Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pro-Cuba Is Politically Correct

U. S. Politicians Becoming Aware
         Kasim Reed is the very ambitious Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia. He arrived in Cuba at the head of a large business delegation on June 27th and they will not fly back to Cuba until later this week, on July 1st. "My plan," he says, "is to make the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia the gateway to Cuba." He has taken note of President Barack Obama's "brave, democratic, and righteous overtures to Cuba." And he has also taken special note of polls in South Florida showing that even "the majority of Cuban-Americans in Miami's Little Havana sector now support the President's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, starting with the lifting of the cruel and ancient embargo against the island." Mayor Reed added, "This island, this sovereign country, is truly beautiful. It's a part of history. History links Cuba with the United States. Good people, not bad people, need to manage that history." Mayor Reed of Atlanta seems to qualify as one of the "good people."
        Atlanta's feisty mayor Kasim Reed has national political ambitions. He believes that aligning Atlanta and Georgia to Cuba will enhance his current base and help spearhead his goal for an even higher office. His 5-day stay in Cuba this week plans to build on the antagonism "a few in Florida dictate to Congress to keep a Cuban policy that more sane and decent Americans disdain." He told the Atlanta Business Council, "We don't have the political drag that Florida has with all the interactions with Cuba. I am in Cuba to get to know people and to send a clear message that we want to establish a relationship." Mayor Reed runs a U. S. city that features the world's busiest airport and some of Fortune 500's most impressive companies, such as Coca Cola and Delta Airlines. Mayor Reed says, "Atlanta and the Port of Savannah are positioned to be great business partners for the positive changes taking place on the exceedingly promising island of Cuba. I want Delta flying back and forth to Cuba. I want Coca Cola bottling plants back on the island. Most of all right now, I want the well-educated and talented Cubans on the island to know that we love and admire them. Keeping them down may benefit a few but lifting them up will benefit all of us not benefiting from hubris. Atlanta's boat already sits high in the water but lifting Cuba's boat will also lift ours here in Georgia."
       The Florida ports of St. Petersburg/Tampa, Miami, and Key West are best positioned geographically to do business with Cuba, which is by far the largest and most populated island in the Caribbean, as well as being the most beautiful and the most promising. But every U. S. port north of South Florida is presently trying to take advantage of the political animosity between South Florida and the nearby island. That's one reason this week Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is in Cuba touting his city and the Port of Savannah.
          All U. S. ports along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States want to do business with Cuba, as do every farm entity and most businesses in the United States. They believe they deserve the freedom to do so. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed this week is telling Cubans that the Port of Savannah "is best positioned to deliver the building and construction material from Atlanta that your island will need as the Cuban economy expands and as tensions with the U. S. ease." If you study the above map, you will note that the Port of Savannah is second only to the Port of Norfolk {Virginia} when it comes to total tonnage of cargo handled -- 29.2 million metric tons for Norfolk to 27.9 million metric tons for Savannah.  Mayor Reed has good talking points, but so do all the other Mayors and Ports north of Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. 
"Lifting Cuba's boat will also life ours"
{Kasim Reed; Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia}
"We come with a constructive spirit,
trying to close the gap between the parties."
{Josefina Vidal, Cuba}

Monday, June 29, 2015

Declining Power of Cuban Extremists

Decline Triggered 15 Years Ago
       For the past quarter century, much of the best coverage of the Caribbean and Latin America has come from the insightful penmanship and expertise of Tim Padgett. That has particularly been so since he joined Time Magazine in 1996. He now also contributes gems for the Miami-based "WLRN Public Radio and Television." This past Sunday -- June 28th -- marked the 15th anniversary of a seminal event in U.S.-Cuban history, one that Mr. Padgett has minutely covered. That was the day when Cuba came out victorious in the tug-of-war that returned 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez to Cuba with his father. On Sunday, June 28th, Tim Padgett penned a major article entitled "How The Battle Over Elian Gonzalez Helped Change U.S. Cuba Policy." Mr. Padgett believes, correctly, that the Elian Gonzalez saga, which dominated both U. S. and international news at the time, enlightened Americans to the fact that Cuban extremists in Miami, many of whom fled the Cuban Revolution's victory over the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship, believed they could defy the U. S. government in their anti-Castro fanaticism, which included U.S.-backed assassination attempts against Cuban leaders and U.S.-tolerated terrorist acts, including the bombing of a child-laden Cuban civilian plane that killed all 73 people on board and was heralded in the Miami media as "the biggest blow yet against Castro." The American citizens -- programmed to vilify Revolutionary Cuba and sanitize the gross brutality famously perpetrated by Batista's Cuba and the Cuban exiles -- capitulated for decades to the Cuban narrative dictated by the Cuban extremists in Miami. That began to change, according to the knowledgeable Tim Padgett, 15 years ago when Elian Gonzalez finally raised American eyebrows.
         This Alan Diaz/AP photo remains seared on the psyche of Americans...and Cuban-Americans. It captured the frightful moment when armed U. S. agents forcefully removed the traumatized 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez from a closet in a home in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. Cuban-American politicians had believed they could over-rule the U. S. government and keep Elian in Miami instead of allowing him to return to Cuba with his father. Elian had washed up on Florida's shore on an inner-tube after his mother had drowned at sea. One of the many U. S. laws related only to Cubans permits any Cuban who touches U. S. soil to remain, with instant benefits. But in Elian's case the U. S. government ruled that his sole remaining parent, his father, had the right to take Elian back to Cuba. The Bush dynasty and all Republican administrations since the 1950s had strongly aligned with Cuban extremists, whether in Havana or Miami. But the Elian saga evolved in the administration of Bill Clinton, a Democrat. Cuban extremists in Miami had never had any trouble with Republicans and they weren't prepared for the forceful removal of Elian. In his June 28th article, Tim Padgett wrote: "By refusing to hand the boy over, Cuban-Americans had hoped to humiliate Castro." That motive, and not the best interests of the boy, eventually began to dawn on Americans who had earlier shamefully accepted such things as the bombing of the child-laden Cuban airplane as "the biggest blow yet against Castro!" Tim Padgett concluded: "In its wake, he {Elian} left a Cuban-American community in disarray. It backfired badly. The world called Miami a banana republic."
