Saturday, April 18, 2015

Celia Sanchez's Cuba

As Opposed to Fulgencio Batista's Cuba
Updated for: Sunday, April 19th, 2015
     Although Americans are not supposed to know it, a petite doctor's daughter named Celia Sanchez -- "The Flower of the Cuban Revolution" -- was by far the most important player in the Cuban Revolution. In Cuba's Revolutionary War and then in Revolutionary Cuba, she stands alone as the top recruiter of rebels and supplies, a fearless guerrilla fighter, and the only revolutionary decision-maker that routinely over-ruled Fidel Castro, her primary disciple. Her greatest contribution to Cuba and to history was kicking the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship off the island and then laying down parameters that have, for almost six decades, kept them from recapturing the island, even with the financial and military aid of the superpower United States. As the prime decision-maker in Revolutionary Cuba in 1960, she proclaimed, "The Batistianos will never regain control of Cuba as long as I live or as long as Fidel lives." She died of cancer in 1980 but Fidel Castro still lives, and does her proclamation. Americans are not supposed to know either her iridescent significance or her actual existence because the Batistianos she chased out of Cuba have, since 1959, controlled the Cuban narrative from safe havens in the U. S. Unable to vilify the child-loving doctor's daughter, the Batistianos choose to re-write Cuban history where the all-time greatest female revolutionary is concerned. That being said, it was interesting this week -- in the middle of April, 2015 -- that England's top newspaper -- The Guardian -- made prominent mention of another contribution Celia Sanchez made to Cuba and to history -- Coppelia Ice Cream!!
        England's top newspaper, The Guardian, used this Lisette Poole photo to illustrate an article this week entitled "Cuba's Ice-cream Cathedral." Written by Jason Matlagh, is also illustrated the difference between Celia Sanchez's Cuba and Fulgencio Batista's Cuba. Typically, this "ice-cream cathedral" in Havana's Vedado neighborhood was fully occupied with a mix of Cubans and tourists. It is, after all, the flagship branch of Cuba's famed Coppelia Ice-cream Parlor. As Mr. Matlagh points out, Coppelia ice-cream was one of Celia Sanchez's gifts to the Cuban people "right after rebel forces ousted Fulgencio Batista, a U.S.-backed dictator who turned Havana into a playground for the Mafia." The insightful article gave Celia Sanchez full credit for creating the ice-cream parlors and pointed out that "she named it Coppelia after her favorite ballet." Since the 1960s, Coppelia ice-cream has been thoroughly enjoyed by Cubans and by tourists. I am also reminded that such frankness by the British press is routine but the America media seems to want Americans to believe that Batista was a veritable Mother Teresa-type, not "a U.S.-backed dictator who turned Havana into a playground for the Mafia." I suppose that lie is designed to justify Cuban exile-fueled antagonism against the island from 1959 till this month of April, 2015. Of course, in addition to Coppelia ice-cream, Celia Sanchez -- the most important revolutionary in defeating the Batista dictatorship -- also quickly, beginning in 1959, gifted the island with such still-vibrant things as the block-by-block Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and The Federation of Cuban Women, positive features that have contrasted quite sharply with the Batista-orchestrated brutality heaped on Cuban women and children.
         The Guardian used this Lisette Poole photo to illustrate a typical Coppelia table.
          This Lisette Poole photo for The Guardian shows a young Cuban couple leaving the Coppelia Ice-cream Parlor. Americans are told that Cubans exist on about $18 per month. All Cubans get a small monthly stipend but they are also guaranteed free educations through college, free health care for life, free food if needed, and free shelter when needed. Many Cubans actually work and many also receive financial help from relatives living abroad. I have traversed the island, making it a point to live with everyday Cubans. I never met one that wasn't friendly to Americans and I never met one existing on $18 a month. That myth is the product of Cuban exiles who have succeeded in denying everyday Americans the freedom to travel to Cuba, apparently so they can distort the island to perpetuate their own financial and political agendas.
Celia Sanchez
May 9th, 1920 -- January 11, 1980
       This AFP/Getty Images photo was taken this week in Celia Sanchez's Cuba. It shows a young Cuban man wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with an image of U. S. President Barack Obama. Polls show that Mr. Obama has an 80% approval rating among Cubans. They are enamored of him with reason; he has shown more guts and integrity concerning Cuba than the ten previous U. S. presidents since the 1950s, and he has done so while confronting a cowered right-wing U. S. Congress in which Cuban policy is dictated by six vicious and self-serving Cuban-Americans. By the way, two U. S. polls this week revealed that the U. S. Congress has an 11% approval rating in the U. S. and that, apparently, is the 11% that have bought-and-paid for it.
