Tuesday, December 9, 2014

America's Ongoing Cuban Policy

It's More Harmful to U. S. Than to Cuba
Updated: Friday, December 12th, 2014
        President Salvador Ceren of El Salvador is in Cuba receiving urgent medical care. He took ill at a regional summit in Veracruz, Mexico. He was elected President of El Salvador in March of 2014. President Ceren is 70-years-old. His request to fly to Cuba for his critical medical care reflects a Latin American view of Cuba that most Americans simply do not comprehend. Why? Americans need an unbiased perspective on U.S.-Cuban relations if they are to judge things such as why President Ceren is in Cuba this week.
       This AFP photo was taken at a recent news conference in Havana that featured Josefina Vidal, Cuba's key Minister on all things related to the United States. Top international news agencies including London-based Reuters, Paris-based Agence France-Presse, Caracas-based TeleSUR, etc., highlighted the session with headlines such as "Cuba Condemns U. S. Punitive Mentality," in case you want to check what she had to say online. The AFP news agency identified Ms. Vidal as "The Director-General of the United States Department in the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs." Whatever her title, she is the most important person -- in either Havana or Washington -- related to the day-by-day nuances of U.S.-Cuban relations. Moreover, I believe, Ms. Vidal is considered the fairest appraiser of the U.S.-Cuban quagmire in either Havana or Washington. Many of her comments at this news conference -- as reported by AFP, Reuters, TeleSUR, etc., should be of interest to Americans interested in their democracy. Among her comments:
***"The U. S. punitive mentality against Cuba clouds Washington's diplomacy."
***"The United States has not forgiven Cuba for deciding its own path."
***"The punishment philosophy is still running in Washington."
***"Most Americans desire a more sensible Cuban policy."
***"A few revengeful Cubans control America's Cuban relations."
                       ***"But if Havana and Washington are committed to overcome this disagreement, that they have had for more than 55 years, it can be done. As Cuba's top diplomat regarding the United States, I, for one, for Cuba's sake, desire friendly relations with our most powerful neighbor, a neighbor that should be our major friend and trading partner, not our major, or only, enemy. If Americans are disappointed in Cuba's government, they should understand that I, one who has spent much time in the United States, remain keenly disappointed in America and its government that, both now and historically, has treated Cuba in manners totally unrelated to the proud democratic principles that should have, and should be, applied. Recognizing that Cuba is a sovereign country, not an American playpen or piggy-bank, would, I think, be a good place to start. Is it too much to ask that sanity and decency finally applies to our relations?" 
              Note that the final quotation ended with a question mark, not a period. It posed a legitimate question that a democracy should be able to answer. The above comments by Josefina Vidal at a recent news conference in Havana parallel a speech she made at the Kennedy Library in Boston in 2002 when, at a forum that included Caroline Kennedy and many of America's top historians, she was the one that received the standing ovation. In this last month of 2014, now in Havana as Cuba's top official pertaining to American affairs, Josefina Vidal remains the most courageous and the most sensible governmental official involved in U.S.-Cuban relations. Additionally, she is the one significant player working the hardest to normalize a more sensible relationship between the two important neighbors whose hostility adversely affects the entire region. More and more, it is apparent that the U. S. is simply unable or unwilling to produce or allow a diplomat of comparable statue to negotiate freely with Josefina Vidal. That situation might whet the economic and revenge appetites of a few but, for sure, it harms everyone else.
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     This photo, taken by Yenny Munoa, dominated the front page of the Bahamas News Leader Monday -- December 8th, 2014. It shows Prime Minister Freundel Stuart of the Bahamas with Cuban President Raul Castro, who is hosting the 5th annual CARICOM Summit this week. The 15 leaders of the Caribbean nations are there. And, one by one, they have excoriated the United States because of its Cuban policy, which these nations consider hypocritical and harmful to the entire region. In April in Panama, the Summit of the Americas will take place. And there, with President Obama scheduled to be in attendance, the nations of Latin America will also excoriate America's Cuban policy. Panama has begged Cuba to attend the Summit of the Americas because a host of nations have said they will boycott the session if Cuba is not represented. In recent days, the President of Panama has been subjected to official rebukes via official congressional stationery from Cuban-American anti-Castro zealots in the U. S. Congress. The CARICOM Summit began Monday with a sharp denunciation of that assault on sovereignty by a few Cuban-Americans. Prime Minister Stuart called America's Cuban policy, "Senseless, self-inflicted, and unnecessary anti-Americanism designed by a few Cuban-Americans in Congress."