           The sheer terror on the face of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez 15 years ago shed a new light on the U.S.-Cuban conundrum as it defined the good guys and the bad guys. Tim Padgett's 15th anniversary recap pointed out that it even changed the minds of some Little Havana hardliners who realized that, maybe, Banana Republic power on U. S. soil had some restrictions, after all, when it came to "humiliating Castro."
          "The Raid, the Reunion, and the Fallout" of the Elian Gonzalez saga is considered by some to be Fidel Castro's third most important victory over the Batistianos, right behind the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and the Bay of Pigs win in 1961. The Elian fallout has been far more subtle and gradual but Tim Padgett's analysis pinpoints how it helped grease the way for President Obama in 2015 to at least attempt to right some of the major wrongs of America's Cuban policy. Yet, it should be noted that Elian's experience in Miami occurred during a Democratic presidency, Mr. Clinton's, and the current efforts to bring sanity to U.S.-Cuban relations is taking place during a Democratic presidency, Mr. Obama's. Since the 1950s all Republican administrations have fully supported the most extreme elements of the Batista rule in Cuba and the Batistiano rule in Miami. That will not change post-Obama with the next Republican administration, whether that comes in 2017 or later. {Disclosure: I am a lifelong democracy-loving conservative Republican, but I am not too pleased with the right-wing dominance of the Republican Party}
        Speaking of Elian Gonzalez, he is now 21-years-old and finishing off his engineering degree. He is shown above taking a selfie with his fiancee, also a college student. Jim Avila of ABC-TV News recently reported on Elian's life in Cuba. He is happy, focused, and anxious to start a young family. He has traveled abroad but Avila asked him, "Where would you most like to go?" He replied in Spanish, "Los Estados Unidos"/"The United States."  Avila asked him why. He then said in broken English, "I want to give my love to the American people." Yet, America has allowed Cuban-exile extremists to harm young Cubans like Elian.
       This ABC News photo captured the now 21-year-old Elian Gonzalez showing off one of his prized possessions -- a copy of Jose Marti's "La Edad de Ora." It was a gift from his friend Fidel Castro, whose handwriting dominated the title page. Young Cubans like Elian are fascinated by the United States and have no ill feelings towards Americans. Yet, in 1962 Cuban-exile extremists teamed with right-wing Republicans to impose a harsh embargo on Cuba after a bevy of assassination attempts and the 1961 Bay of Pigs attack failed to overthrow the island's revolutionary government. Declassified U. S. documents reveal that the purpose of the embargo was to starve and deprive the Cuban people to entice them to rise up and overthrow their government. Some 53 years later, in 2015, the embargo is still in place and still with that mandate: To starve and deprive the Cuban people to entice them to rise up and overthrow their government, presumably to return a second or third generation of benevolent Batistianos to power, a rule that once again would allow rich Americans to rob the island blind. Elian Gonzalez and young Cubans like him have suffered, and are suffering, because of an archaic Cuban policy dictated by right-wing Republicans and Cuban-American extremists who still benefit from efforts to starve and deprive Cubans.
        Despite the efforts of good people such as President Barack Obama, the cruel U. S. embargo against Cuba has been in effect since 1962 -- 53 years! This image reflects the fact that -- in the year 2015 -- President Obama is being forced by right-wing zealots in the U. S. Congress to enforce the embargo that he and the entire world opposes, as reflected by a vote in the United Nations each October. This image embarrasses America's best democracy-loving friends all around the world. Unfortunately, it still does not embarrass enough Americans. In America's two-party political system, it is also unfortunate that no legitimate Republican presidential candidate has the guts or the integrity to denounce the embargo. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

New Day Dawns In Cuba

More U. S. Senators Visit
Posted: Sunday, June 28th, 2015
           Another contingent of U. S. Senators has checked out the island of Cuba  -- on Saturday, June 27th. They hailed the progression of friendship and detente since Presidents Obama and Castro announced back on December 17th that the two nations had agreed to try to normalize relations for the first time since the 1960s. This Reuters/Enrique De La Osa photo shows Senators Dean Heller of Nevada, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Ben Cardin of Maryland holding a news conference yesterday at the Saratoga Hotel in Havana. They had met with everyday Cubans and found them to be very receptive and enthusiastic about improving relations with the economic and military superpower just off the island's northern coast. Leahy and Cardin are Democratic Senators while Heller is a Republican...a rather unusual Republican.
      Dean Heller, the Senator from Nevada, is among a growing number of independent Republicans in the U. S. Congress advocating closer ties with Cuba, the largest nation in the Caribbean and a neighbor that is on friendly terms with all other countries in the region with one lone exception -- the United States. Senator Heller believes that more normal relations with Cuba will benefit a plethora of American businesses and, moreover, he is aware that foreign powers that compete with the U. S. -- including China and Russia -- are longing to take more advantage of the Republican-mandated hostility towards Cuba. Yesterday in Cuba Senator Heller told the Reuters news agency, "I think the United States Senate can move the House of Representatives regarding Cuba, but the Senate's going to have to act first." 
     This photo reflects the dawning of a new day in Cuba. 55-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel has already been named the post-Castro leader of Cuba. Quite significantly, the three U. S. Senators -- Heller, Leahy, and Cardin -- who visited Cuba this weekend first asked and were granted permission to talk privately with Miguel Diaz-Canel. Born in the Cuban city of Santa Clara, Diaz-Canel ascended politically in Cuba because he is a favorite of everyday Cubans.
          This photo shows powerful U. S. Senator Patrick Leahy greeting Cuba's future leader Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana yesterday -- Saturday, June 27th. Democracy-loving veteran members of Congress, like Senator Leahy, have long advocated that decency and sanity -- as opposed to bellicosity -- should be directed at the island's innocent people from the United States. Now Senator Leahy and others are taking advantage of the early success of President Obama's sane and decent overtures to the Cuban people.
