Cuba Deserves Fair Coverage

And That Includes the NY Times
Monday, January 5th, 2015
         America's right-wing news organizations as well as right-wing Cuban-Americans in the U. S. Congress ended 2014 and began the New Year of 2015 hoping Cuba would succumb to provocations and do something that would force President Obama to abandon his plans to normalize relations with the island. That much is a given. The tactic has worked in the past and, perhaps, will prove to be effective yet again. 
      This Andrew Testa/New York Times photo shows Cuban-American artist Tania Bruguera. Born in Havana in 1968, she splits her time between Cuba and the United States. Closely allied with the island's most famed dissident, Yoani Sanchez, Ms. Bruguera is fiercely anti-Castro, anti-Revolution. As in November of 1963 when President Kennedy vowed to normalize relations with Cuba, as in March of 1996 when President Clinton vowed to normalize relations with Cuba, etc., etc., President Obama in December of 2014 vowed to normalize relations with Cuba. Anyone who has ever studied the vicissitudes that have existed between the two neighboring nations since the Cuban Revolution defeated the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship in January of 1959 well understands the immediate obstacles that confronted President Kennedy, President Clinton, etc., and certainly should have anticipated the similar obstacles now confronting Mr. Obama. The tactic, at least initially, is to provoke Cuba into doing something that will force any decently motivated Democratic President to change his plans to normalize relations with Cuba. On the last day of 2014 Ms. Bruguera and Ms. Sanchez planned a major "Open Mic" anti-revolution protest at Havana's famed Plaza of the Revolution starting at 3:00 P. M. But it fizzled out and by 3:00 o'clock mostly only journalists were waiting to chronicle the event. There is no doubt that Cuban authorities detained about twelve scheduled participants, including the two most famed. Immediately in the U. S., Senator Marco Rubio railed against both President Obama and the Cuban barbarism in squelching the planned demonstration. In recent months the New York Times had published ten editorials advocating the normalization of relations with Cuba. But Thursday the NY Times capitulated and blared an editorial entitled "Cuba Turns Off Critics' Open Mic." The above photo of Tania Bruguera illustrated the article. The avaricious diatribes from Rubio and his ilk could have been scripted and anticipated ahead of time but the anti-Cuban demonstrators also got an easy additional victory from the NY Times editorial, which was very biased like most of the Cuban coverage from the mainstream U. S. media.
       This Adalberto Roque/AFP photo shows journalists waiting Wednesday in Cuba's Revolutionary Square for the arrival of Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez and Cuban-American activist Tania Bruguera. They were detained and thus became no-shows. However, it was only the first salvo designed to provoke Cuba into more prominent actions that can be used to thwart President Obama's plans to normalize relations with the island. The ensuing salvos, beyond any doubt, will be more successful.
    This AFP/Adalberto Roque photo shows 46-year-old Cuban-American Tania Bruguera posing on a street in Havana December 31st. Her brief detention by Cuban authorities had squashed her planned demonstration at Revolutionary Square. She said, "There are no American companies behind it. I also am not a CIA agent. The Cuban agents who detained me treated me cordially." Cuba is particularly sensitive to anti-government protests it believes are sponsored by the U. S. government.
       On the last day of 2014 -- when the NY Times published that anti-Cuban editorial -- the newspaper's review of 2014 featured the Whitney Curtis/New York Times photo depicted above. It shows a ubiquitous American holding his hands up and proclaiming "don't shoot" as powerfully armed police converge on him. As the world knows, in 2014 the U. S. suffered from a series of police shootings of black Americans, resulting in massive demonstrations from coast-to-coast. Using this photo and making that point is not anti-American. It merely reflects a problem in the U. S. that received massive international coverage throughout 2014. The New York Times and other U. S. media are correct to report on major anti-American demonstrations in the U. S. as well as anti-Chinese demonstrations in Hong Kong, anti-Cuban demonstrations in Cuba, etc. However, to be balanced and fair, the U. S. media should not be intimidated or biased when reporting on demonstrations in Cuba, which generally have a nuance not pertinent to demonstrations in the U. S., China, etc. For example, if the omnipotent anti-Castro forces in the U. S. could illustrate video of Cuban police shooting down Cubans on the streets of Havana, that, of course, would be a huge bonanza for them. Cuba, as it enters 2015, is sincerely hoping that President Obama's plans to normalize relations come to fruition. But Cuba also realizes that powerful forces are underway to derail those intentions, just as they rose up to squash the plans of President Kennedy in 1963, President Clinton in 1996, etc. Those forces, Cuba believes, are longing to provoke Cuba into doing something that will derail President Obama's plans in 2015. The first volley was fired this week in Havana. Many more will follow. Anti-government demonstrations in China, America, etc., are usually different in one significant aspect from those in Cuba: Chinese and American demonstrations are not sponsored by enemies from a foreign country, which neither China nor America would remotely tolerate. Yet, Cuba is supposed to tolerate it. Not making that distinction in its prime editorial is why the usually fair-minded New York Times was blatantly unfair.
     In the first week of January, 1959, Fidel Castro entered Havana after his Cuban Revolution shocked the world by overthrowing the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship. The Associated Press caption for the Burt Glinn photo above, capturing Fidel Castro's monumental victory, was fair and balanced, don't you think? Well, in all the decades since this photo was taken, Fidel Castro has aged from 32 to 88 and the revolutionary rule of Cuba has aged to 56 years -- as of January 1, 2015. In those last 56 years, the U. S. media coverage of Cuba has been largely unfair and unbalanced. That's because, of course, the leaders of the ousted Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba fled and quickly reconstituted their rule on U. S. soil with its capital, Little Havana, in the heart of Miami. So, if the triumph of the Cuban Revolution was shocking, the prime off-shoot -- its almost immediate resurrection on U. S. soil -- was even more so. That AP photo and caption above was quite accurate back in January of 1959. However, since then two generations of Cuban exiles have controlled the Cuban narrative in the U. S., not to mention the never-ending effort to regain control of the pugnacious island. Military attacks {Bay of Pigs}, terrorist attacks {Cubana Flight 455}, embargo {since 1962}, provocative demonstrations {unending}, etc., etc., have failed to bring the Cuban Revolution to its knees. But stay tuned. Cuba is an island; the U. S. is the world's superpower; Fidel Castro is 88-years-old and very unwell; and the U. S. media is unable, unwilling, or too afraid to fairly cover the conundrum.
