U.S.-Friendly Dictatorships Have Lasting Effects

A Few Benefit, the Majority Suffer
       In the last week of January, 2013, ESPN featured a very detailed investigative report on Major League Baseball's massive concern related to South Florida's uniquely permissive illegal drug enterprises, especially involving prescription drugs. The huge article's headline: "MLB Investigating South Florida as 'Ground Zero' on PED War." The first paragraph: "Major League Baseball is investigating multiple wellness clinics in South Florida, as well as individuals with potential ties to players, armed with the belief that the region stretching 50 miles south from Boca Raton to Miami is 'ground zero' for performance-enhancing drugs still filtering into the game." The article goes on to name the prime baseball players and the "pill mills" connected to this ongoing scourge and outrage. 
       The Major League baseball teams join a long, long list of American enterprises and individuals that have suffered and continue to suffer massively from the unique Banana Republic that emerged in South Florida after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in January of 1959 when it defeated the U. S. - backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba. It seems innocent generations to come will also suffer.
      Mariana Van Zeller was born 37 years ago in Portugal. Today she is America's best and bravest investigative documentarian. She is a multiple Peabody Award Winner and currently works for National Geographic Channel. In 2009 her superb and courageous documentary entitled "The OxyContin Express" acutely revealed how South Florida's Pill Mills were the "Gateway to Heroin" but she also stated, "Prescription drug addition is killing more people than cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin combined." And quite profoundly, Ms. Van Zeller pointed out that South Florida is "The Colombia of prescription drugs." Unfortunately, South Florida is many other things too, mostly regrettable things.
        A simple "OxyContin Express" Google search will quickly take you to that documentary by Mariana Van Zeller. It has been viewed millions of times world-wide but Americans, programmed to accept the U. S. support of the Batista regime in Cuba in the 1950s and subsequently conditioned to accept the reconstitution of that dictatorship on U. S soil in South Florida, have also been programmed and conditioned to ignore how the Batista dictatorship in Cuba shamed the U. S. democracy and how South Florida's Banana Republic harms Americans who have never been within 1,000 miles of South Florida. Van Zeller left the Pill Mills in South Florida to check out small towns in Kentucky, Ohio, Massachusetts....! Typically, she interviewed a sheriff in tears because his dedicated force was not big enough or strong enough to protect its citizens from the drug traffickers who drove to South Florida and returned with the devastating pills capable of destroying towns or small cities.
South Florida remains on U. S. maps and Florida has a whopping 29 electoral votes.
Thus, since 1989, the United States Congress has been overwhelmed by visceral Cuban-exiles.
       For decades, powerful Cuban-born exiles aligned with the Bush dynasty have dictated American laws -- The Torricelli Bill, The Helms-Burton Law, etc. -- that have massively benefited only the most radical Cuban exiles and their sycophants such as the Bush dynasty but massively harmed everyone else, including America's best foreign friends by also punishing them for involvements with Cuba.
 The U. S. democracy, while always challenged, has been the greatest government ever devised.
    The biggest challenge to the U. S. democracy came in the 1950s when Uncle Sam began to support and even install foreign dictators such as...Batista in Cuba, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Somoza in Nicaragua, Videla in Argentina, Pinochet in Chile, Mobutu in Zaire-Congo, Pahlavi in Iran, etc. 
     The Cuban Revolution, from 1952-1959, is unique in the annals of American history for three reasons: (1) It was the only revolution to overthrow a U. S. - backed dictatorship; (2) it marks the only time in American history that an ousted foreign dictatorship was permitted to reconstitute itself on U. S. soil; and (3) it represents the first time in American history that the American people either refused or were unable or unwilling to defend their precious democracy against a mammoth challenge.
Not exactly the democracy envisioned by America's Founding Fathers.


How Fidel Castro Reshaped the U. S. Democracy

And Even Nascar Auto Racing!
     Danica Patrick, featured above in one of her Sports Illustrated photos, is surely one of America's most beautiful, most intriguing, and most famous women.
      Danica Patrick -- famed for her looks, her gender, her athletic prowess and her ubiquitous "Go Daddy" Super Bowl commercials -- is America's beloved darling on the very popular NASCAR auto racing circuit. Recently divorced, it was revealed this week that Danica...Stop the presses!...has a new boyfriend!