        Earlier this month U. S. Senator Jeff Flake, the Republican from Arizona, led a group of politicians to the island and again, as shown above, Senator Flake particularly wanted to size up Cuba's future leader, Miguez Diaz-Canel. Meanwhile, anti-Cuban zealots from Miami and Union City are still trying to milk anti-Castro zealotry for all its worth, and it indeed has been worth a whole lot in the U. S. since the 1950s.
         This AP photo reflects the dawning of a new day in Cuba. This is Miguel Diaz-Canel -- Cuba's future leader -- flanked by two powerful but elderly figures from the Cuban Revolution. That is Ricardo Alarcon on the left and Ramon Valdes on the right. Prior to the transition to Diaz-Canel's leadership of Cuba, the island is making numerous economic and social changes -- creating thousands of entrepreneurs on the island as well as a billion-dollar Mariel Economic Zone 28 miles southwest of Havana that is signing foreign contracts with major investors. This week a company in Alabama is requesting permission from the U. S. government to build a tractor factory in that Zone on an island that spends almost $3 billion a year to import food that could mostly be grown in Cuba if it had modern tractors and other equipment. This week it was announced that Cuba's economy, which grew by 1% in 2014, is growing by an impressive 4% in 2015. Top economists in Miami agree with that 2015 statistic and attribute it to the "15 percent increase in tourists from the U. S. since the December 17th detente announcement." The three U. S. Senators in Cuba this weekend recognize that Cuba is changing...for the better. Republican Senator Dean Heller of Nevada is among a growing list of brave, patriotic U. S. politicians who believe that the obvious changes in Cuba "will benefit everyday Cubans and...everyday Americans." The transition to President Miguel Diaz-Canel is underway...even if self-serving zealots still benefiting from archaic Cold War tactics strongly disagree.
In other words...................
        ......................for the first time in decades, the Bush dynasty, eternally aligned with a handful of anti-Castro zealots from Miami, is finally being challenged in the dictation of a self-serving Cuban policy that has harmed millions of innocent Cubans and millions of innocent Americans. In that milieu, the bombing of a child-laden civilian Cuban airplane was hailed in Miami as "the biggest blow yet against Castro," and propagandized Americans were too timid to object. Perhaps...at last...more enlightened, and braver, Americans and Cuban-Americans are beginning to object, as indicated by the increasing support of President Obama's Cuban overtures.
        A bold President Barack Obama -- in the homestretch of his historic two-term presidency in June of 2015 -- has engineered some legacy-making political accomplishments that the pundits said he couldn't pull off in the face of the right-wing dominance of Congress and the blistering threats of the Miami Cubans. His Trade Bill this month was monumental. So was his getting Supreme Court approval of his Universal Health Care program, which might one day be mentioned as a legacy-making event equal to FDR's Social Security Bill in 1935 and LBJ's Civil Rights Bill in 1964. But, perhaps, President Obama's most significant legacy will be his monumental effort to normalize relations with Cuba, a process that he has already moved further along than the easily quashed efforts of all previous Democratic presidents. President Obama, confronting a Congress that is mostly bought-and-paid-for by lobbyists, has accomplished a lot for the vast majority of Americans who cannot afford to pay lobbyists. That, along with his universal health care plan and his bravery regarding Cuba, will, I believe, crown his legacy. A Republican presidency in 2017 will attempt to undo much of the good President Obama has done, but at least he righted some wrongs and forged ahead with some refreshingly bright ideas that were long overdue in America's tattered and tarnished but still precious democracy. 

America and Latin America

An Historical and Topical Nexus
        The above photo shows President Barack Obama awarding the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the U. S. can bestow on a civilian, to Isabel Allende. Now 72, she is the cousin of Salvador Allende, the beloved democratically elected President of Chile...till he died in a U.S.-backed coup in 1973.
        Isabel Allende was born on August 2, 1942, in Lima, Peru, where her father was a Chilean diplomat. She was very proud when Salvador Allende, her cousin, was democratically elected President of Chile in 1970. She was heartbroken when President Allende died in 1973 trying to fight off the CIA-aided coup using an engraved AK-47 rifle that his friend Fidel Castro had given him as an inauguration gift. Isabel Allende did not want to live in Chile under the brutal Pinochet dictatorship. She fled to Venezuela where, beginning in her late 30s, she became a novelist, one of the best Latin America has ever produced and reportedly the most-read Latin American writer. Her books have been translated into 35 languages with sales of about 60 million copies. Her 20th novel, "Ripper," was released in 2014. In the 1980s she married California lawyer and novelist William C. Gordon. She became a U. S. citizen in 1993 and still lives in San Rafael, California.
Isabel Allende's first novel -- "House of the Spirits -- was made into a major movie.
       Meryl Streep, shown here with Isabel Allende, was the star of "House of the Spirits."  The two ladies met again when President Obama honored both women with the coveted Presidential Medal of Freedom.
       Isabel Allende is a democracy-lover. The quote above attests to her intrinsic love of equality and freedom. The U.S.-backed Pinochet regime in her beloved Chile to this day reminds her of the difference between the democratically elected Allende and the dictator Pinochet. Now as a democracy-loving American citizen, she believes all Americans should know and learn from Latin American history.
      This photo shows the beloved democratically elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende, with his daughter, Isabel Allende -- not to be confused with his cousin Isabel Allende, the renowned novelist.
Isabel Allende, the daughter of Salvador Allende, is today the President of Chile's Senate.
      This is Salvador Allende's daughter, Isabel Allende, congratulating Michelle Bachelet after Ms. Bachelet's re-election as President of Chile. You may want to study this photo. Isabel Allende today is the first woman to be President of Chile's Senate. Michelle Bachelet today is the first woman to be President of Chile. Isabel's father was Salvador Allende, the democratically elected President of Chile who died on September 11, 1973 trying to fend off the U.S.-backed coup that installed Augusto Pinochet as Chile's murderous dictator for the next 17 years. Isabel's father died in that coup; Michelle's father was later tortured to death in the Pinochet dictatorship. The two women shown here are now the two most powerful people in Chile, reflecting how much President Allende was loved and Dictator Pinochet was hated.