       Whatever happens to the sovereign island of Cuba in the New Year of 2015 should be decided by Cubans on the island, not by benefactors in a foreign country.
By the way................
........this was Fidel Castro's favorite book in 2014.
      The old revolutionary, in contrast to what Americans are told, still has legitimate support on the island. At age 88, his fragile health digressed markedly in the last three months of 2014. His legacy, many Cubans believe, will become the prime catalyst that will protect the island's sovereignty against future foreign domination. The theme of this march was: We need foreign trade, especially between our ports and America's ports, but not at the expense of foreign rule." Consistent miscalculations of that sentiment on the island helps diminish the U. S. influence in a small neighboring country that should be and could be massively influenced by the world's superpower.
           Elian Gonzalez {Reuters photo}, one of the most famous Cubans, gives a thumbs up to signal his approval of the U.S.-Cuban efforts to normalize relations. "I respect and admire President Obama," he said. "I really believe he is a good man. I hope he succeeds." On December 6th, 2014, Elian turned 21-years-old.
And also................................
...........This is my favorite book at the moment.
       Nicholas Carlson brilliantly chronicles how Marissa Mayer, when she became the top boss at Yahoo, bravely fought to save the company as well as thousands of jobs. She had to fire some of the supposedly smartest Silicon experts who strongly advised her to instantly fire thousands of Yahoo employees. I believe what a person chooses to read helps define that person. Other books I have thoroughly enjoyed in the past six months include: "The Mockingbird Next Door" by Marja Mills; "Warrior Woman" by James Alexander Thom and Dark Rain Thom; "There Was A Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me" by Brooke Shields; and "The Romanov Sisters" by Helen Rappaport. My coffee table also includes the magazines I subscribe to: Birds and Blooms, Time Magazine; MLB {Major League Baseball}; and National Geographic. My sister provides me her copies of the Washington Post and I spend much time with the New York Times online. Yes, I am obsessed with Cuba but my obsessions are a bit more eclectic than one island, to counter what one Cubaninsider reader opined. I also love birds and baseball as well as both topical and historic photos. Men don't interest me because of their predilection for money and power. Nurturing, strong, and purposeful women do interest me...with my three historic favorites being Celia Sanchez, Rachel Carson, and Sacajawea. My topical favorites are Elizabeth Warren and Marissa Mayer.
I love this photo, courtesy of the University of Wyoming.
A moose mother monitors her twin babies.
{A moose mother once attacked my snowmobile in Wyoming} 


A Cuban Tug-of-War Takes Flight

The First Big Volley Was Fired Yesterday!!
ESSAY UPDATED: Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
      Yesterday -- December 30th -- Cuba's most famed dissident Yoani Sanchez fired the first major volley in what will be an ongoing collaboration between Cubans and Americans to thwart President Obama's plans to normalize relations between the two countries. Ms. Sanchez and her associates announced an "Open Mike" demonstration yesterday at the Plaza of the Revolution. Then, the media-savvy Sanchez took to Twitter and other social outlets to announce that she and her husband Reinaldo Escobar were detained, arrested, hand-cuffed, etc., outside their Havana home, presumably on the way to the Plaza. As she planned, by the afternoon the top international news groups -- including Reuters and CNN -- were informing the world of her detention. That's Success #1 for Yoani. If and when videos or photos surface of her being abused in any manner, that would be Success #2, the biggest of all. The campaign that started yesterday will be unending, at least until something emerges that would force President Obama to abandon his hopes and plans to normalize relations with the island, a process that would, for sure, mitigate against Cubans and Americans who gain fame, fortune, and revenge from the U.S.-Cuban belligerence that has been in vogue since the 1950s and might prevail for another six decades or so. As Yoani Sanchez and her well-funded colleagues demonstrated yesterday, Cuba is wedged between a rock and a hard place. Whatever it does to survive as a sovereign nation will be used -- by foreign-backed dissidents on the island -- to restore a Batista-type rule. A Revolution to overthrow the Cuban Revolution is underway.
       This photo {taken by Pete Souza for The White House} shows President Obama on the phone talking with Alan Gross on December 17th as Mr. Gross was flying from Cuba to the United States. The swap of prisoners was one of the key factors in the delicate negotiations that led to the Presidential announcement that he would do all he could to normalize relations between the two neighboring nations. Americans should realize that it might not happen; powerful forces benefit from the ongoing hostilities. It should be remembered, for example, that in November of 1963 President Kennedy had the same plan and so did President Clinton in March of 1996. Historic events -- one in Dallas and another in the Florida Straits -- thwarted those efforts. On the eve of the new year -- 2015 -- the same obstacles that confronted Presidents Kennedy and Clinton now confront President Obama. That's why, since the 1950s, the Cuban Revolution and Revolutionary Cuba say a lot more about the United States than they say about Cuba. 