      The lucky guy is Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who will be racing against girlfriend Danica Patrick in the upcoming Nascar season! Wow!! A fantastic pre-season promotional story, right? Yeah, sure, but...it, of course, has to compete with the latest and even more topical anti-Fidel Castro obsession in the U. S. media!
        And so, you ask, "What in the hell does Fidel Castro have to do with "Auto Week" and with "Living the Automotive Life" in the United States. That, of course, is such a sane and sensible question that you, as an American, are not supposed to ask it!" Instead, you are supposed to accept without question anything revengeful, self-serving Cuban exiles, or their sycophants, say about Fidel Castro. It's been that way since 1959 when Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution chased the U. S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship to U. S. soil. In 2013, the year the 86-year-old, very ill and frail Fidel Castro is likely to die, that is still the way it is. And for decades to come, still battling what will be the burgeoning Fidel Castro legacy, that is the way it will also be...confronting your great-grandchildren!
       And so, my fellow Americans, what was the major headline in America's major auto magazine and website on Jan. 25-2013, just ahead of the juicy revelation about Danica Patrick's new boyfriend who also happens to be a racing rival? The correct answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind and it is this: "Fidel Castro 'Should Be Dead,' Says Nascar Team Owner Felix Sabates!" I...kid...you...not!
       The above SAT Photographic photo shows Felix Sabates, on the left, with fellow Nascar big-wig Chip Ganassi. It illustrated the Jan. 25-2013 Auto Week article written by Al Pearce. The article begins: "Felix Sabates fled Cuba in 1959, when he was just 17. He became rich and somewhat famous in America, primarily as a NASCAR team owner. Now 70, Sabates hates Fidel Castro and his regime, and fears nothing will change when the ailing dictator dies. 'He's pretty much been out of the picture for 10 years,' Sabates said during the NASCAR media tour in Charlotte. 'His brother and his cronies and his wife run the country. The only way you're gonna change Cuba is get rid of 40 people, then you have a chance.' Sabates said he's surprised Castro is alive, given that the 86-year-old dictator was diagnosed seven years ago with pancreatic cancer. 'The chance of him still being alive with that happening is one in 28 billion,' he said. 'I think they shot and killed somebody down there, took out the pancreas and liver, and all those organs...and put them inside Castro. I mean, the SOB should be dead, but he's still alive. So some poor guy in Cuba gave up his life so Castro could live.'" Did he say, "one in 28 billion?" Yes, he absolutely did!
       Felix Sabates is a very wealthy man. Before venturing into NASCAR racing, he owned the NBA franchise in New Orleans in addition to numerous non-sports businesses.
     His parents were extremely wealthy in Batista's Cuba...garnering their Cuban wealth in "insurance, sugar, cattle, service stations, and pharmacies" according to his Wikipedia profile. Also, as with almost all of the primary Cuban-exile power-brokers, Sabates has been intricately aligned with the Bush political dynasty that, to date, includes George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Jeb Bush with, among others, two of Jeb's sons now looming ominously on the horizon. Sabates told Auto Week that "the only way you're gonna change Cuba is get rid of 40 people." But isn't that what the ultra-powerful and incredibly rich Cuban exiles, the CIA, and the Mafia have been trying to do every day since January 1, 1959? Sabates also told Auto Week that the chance of Fidel Castro still being alive "is one in 28 billion." Huh? The odds against Fidel Castro defeating Fulgencio Batista -- considering Batista was supported by the United States, the Mafia, and the Communist Party of Cuba -- were also "one in 28 billion." The reconstitution of the Batista dictatorship on U. S. soil also created this ramification:
The odds against the U. S. media telling the truth about Fidel Castro is 28 billion to one!
         The Cuban Revolution is a major event in the annals of history because of its impact on the world's superpower, the United States, and not just because it reconfigured things on an island, which happened to be Cuba. Therefore, this week's Auto Week article didn't say anything about autos, or even this week's gripping Danica Patrick update, because it was too busy detailing the usual, since 1959, Cuban-exile venom regarding the 86-year-old Fidel Castro. Typically, such articles in the U. S. media never mention the other side of a pulsating two-sided story, a story that  says far more about the U. S. democracy than it is says about Cuba. Thus, Auto Week this week rapturously informs Americans that an innocent soul was murdered in Cuba so his "pancreas and liver, and all those organs" could be transplanted in Fidel Castro to keep the old revolutionary alive. 