        This is one of the most iconic and saddest photos in Latin American history. It shows Salvador Allende's broken glasses. They were found on September 11, 1973, next to his body in the presidential palace -- Palacio de la Moneda -- in Santiago, Chile. His death broke the hearts of democracy-lovers.
    Chilean President Allende with the AK-47 rifle that Cuba's Fidel Castro gave him.
           This is the body of Salvador Allende on Sept. 11-1973. Firing from the window of his office at the La Moneta Presidential Palace, Allende resisted the coup till he ran out of bullets for his rifle. To this day Chile's Salvador Allende is remembered as the most beloved democratically elected Latin American President. His successor, Augusto Pinochet, is remembered as Latin America's all-time most brutal dictator.
      The day this photo was taken -- according to Colombian-born Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Latin America's greatest author -- Fidel Castro told President Salvador Allende of Chile, "Nixon, Kissinger, the CIA...they have a long reach. You must know that you are targeted for the same reasons they are targeting me." President Allende, according to Garcia Marquez, replied, "I know that, Fidel, but I still must be President."
          Today the most important hospital complex in Cuba is named for Salvador Allende. It's the location of Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina {ELAM}, The Latin American School of Medicine. It is the largest medical school in the world and is famous for its educational quality and because Cuba awards free 6-year scholarships to poor but qualified students from many foreign countries, including the United States.
        A recent international article written by Sam Laird/Mashable updated U. S. students taking full advantage of Cuba's largess in providing medical degrees with all six years totally free. Cuba only asks that the graduates return to their poor neighborhoods to work for at least five years. This photo shows Lilian Burnett -- of Oakland, California -- on the way to her classes at the Salvador Allende complex.
        Americans today, if they indeed care about their democracy, may find it ironic that, back in 1973, America's top foreign policy expert, Henry Kissinger, greatly admired Augusto Pinochet, the murderous dictator of Chile, while Cuba's Fidel Castro dearly loved Salvador Allende, Chile's democratically elected President who was murdered in a coup supported by Nixon and Kissinger, helping to make their friend Pinochet Chile's U.S.-friendly dictator for 17 brutal years. And if, indeed, Americans find that ironic, perhaps they should do a little Googling to research and learn from Latin American history. Waves of democracy finally swept Pinochet aside in 1990 and he died of old age {91} on December 10, 2006. Kissinger was born in Furth, Germany, in 1923 and at age 92 he is still a very rich and very powerful lobbyist/consultant.
       This is one of the last photos ever taken of Fidel Castro with his dear friend Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who was born in Colombia and became Latin America's greatest and most admired author. Garcia Marquez died in Mexico City at age 87 on April 17, 2014. Fidel Castro turns 89 on August 13, 2015. Garcia Marquez, who visited Cuba frequently, wrote: "Mercedes {his wife} and I love to talk with our dearest friend Fidel. We share with him a hatred of America's favorite dictators -- Batista in Cuba, Somoza in Nicaragua, and, especially, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic and Pinochet in Chile. The two most ruthless killers were Trujillo and Pinochet." While he was teaching a literary class in Havana, Garcia Marquez was asked by a student to "elaborate" on that written statement. He paused, studying the students, before adding, "If you do not understand that statement, then I would suggest that you spend more time studying Latin American history."

Friday, June 26, 2015

Another Dose of Cuban Hypocrisy

On Display This Week
        This week -- Thursday, June 25th -- Secretary John Kerry's U. S. State Department released its annual Human Rights Report. It castigated five nations in particular: Cuba, Myanmar, Vietnam, Iran, and Thailand. The report cited Cuba for "denying passport requests for certain opposition leaders, or harassing them upon their return to the country." Secretary Kerry tempered the scathing denunciations by saying they were "not intended to be sanctimonious," apparently in reference to the fact that the United States has a few problems in regards to human rights, especially involving blacks and other poor people.
         Not surprisingly, Cuba's most ubiquitous and dynamic journalist/television personality -- 26-year-old Cristina Escobar -- was quick to respond to Secretary of State John Kerry's labeling Cuba as one of the world's worst human rights violators. "By including Cuba," she said, "Kerry used one correct word -- sanctimonious. He should have used two others -- hypocrite and mendacious. I respect Mr. Kerry. He is helping to normalize relations with Cuba. But what would normalization be? I think it might be more of an opportunity for the Miami Cubans to suck the oxygen from the island so they and their Mafia friends can regain control of what they perceive as their piggy-bank and playpen. So, Mr. Kerry's Human Rights Report shows further cowardice on the part of the U. S. Government, which continually capitulates to the Miami Cuban extremists on this Human Rights Report and on everything else regarding Cuba, including the training, funding, and protection of the terror-bombers who downed our civilian airplane, shot up our coastal dwellings, and bombed our hotels...with impunity. Mendacious lies, sanctimony, hypocrisy...the U. S. government and the U. S. media approach to Cuba may fool Americans but not Caribbeans or Latin Americans." When Cristina Escobar speaks, Cubans, Caribbeans, and Latin Americans listen. She is hailed as "the new young voice of Cuba." On the island she is the host of "Cuban Television News." She is also a regular panelist or anchor on Cuba's top-rated "Round Table" discussion of news events. And now, as depicted above, she hosts her own program -- in English -- on the "Telesur" network. When John Kerry, Marco Rubio, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Robert Menendez, the Diaz-Balarts or anyone else assails Cuba, it goes unchallenged in the U. S. But that's no longer the case in Cuba, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Cristina Escobar now has forums, complete with microphones and cameras, to challenge anything she deems as "lies" about an island she loves.
