Friday, January 30, 2015

The Cuban "Lopsided" Quagmire

Miami & Tampa View Cuba Differently
Updated: Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015
     This photo was released yesterday {February 2nd} in Havana but it was taken last week {January 23, 2015}. It shows the 88-year-old Fidel being shown a newspaper article by Randy Perdomo Garcia, a member of the University Student Federation of Havana. Twenty such photos were released yesterday apparently to show the Cuban people that Fidel is still around. Back in December plans were afoot, yet again, in Miami to prepare for wild celebrations after a respected Spanish newspaper said the Cuban icon had died. In recent weeks, Cubans on the island have been worried.
     This is another of the photos released yesterday but taken in Fidel Castro's home on January 23, 2015. It shows Fidel looking at pictures given to him by Perdomo. Standing between them is Fidel's wife Dalia Soto del Valle. She married him in 1980 shortly after the death from cancer of his soul-mate Celia Sanchez. Dalia is the mother of Fidel's last five sons. He has not been seen outside his home since January 8th, 2014 when he visited an art gallery. There have been, in recent months, persistent rumors that the 88-year-old Fidel had died or was dying. He is, in fact, very ill and the devoted Dalia meticulously decides if and when anyone can visit him. It is known that, in recent months, she has consistently denied such visits even to notable friends that, in the past, routinely visited on short notice. The portent is quite obvious.
 The star-studded Caribbean Baseball Classic got underway yesterday {February 2nd} in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This AP/Ricardo Arduengo photo shows Cuban first baseman William Saavedra losing his bat as he takes a hefty swing. Cuba lost its opener to Mexico 2-to-1. In the other game Venezuela beat Puerto Rico 5-to-2. Today {Tuesday} Cuba plays the Dominican Republic. All these teams except Cuba feature players and top prospects from the U. S. Major Leagues. U. S. superstars from Cuba, of which there are many, are not allowed to play internationally for Cuba, but Cuba's roster does include several players that play professionally in Japan but return home to play in Cuba's professional league.
    Jose Marti was born on January 28th, 1853 in Havana, Cuba. He died on the battlefield fighting the imperialist Spanish army on May 19th, 1895 near Dos Rios, Cuba. He remains a national Cuban hero and an international icon as a sovereignty-loving Cuban patriot, a brave freedom fighter, and acclaimed poet. His birthday was celebrated this week -- January 28th, 2015 -- at the Jose Marti Memorial in Havana's Revolutionary Square. Such events in Cuba more and more indicate that, in future years, if left to their own devices, Cubans will pay such homages to Fidel Castro, the man who actually named Revolutionary Square.
    This Reuters/Alexander Meneghini photo shows Cuban schoolchildren celebrating Jose Marti's birthday on January 28th, 2015 in Havana's Revolutionary Square. It was also, as you can detect, a tribute to the very ill 88-year-old Fidel Castro. If Cuba is still a sovereign nation when he dies, August 13th will likely spawn similar celebrations in Revolutionary Square, which got its name after the triumph of Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959. Fidel Castro was born on August 13th, 1926.
     This Ramon Espinosa/AP photo was taken in a Cuban classroom on December 17th, 2014. The teachers and children had just watched Cuban President Raul Castro's televised announcement that Cuba and the United States, for the first time in over five decades, had agreed to try to normalize relations. Note the euphoria on the face of the little girl in the center. She had reason to be ecstatic, at least for that moment in time. What she didn't realize was that nefarious forces powerful enough to disappoint her and to adversely affect her future had also just heard the very same thing announced at the very same time by the President of the United States.
     While the little Cuban schoolgirl was still celebrating on the island, Senator Marco Rubio was racing before every network television camera he and his aides could find. He repeatedly bragged that he could stop President Obama's plans to normalize relations with Cuba, loudly and boisterously bragging that he was the "upcoming Chairman of the Senate's Western Hemisphere Committee," a hemisphere that includes Cuba. Rubio, a Presidential contender for 2016, has emerged as the leader of the already powerful, visceral, dictatorial Miami-based members of the U. S. Congress. As long as self-serving zealots such as Rubio can dictate America's Cuban policy, the rest of the democracy-loving world will feel sorry for the United States. I also believe they should feel sorry for that little Cuban schoolgirl. She deserves better than Mr. Rubio and so, by the way, does the Senate and the White House.   
    Susan D. Greenbaum is the author of the insightful book "More Than Black: Afro-Cubans in Tampa." Ms. Greenbaum is a Professor emerita at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her book was published by the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. She knows Florida. This week {Jan. 28th} she penned a long, insightful, internationally published article entitled "Florida's Lopsided Cuban Embrace." In the article she tackles the delicate issue concerning the contrasting manner in which the Florida cities of Miami and Tampa view the Cuban conundrum, a quagmire that engulfed Florida after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in the first week of January, 1959. The leading elements of the defeated Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba fled, switching their capital from Havana to Miami for all intents and purposes. But as Ms. Greenbaum astutely pointed out, the migration of Cubans and Afro-Cubans to Tampa many decades prior to Batista's 1952 till 1959 dictatorship shaped Tampa differently than the fleeing Batistianos shaped Miami -- leaving a contrast in how the two major Florida cities view the volatile Cuban issue today. She calls it "Florida's Lopsided Cuban Embrace." I would recommend that you go online and read it. However, instead of taking her words or my words or the Batistiano's words, I believe most of all, when it comes to Cuba, you should use your Google research engine to confirm or deny anything you read or are told about Cuba.