      This AFP/Jorge Luis Banos photo shows the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, sharing a jovial moment with Raul Castro at the start of the CARICOM Summit of Caribbean nations Monday in Havana's Palace of the Revolution. Even before he left Jose Marti Airport upon his arrival, Prime Minister Gaston Brown made this comment: "I call on President Barack Obama to lift that senseless, gutless embargo against our sister nation Cuba. It is, in fact, an affront to every nation in the Caribbean. It reminds all us Caribbeans of forgettable old-time imperialism."
         This photo, courtesy of Trabajadores, shows the start of the 5th annual CARICOM {Caribbean Community} Summit Monday in Cuba's Palace of the Revolution. The 15 leaders of those Caribbean nations are unanimous in their anger over the U. S. treatment of Cuba. They said such unanimity among the Caribbean nations "should register" on the United States, the world's strongest and most famed democracy. 
       The island of Cuba dominates the Caribbean. It is on friendly terms with all of its neighbors, except the nearby United States just to the north. That unique situation is based purely on this historic fact: Cuba is the only Caribbean nation that overthrew a U.S.-backed dictatorship and then suffered the indignity of having the leaders of that ousted dictatorship regroup on U. S. soil beginning way back in January of 1959. In all the decades since, the U. S. Cuban policy has been, for the most part, dictated by the remnants of that overthrown Cuban dictatorship. While Americans are not supposed to agree with that analysis, all the Caribbean nations and all the Latin American nations do agree with it. In fact, so do all the nations around the world, except U. S. dependent Israel, as depicted by the yearly vote in the UN. Yet, the Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas and all other such democracy-loving organizations remain direly concerned about the harm the U. S. Cuban policy does to both democracy and the United States.
 Anthony D. Romero is the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. He was born 49 years ago in the Bronx, New York, and he has received the best educations that Princeton University and the Stanford Law School can provide. Mr. Romero is a liberal Democrat; I am a conservative Republican. But we agree on one thing -- The U. S. Cuban policy. Monday -- December 8, 2014 -- Mr. Romero authored a long Editorial in the New York Times in which he excoriated the U. S. because of its Cuban policy, most notably the cancerous U. S. Military Base at Guantanamo Bay on 45 lush acres the U. S. un-democratically took from Cuba way back in 1903 shortly after the U. S. had wrested dominance of Cuba from Spain in the 1898 Spanish-American War. Mr. Romero laments the image that occupation and the U. S. prison at Guantanamo presents to the region.
       This Kevin Lamarque/Reuters photo was used Monday -- December 8th -- to illustrate the Editorial in the New York Times written by Anthony D. Romero. He wrote: "Before President George W. Bush left office, a group of conservatives lobbied the White House to grant pardons to the officials who had planned and authorized the United States torture programs. My organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, found the proposal repugnant. But with the impending release of the report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I have come to think that President Obama should issue pardons, after all -- because it may be the only way to establish once and for all that torture is illegal. That officials at the highest level of government authorized and ordered torture is not in dispute. Mr. Bush issued a secret order authorizing the CIA to build prisons overseas. The CIA requested authority to torture prisoners in those 'black holes.' The National Security Council approved the requests and the Justice Department drafted memos providing the brutal program with a veneer of legality." This week's Romero-penned Editorial brings to eight the number of Editorials in recent days featured in the New York Times deploring America's Cuban policy. Also on December 8th, yet another glaring New York Times Editorial blared this headline: "Release the Guantanamo Force-Feeding Videos." That Editorial stated: "Americans should be able to see the conditions of detainees at Guantanamo and decide for themselves what is needed to protect human dignity." The U. S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, exacerbated by a U. S. Cuban policy dictated by a few zealous Cuban-Americans in the easily bought-and-paid-for U. S. Congress, overwhelms the Checks and Balances of U. S. Presidents as it also generates anti-American and anti-democracy fervor around the world, especially throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Internationally, the New York Times is America's most influential media outlet. On December 9th the giant newspaper blared an Editorial around the world entitled "The Senate Report on the CIA's Torture and Lies." That long, scathing Editorial began with these exact words: "The world has long known that the United States government illegally detained and tortured prisoners after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and lied about it to Congress and the world. But the summary of a report released Tuesday