         In other words, this week U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the U. S. media presented one side of Cuba's human rights record. Cristina Escobar quickly followed up before her ever-increasing regional audience with Cuba's side of that story. It differed quite sharply with Mr. Kerry's. "We have a city of 300,000 people...I speak of Cienfuegos...that goes six months to a year without a serious crime. Can you name me an American city that goes five minutes without multiple serious crimes...rape, murder? I ask Mr. Kerry...is blowing up children on a civilian airplane a human rights violation? Is shooting a harmless and unarmed black man in the back 8 times a violation of human rights? I know sanctimony, hypocrisy, and lies when I see or hear them."
           It is obvious Cristina Escobar keeps close tabs on how the U. S. media portrays Cuba. Recently in Washington to cover the last Vidal-Jacobson diplomatic session, she made headlines, speaking in perfect English, when she highlighted a news conference by asking White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest a blistering series of questions: "Do you think U. S. diplomats {at a proposed new embassy in Havana} will be respectful to Cuba?...etc. She followed up that news conference with one-on-one interviews and speeches around Washington...in both Spanish and English...in which she stressed, "The lies the U. S. media tells about Cuba hurts everyday Cubans the most. I am still young and I am hopeful, but I also realize that the small cabal of right-wing thugs with ties back to the Batista days still dictate America's Cuban policy."
         Throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, Cristina Escobar is now the go-to journalist other television reporters and anchors depend on the most for the Cuban side of U.S.-Cuban issues. "Cuba is not devoid of self-inflicted problems," she says. "But it is our right and our duty to deal with them, and more-and-more my generation is seeing a drastic improvement in that regard on my island. I see a U. S. publication this month that listed verbatim...how many was it?...38?...tax-funded programs currently in place for the purpose of either enriching the Miami Cubans or bringing about regime change in Cuba. How nice! 38. So, how much of the dissidence on this island originates here and how much originates in Miami and Washington? Impartial journalists posted in Cuba from abroad see little internal dissidence but they surely see a lot of dissidents supported and encouraged from Miami and Washington. I guess all of them get free Smart Phones, courtesy of U. S. taxpayers, in case they get to photograph or video what the U. S. could call a human rights violation. The Cuban government doesn't pay for Smart Phones that Americans could use to videotape human rights violations in the U. S. and if my government did such things I would use my forums to denounce it."
       This photo shows Cristina Escobar interviewing Cuba's omnipotent Minister of North American Affairs Josefina Vidal. Ms. Escobar says, "Vidal has more freedom in Cuba, or when she is off the island, to speak much more frankly about U.S.-Cuban affairs than any of her counterparts in the United States, including the capable Roberta Jacobson. Jacobson must get clearance from Mr. Kerry or Mr. Obama and they, in turn, must get clearance from the Miami Cubans. Vidal, on the other hand, has the freedom to make off-the-cuff comments and stick by them. Freedom is a wonderful thing. Cubans didn't have any of that in the Batista days. We have more of it now, but we want and are getting more. We would get all of it much faster were it not for the Miami Cubans dictating to Washington about embargoing, starving, depriving, bombing, nuking...or whatever...an island that in no way harms the United States. But I believe that process, those gross anti-Cuban dictates, harms the United States every bit as much as it harms Cuba. The two weeks I spent in California last year and the few days I spent in Washington this year amaze me most of all because of how easy it is to lie to the American people about Cuba, for sure, and I imagine about other things. I don't expect the U. S. to treat Cuba fairly but I am most disheartened because the American people don't seem to care what their government, or the Miami Cubans, do to Cuba on their behalf -- including blowing up children in an airplane or associating with the Mafia and terrorists in carrying out designs on a supposedly vulnerable little Cuba."
        A very unique generation of outraged Cuban women -- led by the incomparable Celia Sanchez -- played the decisive role in defeating the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship. That was way back in the 1950s. The retrenched Batistiano-Mafiosi forces -- in all the decades since -- have furiously lashed back at the nearby island from U. S. soil with massive help from the U. S. military, the CIA, and the U. S. Treasury. But, against all odds, Revolutionary Cuba still stands. A second generation of Cuban women, personified by Josefina Vidal, is helping defy Cuba's enemies. And now a third generation of Cuban women, epitomized by Cristina Escobar, is trying mightily to make sure Cubans on the island, not in Miami, define its future.
        Cristina Escobar is certainly the new face, voice, and soul of Cuba. When she speaks, she now has microphones across the island and across the region that spread her views. She believes "the Miami Cubans" harm Cuba but "harm the U. S. and democracy even more." Cristina has criticized aspects of the Cuban government whenever she feels it can better serve "everyday Cubans." But overall she is a staunch defender of Revolutionary Cuba as "far superior to any government dictated from a foreign country." She is loved by Cubans of her generation and deeply respected by older Cubans, including the not-so-old Josefina Vidal. This week the U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry denounced Cuba's human rights record. Cristina Escobar used her mounting forums to denounce that denouncement. There are, for sure, two sides to the U.S.-Cuban conundrum. The Miami Cubans represent one side; Cristina Escobar represents the other. It's still very much a David-vs.-Goliath proposition, but it is not as lopsided as it once was.
Beauty & Brains vs. Braun & Belligerence.
Cristina Escobar:  The new face, voice, and soul of Cuba.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cuba's Good Guys

They Happen to be...Girls!

          In the first week of January, 1959, the best and the bravest Cubans -- such as the three young women above -- rode into Havana on the back of trucks. They were extremely disappointed that the worst and the least bravest Cubans -- the leaders of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship -- had not stayed around to fight them. Tete Puebla today is a General in the Cuban army. If you take time to ask her why she looked so glum on such a glorious day, she will tell you it was because she was sad the Batistiano leaders -- such as Batista, Lansky, Diaz-Balart, and particularly Rolando Masferrer -- had fled the island for safer havens "to hook back up with their stolen loot." That's Tete on the left in the above photo. Eloisa and Lilia -- two of Tete's dearest friends in the all-female Mariana Grajales Brigade -- had also longed to fight the Batistianos, especially Rolando Masferrer, in a final do-or-die battle that they fervently hoped would serve as the coda to the Cuban Revolution, a seminal event in history because of historic women like Tete, Eloisa, and Lilia.