      This AP/Desmond Boylan photo illustrated a major article this week {December 29th} written by Associated Press journalists Michael Weissenstein and Andrea Rodriguez, who are stationed in Havana. The article was entitled: "Cuba-U. S. Detente Upends Life For Cuban Dissidents." No kidding! Anti-Castro zealots in Miami, Washington, and Cuba are upset -- maybe "upended" -- because of the U.S.-Cuban plans to begin normalizing relations. Like most countries, Cuba, for sure, has legitimate dissidents. Also, more than most, Cuba is forced to defend itself against a legion of people -- both on the island and in America -- who will continue to benefit if the efforts to normalize relations between the two neighbors do not succeed. Monday's aforementioned AP article from Havana referenced the fact that mammoth anti-government demonstrations would begin in Cuba Tuesday. The article also pointed out that pro-government Cubans on the island stood ready to oppose the demonstrators, often depicted by Cubans as being sponsored by and from anti-revolutionary elements in the nearby United States. Cuba's Minister of North American Affairs, Josefina Vidal, is mostly concerned with what she considers an indelible historic fact: The Miami-based tactic anytime it appears the U. S. is about to soften its belligerence toward Cuba is to provoke the island into doing something that will be used to blunt any such effort. Ms. Vidal as well as historians remember when President Clinton planned on doing much of what President Obama is doing now. Then Brothers to the Rescue airplanes from Miami taunted Cuba, even dropping leaflets over Havana. For days Cuba begged the U. S. and the UN to do something to stop the provocations. Cuba eventually sent up two jets and shot down two of the Brothers' planes, killing four people. Instead of continuing his plans to ease sanctions against Cuba, President Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act, which drastically hardened the sanctions against Cuba and provided special privileges to anti-Castro Cubans, such as the Wet Foot/Dry Foot policy that benefits only Cubans as well as a plethora of tax-funded efforts to undermine the Cuban government. Josefina Vidal believes that starting the last week of December concerted efforts will be conducted in attempts to provoke the Cuban government into doing something that can be caught on video and used against Cuba to help prevent any chance of normalizing relations with the U. S.
      This photo shows President Bill Clinton signing the Helms-Burton Act into law on March 12, 1996. The lady looking over his right shoulder is Havana-born Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has represented Miami in the U. S. Congress since 1989. Standing just to President Clinton's right is Bob Menendez, still entrenched in the U. S. Congress from Union City and now the Chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee. At the far left is Jesse Helms, the famed right-wing Republican Senator for whom the law is named. Second from the right is Havana-born Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the first of two sons of former Batista Minister Rafael Diaz-Balart who have represented Miami in the U. S. Congress. The Helms-Burton Act codified and greatly strengthened U. S. sanctions against Cuba. Additionally, the law to this day severely punishes even U.S.-friendly nations and companies that do business with Cuba. It is the most extreme aspects of Helms-Burton that President Obama is trying to mollify or eliminate in the New Year of 2015. He may not succeed.
      Tania Bruguera is an artist who divides her time between Chicago and Havana, according to Wikipedia. She was born in Havana in 1968. She flew to Havana this week to conduct a well-advertised and highly orchestrated "Open Mike" anti-Castro demonstration in Havana's Plaza of the Revolution. The social media suggested that lots of beer would be available for those who attend. The Cuban government hopes the event will be peaceful. Many believe such hopes will be in vain. This is Test #1. More will follow.
       As reported by Cubanet.org, this was the scene Tuesday afternoon at Revolutionary Square in Havana where Tania Bruguera, a close ally of Yoani Sanchez, was to have headlined an anti-revolutionary demonstration beginning at 3:00 P. M. Eastern. She was a no-show, apparently detained or arrested.
       Before the sun had set on Cuba Tuesday, Daniel Trotta of Reuters was reporting that Marco Rubio, the Senator and presidential candidate from Miami, had issued this exact statement: "The Castro regime's latest acts of repression against political dissidents in Cuba make a mockery of President Obama's new U.S.-Cuba policy." Yesterday's orchestrated actions to provoke the Cuban government will continue unabated, as Senator Rubio well knows, as long as President Obama holds out any hope of normalizing relations with Cuba. That fact has been well known since noon on December 17th when the President officially announced his plans. Rubio knows he has the upper-hand because President Obama cannot possibly counter all the grenades that well-funded, well-orchestrated "dissidents" will hurl at him and Cuba.
       This Lisa Nipp/AP photo shows the entrance to the Cuban Interests Section in Washington. Because the U. S. and Cuba have not had friendly relations since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and officially not since 1961, the two neighboring nations, for far too many decades, have not had an exchange of embassies or ambassadors. The Cuban Interests Section in Washington is located at the Switzerland embassy building. But Cuba will soon have its own embassy in Washington for the first time since 1961.
       This AP/Desmond Boylan photo shows the U. S. Interests Section in Havana on a cloudy day just before sunrise. It is a 7-story building that currently employs 50 American staffers and some 300 Cuban workers. It overlooks the famed seaside Malecon boulevard in that area of Havana. It presently is the largest U. S. diplomatic mission in the region and it will soon be a U. S. Embassy instead of an Interests Section.
  Roberta Jacobson is President Obama's first choice to become the new U. S. Ambassador to Cuba. As a Cuban expert and as one of America's best diplomats, she is imminently qualified for that position. Since March 30, 2012, Ms. Jacobson has been Assistant U. S. Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and has served that post brilliantly. She has also served as Coordinator for Cuban Affairs within the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Next month, January, Ms. Jacobson will be in Havana representing the U. S. in continuing to formulate the seismic changes President Obama has outlined for America's new relations with Cuba. If all goes well, Roberta Jacobson will soon have a new title -- America's Ambassador to Cuba. 