      This photo shows Cuban President Raul Castro in a sit-down meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City. Note the smirky, holier-than-thou smile on Harper's face. The leaders of 35 nations were in Panama and Harper was the only one who showed disrespect for Cuba. When he met Raul Castro, the Canadian press was not notified and the only photo was released by Cuba. Harper is an unabashed right-wing conservative who, at age 55, has been Canada's Prime Minister since 2006. He had earlier sided with the George W. Bush administration to form a two-man forum that kept Cuba from attending the previous Summit. With the pragmatic and decent Mr. Obama now the U. S. President, Harper is the only one of the 35 leaders in the Americas exercising an archaic right-wing view of Cuba. Over a million Canadians visit the island each year, almost 40% of the overall total tourists, but their leader represents the randomness of right-wing zealots who continue to make life very difficult for innocent Cubans.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Let Cuba Be Cuba

So America Can Be America!!
{Updated: Thursday, April 16th, 2015}
        As he promised Cuban President Raul Castro last weekend in Panama at the 7th Summit of the Americas, U. S. President Barack Obama this week -- April 14th, 2015 -- proposed to remove Cuba from the U. S. State Department's Sponsors of Terrorism list. The U. S. Congress now has 45 days to block that move but it is unlikely that, even in an easily malleable and readily purchased Congress, Cuban-American zealots can amass enough veto-proof votes. Mr. Obama's decision is a necessary step towards thawing U.S.-Cuban relations that have been, to say the least, icy for decades. Cuba was first put on the terrorism list in 1982 by the Reagan-Bush administration and kept there ever since by the Bush dynasty, Cuban-American extremists, and the U. S. Congress. Such enmity towards Cuba has very sharply and adversely affected America's respect and influence throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Mr. Obama's action yesterday is the bravest and most decent thing any American President has risked since 1959, and there will, for sure, be repercussions. There remains in the U. S. an ultra-powerful Cuban-American contingent, always bolstered by easily acquired sycophants in the Congress, that will thwart most of what President Obama plans to accomplish related to Cuba, but his bravery and decency, in a world often intimidated by powerful miscreants, crowns and targets him as America's bravest and most decent President since the 1950s.
The handshake in Panama paved the way for Tuesday's announcement.
      Josefina Vidal, Cuba's powerful and highly respected Minister of North American Affairs, made Cuba's official response to President Obama's decision to remove Cuba from the Terrorist list. Her exact statement: "The Cuban government recognized the fairness made by the President of the United States to eliminate Cuba from a list it never should have been included on, especially considering our country has been the victim of hundreds of acts of terrorism that have cost 3,478 lives and maimed 2,099 citizens."
       Both Reuters and the AP Tuesday quoted Cubans across the island as welcoming the gesture from President Obama declaring that Cuba should not be on the terrorist list. The girl on the left said, "We love peace, not terrorism." The girl on the right said, "We have never been terrorists and the U. S. knows it."
     Dana Milbank is a top columnist for the Washington Post and I believe he penned the best out of what has been a multitude of recent articles related to U.S.-Cuban relations, especially since Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro went on television in their countries on Dec. 17-2014 to announce attempts to normalize relations, and particularly since last week's Obama-Castro camaraderie in Panama. Mr. Milbank earned the top spot, maybe even a Pulitzer Prize, with his column entitled "Marco Rubio Fury Over the Cuba Shift Shows Why Obama Made the Right Move." If you Google that literary masterpiece, you, of course, can decide for yourself what makes it Pulitzer-worthy but, in my opinion, Mr. Milbank has done the best job of explaining the ridiculousness of the Cuban-American extremists who insist on dictating America's Cuban policy to whet their appetites for revenge, wealth, and politics at Cuba's expense and democracy's expense.