       Tete Puebla today is a Brigadier General. By the time she was 15-years-old, Tete had already earned a reputation as a fearless and deadly guerrilla fighter in the Sierra Maestra Mountains of eastern Cuba. To understand what motivated a teenage girl in the little Cuban town of Yara to become a do-or-die fighter against U.S.-backed Batista soldiers, you need to talk to Tete...or read her biographical book "Marianas In Combat: Tete Puebla And The Mariana Grajales Women's Platoon In Cuba's Revolutionary War." On Page 30 Tete began her vivid explanation of what inspired her, at the tender age of 15, to become a legendary guerrilla warrior: "There was a special unit of the tyranny at the time called Masferrer's Tigers. They were a death squad that tortured and killed people they captured. There was one Masferrerista in Yara, named Juventino Sutil, who would tie victims up and put them in a sack. Then he'd pour gasoline on them and set them on fire. He killed a number of people in this way. I'll never forget how two campaneras in Yara were raped by the dictatorship's forces: Amelia Puebla, a relative of mine, and Georgina Barban. They were raped by all the soldiers from the Manzanillo barracks. It was said that about fifty soldiers took part. The two of them subsequently dedicated their lives to the revolution. Things like this made us join the fight. Just about all the young people in the town did so. We joined the revolutionary movement, determined to take a direct part in the struggle. We didn't come from rich families. We were poor working people. What made us join the struggle were all the abuses, the outrages, the torture, the murders committed by the Batista dictatorship and its henchmen."
         This photo shows General Tete Puebla on a recent day when she was interviewed about her book by Cuban journalist Arleen Rodriguez. "If I am a heroine," Tete said, "there were thousands of others too."
     Rolando Masferrer was the leader of Batista's dreaded 3,000-man army known as the Masferrer Tigers. They were Batista's well-armed enforcers who routinely brutalized Cuban peasants even remotely suspected of being sympathetic to the anti-Batista movement. As Tete Puebla witnessed, the Masferrer Tigers would burn innocent Cubans alive merely to warn against resistance. As Tete also noted, Masferrer's soldiers would be ordered to rape young Cuban girls, as many as 50 soldiers assaulting one girl.
     This photo shows one of Batista's key Ministers -- Rafael Diaz-Balart -- in the center with the holstered pistol -- flanked by the infamous Masferrer brothers -- Rolando and Orlando, with the feared and legendary Rolando just to Diaz-Balart's left. They were attending a pro-Batista rally in 1958 at about the time rebel units that included Tete Puebla were beginning to drive Batista armies out of the foothills of the Sierra Maestra Mountains. When the rebels captured Santa Clara and were advancing on Havana, all the Batista leaders -- to Tete's chagrin -- fled. Rolando Masferrer, the Batistiano most coveted by Tete, reportedly fled Havana for Miami in a private boat that was stashed with $10,000 in cash. Both Diaz-Balart and Rolando Masferrer quickly formed anti-Castro paramilitary units to lash back at Cuba. Diaz-Balart became one of the richest Cubans in Miami, and two of his sons -- Lincoln and Mario -- were elected to the U. S. Congress from Miami. At one time it was reported that Rolando Masferrer, Rafael Diaz-Balart, and Jorge Mas Canosa were competing to see which one the U. S. government would return to Cuba as the island's post-revolutionary leader.
Rolando Masferrer's acceptance in the United States
     Once on U. S. soil in South Florida, the ousted leaders of the Batista dictatorship had no worry even though such brutality as perpetrated by the Masferrer Tigers on the island was well known by the U. S. government and by the U. S. media, especially as documented by Herbert L. Mathews of the New York Times. Rolando Masferrer was born in 1918 in Holguin, Cuba. In this photo he is nattily dressed as he left a government office in El Paso, Texas, on his way back to Miami as the leader of his paramilitary unit. The brutal Rolando Masferrer ended up dying brutally in Miami, reportedly from internecine warfare that raged in Miami throughout the 1960s and 1970s. On October 31, 1975, Rolando Masferrer turned the ignition in his car at his Miami home and was killed by a car bomb, a weapon used repeatedly by Miami Cubans.
         As far as I know, not one word in Tete Puebla's biography has ever been disputed and, in fact, her recollections have been corroborated by a myriad of independent sources. But Tete's views, it seems, have been verboten in the U. S. since 1959. On the other hand, two generations of the Batista/Lansky/Luciano/Canosa/Diaz-Balart/Masferrer families on U. S. soil have reserved and been accorded the right to define the Cuban narrative to justify everything from the Batista dictatorship to the Bay of Pigs attack to the terrorist bombing of Cubana Flight 455 to the embargo and to unlimited tons of tax dollars filling steady pipelines from Washington to Miami supposedly to bring about a regime change in Cuba. Thus, Americans who might study the photo above of the female guerrilla fighters on the cover of Tete Puebla's biography may wonder why the young Cuban women would become do-or-die guerrilla fighters against a U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship that treated the Cuban people so kindly. That wonderment has been spawned by a U. S. media providing just one side of the Cuban conundrum.
        For example, on a given day or night on U. S. television Americans may see someone such as Mario Diaz-Balart, one of Miami's gifts to the U. S. Congress in Washington, telling the world what a hellhole Cuba is, implying that the island had a wonderful government back when Batista, Lansky, and his dad Rafael Diaz-Balart were in charge. Congresman Mario Diaz-Balart recently made congressional headlines when he attached bills to the so-called "must-pass" Transportation Bill that was designed to block tax dollars President Obama might use to open a proposed embassy in Havana. Of course, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart's attached bills also increased the already obscene Washington-to-Miami flow of tax dollars.
