to normalize relations with Cuba. Each time fierce opposition, originating in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood and then easily extending to the U. S. Congress, has not only stopped those plans but resulting conflicts have been used to sharply strengthen America's anti-Cuban policy. That's why the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act was followed by the Torricelli Bill and the Helms-Burton Act -- all essentially dictated to the U. S. Congress by Fidel Castro's most visceral Miami opponents. {To fully understand those congressional laws you need to study two seminal books: Ann Louise Bardach's "Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana" and Julie E. Sweig's "What Everyone Needs to Know About Cuba."}. Those decades-old congressional laws have had two purposes: {1} to hurt Cuba; and {2} to enrich and empower Cuban exiles and Cuban-Americans. They have succeeded in both ventures -- hurting Cuba while enriching and empowering Cubans who defect to the U. S. For example, since 1966 what is known as the Wet Foot/Dry foot law encourages Cubans to defect to the U. S. and once their front foot touches U. S. soil they have permanent residency and instantly begin receiving welfare. That law benefits only Cubans and discriminates against all other would-be migrants, not to mention unwitting U. S. taxpayers. It also casts, around the world, an undemocratic image of the U. S. Yet, Wet Foot/Dry Foot has prevailed since 1966 and it will remain. The conflict on the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border is merely an ephemeral offshoot. If it doesn't end Mr. Obama's detente, something else will soon evolve that will.
         This is Nicaraguan General Julio Cesar Aviles. It is his soldiers that have blocked the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. He says, "People entering or passing through Nicaragua must do it legally. That includes Cubans benefiting from special United States laws that harm everyone else, creating real chaos."
         This AFP photo shows a Cuban woman, stranded at the Costa Rican-Nicaraguan border for a week, drying her clothes yesterday. She is now just one of thousands in the same very irritating predicament.
        This AFP photo shows Costa Rica's Ambassador to the Netherlands, Jorge Urbina, testifying at the International Court in the Hague concerning Costa Rica's heated border disputes with Nicaragua that date back to 2010. Now the blocking of Cubans at that border by Nicaraguan soldiers is tossing fuel onto the smoldering flames and bringing other nations into the fray to try to de-escalate the rising tensions.
        This Marco Ruiz/Miami Herald graphic explains why many Cubans are stuck at the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border. The juicy 1966 Wet Foot/Dry Foot law this month had a confluence with President Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, causing many Cubans and many human traffickers to think that lucrative incentives for Cubans only might finally end. Ecuador, till this week, was the only nation that allowed Cubans to fly in without a visa. Then from Ecuador they would travel north through Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala to reach the U.S.-Mexican border where they would be home free with welfare the moment they touched U. S. soil. But Nicaragua, one of Cuba's closest allies, altered those plans just a bit by closing its border with Costa Rica. It's a headache the region didn't need.
         It was at high noon on Demceber 17th, 2014, that President Obama went on television to tell the American people that he and Cuban President Raul Castro had agreed to normalize relations between the two countries. Indeed, since the Cuban Revolution chased the Batista-Mafia dictatorship off the island {mostly to Miami} on January 1, 1959, Obama has come much closer than his ten predecessors to actually normalizing relations with the largest Caribbean island. He took Cuba off the Sponsors of Terrorism list; he exchanged notable Cuban prisoners in the U. S. for two notable American prisoners in Cuba; he orchestrated the reopening of embassies in Havana and Cuba for the first time since 1961; he removed some of the restrictions on Americans visiting Cuba; etc. However, President Obama -- like the three previous Democratic Presidents Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton -- will discover a hard fact of life regarding Cuba: There are too many people making too much money from America's Batistiano-like Cuban policy for him to change it anymore than he already has. In fact, when Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton tried to change it, they were so powerfully rebuked that harsher anti-Cuban laws resulted each time -- such as The Cuban Adjustment Act, Wet Foot/Dry Foot, The Torricelli Bill, and The Helms-Burton Act. The same thing will happen to President Obama's honorable efforts regarding Cuba. Sure, the impasse on the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border will resolve soon enough, but other provocations are just around the complex Cuban corner.
           Cubans enticed to defect to the United States are not the only ones laughing out loud at U. S. laws -- such as Wet Foot/Dry Foot -- designed to enrich and empower Cubans and only Cubans. The rest of the world, except for the embarrassment it causes America's best democratic friends, is laughing out loud too.