    The aforementioned Dana Milbank column reached its zenith when he mentioned that Senator Marco Rubio, one of Miami's multiple Cuban-American contributions to the U. S. Congress, went into rages about President Obama's plans to challenge the Cuban-exile dominance of America's Cuban policy. When Mr. Rubio was reminded that polls showed the majority of people, including Cuban-Americans, favored correcting America's failed and flawed relations with Cuba, Mr. Milbank quoted Mr. Rubio as raging, "I don't care if the polls say that 99 percent of the people believe we should normalize relations in Cuba. I don't care if 99 percent of people in polls disagree with my position. This is my position." For many, many decades America's Cuban policy has been designed solely to benefit a few miscreants -- Americans, Cubans, Cuban-Americans and Mafiosi -- while harming everyone else. Since the 1950s, and especially since the first day of January in 1959 when the Batista-Mafia leaders were chased back to the U. S. by the Cuban Revolution, the sheer impunity with which the Batistianos, aligned with sycophants such as the Bush dynasty, have dictated U.S.-Cuban relations shames both the United States and democracy.
        You may or may not agree with Dana Milbank's column entitled: "Marco Rubio Fury Over the Cuba Shift Shows Why Obama Made the Right Move." That is your prerogative. You may or may not vote for Marco Rubio to be President of the United States in 2016. That is your right too. But I believe that you should agree that even a Senator from Miami, and certainly a President of the United States, should be respectful of what "99 percent" of Americans desire. Instead of blissfully riding the coattails of the Tea Party, the Bush dynasty, Fox News, and South Florida billionaires like the Fanjul brothers and Norman Braman, Mr. Rubio should be held accountable for such things as permitting his bio to claim his parents fled the Castro tyranny in Cuba for Miami when, in reality, they fled the Batista tyranny in Cuba for Miami. And for sure, Mr. Obama should be held accountable for so boldly stating that the views of "99 percent" who oppose him on a particular issue don't count. The views where 1% percent dictate to 99% percent is not what the United States is all about, at least it wasn't prior to 1959. As Dana Milbank's column opined, President Obama evoked Rubio's "fury" by trying to inject a majority viewpoint into the enigmatic U.S.-Cuban equation.
      Even in a presidential campaign in which young fledgling Cuban-American right-wing radicals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are official candidates, U.S.-Cuba Relations should not be a major factor in the race for the White House. America should allow Cuba to be Cuba because the U. S. democracy should not be tarnished by either out-dated imperialism or unacceptable mafiosi traces. And besides, the United States has a plethora of problems not related to Cuba. For example...........................................

       ...........this photo depicts a memorial service held recently in Denver. The girl in the white dress was Jessica Hernandez. Alone in her car, she was shot to death by policemen. She was unarmed. Three shots fired by two Denver policemen killed her. Never heard of Jessica? That may be because the national news media in the United States has become so saturated with many other instances of minority Americans being gunned down by police it is understandably hard to keep account. I mention Jessica's death, and such seemingly unending violent mayhem in the U. S., not to condemn policemen in the United States because, for sure, their job evokes danger and split-second decisions. But in particular Jessica's fate reminded me of a recent comment made by Josefina Vidal, Cuba's Minister of North American Affairs, who, by the nature of her work, is an expert on all things Cuban and American. Ms. Vidal apparently read the Denver Post coverage of Jessica's death because she mentioned it at a news conference: "I can't believe the American people put up with that. Since the revolution, Cuba has not put up with it." {4 Photos: Andy Gross/Denver Post}
     Death is final and irretrievable. These young friends of Jessica truly understand that although they don't comprehend exactly why it happened. They are holding a candle-light vigil at the spot where Jessica died and they are wearing Jessica T-shirts to honor their friend. Unnatural deaths, especially young people, should not happen and, if they do, they should be thoroughly and fairly investigated. In the United States, a lot of politicians continually rave about problems in Cuba, which is almost devoid of crime. They should, perhaps, rave a bit more about problems in their own country, at least before they throw deadly stones or lethal hand grenades at other countries.
       Young people who die unnatural deaths are remembered for happier times, like this photo of Jessica on Christmas Day 2013 when she visited Santa wearing her University of Nebraska jacket to show that she was a huge "Cornhusker" fan.