     Senator Marco Rubio since December 17th has been on every network television news program on the planet, not just right-wing Fox News. As an anti-Castro zealot from Miami, young Mr. Rubio rides a one-trick pony named "Cuba" but he plans on being elected President of the entire United States as soon as 2016. In the meantime, he has personally vowed to thwart President Obama's plans to normalize relations with Cuba. He is bragging about becoming the next Chairman of the Senate's powerful Western Hemisphere Committee and, of course, both Cuba and Roberta Jacobson are in the Western Hemisphere. Rubio plans to block any funding necessary for the opening of a U. S. Embassy in Havana. He plans to block anyone appointed by President Obama to be the U. S. Ambassador to Cuba. In other words, he plans to continue a primary blight on the U. S. democracy that has existed virtually since the day the Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba was overthrown by the Cuban Revolution in January of 1959, and that blight has to do with a few Cuban exiles and their easily acquired right-wing sycophants in the U. S. Congress demanding that they alone be permitted to dictate America's Cuban policy, which has been a disaster for Cubans, Cuban-Americans, Americans, Caribbeans, Latin Americans, and -- as reflected by the yearly UN vote -- for America's best friends around the world. President Obama has executive authority as well as the support of most sane democracy-lovers worldwide, so if he maintains his grit he can resist most of the self-serving insanity Senator Rubio will hurl at him. With Rubio the incoming Chairman of the Senate's Western Hemisphere Committee, it will be interesting to see how Roberta Jacobson, the Assistant U. S. Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, stands up to him when it comes to Cuba -- the island, not the pony.
      This AFP/Adaberto Roque  photo shows two tourists relaxing on a Cuban beach as an entrepreneur tries to interest them in some of his wares. Tourism is very important to Cuba, as famed terrorist Luis Posada Carriles reminded everyone with the deadly bombing of Hotel Copacabana in 1997 and, incredibly, during a demonstration in Miami right after the Dec.17-2014 announcement by President Obama that he would try to ease the harsh embargo and other hostilities against Cuba. In the past year, Cuba has had about three million tourists. Americans, thanks to dictates of Cuban-exile extremists since the early 1960s, are the only people in the entire world who are not freely allowed to visit Cuba. At the same time, Americans, even within the framework of their famed democracy, are also not supposed to think that their being the only ones in the world who can't freely visit Cuba is unusual. Of course, USAID and other U. S. tax-funded programs saturate the island with recruits intent on undermining the Cuban government and stirring up dissent, hopefully caught on a video Smart-Phone for maximum impact. If President Obama is successful in allowing Americans to freely travel to Cuba, it is estimated that additional millions will do so right away.
      If Americans, like the rest of the world, are freely allowed to travel to Cuba, it will greatly benefit many businesses in the U. S. as well as the emerging entrepreneurial class on the island. And also, it would remove a blight on America's image that the rest of the world abhors. Yet, to benefit a handful of self-serving Americans and Cuban-Americans -- Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez, the Diaz-Balart Brothers, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, etc. -- there is fierce determination to keep in vogue a failed, archiac Cuban policy that harms the rest of the world except two generations of an elitist few. On Christmas day, America's top newspaper, USA Today, featured a full-page article written by Nancy Trejos and entitled "Cuba's Time: Best Reasons to Visit." Another sub-headline that went from one side of the page to the other stated: "History-rich Island Nation Offers Would-be Travelers From the USA White-sand Beaches, Steamy Music and Architectural Wonders." I have traveled all over the island on a research mission via legal permission from the viscerally anti-Cuban George W. Bush administration. Therefore, nothing in the article by Nancy Trejos surprised me. But I would advise the millions of Americans banned from visiting Cuba to read that full-page article posted on Christmas day in USA Today. You know, in a democracy it is better to have a chance to judge something by yourself rather than having a self-serving presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, and his right-wing colleagues in the U. S. Congress, telling you what to think.
       Within hours of President Obama's December 17th announcement in Washington, President Castro's announcement in Havana, and the Pope's announcement in Rome that an effort would be made to normalize relations between the U. S. and Cuba, Jeb Bush was in Miami headlining an anti-normalization rally that quickly raised $200,000 to fight the consensus world hope to end the cruel, five-decades-old embargo and continuous deprivation of Cubans on the island to benefit a few Cubans and their U. S. sycophants off the island. In an American democracy that increasingly has become vulnerable to special interest money, Jeb Bush is well-defined as an expert. He will need in excess of $1.5 billion to campaign for the Presidency in 2016, and he has that amount in his back pocket. The $200,000 he quickly raised in Miami is merely a start of what he will muster to fight President Obama and the rest of the world that wants to see sanity and decency applied to America's Cuban relations. Jeb Bush believes his last name entitles him to a free ride to the U. S. Presidency in 2016 and 2020. Unfortunately, it might happen. Propagandized and proselytized Americans, over the course of the past five decades, have never questioned the Bush dynasty's self-serving alliances with the most extremists Cuban exiles. Even now, with such easy research tools as Google, that is not likely to change because Jeb Bush appears confident that the majority of Americans have neither the concern nor the patriotism to do anything other than to be influenced by self-serving propaganda, which is not exactly DEMOCRACY.
    George Prescott Bush, Jeb's son, has just been elected to a powerful position as Land Commissioner in Texas. I presume, like his father and others in the Bush clan, George P. feels entitled to a free ride to the U. S. presidency. Surely, as with his first major campaign in Texas, money will never be a problem. So, after another two-term Bush presidency, his father Jeb's, George P. has every reason to believe his own two-term presidency will begin in January of 2024. It's anyone guess, however, which Bush will feel entitled to succeed George P. in 2032, but for sure whoever it is will have the billions necessary to triumph in a democracy that simply is not as strong as it was prior to the Batista boondoggle that inflicted Cuba in the 1950s and has inflicted America since.
       I admire this lady because I believe she personifies what democracy is all about. Her name is Sarah Stephens. She is the Executive Director of the Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas. She was in Cuba on Dec. 17-2014 when President Obama and President Castro simultaneously told their people via television addresses of their plans to normalize relations. Ms. Stephens understands the plight, hopes, and moods of the Cuban people better than almost any other American. She, of course, hailed the announcement that portends better lives for the 11.2 million Cubans on the island even if it means less of a piggy-bank and punching-bag for a handful of Americans and Cuban-Americans. Ms. Stephens was not too happy Jeb Bush quickly flew to Miami to begin raising money to fight President Obama's Cuban plans. And she was not pleased that Luis Posada Carriles, of all people, led an anti-Obama demonstration in the streets of Miami. Ms. Stephens each Friday on the excellent Center for Democracy in the Americas website writes the "Cuba Central" segment. On December 26th she wrote: "Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban-born CIA asset who orchestrated the 1976 bombing of Cubana Flight 455 that killed 73 people, lives freely in Miami, where many hard-line Cuban-Americans consider him a hero." Note that Ms. Stephens did not use the word "alleged" regarding the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 in which two dozen male and female teenage Cuban athletes were among the victims. Left to Ms. Stephens, Cuba would be left alone to choose its own course and America would be a better democracy. But...she understands there are people who oppose her ideals. 