      While the U. S. media, by and large, remains too biased, too politically correct, or too intimidated to provide Americans with both sides of the Cuban story, that is not the case with foreign media that has a bit more freedom when it comes to Cuba. The photo above shows General Tete Puebla with her revolutionary friend Nidia Sarabia. It is a BBC photo that illustrated a documentary on Celia Sanchez that was hosted and produced by the BBC's top senior producer Linda Pressly. While she was preparing the documentary, Ms. Pressly called me a total of five times from London. In the fifth call she said she was flying to Cuba to finish her research on Celia Sanchez. I said, "Good! Make sure you interview Brigadier General Tete Puebla. She's easy to talk to and she is a fountain of information on Celia. They fought together against some powerful Batista armies. To know Celia, Ms. Pressly, you need to know Tete Puebla!" Ms. Pressly got this photo of Tete and Nidia the day the notable BBC journalist, indeed, interviewed Tete about Celia Sanchez.
            And speaking of both sides of the U.S.-Cuban quagmire, Cuba's ubiquitous young journalist Cristina Escobar leans rather strongly towards the side of Cuba's Tete Puebla and is openly appalled that "Americans are supposed to soak up only what the Miami Cubans say about Cuba." As host of the island's very popular "Round Table" television program, she says, "Frankly, it is hard to believe that educated Americans put up with, and apparently believe, the lies the Miami Cubans spew endlessly about Cuba. On U. S. soil I expressed my views on the U. S. media, which shames me as a journalist who believes in telling the truth." Ms. Escobar, age 26 and awesomely talented, has recently made two photogenic visits to the U. S. Back in December she spent ten days in California at journalism seminars. She also covered the last Vidal-Jacobson diplomatic session in Washington where she became the star at a Q & A with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. Later in one-on-one interviews and in speeches at pro-Cuban forums in Washington she said, both in English and Spanish, "The lies the U. S. media tells about Cuba hurts everyday Cubans the most. As a journalist and a Cuban, I don't like to see foreigners perpetually hurt Cubans."  
           Anyone who has any knowledge of U.S.-Cuban relations since the 1950s is abundantly aware that no one on this planet knows more about that subject than Peter Kornbluh. And that is precisely why Americans are supposed to get their Cuban information from the likes of the Bush dynasty, Miami Cubans in the U. S. Congress, or the Miami-based Diaz-Balarts whose matriarch was a key Minister in the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship that the Cuban Revolution chased to nearby Miami in the wee hours of January 1, 1959. Mr. Kornbluh is the key Director at the National Security Archive in Washington, D. C. On the NSA website he has posted numerous declassified U. S. documents that Americans are not supposed to know about because...alas!...Americans are supposed to know only what the Miami-based Cuban exiles tell them about Cuba. Because of the twin perils of cowardice and intimidation, the U. S. media generally shuns true and honest Cuban experts like Mr. Kornbluh but shower the airways and print pages with propaganda from the Cuban exiles. Recently, however, Peter Kornbluh authored a major article that was carried around the world by a plethora of international media outlets. If you want to Google it, the title was: "Historic New Era Between U. S. And Cuba Is About To Begin." Here is the first paragraph of that article, word for word: "Thirty-three years ago after U. S. President Ronald Reagan slapped Cuba onto a State Department list of nations that support international terrorism, the Obama administration has finally corrected that historic injustice. By 'delisting' Cuba, and removing the onerous financial sanctions that accompanied the terrorist designation, U. S. President Barack Obama has eliminated the last obstacle to one of the most historic accomplishments of his presidency -- the restoration of official diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana." Such brave words keep Mr. Kornbluh off U. S. newscasts. 
        American democracy-lovers should ponder these two sentences written in the aforementioned article by Peter Kornbluh, America's greatest and fairest Cuban expert: "Indeed, if harboring known international terrorists is criteria for being designated a terrorist state, then the U. S. State Department should add another country to its list: the United States of America. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, the CIA trained, paid, and provided bases to Cuban exiles engaged in acts of murderous violence and sabotage against Cuban civilians and property." Re-read those two sentences from America's best and fairest Cuban expert: 
"Indeed, if harboring known international terrorists is criteria for being designated a terrorist state, then the U. S. State Department should add another country to its list: the United States of America. Throughout the 1960s and the 1970s, the CIA trained, paid, and provided bases to Cuban exiles engaged in acts of murderous violence and sabotage against Cuban civilians and property." 
                        Peter Kornbluh; Director, U. S. National Security Archives; Washington, D. C.
            Indeed, in Cuba and elsewhere in the Caribbean and Latin America today there are memorials dedicated to the 73 victims of Cubana Flight 455. Like other great journalists such as Emilio Milian and Jim DeFede, Peter Kornbluh has been accused of being "anti-American" for denouncing U.S.-sanctioned terrorism against innocent Cubans and for denouncing Miami being used as a safe harbor for the most renowned Cuban terrorists. Of course, like other great Americans such as Milian, DeFede, etc., Peter Kornbluh is being extremely pro-American by repeatedly stressing that America's Cuban policy has shamed America and democracy for centuries, especially in the decades since the 1950s when {#1} the world's greatest democracy in 1952 teamed with the Mafia to support the brutal, thieving Batista dictatorship in Cuba; and {#2} from 1959 until today the world's greatest democracy has supported the most extremists Cuban exiles against what is best for most Americans, most Cubans, and most Cuban-Americans.
       In Cuba today there are still many Cubans mourning those killed aboard Cubana Flight 455. This girl waited with her mother at Jose Marti Airport in Havana for what she expected would be the safe return of her brother. The girl is a woman now. She still mourns the loss of her brother. I don't believe Americans who sympathize with her are anti-American. I also believe it is alright for Americans to know about such things as...Cubana Flight 455. This girl, now a woman, is not America's enemy, but her enemies are.