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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving In Cuba

Reflects U. S. Ties
Posted: Friday, November 27th, 2015::
       This remarkable EFE photo was taken Thanksgiving day -- November 26, 2015. It shows some of the more than one thousand people -- Cubans, Americans, Japanese, Albanians, etc. -- dancing the salsa at the famed Malecon seafront in Havana, Cuba. 
        This photo is courtesy of Penn State University. The Penn State baseball team is playing a 4-game series this week at Latin American Stadium in Havana. #28 is the Penn State third baseman Willie Burger fielding a ground ball against Ciego De Avila, which won the game 2-to-0 in Game 2 of the series. The American university had played the Industriales in Game 1. The Good Will supersedes who wins the games.
        This photo is courtesy of Havana Times.org. Fifty members of the American peace group Code Pink held a Thanksgiving Day hunger strike at the U. S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. As the sign indicates, Code Pink wants the United States to close the military base and return the land to Cuba.
Colonel Ann Wright is the leader of Code Pink.
7-story U. S. Embassy building in Havana.
        On Thanksgiving Day 2015 an insightful new book -- "Cuba 1959" -- was released in the U. S. It is an amazing portrait of the first week in January of 1959 when Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution replaced the overthrown Batista dictatorship. Most of the photos, such as the one above, have never been published before. Burt Glinn, on assignment for Magnum Photos, was the photographer. He passed away in 2008 but now this book chronicles in pictures what happened in Havana that eventful week.
       By the time Burt Glinn arrived in Havana from New York on January 1, 1959, Fulgencio Batista's getaway airplane had landed in the Dominican Republic, Mafia kingpin Meyer Lansky was safe in Florida, etc. But Glinn was there in time to photograph this shoot-out as Batista loyalists fired shots at the conquering rebels.
     The EFE photo above was taken on Thanksgiving Day -- Nov. 26, 2015. It shows some of the more than 3,000 Cubans stopped by Nicaraguan soldiers at the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border. They reportedly have been told by human traffickers that a possible normalization of relations between Cuba and the U. S. might cause an end to a litany of U. S. laws favoring Cubans that encourage Cubans to defect to the U. S. One of those laws -- dating back to the Cold War in 1966 -- is known as Wet Foot/Dry Foot and allows any Cuba that sets foot on U. S. soil to have permanent residency and instant welfare. On Thanksgiving Day this week, member nations of the Central American Integration System, known as SICA, voted unanimously to condemn U. S. laws that strictly favor Cubans and strongly discriminate against all non-Cubans.
            The Central American Integration System {SICA} includes these countres: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, and the Dominican Republic. Observer nations include: Mexico, Chile, Brazil, China, Spain, Germany, and Japan. SICA has offices at the United Nations. Its unanimous vote on Thanksgiving Day to condemn Wet Foot/Dry Foot, the 1966 U. S. law that still induces Cubans to defect to the United States while discriminating against all non-Cubans, will be ignored by the United States government just as the recent 199-to-2 vote in the UN condemning the U. S. embargo of Cuba is routinely ignored year after year. 
     This heart-wrenching Reuters photo was taken Thanksgiving Day in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. These Honduran women are mourning relatives newly killed in a city that leads the world in homicides. Reuters reported that there were 15 such murders in the 12-hour period its reporters covered on Thanksgiving Day. Cities in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala -- just below Mexico's southern border -- have murder rates comparable to Tegucigalpa. On Thanksgiving Day Aljazeera America's brilliant journalist, Mary Jane Gliha, hosted a documentary directly from the scenes of constant murders in those three countries. Her documentary is entitled "Mexico's Migrant Crackdown" and, if you missed it, it's worth going online to view it. Teenage girls desperately trying to escape forced prostitution and murder are interviewed in their desperate attempts to reach the Mexican-U.S. border. But Mexico is now "cracking-down" at the behest of the U. S. and rounding them up and sending them on 12-hour bus rides back to Honduras, where the girls told Mary Jane Gliha they will try again if they are not routinely murdered for refusing to be forced prostitutes. If those girls were Cuban, they would be home free and on welfare the moment their front foot touched U. S. soil at the Mexican border. While Cubans have powerful incentives, mostly economic, to reach the U. S., Cuba is not engulfed with gangs or violent crime. The special Cuban laws in the U. S. that so mightily favor Cubans are strictly political and revengeful as well as being undemocratic. Ask the Honduran women depicted above on Thanksgiving Day, or study Ms. Gliha's documentary.