     Recognizing Susan Greenbaum's intimate knowledge of Florida's history, I eagerly studied her January 28th article entitled "Florida's Lopsided Cuban Embrace" in which she contrasted Miami's visceral views of Cuba with Tampa's much more friendly views. Ms. Greenbaum wrote: "Tampa ties to Cuba date back to the late 19th century during Cuba's revolution with Spain." Those Tampa Cubans, she notes, later were strong supporters of Fidel Castro's fight against the Batista dictatorship and then were far more tolerant of Revolutionary Cuba than Miami's Cubans. Miami, unlike Tampa, was overwhelmed by remnants of the Batista-Mafia regime that, for two generations since 1959, have frantically tried to regain control of the island or seek revenge against it. Ms. Greenbaum wrote: "Although both Tampa and Miami have large Cuban populations, prospects for business with Cuba are obstructed by a handful of powerful Cuban exiles who wield outsize political influence. It is thus other ports and cities with far less connection to Cuba that stand to reap the largest benefits of the changing relationship between the two countries." She referenced the major ports of Norfolk and New Orleans as examples of cities that would take advantage of Florida's "lopsided" Cuban perspectives. Ms. Greenbaum began her article with this paragraph: "The warming of relations with Cuba would appear to be uniquely good for Florida. It is the state closest to Cuba, with the country's largest Cuban population and the largest history of trade and immigration with the island nation. But it also faces major obstacles in reviving this legacy. Two cities, Miami and Tampa, show why. But...even in Tampa an extremist minority has stifled the promise of better relations and a more prosperous future." {While Miami received the bulk of the Batistiano exiles, Mafia kingpin Santo Trafficante Jr. and a few other top Batistiano leaders fled Havana for the safety of Tampa, where Trafficante Sr. and Jr. were Mafia kingpins for decades both before and after Trafficante Jr. teamed with Batista in Cuba}.
This map shows Havana southwest of Miami and due south of Tampa.
       This photo is courtesy of Eric Barton. It shows a band in the main terminal of Tampa's main airport touting flights back and forth to Cuba, emphasizing Tampa's traditional friendliness towards the island.
           In stark contrast to the Tampa Airport strongly soliciting business to and from Cuba, study the above photo. It shows Vivian Mannerud, the President of a very successful company -- Airline Brokers Company, Inc. -- in the Coral Gables-Miami area. Vivian flew Americans, mostly Cuban-Americans, from Miami to Cuba.
       This photo shows Vivian Mannerud in April of 2012 the morning after she learned that her company had been totally bombed out of business. Similar fates, of course, had befallen other such businesses in the Miami area -- Marazul Charters, Maira and Family Services, etc. -- that dared to do business with Cuba, including businesses that were mostly serving Cuban-Americans. Vivian Mannerud told me that, "not surprisingly," she is "not at all pleased" with how the destruction of her business was investigated.
          Kathy Castor was born in Miami but she represents Tampa in the United States Congress. And she indeed represents the best interests of the people in the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg area, not the best interests of a few who seek revenge against Cuba or a few who personally benefit economically and/or politically from hostility towards Cuba. Ms. Castor has bravely taken Tampa-area entrepreneurs to Cuba to enhance their chances of beneficially engaging in legal business with the island. In the halls of Congress, where right-wingers dictate America's harsh Cuban policy, Congresswoman Castor bravely stands up and tries her best to inject a measure of decency, fairness and sanity into America's flawed Cuban policy.
   Like Congresswoman Kathy Castor, U. S. Senator Marco Rubio was born in Miami. But there the similarity ends. Ms. Castor advocates a sane, decent Cuban policy that would benefit the vast majority of her constituents; Mr. Rubio, like five other visceral members of the U. S. Congress from Miami, advocates a harsh, indecent Cuban policy, apparently because it benefits his cash-filled PACS and his presidential ambitions. {In the aforementioned article by Susan Greenbaum entitled "Florida's lopsided Cuban Embrace," she mentioned the contrasts between Castor and Rubio to emphasize the contrast between Tampa and Miami when it comes to Cuba. Also, Ms. Greenbaum referenced the bombing of Ms. Mannerud's business with these exact words: "In April 2012 arsonists struck the Coral Gables office of Airline Brokers, the main conduit for legal flights to Cuba."}.