      "Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana," the great book by Ann Louise Bardach, best delineates the Posada role in the bombing of Cubana Flight 455, the first civilian airplane to be bombed out of the sky by terrorists in the Western Hemisphere. And on pages 180-223 of this classic book Ms. Bardach details Posada's role in the series of deadly hotel bombings in Havana in 1997 -- Hotel Copacabana, Chateau Hotel, Mehia Cohiba Hotel, Triton Hotel, etc. In fact, Posada seemed proud of the publicity Ms. Bardach afforded him. He gave her a famous interview for the New York Times in which he admitted his reason for orgainzing all the hotel bombings in Havana was to discourage tourism. Amazingly, in December of 2014 Posada was leading a demonstration in Miami demanding that President Obama not be allowed to let Americans freely travel to Cuba! Also, in December of 2014 presidential candidate Jeb Bush flocked to Miami to collect $200,000 in one fund-raiser as the start of a massive campaign to thwart the will of the President and the world when it comes to Cuba. The mainstream U. S. media, of course, has neither the courage nor the integrity to question the motives of either Luis Posada Carriles or Jeb Bush. But, thankfully, great and brave journalists/authors such as Sarah Stephens and Ann Louise Bardach do.
     On Christmas day, 2014, the world was aware that Pope Francis played a pivotal role in what is now at least the beginning of the end of the decades-old hostilities between two neighbors -- Cuba and the United States. Pope Francis is a Latin American; he was born on December 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In his still-young Papacy he has stamped himself as the world's most important advocate for the poorest and most vulnerable people on this troubled planet. He fully understands that wars, conflicts, poverty, and the vast disparity between the haves and the have-nots breed constant and seemingly endless suffering. Thus, it is not surprising that this greatest of living men put Papal pressure on President Obama of the U. S. and President Castro of Cuba to try to bring at least a degree of sanity to their relationship for the benefit of the masses, not for just a self-serving few who wallow in the animosity. Thus -- Christmas day -- there was tangible evidence that the seeds Pope Francis has sewn are bearing fruit. The evidence is a new chain fence in Havana.
    That chain-link fence in Havana now surrounds the dilapidated building on the right. {Photo courtesy: AP/Ramon Espinosa} It is a special and historic building -- the once magnificent Saint Thomas de Villanueva symbol of the Catholic Church in Cuba. It came upon hard times during the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s. The military forces of Dictator Fulgencio Batista stored weapons and ammunition in the building when the plan was to defend the capital city against the rebel forces led by Fidel Castro. But after the rebels captured Santa Clara in the last two days of December, 1958, the leaders in Havana fled to safer havens off the island. It began a tumultuous period between the new revolutionary government in Cuba and the Catholic Church. Since the early 1960s, economic missteps on the island exacerbated by a still massive embargo, imposed by the ultra-powerful U. S. government on behalf of two generations of Cuban exiles, has resulted in the gradual decay of Saint Thomas de Villanueva and many other once-proud buildings in Cuba. But thanks to Pope Francis, the rehabilitation is underway. Andrea Rodriguez, the excellent AP correspondent in Havana, penned a Christmas day article entitled "Cuba Relations With Catholic Church At High Point." Ms. Rodriguez added: "A new chain fence surrounds the building {Saint Thomas}, protecting it for a future that once seemed unimaginable." That future portends a bright day for Saint Thomas de Villanueva and for Cuba. The awesomely wealthy Catholic Church will rebuild Saint Thomas to resemble its former glory. Ms. Rodriguez also points out that the ruins of major Catholic Church properties are also indelible sights, and blights, around the island -- especially in Santiago, Cuba's second largest city located on the alligator-shaped island's eastern tip. Also, the cities of Cienfuegos, Manzanillo, and Bayamo have the remnants of former magnificent buildings owned by the Catholic Church. It is presumed that Pope Francis is well aware of all that, and that is a very hopeful sign....in a discombobulated world sorely lacking in hopeful signs.
    I am not a Catholic but I recognize that Pope Francis is the greatest and most influential person in the world today. It is a world torn asunder by conflicts, greed, the lust for power, and the disparity between the rich and the rest. So, Pope Francis will succeed only in making dents into massively insurmountable obstacles to the well-being of human-kind. But those dents are precious, including the one he has made in U.S.-Cuban relations. But that dent also returns to the surface the determination of a few Cuban-Americans and their always corroborative Republicans in the U. S. Congress {and sometimes, unfortunately, in the White House} who benefit from U.S.-Cuban turmoil. {I am a lifelong conservative Republican but, as you might note, I am not a right-wing Republican}. And so, in the age-old battle between good and evil, I'm rooting for Pope Francis across the board, including his overtures relating to the island of Cuba.
       Study this Cuban map. In all the cities and towns depicted above, there are dilapidated buildings, including some 200,000 not properly rebuilt after the twin-perils of back-to-back hurricanes devastated the island years ago. The Catholic Church decision, with Cuba's concurrence, to rebuild Saint Thomas de Villanuerva to its former glory is a huge start. That one building has already put some people to work. Now think about how many people would be provided gainful employment if buildings all across the island, the largest island in the Caribbean, received similar treatment. Investments in that endeavor from foreign nations, including a more sensible United States, would be well rewarded. For years, every U. S. port in America has wanted to do business with Cuba, including those in nearby Florida. Every farm bureau in America for years has wanted to do business with Cuba. Every company in America that produces building products would love to do business in Cuba. It should be allowed to happen. Every Cuban-American and every American who thinks otherwise should be reminded that the United States of America is still, and always will be, a democracy that serves the majority, not a Banana Republic that caters to a few. Cuba has long been a U. S. negative. It could be a U. S. positive.