     "Back Channel To Cuba," the book Peter Kornbluh co-authored with William M. LeoGrande, is the best compilation of how the disastrous U. S. government's alignment with the most extremist anti-Castro Cuban exiles from the Batista dictatorship laid the disastrous foundation for the anti-democratic Cuban policy that President Barack Obama is currently trying to correct while Republican Cuban extremists led by Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Mario Diaz-Balart, etc. are trying to desperately and self-servingly keep it intact for another six decades or so. The front-cover, upper-left photo atop the Kornbluh-LeoGrande book depicts the April, 1959 handshake between Fidel Castro and Vice President Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon. Castro had been brought to the U. S. for 12 days that soon after the revolutionary victory over the Batista-Mafia dictatorship because Celia Sanchez had been promised that the Eisenhower administration was ready to make "a long-term peace with Cuba." That was a lie, of course. It was Nixon who informed Fidel that he would be overthrown by the U.S.-backed Cuban exiles "within a matter of weeks." That effort has indeed been well-supported by the U. S. government, not only for a matter of weeks but for a matter of months, years, and decades...and it is ongoing even as President Obama tries to amend what previous Democratic Presidents Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton tried but failed to correct. Mr. Obama will also likely fail, for two reasons: In 2015 the Bush-Rubio-Diaz-Balart extremists are far more powerful than the Nixon-Canosa-Posada extremists were in 1959, and in 2015 this generation of Americans is less intelligent and less courageous than even the generation in the 1950s that didn't utter a whimper when their government teamed with the Mafia to support a vile, cruel Batista dictatorship in Cuba...and, since it was overthrown, has supported a vile, cruel Batistiano-Mafisoi effort to recapture Cuba. As Peter Kornbluh and others repeatedly point out, if Americans didn't care a hoot about Cuban-exile terrorists downing a child-laden civilian airplane, it's a pretty strong indication they don't care a hoot about their democracy, or how it is perceived. If you read and study the Kornbluh-LeoGrande book, or the aforementioned scathing column Kornbluh penned, you will, I think, comprehend why I have concluded that the Cuban Revolution and Revolutionary Cuba say a lot more about the United States than they say about the island of Cuba.
     Ann Louise Bardach's seminal book -- "CUBA CONFIDENTIAL: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana" -- remains the best pure documentation of how the most extreme villains from the Batista dictatorship, once they were booted off the island and fled back to Miami, remained supported by the villainous right-wingers high-up in the U. S. government. Those villains hooked back up with hundreds of millions of dollars siphoned out of Cuba and they still had criminal enterprises such as the drug trade in Miami. But, even to their surprise, they didn't have to use their money and resources in their insatiable desire to recapture Cuba because they had the support of the U. S. Treasury, the U. S. CIA, the U. S. Military, and, most of all, they had the acquiescence of an unpatriotic generation of American citizens. Therefore, anything -- the Bay of Pigs attack, the terrorist bombing of Cubana Flight 455, incessant car-and-hotel bombings, etc. -- were openly available and tax-supported without drawing a whimper from American citizens. That milieu persists to this day, to the chagrin of good people like President Obama and to the delight of benefactors such as Bush and Rubio. But the background you need to put that into perspective is two-fold: {1} Peter Kornbluh's documentations of the Bush-Batistiano ties; and {2} Ann Louise Bardach's explanations about how the Havana-to-Miami-to-Washington villains codified a U. S. Cuban policy that shames all democracy-lovers in the U. S. and around the world. 
        This book chronicles an unending litany of terrorism against Cuban civilians. Its "Oral History Of Terrorism Against Cuba" includes the reaction of Cubans still mourning the loss of relatives or friends. It, of course, poignantly mentions the 73 victims of Cubana Flight 455, describing it thusly: "That crime engineered by Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, who later found safe haven in Florida." This book also describes what happened to Cubans who survived murderous terrorist acts, such as Nancy Pavon.
       This is Nancy Pavon. When she was 15-years-old Nancy was asleep beside her younger sister in a coastal fishing cabin on the edge of Boca de Sama, Cuba. The aforementioned book and many other documentations reveal that, as Nancy and her sister slept, "gunmen from Florida conducted a murderous shootout from Miami speedboats firing cannon and machine guns mounted atop tripods." Two people were killed and many were wounded, included Nancy and her sister. Nancy says the lower portion of her right leg was blasted away "as if it had been cut by a machete." Because of recurring nerve damage, she has undergone many painful days and numerous operations. She makes speeches thanking Cuba for taking care of and she wonders "If the kind American people will ever consider compensating my government...or even me. We hear the Mafia figures are backed by the U. S. government when they claim their legitimate businesses in Cuba were lost to the revolution. Well, my right leg was legitimate when I turned 15. My dad, a fisherman, had bought me a pair of nice high heels just before the attack, but I never got to wear them." 
       This is 15-year-old Nancy Pavon in a hospital bed in Boca de Sama the day after the lower part of her right leg had been shot off by cannon fire from a large speed boat while she and her sister slept in a coastal fishing cabin. Two great Miami journalists -- Cuban-American Emilio Milian and American Jim DeFede -- were punished and excoriated for maintaining that "Terror against innocent Cubans is still terror." Nancy Pavon is proof of that, and proof that you cannot unring a bell. The 15-year-old girl depicted above lost a leg in a murderous speedboat attack. She is a woman now, a woman with just one leg.
        Nancy Pavon reminds me of Brigadier General Tete Puebla and why Tete, at age 15, was a do-or-die guerrilla fighter against much-better-armed Batista soldiers. At the top of this essay you saw a photo of Tete arriving triumphantly but subdued in Havana in the first week of January, 1959. She wasn't in a celebratory mood that day. She was sad to learn that Rolando Masferrer and other leaders of the Batista regime had fled...mostly to Miami. She was hoping they would stand and fight in Cuba and "not hide behind the skirts of the U. S. government in Miami." Americans are not supposed to know about Tete Puebla, or why the Cuban women who serve under her as border guards today revere her so much. I guess, to most Americans Tete is the bad guy because she fought against U.S.-backed good guys like Rolando Masferrer.
{The photo above was taken by Yaima Garcia Vizcaino on a day Tete's soldiers honored their General} 

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