of the Senate investigation of these operations, even after being sanitized by the Central Intelligence Agency itself, is a portrait of depravity that is hard to comprehend and even harder to stomach. The report raises again, with renewed power, the question of why no one has ever been held accountable." It is a weakness of the U. S. democracy that politically powerful perpetrators of crimes can often hide or classify data that protects them, and often even when incriminating evidence surfaces they remain too rich and too powerful to "be held accountable," as the New York Times references in its editorial. Similarly, a prime weakness of U. S. capitalism permits employees at Wall Street banks to make hundreds of billions of dollars illegally, after which they pay a few billions in fines but never do they have to worry about going to jail, just how they are going to spend their ill-gotten billions after easily paying off the fines. A mother shoplifting food to feed her starving children does not have that luxury. The NY Times Editorial states unequivocally that the Senate-revealed torturers "lied" to Congress. If a normal American did that, their perjury conviction would be swift and harsh. For these reasons, famed whistle-blower Edward Snowden is considered a pariah by the U. S. government but a hero to democracy-lovers who yearn for transparency from their government but all too often are denied easily classified/hidden evidence of questionable or criminal acts. The New York Times Editorial cogently pointed out that the torture in the U. S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was much "worse" than the torture that shocked the world at the U. S. prison in Abu Ghraib, Iraq. The Cuban equation, of course, regularly surfaces when the U. S. government tries to misrepresent or hide facts.
   As expected, the Bush-aligned Cuban-American right-wingers in the U. S. Congress were exceedingly quick to vehemently denounce the Senate's report on the revelations related to the Bush-connected torture scandal. Senator Marco Rubio from Miami, for example, said, "It's just intended to embarrass the Bush administration." Well, Senator Rubio, it does embarrass the Bush administration as well as the Bush political dynasty, and deservedly so. It also embarrasses democracy-loving Americans. And it also embarrasses America's best democracy-loving friends around the world. Senator Rubio, as you so strongly campaign to be the next President of the United States in 2016, it might be appropriate for you to drift a bit to the middle and discard at least some of your blatant right-wing, Cuban-focused partisanship. 
  
  Dilma Rousseff has just been re-elected President of Brazil, the Latin American superpower. She is Cuba's dearest friend; she is not too fond of the U. S. but, of course, acknowledges America's unique economic and military power. Like President Jose Mujica of Uruguay, who made anti-U.S./pro Cuban headlines this week, President Rousseff of Brazil once was tortured in a military prison by a U.S.-backed dictatorship. It is convenient that Americans today know very little of such Uruguayan and Brazilian history, although in modern times it surely has impacted democratic elections throughout the region. President Rousseff made this comment regarding the U. S. occupation of Quantanamo Bay: "Every Caribbean and Latin American nation sincerely believes Quantanamo labels the United States as the region's only imperialist bully. It is surprising to me that there apparently are not enough democracy supporters in the United States to seriously discuss what is right, and what is right is the return of Quantanamo Bay to its rightful owner, Cuba, and if the U. S. wants an unpopular prison in the region, the prison should be on U. S. soil, not Cuban soil. And as for military bases, it has more than enough in Florida and all around the world. Both the prison and the military base at Guantanamo Bay are superfluous and, in the eyes of the world, anti-American."
          The U. S. flag was first posted over Guantanamo Bay in "perpetuity" -- America's word -- in 1903. That dastardly occupation remains an albatross around America's neck to this day, especially since the expensive military base came into existence and, most especially, since the Bush-Cheney administration installed the infamous prison on the base. All other nations in the region believe that, if the U. S. needs such a prison, it should be on U. S. soil, not Cuban soil. Beyond that, all other nations in the region believe that the plush 45 acres of Guantanamo should belong to Cuba, not the powerful United States of America.
        This week -- the first full week of December, 2014 -- the U. S. prison at Guantanamo Bay is back in the world headlines as the U. S. Senate releases its report on U.S.-sanctioned torture. Good Americans, like Secretary of State John Kerry, tried their best to block disclosure of the findings because of the damage that will accrue to America's image and the propaganda America's enemies will derive from it. Yet, the New York Times and most other defenders of democracy believe such reports should see the light of day so "Americans can make proper judgments on their government and its leaders." One problem, many unbiased observers believe, is the apparent fact that this generation of Americans, inexplicably, doesn't care.