Vidal: Cuba's Gritty Lady

The Island's Prime Defender
Posted: Thursday, Christmas, December 25th, 2014
       Whew! Josefina Vidal, Cuba's main defender against the American colossus to its north, caught a break this Christmas season. For the past two years, Josefina -- whose omnipotent title is Minister of North American Affairs -- had worried that the now 65-year-old Alan Gross of Maryland would die in the Cuban military hospital where he had served five years of a 15-year sentence. With hunger strikes and failing health, Mr. Gross had vowed to commit suicide as opposed to serving another year. This was a major dilemma for Josefina. She had meticulously laid out the charges against Mr. Gross to back up the sentence. But she believed that Cuba's prime enemies in the U. S. wanted him to remain in Cuba and die there, so it could be used in the never-ending Miami-orchestrated disparagement of the island. Josefina repeatedly had reminded the U. S. government of two facts: {1} Cuba would never back off what she termed its "righteous" arrest and sentencing of Mr. Gross; and {2} she was anxious to send him home to his Maryland family before he died in Cuba...so please negotiate with me on his release. As always, there was immense pressure on the U. S. not to negotiate. But secretly for over a year it was negotiated and...Whew!...Mr. Gross was released as part of the U.S.-Cuban agreement to try to normalize relations.
            Therefore, last week Alan Gross had an early Christmas present when he sat foot back on U. S. soil. Then on Christmas day he got another present -- a $3.2 million dollar check from the U. S. government. While he was in Cuba, his wife Judy and their lawyer Scott Gilbert had blamed the United States for repeatedly sending the well-paid Mr. Gross on missions to Cuba that the U. S. knew were dangerous and in violation of Cuban laws. He was a part of what seems to be endless tax-funded efforts by USAID to have secretive operations on the island designed to undermine the Cuban government. Mr. Gross worked for a USAID contractor, Development Alternatives Inc., just as, for example, two torture experts were paid millions by the CIA to devise torture techniques recently condemned by the U. S. Senate and others. So, Monday of this week the case against the USAID contractor who employed Mr. Gross was settled. By Christmas day Thursday Mr. Gross had his $3.2 million check. As with most U. S. government enterprises against Cuba, the U. S. taxpayers and the U. S. image suffer the most. And much of that is because Cuba's prime defender, Josefina Vidal, is one tough cookie -- neither easy to intimidate nor to out-smart.
      This AP/Ramon Espinosa photo of Josefina Vidal was taken Monday, Dec. 22-2014 in Havana. As you can see, she was joyous. She should be. In recent days her tireless and extraordinary efforts to bring some sanity to U.S.-Cuban relations have come to fruition, at least until and if the small but powerful contingent of Cuban-Americans, who benefit so profoundly from continuous animosity between the two neighbors, succeeds in thwarting her lifelong desires. That might happen because, as Ms. Vidal and President Obama seem to comprehend, the U. S. democracy has proven to not be strong enough to prevent or even to temper the designs of a mere handful of Cuban exiles, through two generations since the 1950s. But, for now, Ms. Vidal can present to the world that effusive smile shown above, a smile she richly deserves.
       As I have pointed out many times in the past two years, most sincere and unbiased American journalists attuned to the U.S.-Cuban malaise and entanglements believe that Ms. Vidal is the best source of candid, pertinent, and accurate information. Yes, her omnipotent title in Cuba is Minister of North American Affairs. She is more omnipotent on the island than that title implies. In the above AP/Ramon Espinosa photo, that is Ms. Vidal warmly greeting Gerardo Hernandez upon his return from a California federal prison. As one of the Cuban Five he had been sentenced in a Miami courtroom to two life terms but now, after the swap that got two Americans released from Cuban prisons, all of the Cuban Five are back in Cuba. Although Gerardo's wife was not allowed to visit him in his faraway California prison the past fifteen years, she is about to give birth to his baby girl. The New York Times Tuesday blared an explanatory headline: "How A Cuban Spy And His Wife Come To Be Expectant Parents: By Proacting 'Sperm Diplomacy,' A Senate Staffer Became A Central Facilitator Of The Cuban Shift." In the above photo Ms. Vidal, the overall prime facilitator, has just told Mr. Hernandez, "Gerardo, you will be here when your baby girl is born!"
       Of all the diplomats or public relations people who work for Cuba or the U. S., insightful journalists believe Ms. Vidal is the best source regarding delicate issues between the two countries because she has more freedom to express her own views. That reasoning is based on the fact that no one in either country in the past fifteen years is as knowledgeable on intricate U.S.-Cuban matters as she is. People who work for President Obama or President Castro must get clearances from their top boss before making announcements or even answering questions. Also, when both Presidents spoke subsequent to the original announcement about normalizing relations, they were largely equivocating and saying what they wanted their constituents to hear. But not Miss Vidal. She tends to cut to the chase, bypassing politically motivated detours. It is known that President Raul Castro early last week exuded shock as he recoiled after a journalist prefaced his question with a comment she had made. President Castro exclaimed, "Josefina said that!" He recovered quickly, then added, "Well, consider that to be Cuba's position."
       For those reasons, astute international journalists beginning Monday of this week were most anxious to hear from Josefina Vidal after President Obama and President Castro at noon on December 17th simultaneously announced their intentions to seriously begin the process of normalizing relations between their countries. One of her comments Monday resulted in major international headlines...via the AP, Reuters, BBC, etc..."Cuban Says It Will Consider the Whole Package of U. S. Proposals." Ms. Vidal's exact quote was: "We welcome President Obama's decision to introduce the most significant changes in relations with Cuba in 54 years. That includes the whole package." She also has the intelligence, confidence, and grit not to shy from acute media questioning. Here's how she handled some tough questions this week:
         Question: "It has been repeatedly said that Cuba is not really anxious for the U. S. embargo to end because Cuba can use it as an excuse for its failures. Is that true?"