By the wayAnd by the way:
      The EPA photo above was taken at an air show Thanksgiving Day at the Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. It shows two Chinese J-10 fighter jets stealing the show with spine-tingling acrobatic moves. China has upgraded its air force and navy.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Vilifying Cuba, Sanitizing Batista

One Side of A Two-Sided Story
Updated: Friday, November 27th, 2015
        Greg Abbott has been the Governor of Texas since January 20th, 2015. He was the Attorney General of Texas the previous 13 years. He is shown above with his wife Cecilia and their daughter Aubrey. Mr. Abbott is 58-years-old and has been a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair since 1984 when an oak tree fell on him during a storm. On Monday he will fly to Cuba to lead a large trade delegation. Earlier this year New York Governor Mario Cuomo led a huge trade delegation to Cuba. Texas has the 12th largest economy in the world. While in Cuba, Governor Abbott will visit Cuba's newly refurbished state-of-the-art Mariel Port Economic Zone 28 miles southwest of Havana. He said, "With a new era of eased trade and travel restrictions between the U. S. and Cuba, and as the 12th largest economy in the world, Texas has an opportunity to capitalize and expand its economic footprint in Cuba."
       This Dallas Morning News photo shows Senator Ted Cruz of Texas with his mentor, Texas Governor Greg Abbott. All the main Texas newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, have reported on Cruz latching onto the Bush dynasty when he cut his political teeth in Texas but his mentor was Greg Abbott. Cruz, believing his presidential bid will never be hurt by anything he says or does regarding Cuba, has sharply rebuked Governor Abbott for his trip to Cuba starting Monday. 
      Both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, not unexpectedly, went ballistic when they heard of Governor Abbott's trip to Cuba starting Monday. Cruz is a first-term U. S. Senator from Texas and Rubio is a first-term U. S. Senator from Florida. They are well-financed Republican candidates to be President of the United States. Their comments relating to Governor Abbott's Cuban trip are asinine and will not be repeated here.
       Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are self-serving zealots unfit to be President and Commander-in-Chief of the United States. There are certainly a plethora of Cuban-Americans fully qualified to hold those positions, but not these two bought-and-paid-for radicals. As their comments regarding Governor Abbott illustrate, they believe they can do or say anything related to Cuba and it will not cost them a single vote. As Commander-in-Chief, they obviously believe there is nothing they could do regarding Cuba that would draw a rebuke from proselytized and propagandized Americans. They might be right. For sure...Batista's Cuba, the Cuban Revolution, and Revolutionary Cuba say a lot more about the United States than they say about Cuba.
          Virtually since sunrise on January 1, 1959, the Cuban narrative in the United States has been dictated by two generations of the leading remnants of the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship, which was overthrown by the Cuban Revolution. By 3:00 A. M. on Jan. 1, 1959, Batista and Mafia kingpins such as Meyer Lansky were flying to safer havens -- such as nearby Miami. The U. S., since 1959, has not been transformed into a Banana Republic but its democracy has been severely scarred by almost six decades of anti-Cuban vitriol from U. S. soil, including such things as assassination attempts against Cuban leaders, the Bay of Pigs military attack, the terrorist bombing of the child-laden Cubana Flight 455 airplane, and a litany of anti-Cuban/pro Cuban-exile laws easily and permanently passed by a Batistiano-directed U. S. Congress. That being said, propagandized Americans can not be expected to understand the photo depicted above, because the proselytized or intimidated U. S. media certainly doesn't report such things. But the photo shows the U. S. Congress being briefed a few days ago on this important topic: "Beyond the Rhetoric: Why Cuban Innovation Matters To Our Health In The United States." The speakers included some of North America's greatest medical experts and included two members of the U. S. Congress -- Karen Bass and Barbara Lee -- who actually care more about helping U. S. citizens than hurting Cubans on the island. The impassioned speeches educated Congress on Cuba's medical techniques and advances -- including medicines, vaccines, and the island's admirable and unique pre-natal care of pregnant women -- that is "unavailable to United States citizens because of the long-standing United States embargo against Cuba." 
