Cubans Await Normal U.S. Ties

The Island and U. S. Adjust to Detente
Updated: Friday, January 30th, 2015
      This AP/Roberto Carlos Sanchez photo was taken this week {Wednesday, Jan. 28th} at the Summit of the Community of Latin American States in San Antonio de Belen in Costa Rica. It shows Cuba's 83-year-old President Raul Castro addressing the forum and making a very pertinent reference to the detente that Mr. Castro and U. S. President Barack Obama announced to the world on Dec. 17th, 2014. The ongoing detente is attempting to accomplish what many consider the impossible, which is to normalize relations between the two countries. At this week's very friendly forum in Costa Rica, Raul Castro said: "If three problems aren't resolved, this diplomatic re-approachment wouldn't make any sense." He then stated three basic demands:
#1: U.S. must return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba.
#2: U.S. must lift the trade embargo.
#3: U.S. must remove Cuba from its Sponsors of Terrorism list.
       As strong as those three "demands" were this week in Costa Rica, the early word is that key Obama diplomats were not surprised or "taken aback." They realize Mr. Castro was speaking to the choir because all Caribbean and Latin American nations agree with him on those three points. The above photo shows Mr. Obama and Mr. Castro when they met briefly at the Nelson Mandela memorial in South Africa in December, 2013. Raul Castro took advantage with this comment, "Mr. President, we need to have sane relations." It was, many believe, enough to expedite Mr. Obama's efforts in that regard, quickly resulting in secretive but high-level diplomacy at various locales, including Canada. That led up to the December 17th announcements in both countries and then the January 22nd and 23rd diplomatic meetings in Havana. The three points Raul Castro raised in Costa Rica Wednesday will convince pro-embargo zealots that Cuba does not want to normalize relations. That is wrong, of course, just as the U. S. Cuban policy, dating back to 1952 when the U. S. teamed with the Mafia to support the brutal Batista dictatorship in Cuba, has been wrong and just as hurtful to the image of the U. S. democracy as it has been to the island of Cuba.