The sad thing, for the U. S. democracy, is:
Americans are supposed to believe such exaggerations;
And many Americans do exactly that,
Because it is politically correct and somewhat healthier to do so. 


Varadero Beach, Cuba! Have You Ever Been There?

I Have! And In Frosty January I'd Like to Return!
Varadero Beach in Cuba has often been called the Most Beautiful Beach in the World!
Today -- January 25-2013 -- it's very cold and quite snowy outside my Virginia home!
But at Varadero Beach, Cuba, it's warm, sunny, and gorgeous!
Now...Where Is My Passport?


Facts and Fiction Follow Cuban Reforms (As Usual)

Don't Be Told How or What To Think About Cuba
(In the Age of Google, Decide for Yourself)
      Cubans in the past week, since the government announced massive new travel regulations, have excitedly discussed (as abovethe opportunities to now leave the island to visit or remain in foreign counties and, if they desire, freely return to Cuba. {The next five photos are also by Raquel Perez}
     When not discussing and debating the new travel rules on every main street on the island, Cubans gather to read government postings delineating the changes. So, that's a typical sight above.
     Colonel Lambert Fraga, the Deputy Chief of Cuba's Immigration Department, is among the key government officials using the media to try to explain the new rules to Cuba's anxious population. He told journalist Fernando Ravsberg, "The vast majority of citizens can travel without having to ask permission from their government." Colonel Fraga explained, as in other nations, Cuba will have some national security restrictions. For example, the island presently has a shortage of teachers so highly trained teachers will not be allowed to depart en masse. Colonel Fraga said he has been told "to minimize the number of people who will not benefit from the reform to the lowest possible." He also said that his office is busy "handling the daily repatriation of an average of 20 emigrants seeking to return."
    But, indeed, the new rules are very lenient. The two young Cubans above are filling out documents that will allow them to leave the island to work in Mexico. They can return to the island if and when they want to, needing only the consent of both countries to travel back and forth freely.
     Avon, the Cuban mother above, is excited about her teenage daughter being allowed to visit relatives in Miami and then return to the island when she and Avon want her to come back home.
       But there was no mad rush to Jose Marti International Airport in Havana during the first week Cubans embraced the new travel rules. For one thing, there is paperwork. For another, many Cubans cannot afford the price of tickets at the moment. And for yet another, many foreign countries are alarmed they, suddenly, might be overwhelmed by an influx of Cubans.
      Take, for example, Evo Morales -- the democratically elected President of Bolivia since 2006 (Uh, yes, poor people are now allowed to vote in Bolivia}. President Morales idolizes Fidel Castro and is one of Cuba's dearest friends. However, the island's new travel rules frighten him because he does not want a tsunami of Cubans to flood his country. Thus, Bolivia quickly established its own rules: Cubans coming to Bolivia will not get a Visa if they cannot prove they have the financial means in Bolivia to care for themselves in regards to health, education, and possible incarceration. Morales said, "No longer are foreigners robbing Bolivia blind but we still struggle to take care of our own poor people." 
       Of course, Victoria Nuland -- chief spokesperson for the U. S. State Department -- was quick to belittle Cuba's new travel rules because, after all, the U. S. would need the permission of a handful of visceral anti-Castro Cuban exiles to do anything other than denounce anything Cuba does. So, this week the official comment from the U. S. State Department, via Victoria Nuland, was: "The Cuban government has not lifted the measures implied by their responsibilities, job or industry." Whatever those disingenuous words mean, it is for sure that they satisfy a handful of Cuban exiles while -- as always -- confusing, ignoring, and demeaning the majority of Cubans, Cuban exiles, Americans, and citizens all around the world. That, we respectfully presume, is precisely what Ms. Nuland intended.
        U. S. President Barack Obama will soon have a new Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry, during his second and final four-year term. Both are sincere, capable men who have -- all their political lives -- supported decent, intelligent, and sane pro-American relations with Revolutionary Cuba. However, they have been extremely frustrated that a mere handful of self-serving Cuban exiles, and their sycophants, have ruled America's Cuban policy since the overthrow of the U. S. - backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship in 1959, a colossal event that, among other things, quickly resulted in the reconstitution of that dictatorship on U. S. soil. The vast influx of Cubans plus enormous amounts of money in 1959 overwhelmed the Mafia havens of Miami, Florida, and Union City, New Jersey, and from those two bases soon overwhelmed the United States Congress.