        The family of Jessica Hernandez, as this graphic indicates, was not pleased with the explanation of her death as provided by the Denver Police Department. That parallels the often-televised thoughts of many other American families. Mentioning Jessica Hernandez is not a condemnation of Denver, a beautiful city, or America, a great nation. But it is a condemnation of holier-than-thou propaganda casting aspersions on others while, perhaps, the propagandists should first be staring at a mirror and then looking inward at themselves. It was the above graphic about Jessica Hernandez that reminded me of a persistent point that Cuba's Josefina Vidal makes, a point that resonates throughout Latin America but not in sacrosanct America.
       No, young people should not die and if they do because of unnatural and unnecessary causes it should be investigated fairly. Young friends of young victims know that death is final but that's sometimes all they know. Take, for example, this young girl and her mother. They are Cubans. On Oct. 6-1976 they were waiting at Jose Marti Airport in Havana for the return of Cubana Flight 455 that had carried two dozen teenage Cuban athletes to Caracas, Venezuela, to participate in a Central American tournament. When this photo was taken, this girl and her mother had just been told that Cubana Flight 455 had crashed into the ocean and all 73 souls on board had perished. One of those souls had belonged to the beloved son and brother of this mother and sister. The mother had worried about the flight, as all mothers do. But the girl had not. Girls her age, unless it confronts them directly, don't think about such things. Although it was a Cuban civilian airplane, both the victims and the families of the deceased deserved a thorough and fair investigation. But it occurred during a period -- from 1959 into the year 2015 -- when well-trained Cuban-exile terrorists, acting with impunity from U. S. soil or U. S. embassies or military bases in Latin America, believed terror acts against Cuba were fully justified because they would hurt or overthrow Fidel Castro. Indeed, in Miami after word spread about the Cubana Flight 455 disaster, the most resounding declaration broadcast by the Miami media was: "It's the biggest blow yet against Castro!" Not exactly. While to this day Americans know little about Cubana Flight 455 or its significance, such terrorism against innocent Cubans helps explain such things as...Fidel Castro is 88-year-old and his soon-to-be legacy will impact Latin America for decades to come; and it helps explain why all Caribbean and Latin American nations today strongly oppose the U. S. embargo against Cuba, an island viewed as a victim of terrorism as opposed to being a perpetrator.
      The 73 victims of Cubana Flight 455, such as the young girl in the lower-left, have been forgotten in the U. S. but remain very much unforgotten throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. The young Cuban girl waiting at the airport on Oct. 6-1976 is now a woman. She hasn't forgotten. And, from time to time, newspapers and magazines throughout the Caribbean and Latin America still tell their readers about the first civilian airplane ever downed by terrorists in the Western Hemisphere.
     As confirmed by realms of de-classified U. S. documents, the U. S. within hours was well aware of the Cuban-Americans involved in the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 and other such anti-Cuban endeavors. Many in the Caribbean and Latin America cringed at the nexus of Oct. 6-1976 with Dec. 18-2014. On December 17-2014 President Obama announced grandiose plans to normalize relations with Cuba. On December 18-2014, the next day, the Cuban-American who will forever be tied to the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 led an anti-Obama rally in the streets of Miami. Americans are not supposed to understand that paradoxical nexus, but millions of people in the Caribbean and Latin America completely understand it.
      There are Cuban experts and there are American experts. But, for sure, there is no expert in this world who knows as much as Josefina Vidal knows about both Cuba and America. She knows about America's unique greatness and, as indicated by this photo, some of her heroes are Americans. But as a prime protector of Cuba's sovereignty, she also knows about "the darkness that courses through all that American goodness -- Batista, the Miami Mafia...Cubana Flight 455..." She believes the Cuban Revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship on the first day of 1959 was spawned not only by American greed and American imperialism but by "the counter-productive murders of young Cubans, murders that were intended to support all that American greed and imperialism on a perceived helpless island."
    Indeed there are countless black-and-white photos of the female marches that spawned the Cuban Revolution. Brave Cuban mothers took to the streets to protest the gruesome murders of their children, murders aimed at warning the Cuban people not to resist the wholesale thievery taking place on the island by Batistianos, Mafiosi, and U. S. businessmen. Such outrage as displayed here convinced Fidel Castro that...hey!..."with the total support of the female half of the population, we can win!"
       The street marches continued, especially when Fidel Castro was in a Batista prison from 1953 till 1955. The Cuban madres {mothers} didn't like the asesinatos {murders} of their hijos {children and brothers}. Had there been no such murders in Batista's Cuba, Fidel Castro would probably have been a lawyer in Santiago de Cuba and the Batistianos would still be totally in charge of the nearby island of Cuba.
