Monday, January 14, 2013

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, 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.

No comments:

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 ...