      While neither the U. S. government nor the U. S. media, for various reasons, have properly related the story of the flight of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship from Cuba to South Florida beginning on New Years's morning in 1959, such venues as the 1983 movie "Scarface" have, quite graphically and rather honestly, filled in the void. Al Pacino {above} starred as Tony Montana; the director was Brian De Palma; and the writer was Oliver Stone. The movie still airs almost nightly on cable television. In the opening scene Stone and De Palma used actual black-and-white footage to show Cuban exiles arriving in Miami in 1980 during the Mariel Boatlift in which Fidel Castro allowed some 125,000 Cubans to flock to Miami. In the script, Pacino (Montana) was seen setting foot in Miami for the first time.
        Soon, the young Tony Montana {above} was the ruthless drug kingpin of Miami, replicating the Mafia's dominance of the drug trade during Batista's Cuban dictatorship in the 1950s. Tony Montana's thugs totally overwhelmed the authorities in Miami and took extreme advantage of the Cuban exiles' ongoing closeness to the U. S. federal government, leaving the locals quite helpless.
      The history of the Mariel Boatlift is well known. Between April 15th and October 31, 1980, it brought about 125,000 Cubans to America, mostly to Miami. Many were decent Cubans seeking more freedom. But many were like Tony Montana. History registers the fact that Fidel Castro in 1980 raided Cuban prisons and mental institutions to include the likes of Tony Montana among the Mariel Boatlifters, apparently as a means of hurting America in retaliation for America's continuously hurting Cuba. But the best historians are also quite aware of the underlying reason for 1980's Mariel Boatlift of Cubans to the U. S. The truth about that, too, needs to skirt the restraints of political correctness.
       Celia Sanchez, the one person Fidel Castro has idolized and capitulated to during his long life, died of cancer on 01-11-1980 at age 59. As the prime decision-maker in Cuba, with Fidel's blessing and support, she had been frustrated with the U. S. government permitting Miami-based Cuban exiles to "always be stirring up and financing dissidents on this island!" When she died, Fidel simply threw up his hands and proclaimed, "Alright! Any Cuban that wants to go to Miami can do so from the port of Mariel!" And, yes, he made sure some misfits -- ala Tony Montana -- were provided free escorts from prison to Port Mariel. So, that's the way it was, minus the usual sanitizing by the U. S. media.
     The Celia Sanchez connection to the Mariel Boatlift, like most of her other gigantic connections, have been self-servingly ignored or discounted by the Cuban-exile chroniclers of Cuban history but not by the best historians. When she died, in addition to concocting the Mariel Boatlift, Fidel Castro was suicidal for days, as depicted in Georgie Anne Geyer's seminal Castro biography "Guerrilla Prince: The Untold Story of Fidel Castro." Much of that untold story revolves around the dominance of Celia Sanchez in the Cuban-U.S. conundrum, apparently based on the belief of visceral Cuban exiles that the macho Fidel could easily and conveniently be demonized but not the angelic, child-loving Celia although, truth be known, she remains the prime reason the Batistiano-Mafia rule of Cuba ended on January 1, 1959. Otherwise, the Batistianos would be ruling the island to this very day.
      All of which brings us back around to re-focus on today's Cuba, where tonight as every night young Cubans will cuddle, snuggle, and make love on the famed concrete walls fronting the 4-mile oceanfront Malecon Boulevard. If the rest of the world passes them by, or misunderstands them, well...Cubans have proven they adjust to just about anything. In a word, they are resilient.
       Powerful U. S. Senator Robert Menendez is among the handful of anti-Castro zealots who will try to make sure that Americans do not adjust to positive changes in Cuba, such as the new travel rules. Born in New York City to parents who fled Batista's Cuba in 1953, Senator Menendez grew up in Union City, New Jersey, where he became Mayor prior to his becoming a member of the U. S. Congress from 1993 till the present day, moving from the House of Representatives to the very safe seat in the Senate in 2006. Monolithic anti-Castro zealots with enormous power within the U. S. government or incredible influence on the U. S. government, politically or economically, have controlled the U. S. relations with Cuba since 1959. That year the U. S. love of foreign dictators came home to roost.