    Women not only marched to tell the world what was happening in Batista's Cuba, women were the fiercest revolutionary guerrilla fighters. Study the expression, as they marched to battle, on the faces of Cuba's two greatest female warriors -- Haydee Santamaria and Celia Sanchez. In order for Batista to remain in control of Cuba, he would have had to kill women like Haydee and Celia...and he couldn't kill them all.
       This photo shows Cuban female guerrilla fighters riding into Havana right after they had chased the Batistianos and the Mafiosi to safer havens, especially the U. S. cities of Miami and Union City. On the left in this photo is the legendary Tete Puebla. Barely in her teens, she became a do-or-die warrior in the Sierra Maestra against Batista soldiers. Her inspiration: She had seen Batista's Masferrer Tigers come into her village and burn people to death in a locked shed and a gas-soaked gunny sack.
     This is General Tete Puebla today. She is a General in the Cuban army. She is still inspired. She is a kind lady but be gentle if you ask her about the Masferrer Tigers.
     Rolando Masferrer, the ruthless leader of Batista's Masferrer Tigers, chose not to hang around and fight Tete Puebla's all-female unit that was charging toward Havana in the closing hours of 1958. Masferrer reportedly escaped Havana on his getaway boat with at least $10 million in cash. He quickly resurfaced in Miami as the head of his anti-Castro paramilitary unit that got additional funding from the U. S. government, Mafia kingpin Santo Trafficante Jr., and Jimmy Hoffa, among others. Masferrer called his Miami militants the 30th of November unit. Also, it was well-known that Masferrer extorted money from Cubans in Miami "to help finish Castro." But, like other anti-Castro paramilitary units, Masferrer had no trouble with the authorities although his terrorist activities against Cuba were known to all. Masferrer was born in Holguin, Cuba in 1918. A car-bomb killed Masferrer in Miami on Oct. 31, 1975 when he turned the ignition in his car at his home. Car bombs were a specialty in Miami for years, many never seriously investigated. But it is believed that Masferrer was killed by rivals who, like him, had lofty visions of being the next leader of Cuba as soon as they could get rid of Castro and use their U. S. support to recapture the nearby island.
      This photo was taken by the legendary Cuban photographer Alberto Korda on May 1, 1960 -- barely a year after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. It highlights reminders that Cuban women, after the revolutionary war, remained at the forefront of the island's defense, making sure that the Batistianos like Masferrer and the Mafiosi such as Traffcante did not regain control of the island. In April of 2015 General Puebla and Minister Vidal are continuing the tradition of Cuban women defending Cuba.
      Therefore today -- in April of 2015 -- I believe it is fitting that a dedicated and determined Cuban woman, Josefina Vidal, is at the forefront of defending Cuba against threats poised off her shores. The murder of 17-year-old unarmed Jessica Hernandez by three police bullets in Denver, on the heels of many other such events recently in the U. S., elicited this thought from Josefina Vidal: "I believe Cuba is one of the safest places in the world today. Apart from the war-torn places around the world...Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Libya, and the like...American newspapers constantly remind me how unsafe U. S. cities are, even from police attacks. Therefore, I wish Americans would find it strange that so much of their tax dollars are being spent to create turmoil and dissidence on Cuban streets where otherwise there would be no turmoil or dissidence, or at least very little. Heaven forbid if a Cuban soldier or policeman even accidentally bumped someone and knocked them down and some U.S.-paid dissident got it on film and sent it to Cuban agitators in the U. S. Congress or to that channel...what is it, Fox? If so, I guess they would cease all other activity for three weeks while they were encouraging the U.S. government to attack Cuba for such a human rights violation. Are unwarranted police shootings human rights violations? I think so. I also think if a Cuban policeman intentionally bumps an innocent, unarmed person on the arm just for meanness, it is a human rights violation. The Hernandez girl in Denver? Such a thing would be an anomaly in Cuba. I want that always to be so. And I think those U. S. tax dollars aimed at creating havoc where it does not exist on this island is a ludicrous distortion of how U. S. tax dollars should be spent. Moreover, I think the rest of the world, in this digital-Smart Phone age, now understands all that."