      This graphic depicts a pugnacious and cute little Cuban schoolgirl proudly toting a Cuban flag while she lets Uncle Sam, the U. S. scrooge, know how she feels about the harsh U. S. embargo. Undoubtedly, she feels just as strongly about the U. S. theft of Guantanamo Bay. And she probably would also like to give Uncle Sam a whack on the noggin for keeping Cuba on its State Sponsors of Terrorism list. And you know what? Every nation in the Caribbean, every nation in Latin America, and every nation in the world {except the U. S. and U.S.-dependent Israel} agrees with her. Go girl!
The fourteen provinces of Cuba
Up, up and away toward Cuba!!
      American Airlines President Scott Kirby has announced that he plans to begin regular flights to Cuba from Miami. Delta, United, JetBlue, and Southwest airlines say that they will compete for such flights. Already American Airlines has about 20 charter flights a week to Cuba. U. S. ports, farm enterprises, and many other American businesses are also mulling ways to benefit from President Obama's plans to create at least a degree of detente with Cuba. Thus, similar daily headlines will occur.
     Fidel Castro has issued a public statement about the ongoing diplomatic efforts of Cuba and the United States to normalize relations. He wrote: "I don't trust the U. S., nor have I exchanged a word with them. But this does not mean I reject a peaceful solution to conflicts. We will always defend cooperation and friendship with all the people of the world, including our political adversaries. My brother Raul has taken the pertinent steps in accordance with his prerogatives and the powers given to him." The statement by the 88-year-old Fidel Castro was first published in Monday's Granma newspaper on the island but then quickly picked up by the international news media.
      The photo above was taken on January 8th of 2014, over a year ago, and is the last time Fidel Castro has been seen in public. He attended an art exhibit in Havana that day. The last photo taken of him in his home was on August 21, 2014 with Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro. In July of 2014 Fidel's son Alex took photos of his father hosting China's President Xi Jinping and Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Castro's home. Fidel's last "Reflections" column was on October 18, 2014 when he wrote about Africa's Ebola crisis. Because he had not been seen in public since January 8, 2014 and not photographed at home since August 21, 2014 and not been published since October 18, 2014, reports surfaced that he had died. A respected Spanish newspaper briefly reported online that he had, in fact, died. That was quickly squashed but not before it predictably set off the latest rounds of celebrations in Miami. He has had three very close calls...the last one was in December...since he almost died back on July 26, 2006 when he was first felled by an omnipotent respiratory illness.
    On Saturday and Sunday of this past weekend {Photo courtesy: AFP} a major sports event took place in Havana. Agence France Presse and other international news organizations gave it front-page headlines. Some 372 athletes from 29 nations took part in the Triathlon as they biked, swam, and ran in a hugely exciting and successful event. The 25 Americans who participated raved about how they were received, with several of them shedding very visible tears as they stood for the U. S. national anthem and then staunchly advocated further U.S.-Cuban detente.  
     Cuba has announced its roster for the upcoming Caribbean Baseball Classic that will be held in Puerto Rico from February the 2nd through the 8th. {Photo: baseballdecuba.com} The Cuban squad headed to Puerto Rico will feature the three right-handed pitchers shown above -- Norge Ruiz, Freddy Asiel Alvarez, and Hector Mendoza. The competition will be stiff from other strong teams -- the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Major League scouts from the U. S. will be on hand to particularly monitor the Cuban and Dominican players. Also, as Cuba realizes, non-baseball scouts will be looking to entice Cuban players to defect as an added bonus, which is to hurt Cuba, and to make money on human trafficking.
    Alfonso Urquiola will be the manager the Cuban team in the Caribbean Baseball Classic next month in Puerto Rico because his Pinar del Rio squad, celebrating above, is Cuba's reigning championship team. {Photo: baseballdecuba.com}.
      Frederich Cepeda, this switch-hitting outfielder, will lead the Cuban squad in the Caribbean World Series the first week of February in Puerto Rico. Last year Frederic led Cuba to the championship in the highly competitive Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz, Mexico. In 2009 Frederich hit a resounding .500 with 3 homers in six games and 24 at bats in the World Baseball Classic. He has been the best player in Cuba in the past decade. He has also seen a plethora of lesser Cuban players defect to the United States with guaranteed contracts in the $70 million range. Cepeda, while playing for Cuba in other countries, has also had numerous opportunities to defect and, for sure, he has had to resist continuing pleas to leave the island for the American Major Leagues and live as a multi-millionaire in the U. S.
      Frederich Cepeda, shown above in his #23 uniform for the Yomiuri Giants in the Japanese Major Leagues, has become a millionaire thanks to his contract in Japan. The Cuban government allows Frederick to play in Japan as long as he promises to return and play for his Cuban team, which is Sancti Spiritus. Frederich has kept that promise out of his love for the island and his family. Cuba has normal relations with every country in the world, except the United States. If, although it's a long-shot, Cuba normalizes relations with the U. S., the extreme recruitment of the island's abundance of baseball talent by the 30 U. S. Major League teams would be drastically altered.
     Josefina Vidal, Cuba's audacious and no-nonsense Minister of North American Affairs, addressed the issue of Cuban baseball last week when she represented Cuba in the historic diplomatic meetings in Havana. So, her thoughts on the topic are pertinent because if, indeed, the U. S. and Cuba are able to normalize relations it can come about not by intimidating her but by reaching accords with her. When the question surrounding "the barrage of $70 million offers from the U. S. to entice Cuban baseball players" came up, here is the way Josefina Vidal addressed the issue:
               "I am aware that this island produces far more great baseball players, far more great doctors, and far more great ballet performers -- per capita -- than the United States can ever hope to produce. That is because, I believe, that Cuba devotes a much bigger portion of its wealth to training such young talent and giving them the opportunity to evolve. I am also aware that extremely rich American entities, such as the 30 Major League baseball teams, can shower defecting Cubans with, as you said, 70-million-dollar guaranteed deals if they defect. That, of course is a lure many cannot resist. Yes, I understand the greed of U. S. baseball teams intent on improving their teams. But, coupled with that, what I most resent is the fact that the other motive -- to hurt Cuba -- comes into play from revengeful criminal elements. Cuban baseball players on the island and when they play in other countries are besieged with offers from both elements -- the rich baseball teams and the criminals who only want to hurt Cuba. But, please understand, those criminals besiege Cuban doctors serving abroad and Cuban ballet stars performing in other countries for two unmistakable reasons -- because we have devoted the most to training baseball players, doctors, ballet stars, and such. The U. S. doesn't really need to recruit Cuban doctors but our doctors serving abroad, whom we have trained totally free, are repeatedly offered obscene bonus dollars to defect because it hurts Cuba. The same with our baseball players, our ballet stars, and others. The Miami Ballet regularly entices Cubans to join the Cubans it has already enticed. The ballet units in New York, San Francisco, London and other cities also desire Cuban stars even more than natives of their own countries, apart from hurting Cuba. But the U. S. allows criminal activity related only to Cubans because it hurts Cuba. As this island's main defender of such policies, I am amazed that the Western Hemisphere's most famed terrorists are anti-Cuban terrorists freely protected and honored in Miami. The special U. S. laws related only to Cuba entice Cubans to risk their lives to touch U. S. soil, in which case they are home free with special privileges not available to people in nations not named Cuba. Lastly, having lived in the United States and to this day closely monitoring the U. S. media, I am aware that the U. S. Congress is totally controlled by anti-Cuban extremists on anything related to Cuba. But what astounds me is that the main U. S. media...newspapers, television news...is either unwilling or unable to tell the truth about relations between our two countries. Americans, I have noticed, are thus unable to judge such things as...well, whether are not a civilian Cuban plane loaded only with innocents, mostly children, should or should not have been blown out of the sky by terrorist bombs, and whether or not such well-known terrorists thrive in the U. S. while the U. S. lists Cuba as a Sponsor, not the victim, of Terrorism. The rest of the world can make such judgments. But not Americans. What does that say about Americans and their love of democracy? Oh, gosh! I'm sorry. I did not mean to ask a question. That's your job. Did I answer your question about Cuban baseball players?"
      Josefina Vidal has a reputation for tirelessly answering questions related to Cuba's relations with America. Karen DeYoung, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalist, made that very point in her coverage of last week's diplomatic meetings in Havana. Ms. DeYoung seemed amazed how "easily" Ms. Vidal confidently detailed her replies in fluent Spanish or English. Other major unbiased and un-intimidated journalists -- such as DeWayne Wickham of USA Today, Sarah Rainsford of the BBC, and Daniel Trotta of Reuters -- have long considered Ms. Vidal the best source for truthful and insightful information regarding U.S.-Cuban relations. She is the single best hope if there is soon to be anything resembling a normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States. For all those reasons, she has emerged, after the Castro brothers, as the most pilloried Cuban by propagandists who benefit from and thus powerfully desire a continuation of hostile relations between Cuba and the United States. Asked about that, she gave Reuters this reply: "I sleep very well at night because I don't fight for dollar bills or to condone criminals who harm Cuban children and then brag in the U. S. media that such things are 'big blows' against Fidel. If that doesn't answer your question, say so and I will gladly explain it further."  

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