      Mauricio Claver-Carone is one of the dire countless influences on the U. S. government who have become rich and powerful with their anti-Castro zealotry -- often, many believe, at the expense of everyday Cubans and everyone else forced to abide by Cuba-only American dictates. Claver-Carone's many enterprises include the U. S. - Cuba Democracy PAC, Editor of the Capital Hill Cubans project, etc. You may never have heard of them but, I assure you, you have paid for them unwittingly and you have been restrained by them endlessly.
      Frank Calzon, via his "Center for a Free Cuba" and its historic and sometimes scandalous alignments with the Bush political dynasty, has for many years savored his stupendous power lobbying against Cuba in Washington, which is essentially controlled by lobbyists. At the moment, Calzon is lobbying hard against anything that might remotely be construed as a Cuban positive, such as President Obama's solid choice as the next Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel.
      Chuck Hagel, while he was representing Nebraska in the U. S. Senate from 1997 till 2009, strongly advocated a sane, decent, logical, pro-American U. S. policy towards Cuba. That, of course, makes him a pariah in the eyes of the incredibly powerful anti-Cuban lobby, which also now must worry about the post-Castro changes already underway in Cuba to mark the twilight days of the very frail, 86-year-old Fidel Castro, long a meal-ticket for Menendez, Claver-Carone, Calzon, and many, many others.
       And so...Cuba ending its travel ban is a lot easier and lot less complicated than the U. S. ending its travel ban or, in fact, making any changes to its universally maligned, self-inflicted wound otherwise known as the U. S. Cuban policy. You see...Senator Menendez, Claver-Carone, Calzon, etc., still hold the upper hand in the United States when it comes to Cuba, even as bright lights brighten previously dark tunnels on the island. And the U. S. democracy has been gored by that burr under its saddle for over a half-century now. Our best friends worldwide ask, "Why, America? Why? Why...?"
       Even as Cubans and Cuban dissidents are now allowed to fly to America or any other agreeable country, Americans still must essentially ask someone like Mauricio Claver-Carone for permission to fly to Cuba and experience the enchanting tropical island and its people for themselves.
        I think you can understand why I believe that Latin American expert and Denver Post editorial writer Penelope Purdy {above} coined the defining quotation that perfectly describes the U. S. policy regarding Cuba: "For all these decades the U. S. policy towards Cuba has been conducted with the IQ of a salamander." I think you agree there is no one who can dispute that salient quotation. However, I believe the quotation, while being very fair to us Americans, is not entirely fair to salamanders.
      Salamanders, like the little guy above, have been smart enough, decent enough, ingenious enough, and courageous enough to have survived in a hostile environment for centuries. Those who have conducted and mandated the U. S. policy regarding Cuba since back in the 1950s are not as smart, as decent, as ingenious, or as courageous as that little salamander who feasts on harmful insects. The salamanders Penelope Purdy so aptly described feast on less powerful human beings. P.S.: The salamander above is probably thinking: "I'm way down in the swamp minding my own business. So, how in the hell did I end up in the middle of a discussion about the U. S.-Cuban quagmire?" My answer to Joey (Yes, I call him "Joey") is: "Your beef is not with me, Joey. It's with Penelope Purdy!"   
In other words: Americans who want to see Cuba for themselves, should have the freedom to do so.
      But, you know what? The Caribbean is still there...and so is Cuba, 90 miles due south of the Florida Keys. And Cuba, because of its size and its location and its unleashed but long-stifled potential, may be in the proverbial cat-bird seat. To the West, Mexico has drug problems foreign to Cuba. To the North, the Bahamas are beset with crime foreign to Cuba. To the Southeast, Haiti and the Dominican Republic and especially the U. S. Territory of Puerto Rico are over-run with crime that is foreign to Cuba; and due South the island of Jamaica is ravaged by crime that is foreign to Cuba. And Cuba is the one island in the Caribbean not shackled by a few extremely rich individuals lording it over the majority poor. Take for example....Jamaica!....the beautiful island due South of Cuba.