      Answer: "It has also been said that the people in the U. S. who have benefited from the embargo are greedy, revengeful liars. Look back. When have you seen a negative response by Cuba to the American government removing any type of restriction. What we say is, get rid of the excuse and put us to the test. The only line in the sand we have drawn is our sovereignty. We will never surrender that, at least willingly. We are an island, much weaker than the strongest nation in the world that is just to our north. But we have made that point about sovereignty. I believe President Obama acknowledges that. That's why we have a chance."
         Question: "A chance at what? Are you anticipating a total normalization of relations?
        Answer: "Not by this time tomorrow." {laughs} "But seriously, that is what we, both sides, should strive for. Cuba deserves it. America deserves it. Eventually it has to happen. In the days ahead, thanks to President Obama, I believe we will, gradually, see steps in that direction. President Obama and I...we...know the resistance we face. I know the majority of Cubans want it. He knows the majority of Americans want it. We both know that the entire world, including Pope Francis, wants it. What all that means is, the way I interpret it, a few strong people...in the United States, not Cuba...are obstacles that should not be allowed to, decade after decade, harm the majority of people in these two countries and many people elsewhere in the world."
          Question: "The swap of prisoners, a done deal now, surprised many people. But the pro-embargo forces in the U. S. are strongly suggesting that all this momentum be ended unless Cuba returns a woman convicted years ago of murdering a New Jersey policeman. After she escaped from prison, she found asylum in Cuba. She is high up on America's Most Wanted list. There is a $2 million bounty for her. To appease the U. S. and move these relations, will Cuba after all these years return her to New Jersey?
            Answer: "In 1904, shortly after the Spanish-American War that gave the U. S. dominance of Cuba, the U. S. dictated an extradition treaty to Cuba, just as in 1903 it had dictated the U. S. possession of Guantanamo Bay. After 1959, as a sovereign nation, we have not put much stock in that extradition treaty designed only to serve the interest of the U. S. But we have, especially in recent years, quietly cooperated with the U. S. by, for example, capturing drug criminals wanted by the U. S. and turning them immediately over to the U. S. In regards to the asylum Cuba has given the woman wanted in New Jersey, I...we...believe she is a political refugee. There is a well known law professor in the U. S. who has studied her case and decided she, as a Black Panther, was targeted because of that and stopped on the New Jersey highway. She claims she was shot while her hands were up and there is no forensic evidence that she fired any shots. With those doubts, we expect the U. S. to appreciate Cuba's right to grant asylum in certain cases. On the other hand, there are still today in Miami multiple terrorists who have escaped or otherwise been freed from Latin American prisons after being convicted of or having admitted to terrible airplane, car, and hotel bombings that killed innocent Cubans, innocent diplomats, innocent Americans on U. S. soil, and innocent tourists in Cuba. I...we...will in no way negotiate a swap of the New Jersey woman for the most famous terrorist in Miami. But in regard to anyone the U. S. thinks we have given unfair asylum to, we will listen to legitimate facts to support their case."
          Question: "The Miami terrorist you reference, we all know, is Luis Posada Carriles. Are you aware of the headlines he made the first weekend after President Obama's announcement?"
          Answer: "Of course, I know. I have been known to read the Miami Herald and watch CNN." {laughs} "Posada last weekend led an anti-Obama protest in Miami and told journalists that, by all means, Cuba can not be allowed to become a tourist attraction. This is from a well-known terrorist who has admitted and never denied bombing a Cuban hotel in which a young Italian tourist was killed, which he claimed was justified to hurt tourism in Cuba. And last weekend, while assailing President Obama, he again advocated any means to curb tourism to Cuba. If you want my reaction, I believe Posada and people like him have evolved into more America's problem than our problem."
             Question: "Into the second week since the announcements by the two Presidents, other than the swap of prisoners, have things really started to change?"
             Answer: "Not much. It's too early for that. But people on this island are excited. They should be. I await upcoming opportunities to see how President Obama implements the changes he has proposed. Any positive will result in positive reactions in Cuba. I assure you of that. I have come to believe he is a good and fair man. I am also aware of the opposition he faces in a Republican Congress. I have lived in America and I love and respect Americans. I believe...a more effective media, or let me say...a more balanced press in the U. S....would benefit the American democracy and fair-intentioned Presidents, such as Mr. Carter and Mr. Obama.
             Question: "Your criticism of the U. S. media is obvious. You mentioned democracy in that context. Are you critical of democracy? Are you saying that there are...aspects of democracy that you do not want in Cuba?"
              Answer: {She laughs} "You are probing for a headline, aren't you? I criticized our press, the Granma newspaper, the other day. It now prints very critical letters-to-the-editor, you know. But Americans, for the most part, don't know anything positive about Cuba. That doesn't speak well for a free press in the U. S. There are many positive things about this island. World media...Caribbean, Latin American, London, Paris, Rome...criticize us but they provide balance by mentioning positives too. That doesn't happen in the U. S. and I think that reflects on the U. S., providing an image that hurts democracy. But, no! I will never criticize the basics of democracy. At the same time, compared to the U. S., crime and drug rates on this island are minuscule, especially compared to the U. S. Do I want more U. S. tourists in Cuba? Yes. Do I want an influx of crime and drugs? No. Do I want a Starbucks on every corner and Walmarts all over the island? Maybe, if they benefit the majority of Cubans and not just the elite. I read in USA Today recently that the U. S., except for a couple of very tiny nations that cater only to the very rich, has the greatest disparity between the rich and the poor...and that disparity continues to grow the most alarmingly in the U. S. I do not want that on this island, but don't make a headline out of that...it's just an opinion. The Scandinavian nations...Norway, Sweden, Finland...stress equality in their superb democracies. They should be role models for America, which long ago was everybody's role model. But Norway, Sweden, Finland...and Cuba...don't want thousands of millionaires and billionaires driving their rich cars around ghettos...or over bridges beneath which destitute, homeless people may be living." {She laughs softly and admonishes the journalists with a wave of her palms} "Remember, no headlines about me bashing democracy or America. But if you can't resist, at least remind your readers that President Castro and the editors at Granma allow me to criticize them."