       Gail Reed is the Executive Director of the MEDICC Review. MEDICC is a highly respected organization that promotes cooperation instead of antagonism between the U. S. and Cuba regarding medical techniques and advances. One of her latest projects was spearheading the aforementioned congressional session. Gail Reed's mission is an honorable one: To help American and Cuban citizens. Her dishonorable opponents, however, continue -- decade after decade -- to successfully dictate congressional laws designed {1} to hurt Cubans on the island to induce them to rise up and overthrow their revolutionary government; {2} to enrich and empower Cuban-exiles in the U. S.; and {3} to control the Cuban narrative in the U. S. by codifying the vilification of Cuba while sanitizing the Batista-Mafia rule that preceded it. In that milieu, it is virtually verboten for the U. S. media to introduce Americans to the other side of a two-sided story, such as the medical expertise of Gail Reed and her commendable efforts to bring out cooperation, not hubris, between the two neighboring nations. On Gail Reed's MEDICC website, she has posted four videos of impassioned, knowledgeable, and honorable people pleading for the U. S. Congress to allow medical cooperation between Cuba and the United States. But it is a U. S. Congress and a U. S. media that, mostly, has deaf ears and heartlessly cold reactions to anything even remotely positive regarding Cuba.
          Like Gail Reed at MEDICC, Sarah Stephens at the Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas is mostly shunned by the U. S. media, which affords unlimited time to almost anyone who benefits economically or politically or revengefully from the continuation of U. S. antipathy towards Cuba. That's unfortunate in a democracy considering that Sarah Stephens probably knows more about U.S.-Cuban relations than any American. Recently on the Cuba Central segment of her Center for Democracy in the Americas website, Sarah Stephens expressed optimism that, at long last, there is hope that President Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba are showing some positive results despite the dire opposition of self-serving Cuban-Americans in the U. S. Congress who conveniently ignore even the majority opinions of Cuban-Americans in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. Ms. Stephens optimistically summed that up with these words: "This cat has scampered out of the bag. The U. S. policy transition to a post-embargo world is underway, and the forces to make the new policy irreversible are now getting stronger." Let's hope so, not only for 11.2 million innocent Cubans on the island but also for the U. S. democracy that, for far too long, has been demeaned by a handful of Americans, a handful of Cubans, and a handful of Mafiosi who, since the 1950s, have very firmly and self-servingly maintained a tight grip on America's Cuban policy. Unfortunately, that unholy grip includes the U. S. Congress and the U. S. media -- despite the Herculean and courageous efforts of aforementioned women such as Congresswomen Karen Bass and Barbara Lee as well as brilliant, well-informed democracy-lovers like Gail Reed and Sarah Stephens.
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Monday, November 23, 2015

Who Owns Marco Rubio?

And Why the Question Matters
Photo courtesy: Charles Krupa/AP/New York Times
          Yesterday -- November 23rd -- the New York Times had a major editorial entitled: "Senator Rubio's Stealthy Donors." It's a reminder that many democracy lovers are concerned about who actually owns Marco Rubio, a legitimate concern considering that unlimited and often unknown political cash donations, both domestic and foreign, can seriously purchase America's vulnerable democracy at the highest level, namely the White House. This is not picking on Mr. Rubio. From his days in Florida politics -- emerging from Miami's Little Havana neighborhood as an anti-Castro Cuban-American backed by the Bush dynasty and the Tea Party -- Rubio's lust for money is well-documented although mostly ignored by the mainstream media that fawns over the young, undistinguished Senator as their unabashed presidential favorite, and not just the right-wing Fox News. Earlier this summer the New York Times detailed in a major article startling financial shenanigans by Rubio ranging from questionable use of a Republican credit card to various real estate transactions, etc. The next morning Joe Scarborough, the former Florida congressman now a top anchor at MSNBC, flashed that article in front of the camera and loudly proclaimed that the damning revelations "would get Marco elected President!" Morning Joe might be right and he'll probably like yesterday's damning, and scary, New York Times editorial. It began with these words:
                    "Of all the abuses involving hidden political money sloshing through the presidential race, one of the most brazen is being perpetrated by campaigners for Senator Marco Rubio...."