       The above cartoon in today's Jamaican Observer newspaper (Jan. 21-2013) depicts a man who is making an "$8 million salary" telling the poor, skinny, over-worked peasant to hang in there and be "positive" so, of course, the rich guy can continue to make his $8 million dollar salary. That's sort of the way it was in Cuba in the 1950s. And that's sort of why the Cuban Revolution has survived against all odds for all these decades and now, in the year 2013, has a chance to re-invent itself yet again. 



Cuba Changing While U. S. Still Fights Cold War

Cuban Changes Coming Fast and Furious
(Perhaps as A Prelude to the Dire Illnesses Afflicting Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez)
{Updated Wednesday, January 16, 2013}
       The AFP/Getty Images photo above depicted a scene that has been playing out all over the island of Cuba since Monday, January 14, 2013. That's when Cuba's revolutionary government began allowing its citizens to leave the country and return on their own initiative to the island. A government official above is explaining the new rules to eager Cubans. It's the latest in an ongoing series of major changes.
       Starting on Jan. 14-2013 Cubans were allowed to board a Cubana Airlines flight and fly to a foreign country with practically no restrictions, a monumental change in policy that will have ripple effects far beyond the island, and not just in nearby Miami. The reviled tarjeta blanca, the white card or exit visa that Cuba used to control who could leave the island, is no more. Also, no longer is Cuba requiring a notarized letter of invitation from a foreign host. Now Cubans need only a visa from the country they are traveling to. In preparation for Monday, Cuba had set up 195 locations around the island for its citizens to apply for their passports. This comes on the heels of Cubans being much more readily afforded access to cell phones and computers, being allowed to buy and sell cars and homes, being allowed to lease or purchase farm land, being allowed to apply for government loans to start a myriad of businesses ranging from beauty salons to restaurants, etc. In other words, even Revolutionary Cuba can make major changes; when it comes to Cuba, the U. S. policy is strictly in the hands of a few Cuban-exile zealots and their acolytes, which renders majority opinions obsolete, as it has done so caustically since 1959.
         The above AP/Ramon Espinosa photo on January 15th shows a Cuban lady with her passport in hand snuggled in an enthused line making an effort to respond to the government's new decision to allow its citizens to visit foreign countries and then return to the beleaguered but eternally fascinating island.
       By the way, Andrea Rodriguez {above}, an excellent Associated Press journalist based in Havana, is the best source for insightful, unbiased Cuban news on items affecting everyday Cubans on the island.
     Will Ostick {above}, spokesman for the U. S. State Department Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, told CBS-TV over the weekend: "The United States welcomes any reforms that allow Cubans to depart from and return to their country freely." Presumably, Ostick could not say more, at least until the State Department early this week gets permission from Cuban-exile zealots to elaborate. For example, the U. S. restrictions on Americans departing from and returning "to their country freely" will not be altered although Americans have longed for such freedoms in regards to Cuba for a long time now. Ostick also needs to check with his superiors to see if the monumental change in Cuba will effect U. S. laws that pertain only to Cuba, such as the blatantly biased "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy that favors Cuban exiles and emigrants over all others. Ostick this week also might ask his boss, "Secretary Clinton, how in the world do we explain to the American people that Cuba now has far less restrictions on letting its people fly to the United States than the United States has on allowing its people to fly to Cuba?"
       U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could be expected to reply somewhat in this manner: "Now, Will, you know well enough that Americans don't care if their freedoms are infringed upon when it comes to Cuba. And anyway, the NFL playoffs are underway. Concentrate on the really important things."
        Of course, Secretary Clinton is as helpless as President Obama and the majority of Americans when it comes to altering the arduous, duplicitous, mendacious, and inscrutable U. S. policy regarding Cuba.
      Americans tend not to care about how the U. S. policy regarding Cuba smears the image of democracy around the world. England is America's best friend. The above photo depicts an image that flooded British newspapers and television outlets this past weekend. It shows a massive protest at the U. S. embassy in London denouncing President Obama's failure to live up to his promise to close the prison facility at the U. S. Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba, which Amnesty International has called "the gulag of our time." The Brits above were also protesting "the theft" of the luscious Guantanamo Naval Base from Cuba, which occurred shortly after the U. S. victory in 1898's Spanish-American War.