       Perhaps to many the most gripping part of Susan Greenbaum's article "Florida's lopsided Cuban Embrace" was her stark account of the Bush dynasty's indelible ties to the most radical anti-Castro zealots in Miami. Ms. Greenbaum referenced 2002 -- when George W. Bush was President and Jeb Bush was Governor of Florida. She mentioned an episode when "both Bush brothers were ramping up opposition to Cuba." At the time, Alberto Fox, "a respected Tampa Democrat," had created the Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation. He worked with the then Tampa Mayor Dick Greco to take Tampa business people, including the Chairman of the Tampa Chamber of Commerce, to the island on what were exciting and promising trips. The "pragmatic Greco" then naively requested help from Governor Jeb Bush to facilitate more such friendly and beneficial missions from Tampa to Havana. Ms. Greenbaum wrote: "All who went to Cuba were buoyed by the possibilities and eager to move forward. Greco contacted his friend Jeb Bush, who squashed his enthusiasm with menacing threats conveyed indirectly by a scary Cuban exile." Ms. Greenbaum opined that the dire threat imparted to Mr. Greco by the  "scary Cuban exile" that apparently had close ties to Governor Bush has had "long-term consequences" from that "scary" day in 2002 till this very day. 2002, the year referenced by Ms. Greenbaum, was the second of George W. Bush's eight years as U. S. President and the third of eight years as Florida Governor for Jeb Bush. In other words, they both had many years left to appoint and otherwise align with anti-Cuban extremists to bring the island of Cuba to its knees.
     In the late 1980s Jeb left his family mansions in Massachusetts and Texas for Miami. When a reporter for the Miami Herald asked him why, he said, "to get rich." He was already rich because of his grandfather Preston and his father George H. W. Bush. So, apparently he wanted to "get rich" on his own by taking advantage of his last name. Any google search of Jeb's early "get rich" years in Miami would reveal his highly controversial real estate deals with highly controversial Cuban-Americans. But an even better way to get rich in Miami, it seems, was entering politics. He did, as Campaign Manager for Havana-born Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, one of Miami's all-time most visceral anti-Castro zealots. This photo shows Campaign Manager Jeb Bush celebrating Ros-Lehtinen's 1989 election to the U. S. Congress from Miami. And 27 years later, she's still there and still one of the most anti-Castro zealots on the planet. That 1989 Ros-Lehtinen election elevated Jeb to his two-terms as Florida's governor. In the decade since his political term ended in Florida, Jeb has gotten much, much richer. Now at age 61 he easily has the billion-plus dollars from rich Republicans to aim at the Presidency in 2016. Of course, once he made that decision Jeb first of all resigned from a host of lucrative but, uh, politically damaging corporate deals. You may want to google those deals.
         Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio -- two peas in one pod that were both prominently mentioned in Susan Greenbaum's article this week -- are both campaigning hard for the presidency in 2016. Jeb is the favorite because he has the most money. But Marco is catching up; he had a very successful western trip last week to beg the billionaire Koch brothers for a bundle of their millions. Charles Krauthammer, the renowned nationally syndicated journalist and Fox pundit, has said that if he had to wage money in Las Vegas on the presidential race, he would bet on Marco. Regardless, as a lifelong democracy-loving conservative Republican, permit me to simply say this: If either Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio ever becomes President, it will signify that the Batistianos have captured the United States of America before they re-captured Cuba.
       And study this AP Photo. It shows the Havana-born Ileana Ros-Lehtinen paying homage to her mentor Jeb Bush, He, remember, was her Campaign Manager when she was elected to the U. S. Congress from Miami in 1989. Still there, she was the first of six anti-Castro zealots from Miami who have, essentially, been allowed to dictate America's Cuban policy since the 1980s. The only checks-and-balances related to Cuba come from the Executive Branch, the Presidency, but only when Democrats are in the White House. Jeb's last name was his entry into politics but his move to Miami in the late 1980s to align with the Cuban-exiles was his smartest political move, largely thanks to the fact that the nefarious aspects, for the most part, remain unknown to the general public, including those who cast their votes without bothering to use their google search engines. While Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen was Jeb Bush's protege, Marco Rubio, a fellow Cuban-American, was Ros-Lehtinen's protege and worked for her. Interestingly enough, Ros-Lehtinen has already said she will favor Jeb over Marco in their bids for the Republican presidential nomination. That is not a surprise to anyone who has even a basic comprehension of the Bush dynasty's stunning connection to Miami's most anti-Castro community. Robert Parry, the great investigative journalist for the Associated Press, Newsweek, etc., wouldn't be surprised by this photo nor by Ros-Lehtinen's presidential choice. Ask him. {Google "Robert Parry" or his superb ""}
And by the way................  
      .......Susan Greenbaum's article about the lopsidedness of Tampa-Miami and Castor-Rubio when it comes to Cuba reminds me of the above photo. It was taken in 1956 in Tampa. Fidel had spent two years in a Batista prison and when he got out he needed money to continue his revolution. This photo, which he autographed, shows some of the cash he got in Tampa. He got lots more in New York City and Mexico City before arriving back in Cuba in December of 1956 to hook up with Celia Sanchez in the Sierra Maestra to resume his revolution to topple Batista. It was the historic event that predicated a lot of things, including this week's article by Susan Greenbaum.
 Castro's trek from Mexico to Sierra Maestra to Havana.
And by the way #2..............
   ........someone said these were the nine most vicious anti-Cuban zealots in the U. S. Congress. But...they just look like lions to me, probably just heading out to lunch.

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