            After that opening, the New York Times editorial yesterday went into alarming detail about the "the hidden political money" supporting Marco Rubio's bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
          When the New York Times a while back reported in detail about some of Marco Rubio's financial shenanigans dating back to his political days in Florida, Joe Scarborough the next morning, in anchoring his MSNBC Morning Joe program, flashed that article to his viewers and sternly predicted that it would help get Marco Rubio elected President. Whether its usually left-wing MSNBC, always right-wing Fox, or middle-of-the-road CNN, network news operations in the U. S. will likely continue to promote the Rubio presidency till the very end. So, don't be surprised if Morning Joe holds up yesterday's New York Times editorial and sternly declares that it will help get Rubio elected. In an endlessly strange election campaign, the process is poorly served by the sheer incompetence and flagrant biases of the electronic "news" media.
         Incredibly, for the past six months billionaire businessman Donald Trump, a non-politician, has been the leading Republican presidential contender, apparently because American voters have finally tired of bought-and-paid-for politicians. Trump, and others, believe that multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul, owns Rubio. But that's debatable because, since he hit the Senate running for President, Rubio has spent most of his time courting what seems like every conservative or right-wing billionaire on the planet. While unabashedly doing that, of course, he has cast by far the fewest votes of any Senator.
      So, whether or not...or which...billionaire owns Marco Rubio is important -- especially considering Rubio's obvious hunger for cash and the unconscionable fact that America's two-party political system now allows unlimited cash donations. Does Sheldon Adelson, depicted in the upper-left in the above montage, own Rubio? Or Charles Koch, shown on the right? Or is it the billionaire auto mogul in Miami who has vowed he will spend whatever it takes to put Rubio in the White House? Or is it the shady and "brazen" organizations mentioned in yesterday's New York Times editorial? Or...maybe it's none of the above. But it is something that voters in a democracy should ponder and Rubio should confront.
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Argentina Election Hurts Cuba

Victory for Wall Street Billionaires
       Mauricio Machi was elected President of Argentina yesterday. It's a major victory for rich Argentinians, for Wall Street billionaires in the U. S., and for anti-Castro zealots in Miami. The major losers are Argentina's poor majority and the island of Cuba. Repercussions will resonate loudly throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.
       Sunday's election of Mauricio Macri as Argentina's next President might epitomize a vanishing breed of Cuban-friendly leftist leaders in Latin America.
       The loser, 53% to 47%, in Sunday's Argentine election was Daniel Scioli. He was Argentina's Vice President from 2003 till 2007 and then the powerful Governor of Buenos Aires Province since 2007. Significantly, he was President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner's hand-picked choice to succeed her as the next President of Argentina.
Photo courtesy: AP/Natacha Pisarenko
       This was the photo used today by The Guardian above the headline that reads: "As Argentina's Queen Cristina Says Farewell, Her Enemies Wait In The Wings." The 62-year-old Cristina Fernandez Kirchner leaves office on December 10th after eight years as President. Her late husband Nestor Kirchner had been President the previous four years. Cristina's "enemies waiting in the wings" include rich Argentinians, Wall Street billionaires, and Miami right-wingers who will now rule Argentina and quite possibly signal a conservative or right-wing shift throughout Latin America. Cristina had hoped her many social programs benefiting poor people would allow her hand-picked successor, Daniel Scioli, to succeed her. It just wasn't to be. Mauricio Machi, her U.S.-backed opponent, won and, like Cristina, Cuba lost.
       Cristina Fernandez idolizes Cuba's revolutionary icon Fidel Castro, whom she credits with expediting democratic elections in Latin America that replaced foreign-backed dictators. Cristina, as shown above, has always been a welcome guest in the Havana home of the now 89-year-old Fidel Castro and his wife Dalia Soto del Valle. Cristina has said, "Fidel did the impossible and changed the face of Latin America. Argentina and other nations believed foreign-backed dictators would forever rape and rob us at win, with our natural resources being stolen. Fidel's Cuban victory in 1959 against the U.S.-supported Batista-Mafia dictatorship was impossible, till he did it. His longevity has also been impossible, but he still lives...and so will his long legacy."
        Throughout her two-terms as President of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez has made sure to "gain sustenance from visits with Fidel, when mostly we discussed the plight of poor people and the greed of the rich." With the demise of the 12-year reign of the socially-minded Peronist Party in Argentina, it will be interesting to see if the upcoming rule of the Macri-Wall Street presidency in Argentina will care as much for Argentina's poor people as Cristina Fernandez has for the last twelve years. 