       Brits, but not Americans, are ashamed that there is one thriving McDonald's {aboveon the island of Cuba -- at Guantanamo Naval Base! U. S. naval personnel generally relish assignments in Cuba. There are also KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and other such restaurants at Gitmo, the colloquially referred to term for Guantanamo Bay. Today there are 9,500 U. S. navy personnel and 7,000 civilians working there. Some 400 miles of paved roads line the complex that also includes five major swimming pools, four outdoor movie houses, state-of-the-art work-out facilities, tennis courts, etc....a veritable Caribbean paradise! 
       A huge British warship {above} sailed proudly into Havana Harbor back on June 14, 2012. It is the RFA Fort Rosalie. It's Commanding Officer, Captain Martin Gould, announced at the welcoming ceremony: "Our visit to Havana cements relations between our two countries." England is concerned with the drug trade in the Caribbean grossly affecting crime in the region it still has interests in and both England and America consider Cuba to be the best source for fighting the drug trade in the area, with England but not America able to openly acknowledge that fact. The Brits, but not the Americans, were also reminded that, after Fort Rosalie stopped in Havana, it was not allowed to continue on to an American port for a goodwill visit. That's because the anti-Cuban, anti-world, and anti-democracy Helms-Burton Act commands that all nations, including England, can be punished if they show a kindness to Cuba or a mutual accommodation with Cuba. Every nation in the world, including America's best friends, consider the Helms-Burton Act to be a self-inflicted American wound. However, Americans themselves are not supposed to consider it at all. {The Helms-Burton Act appeases a few Cuban exiles so let's keep it on the books and trust that Americans remain ignorant of its ramifications.}
      U. S. Senator Marco Rubio's recent visit to the Guantanamo Naval Base punctuated the reminder to Cubans that the island is much too small to challenge America's "perpetual ownership" of the base. The infamous Platt Amendment "granted" the U. S. possession of Guantanamo's plush 45 square acres on Dec. 10-1903. The U. S. agreed to pay Cuba $2,000 in gold per year. In 1934, when gold coins were discontinued, the U. S. began sending $4,085 U. S. Treasury checks to Cuba. Since 1960 Revolutionary Cuba, based on an edict handed down by Celia Sanchez and endorsed by Fidel Castro, has refused to cash the checks. (The 1959 payment had escaped the meticulous scrutiny of Celia Sanchez).
       While Senator Rubio's visit made fun of Cuba's inability to do anything about Guantanamo, U. S. warplanes based there, such as the two above, are daily reminders to Cubans that they are at the mercy of the world's supreme superpower and they will never be able to regain Guantanamo Bay from the U. S.
      The lush golf course above is one of the many luxuries U. S. navy personnel enjoy at Guantanamo Bay. The golf pro on the right is providing free lessons, courtesy of the apathetic U. S. taxpayers.
        The rest of the world considers the U. S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay to be an unwanted violation of Cuba's sovereignty and a cancerous-like anathema to the world's most famed democracy.
Since 2002 Gitmo has been used to house suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists. 
        82-year-old Harry Henry and 79-year-old Luis La Rosa {above) are vivid reminders of how U. S. laws written only to appease viscerally anti-Castro Cuban exiles hurt everyone else, including innocent Cubans like Harry and Luis as well as the U. S. government itself. Harry and Luis, since their teens, had worked for the U. S. government at the Guantanamo Naval Base till they, and 65 other similarly employed Cubans, recently retired. The U. S. government wanted to pay their monthly pension fees, almost $700 each, for the rest of their lives. But Cuban-exile U. S. laws blocked those payments, at least till Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale and the Cuban government did some hand-stands to circumvent the blockage.
         ZKB (above} has just become the third major Swiss bank to drop Cuba from its portfolio in the past seven years. It did so to avoid billions of dollars in fines or curtailment of its U. S. portfolio. Such tactics continue to make the U. S. look like an imperialist bully still fighting the Cold War against the Soviet Union, which no longer exists although, of course, second generational Cuban exiles do exist and therefore so do U. S. laws that harm Cuba as well as America's best friends around the world. 
      Over the weekend Yoani Sanchez {Photo: Tracey Eaton}, the famed anti-Castro blogger, told USA Today in a phone call from Havana that Cubans on the island "are positioned like runners crouched into the starting blocks on a track" as they awaited the new traveling rules. The 37-year-old Sanchez said, "On your mark, get set, go! The majority of Cubans are very enthusiastic about this." Sanchez told USA Today that she would be among the first in line (on Jan. 14) to make preparations to fly out of Cuba. As the darling of anti-Castro factions in the Western World, Sanchez has been awarded medals and accolades from countries such as the U. S., Denmark, and Spain but Cuba has not allowed her to leave the island to accept the celebrated awards/rewards for her prolific anti-Castro blogging and books. She told USA Today that her passport is filled with visas from other countries but she has never been able to obtain a Cuban exit visa.