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Plain-talking Cuban

With Omnipotent Power
       Rodrigo Malmierca is Cuba's Trade and Foreign Investments Minister. On the island he is a decision-maker, not a figurehead with a title. Thus, his official comments Monday on the eve of this week's Summit of the Americas in Panama should be heeded because his timing was not coincidental and his authority signals that his words should be heeded. First off, he made it plain that "the historic rapproachment with the United States, while it has progressed, will depend on actions not yet taken by the United States." Malmierca was talking about two areas that the U. S. needs to more seriously confront: {1} Removing Cuba from the U. S. State Department's Sponsors of Terrorism List; and {2} frankly discussing with Cuba the return of the Cuban port Guantanamo Bay to Cuba. If President Obama is "unable or unwilling" to address those two areas, Cuba is not ready to jump "headfirst" into normalizing relations with its superpower neighbor. On Monday, Malmierca also said that Cuba must be allowed to have access to the dollar currency in trade relations. He said, "President Obama has now taken steps in the right direction but the measures he ordered are incomplete and insufficient, and do not change the essence of the unilateral measures taken by the U. S. government against Cuba. Beyond traditional goods like rum and tobacco, there are others of excellent quality that can be included in this possible exchange, such as biotechnology products." Malmierca said trade relations with the United States will be "welcomed" but the U. S. will not be accorded "special privileges." He believes the billion-dollar upgrade of the deep-water Mariel Port, 28 miles southwest of Havana, will provide Cuba with a "regional shipping hub that can handle over a million containers each year." Mexico and China are among the countries already investing in the Industrial Park that is a part of the Mariel Port while Cuba has also received about 300 other international offers. Malmierca says, "Cuba's survival as a sovereign nation is a fact. Prosperity is more problematic but it is possible in the near future, with or without U. S. support."
   When Rodrigo Malmierca speaks, Cuba's most astute friends and foes listen. He is a guiding force in the last years of the Castro rule on the island and he will be an important factor in post-Castro Cuba. He believed in the Revolution and he believes the transition to a post-Castro Cuba should forever bear "the revolutionary stamp." Malmierca was born in Havana 58 years ago. He graduated from the University of Havana in 1980. He is married with two children. He speaks fluent Spanish, English, French, and Portuguese. He has been Cuba's well respected ambassador to Belguim, the European Union, and Luxembourg. He was also Cuba's representative at the UN from 2002 to 2009. Since then he has been a key to the island's economic and political survival. In the next decade, Rodrigo Malmierca will be one of Cuba's most powerful forces. Some important Americans expect him to one day be Cuba's Ambassador to the United States but most important Cubans believe he will be more valuable as a top leader and decision-maker at home on the island in the tumultuous years that loom so ominously on the Cuban horizon.
       President Barack Obama has been very bold in trying to deal with the codified excesses of the ultra-powerful, self-serving Cuban lobby that dictates America's Cuban policy from its entrenched position in the United States Congress. However, he needs to be much bolder. President Obama very badly wants a U. S. embassy in Havana and he hopes, this week at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, the leaders of the other 34 nations will treat him kindly because of his attempts to normalize relations with Cuba, something strongly desired by all of America's Caribbean and Latin American neighbors. Yet, as Rodrigo Malmierca opined in speaking for Cuba Monday, it is apparent that Cuba itself will oppose the President's overtures if he doesn't manage to remove Cuba from the terrorism list, if he doesn't reduce financial restrictions on trade, and if he doesn't at least talk seriously about the U. S. occupation of Cuba's Guantanamo Bay.
A U.S.-Cuba Reboot? Uh, not likely.   

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cubans Should Rule Cuba

Not Exiles and Not Foreigners
Updated: Friday, April 3rd, 2015
          CNBC, America's top business network, used this Getty Images photo this week to illustrate a major article about Cuba written by Michelle Caruso-Cabrera. It used multiple graphics and polls to show that the majority of Americans, INCLUDING MOST CUBAN-AMERICANS, support President Obama's efforts to normalize relations with the neighboring island. However, majority opinion in the world's most famed democracy has never factored into America's Cuban policy. That's includes the decision of a few to go to war in 1898 to wrest dominance of Cuba from Spain, strong-arm the lush port of Guantanamo Bay from Cuba in 1903, team with the Mafia in the 1950s to support the vile Batista dictatorship, and blunt the efforts of Democratic Presidents Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, and Obama to end or at least ease the embargo against Cuba, an embargo that has been in existence, to America's shame and democracy's shame, since 1962.