              Question: "Josefina, could I ask you about...Fidel."
               Answer: "Yes."
           Question: "Some are saying he has not been seen in public since January. What is his health condition now? And Americans are being told that he had no input in these plans to normalize relations. Is that so?"
              Answer: "The leader of the Revolution is 88 years old. In 2006 he almost died from a very serious intestinal illness. He has had excellent care and he is a battler of historic proportions. That being said, physically he is as well as can be expected. Mentally, the Presidents or Prime Ministers of countries who have regularly visited him in his home confirm his intelligence is still off the charts. Regarding Fidel's input in these recent dealings with the U. S., that input has his stamp, both real and implied. He is still Fidel Castro." 
This photo shows Fidel Castro at his last public appearance in January, 2014.
Josefina Vidal confirmed this week that, "He is still Fidel Castro."
        Josefina Vidal this week, in reference to the question about Posada's protest last weekend in Miami about dissuading tourists from visiting Cuba, opined that Posada, at this stage of the game, is more a U. S. problem than a Cuban problem. This AFP/Adalerto Roque photo shows a tourist taking a photo in Havana. Three million tourists visited Cuba in the past year. The U. S. is the only nation in the world that does not allow its citizens to freely visit Cuba. If the embargo is lifted, an additional one million Americans are expected to travel to Cuba. Also, as this photo indicates, the embargo has contributed greatly to decades of declining infrastructures on the island. In post-embargo Cuba, many people would be employed in rebuilding the island, which would require an influx of material that currently is banned by the embargo.
        In Havana this week Josefina Vidal referenced a USA Today article that disclosed, to her mind, a weakness in the U. S. democracy that she does not wish Cuba to inherit. It is the vast disparity between the ultra-rich and everyone else. After a Google search, I believe this is the article she mentioned. Wow! 85 rich people in the world have wealth equal to the poorest 3.5 billion people on a planet of 7 billion people. If this USA Today revelation impressed Josefina Vidal, perhaps it should resonate with Americans too.
       New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was one of the many Republicans in the U. S. who lambasted President Obama's plans to normalize relations with Cuba. Governor Christie, perhaps eyeing his bid for the Presidency in 2016, called for a "killer's return" from Cuba. Josefina Vidal this week addressed that issue from Cuba's perspective, saying Cuba has a right to grant asylum if the island feels it is warranted.
      Joanna Deborah Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur, is the convicted killer Governor Cristie and many other Republicans insist President Obama should get extradited from Cuba before he advances his newly announced Cuban Agenda. In the 1970s Chesimard was a Black Panther. She was convicted of killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973 but escaped from prison in 1979 and resurfaced in Cuba where she was granted political asylum. In 2013 the FBI put her on its Most Wanted Terrorist list; there is a $2 million bounty on her head. She is back in the news as a pawn separating Cuba and the U. S.
      For decades Joanna Chesimard has lived openly in Cuba, with even a listed phone number. She claims she was unfairly stopped on a New Jersey highway and unfairly prosecuted for a murder she did not commit. She says, as a Black Panther, she was targeted by an infamous FBI program known as COINTELPRO. There are many prominent people in the United States who agree with her, including her long-time attorney -- Dr. Lennox Hinds, a respected Law Professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
      Joanna Chesimard, Assata Shakur, has been controversial all of her adult life. That much is well documented. For decades she has been a major pawn in the U.S.-Cuban tug-of-war. Now she is being thrust back into the limelight as possibly a convenient roadblock to President Obama's plans to normalize relations with Cuba. According to Josefina Vidal, Cuba is not likely to bulge on Assata Shakur's asylum.
         Josefina Vidal believes there is doubt surrounding Chesimard but no doubt about terrorists afforded sanctuary in Miami -- most notably the late Orlando Bosch and the now 86-year-old Luis Posada Carriles.
       Numerous de-classified documents such as this one prove that the U. S. government knew about the masterminds of the Cubana Flight 455 bombing within days after the tragic terrorist event occurred. 
Cuba, the Caribbean, and Latin America still can't ignore the fate of Cubana Flight 455.
73 people, including two dozen male and female teenage Cuban athletes, died.
 This mother and sister had waited for Flight 455's arrival. Cubans on the island cry too.
And Cubans on the island still cry over reminders of Cubana Flight 455.
Ignoring those tears has distorted the U.S.-Cuban narrative since October 6, 1976.
        This montage of photos -- Rubio, Rubio, and Rubio -- was used by USA Today to point out that Senator Marco Rubio from Miami led the assault by Cuban-Americans against President Obama's plans to  normalize relations with Cuba. Josefina Vidal this week referenced the assault, which Rubio, in his early campaigning for the 2016 presidency, spent last week seeking out every network camera he could find. There are six Sunday network news programs and Rubio's red tie highlighted each of them. It was not a record. He had set that record some months back. Josefina Vidal this week critiqued the lack of "balance" in the U. S. media, a shortcoming personified by the ubiquitous Senator Rubio, especially considering that the U. S. media seldom balances out Rubio's self-serving Cuba bashing with opposing views, of which there are many. For example, on December 17th after spending a long afternoon watching Rubio's anti-Obama rants saturate his television screen, Jimmy Carter, a man who knows the U. S. and Cuba, was asked by CNN's Anderson Cooper what he thought of Rubio's rants. President Carter replied, "Absolutely ridiculous!"
Knowledgeable observers do not consider Josefina Vidal "absolutely ridiculous." 


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