          In denying Yoani Sanchez an exit permit, Cuba says she speaks on behalf of a foreign power that uses her to help de-stabilize the Cuban government. However, Cuba has repeatedly told her that they will give her an exit permit if she will leave the island and never return. USA Today, in the Sunday (Jan. 13) telephone call, asked her about that. She said: "If it's not with a return trip, I'm not going anywhere." {Update: Yoani Sanchez kept her word; on January 14th she was first in line at an immigration office in Havana to test the government's new resolve that allows its citizens to visit foreign countries and then return. But she reminded the Associated Press that her case is very special: "I have hope but I'll believe it when I'm sitting in an airplane."} Meanwhile, the world awaits with abated breath {?} to learn Yoani's fate. On Monday, January 14, 2013, the long, front-page "Cover" story in USA Today quoted Yoani Sanchez as saying that she wanted to fly to Chechnya, Spain, Italy, Germany, Chile, Brazil, New York, Silicon Valley in California, and "the northern Cuban city of Miami." Yes, Yoani considers Miami to be in northern Cuba!
       That last quote from Yoani Sanchez reminds me of the map {abovethat shows 47 contiguous U. S. states minus Florida. And it reminds me that once the U. S. government offered to trade Florida to Spain for Cuba but Spain refused and later lost the island when it lost the Spanish-American War in 1898. Yoani Sanchez wants to visit "the northern Cuban city of Miami?" There are many who hope she gets the chance. Considering that the U. S. merely and unfairly took Guantanamo Bay from Cuba in 1903, perhaps the U. S. might want to make amends and give Florida to Cuba as a belated payment for Guantanamo Bay.
      John McAuliff {above} is perhaps the world's best expert on U. S. - Cuban relations. On January 15, 2013, Mr. McAuliff told the AP: "Cuba now provides greater freedom of travel to virtually all of its citizens than does the United States." {True Cuban experts such as Mr. McAuliff are generally ignored by the U. S. media}
        Josefina Vidal, Cuba's Minister of North American Affairs, says, "Yoani Sanchez's fame and fortune depends on her being an anti-government dissident on the island and not, say, in Miami where she feels she might get lost in the crowd or even London, Paris, or Madrid. Do I feel that is why she herself puts restrictions on an exit permit? Yes. Ha! Ha...! Forgive me for laughing but are you, an American news-reporter, actually saying we in the Cuban government also are allowed an opinion? Uh, thank you. I'm very much impressed." 
     Real-life cat-fights between Cuba and the U. S. in 2013 are reminiscent of make-believe cat-fights in the American West of the 1860s: "Alright, Yoani! You have three choices -- the six-gun in my left hand, the six-gun in my right hand, or the exit visa for you to leave Dodge...er, Havana...and never come back! Which is it? Hurry! My trigger fingers are itchy and I've got some other misfits to take care of after I get done with you!"
     By the way, in January of 1959 Ed Sullivan hosted the top television show in America. On January 11-1959 Mr. Sullivan flew to Havana (aboveand introduced Americans to the island's new leader. Fidel Castro, somewhat shyly, told Mr. Sullivan: "Please pardon my rebel uniform. But I can't yet afford a suit."
Mr. Sullivan replied: "Fidel, Americans will understand. This is all new to them too."
        The above Getty Image photo was taken on July 26, 1960, at a gala revolutionary celebration. Celia Sanchez, Revolutionary Cuba's prime decision-maker {but don't say that out loud; I repeat: No digos eso voz alta!}, is feigning outrage after Fidel playfully tried on a goofy hat. She screamed: "Fidel! They're taking photographs. Americans will think the leader of Cuba is a clown! Cuba's leader should be dignified!"
This hearty, colorful, and dignified guy is a Himalayan Moral.

cubaninsider: "The Country That Raped Me" (A True Story)

cubaninsider: "The Country That Raped Me" (A True Story) : Note : This particular essay on  Ana Margarita Martinez  was first ...