          This week Politico used this photo of President Barack Obama to highlight a major article written by Nick Gass. The article was entitled "Polls: Most Cuban-Americans Back Obama's Cuban Shift." Unfortunately, a few self-serving Cuban-Americans still have far more influence over Cuban policy than the combined influence of the U. S. President, the majority of Americans, and the majority of Cuban-Americans. 
      Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, has been the most powerful pro-embargo/anti-Cuban Cuban-American in the U. S. Congress. Till recently he was the omnipotent Chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee and he has remained the top Democrat on that significant committee. Mr. Menendez is 61-years-old and has been in the U. S. Congress since 1993 and in the U. S. Senate since 2006. For years federal prosecutors and the FBI have investigated Mr. Menendez for corruption related to New Jersey, Miami, and the Dominican Republic. This week, -- April 1st -- the U. S. government indicted Mr. Menendez on 14 corruption charges, which he very heatedly denied...again 
Isabel dos Santos. {Photo: Bruno Fonseca/EPA/Newscom}
      Isabel dos Santos at age 40 is the youngest billionaire on the African Continent. Forbes conservatively puts her wealth at $3 billion. She is her father's favorite daughter. Her father is 71-year-old Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the dictator of oil-rich/mineral-rich Angola, one of the poorest and most corrupt countries on the planet. Her father has ruled Angola since 1979; because of its vast natural resources, many countries want to do business with Angola. According to Kerry A. Dolan, the lady who tracks huge fortunes for Forbes Magazine, if foreign business tycoons want to do business in Angola, a good way to start is to deal with Isabel upfront. Much of Isabel's fortune involves Portuguese businessmen. Ms. Dolan explains the connection: "For three centuries the Portuguese extracted wealth from this mineral-rich country on Africa's southwestern coast. Almost immediately after Angola won independence in 1975, various internal factions began battling one another for the right to do the exact same things." Isabel's dad Jose dos Santos won that battle in 1979 and has maintained his power since then. Meanwhile, Isabel -- to consolidate her personal fortune -- apparently studied the Batistiano Cubans who fled the Cuban Revolution to relocate and enlarge their fortunes, especially in Miami. Ms. Dolan explained it this way: "Isabel dos Santos' formative business experience came at Miami Beach. Not the Florida city, but rather a rustic chic beach-side bar and restaurant in Luanda, Angola's capital, that tries to emulate its namesake." In other words, to amass her fortune in Angola, Isabel dos Santos very astutely studied the post-Batista fortunes of Cubans in Miami and equated that situation to the post-Portuguese situation in Angola. She studied well.
Meanwhile................. my opinion, this was the most pertinent photo taken on the planet this week. Photojournalist Nadia Abu Shaban was covering a camp that supposedly was a safe haven for Syrian children who have managed to survive the endless bloodshed that has killed many thousands of children and left millions more on the brink of starvation according to urgent pleas from Save the Children and the United Nations. This little Syrian girl walked up behind Nadia, who turned and aimed her camera at the child. Believing the camera was a gun, the little girl instantly raised her arms in a surrender mode. Nadia posted the photo and that explanation on Twitter. As this little girl and so many like her around the world well know, there are far two many guns and far too little compassion in far too many places around the world. This little Syrian girl is actually one of the lucky ones. If some sanity enters her life, she even has a chance to become a big girl. Based on her reaction to Nadia's camera, this child's young eyes have seen many little Syrian girls who will never have that chance.
All of which reminds me...........
      .......of the Time Magazine cover story this week: "CUBA: What Will Change When the Americans Arrive?" The 12-page article written by Karl Vick pointed out a rather unique feature of Cuba: That it is practically drug-free, crime-free, and war-free. That's quite unlike the Batista-era in the 1950s and it is quite unlike most other regions of the world today. Although they are cruelly and unfairly embargoed, Cuban children today are basically safer, healthier, and better educated than most other children around the world. Would a return of the Americans, especially the Batistianos, change that back to the hedonistic days of the 1950s? It is a question, I believe, that is well worth asking. 

cubaninsider: "The Country That Raped Me" (A True Story)

cubaninsider: "The Country That Raped Me" (A True Story) : Note : This particular essay on  Ana Margarita Martinez  was first ...