     Josefina Vidal is Cuba's very astute and influential Minister of North American Affairs. It is her comments, not those of her U. S. counterparts, that resonate across the width and breadth of the Caribbean and Latin America regarding such things as Guantanamo Bay. She says: "We are David vs. Goliath. But like Celia Sanchez said decades ago, don't give us too much credit for surviving against the nefarious intent of our superpower neighbor. Truth be known, we are not super men or super women on this island. We survive primarily because our superpower neighbor is nothing more or less than an imperialist bully when it comes to Cuba. If most Cubans on this island and most people around the world didn't believe that, America would have easily swallowed up our anti-imperialist revolution years ago. The U. S. policy is wrong, cruel, and out-dated. The other nations in the region and around the world understand that. But as long as the American people are not concerned enough to even weight in on the subject, the chasm between two neighbors that should be best friends will persist -- for at least another six decades and two more generations, I imagine. The insults the U. S. absorbs because of Guantanamo Bay's criminal occupation is self-inflicted, especially the ghastly prison. When the torture photos circled the world a few years ago, the U. S. began what it called a rendition program -- flying prisoners to unsavory foreign nations that tortured them and then supposedly relayed information derived from that process back to the U. S. So, tell me. Does the U. S. government believe that having the prison unfairly on occupied Cuban soil is less of a bad thing than having it on free U. S. soil? Sometimes I wonder if Americans care enough about their government to ask such questions? That wonderment always surprises me."
The moral of this essay:
      From 1953 till she died of cancer in 1980, Celia Sanchez on the island of Cuba had more guts, more intelligence, and more love of sovereignty than all of her enemies -- the Batistianos, the Mafia, and the United States -- possessed collectively. After she masterminded the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, she immediately created {or co-created with fellow rebels Vilma Espin and Haydee Santamariathe two pillars that sustain Revolutionary Cuba to this day -- the block-by-block Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and the Federation of Cuban Women. Of course, Americans are not supposed to comprehend the lasting brilliance of Celia Sanchez because the transplanted Batistianos have effectively controlled the Cuban narrative in the U. S. since 1959. However, even the canniest Batistiano will today not be able to explain why, even hiding behind the unmatched economic and military power of the United States, they have not been able to regain control of the island, an island where Celia Sanchez in 1959 proclaimed: "The Batistianos will never regain control of Cuba as long as I live or as long as Fidel lives." She died at age 59 on January 11, 1980; Fidel is 88 and unwell. How long will her proclamation live after Fidel dies? It remains to be seen.
      But Josefina Vidal -- in the tradition of Celia Sanchez, Vilma Espin, and Haydee Santamaria -- appears today to also be capable of out-smarting and out-fighting her far more powerful adversaries. And like Celia, it appears Josefina has the support of most Cubans on the island, most people in the region, and most people around the world. Thus, the demise of Revolutionary Cuba will probably not occur on the very day the Little Havana section of Miami wildly celebrates the passing of their self-proclaimed boogeyman -- Fidel Castro. Maybe later, but not the very day he dies. The Cuban stalwart, Ms. Vidal, once surprised a Reuters journalist with this comment: "I believe the revolutionary government of Cuba will survive, and it should, at least until regional and world opinion agrees with America's Cuban policy. I know one thing. As long as we have the support of most nations in our region, I will fight to the last breath to protect my country, Cuba, against whatever threatens us, be it small or large."
And by the way.........................
      ........................a hearty congratulations to 21-year-old Caitlyn Ricci {Photo via Facebook}! Caitlyn attended Rowan College in Pennsylvania and she believed her well-to-do parents should have helped pay her expenses. When they didn't, she sued -- AND WON! And guess what? Caitlyn is now attending Temple University in Philadelphia and she has sued her parents for $16,000 to cover what she owes to Temple! Hopefully, she will win that lawsuit too. In the U. S., college students owe bankers over a trillion dollars {yes, trillion with a "t"} on the dreaded capitalistic scheme known as "student loans." Caitlyn Ricci left Rowan College unburdened by student loans and she doesn't plan on having hefty student loan payments when she graduates from Temple University. One day, Caitlyn would make a great Secretary of Commerce on the way to the Oval Office. I bet every American saddled with student loan debts would eagerly campaign and vote for her. Perhaps Caitlyn's generation can gently steer the U. S. government away from one that currently is bought-and-paid for by rich lobbyists, lawyers, and bankers. Go girl! Improve the world. 
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