           As of today, there are three two-term female Presidents of key Latin American nations: Cristina Fernandez of Argentina, Michelle Bachelet of Chile, and Vilma Rousseff of Brazil. Like Cristina, who leaves office on December 10th, Michelle and Vilma are sadly close to waving good-bye to their tenures. Like Cristina...Michelle and Vilma are dear friends, admirers, and home-visitors of Cuba's Fidel Castro. In recent months, these three women, or associates very close to them, have complained about such things as "Wall Street money from New York meshing with wealthy conservatives in our countries now threaten to turn Latin America away from democracy back to the foreign-domination that prevailed deep into the 1970s." 
     This photo still sends shivers down the spines of some democratically elected Latin American leaders. It shows U. S. President George W. Bush welcoming Venezuelan opposition leader Maria Corina Machado to the White House. In 2002 Bush had anti-Castro zealots Otto Reich and Roger Noriega as key Latin American advisers when a Venezuelan coup briefly overthrew the Presidency of Cuba's prime friend at the time, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. To this day, Venezuela's government ties Maria Corina Machado and the Bush presidency to that coup.
     This chilling photo was taken on April 12, 2002. It shows U.S.-friendly businessman Pedro Carmona swearing himself in as President of Venezuela after the military coup that had ousted President Hugo Chavez, who was then naked and tied to a chair in a cell. When this photo was taken there were well-known celebrations at the White House in Washington as well as in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, according to the Miami Herald and other media sources. President Pedro Carmona read the names of a list of supporters and among the names was that of Maria Corina Machado, alleged  close friend of President George W. Bush.
      However, the coup lasted only 47 hours. A counter-coup led by peasant-loving Lina Ron restored Hugo Chavez to power on April 13, 2002. Wearing a baseball cap and wielding a blow-horn, Lina stormed through Caracas on the back of a pickup truck and shouted: "Washington, Miami, hear this! Return my President to power within 24 hours or I will lead a scorched-earth assault from Caracas to Miami and Washington!" Network television sent images around the world as millions of Venezuelans began following Lina in the streets of Caracas. The supporters of the original coup caved in to Lina's threat. Her President, Hugo Chavez, was returned to power and he accepted a kiss from Lina. Later, Chavez was asked, "Did that little lady scare all of those mighty people that bad and that quick?" Chavez famously replied, "Lina even scares the hell out of me!" After being quickly reinstalled by Lina Ron on April 13, 2002, Hugo Chavez remained Venezuela's Cuban-loving President until he died of cancer in 2013. Lina Ron died of a heart attack at age 51 in 2011.
Her "scorched earth" warning was heeded in 2002.
Maria Corina Machado with President George W. Bush.
Bottom-left signature above supporting President Carmona on April 12, 2002.
Venezuela's continuing powerhouse dissidents.
       Nicolas Maduro has been Venezuela's President since April 19, 2013. Born 52 years ago in Caracas, Maduro was Hugo Chavez's hand-picked successor. His reign is tenuous because of dire economic problems exacerbated by low gas prices but he primarily blames U.S.-backed dissidents for most of Venezuela's ills. He recently said, "The rich elite, backed as always by Washington and Miami, want Venezuela's resources that they will share with rich foreigners. We have been down that path before. We are not alone. Venezuela, Nicaragua, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina are all similarly targeted. If we are to survive, we must all fight together as one force."
        Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro recently is known to have taken his survival message to Russia's President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow.
        Nicaraguan President Danny Ortega, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and Bolivian President Evo Morales are Cuba's three most powerful friends in Latin America...along with the three female Presidents -- Cristina Fernandez of Argentina, Vilma Rousseff of Brazil, and Michelle Bachelet of Chile. But Cristina Fernandez will be replaced next month by a newly elected U.S.-friendly President in Argentina.
By the Way:
       Congratulations to Lydia Ko, the most amazing athlete on the planet. Yesterday in Naples, Florida, she won this trophy as the top female golfer in the world. She was born 18 years ago...on April 24, 1997...in Seoul, South Korea, and is now a New Zealander. Lydia Ko took over as the top women's golfer last year at age 17. There are more famous athletes, but only one Lydia Ko. {Ko photos: Getty Images}
      In Naples Lydia Ko won another $1 million for being the top women's golfer for a second straight year. That's a million dollars in cash she is holding before her mom Tina put it in a bank. She has over $7.5 million in golf earnings already but that will be minuscule compared to the endorsement money that will be showered on her. 
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