Memories Of Latino Dictators

Still Shape Today's Latin America
Updated: Sunday, August 2nd, 2015
        Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic candidate for President, this week {July 31st} made a key political speech at Florida International University in Miami. Reading cogently from a teleprompter, she made statements like this to a receptive audience: "The Cuban embargo needs to go once and for all."
        Mrs. Clinton, a prototypical politician, was not being very brave with such a strong Cuban speech in the heart of Miami's Little Havana power-base. She reads the polls, which show that even Cuban-Americans want an end to the embargo, which was codified into law by powerful anti-Castro Miami stalwarts led by Jorge Mas Canosa and his easily acquired supporters in the U. S. Congress -- such as Robert Torricelli, Jesse Helms, and Dan Burton. While politicians such as Mrs. Clinton read the tea leaves, pro-democracy advocates have grown tired of the harm the U. S. Cuban policy heaps upon the United States, merely to appease a handful of what now is a second generation of revengeful Cuban exiles.
         Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio {Photo: LatinoFoxNews.com}, two prime Republican presidential candidates, were quick to denounce Hillary Clinton's audacity to make an anti-embargo speech in their front-and-back yards. Both men have mansions almost within sight of Florida International University, and Rubio teaches there. Bush and Rubio also read tea leaves and polls. But, like most of their other political stances, their Cuban views during this presidential campaign are largely predicated by their big-money billionaire donors. When it comes to Cuba, neither Bush nor his protege Rubio care a whit about public opinion or about the deleterious effect the cruel and archaic embargo has on America's and democracy's image. But they do care about billionaire donors. Meanwhile, throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, the embargo backed by Bush and Rubio is mostly a reminder of America's past relations with Cuba -- such as teaming with the Mafia to support the vile Batista dictatorship and terrorist attacks such as the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 that was hailed in Miami as "the biggest blow yet against Castro." Although the Castros have remained in power in Cuba since January 1, 1959, Bush and Rubio seem to still rely on that 1976 chant about the downing of the civilian Cubana Flight 455 being "the biggest blow yet against Castro" while less biased observers believe such things helped entrench, not remove, the Castros. That's what President Obama meant when he said, "After fifty years, if something doesn't work, maybe it's time to try something different." And that's what President Michelle Bachelet meant this week when she said, "More Americans need to care about wiping away reminders of the bloody imprint their past leaders left on Latin America."     
        This photo of Michelle Bachelet was taken this week and is used courtesy of Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images. She is the President of Chile. I'll explain the tortured look on her face in a moment. She was born 63 years ago in Santiago, Chile. She served as Chile's President from 2006 till 2010. Chile does not allow consecutive terms so she then did humanitarian work for organizations such as the UN. Then, after being reelected to a second term, she returned as Chile's President in March. Her countenance in this week's photo reflects the fact that she has been tormented all of her adult life by the U.S.-installed and U.S.-backed Pinochet dictatorship, which from 1973 till 1990 was one of history's most brutal. Compounding the pain etched on her face this week is the memory that Pinochet replaced the decent, democratically elected President Salvador Allende. Allende died defending his presidential palace from a Richard Nixon/Henry Kissinger-inspired coup that replaced Mr. Allende with the U.S.-friendly criminal Pinochet. From 1973 till 1990 Pinochet's agents murdered people around the world, including the 1976 car-bombing within sound of the White House in Washington that killed beautiful 25-year-old Ronni Moffitt. In all, Chile now registers 40,018 Chileans known to have been murdered or tortured by Pinochet's killers. One of those imprisoned and murdered was President Bachelet's father; one of those imprisoned and tortured was President Bachelet herself. In this hot summer of 2015, led by President Bachelet, perpetrators of Pinochet's "crimes against humanity" are still being brought to justice in Chilean courtrooms. This week for one of those trials Carmen Quintana flew from her home in Canada. At age 18 she was disfigured in a gasoline attack in which Pinochet soldiers set fire to and killed young photographer Rodrigo Rojas. In Chile this week seven former Pinochet henchmen are finally being tried after decades of exhaustive investigations. And so, now you know that the taunting memories of the murderous Pinochet regime accounts for the pain etched this week on the countenance of a truly great woman, Michelle Bachelet, the two-term President of Chile.
         This photo is courtesy of The Associated Press's Patricio Guzman. It shows Victor Jara in the 1970s when he was the most popular singer/musician in Chile. Pinochet considered him a dissident. It has been historically documented how Victor Jara died. Pinochet's goons took him to a basement and shot him forty times, allegedly to see how many gunshots he could endure before he died. Of the 40,018 known Chilean victims of Pinochet's crimes against nature, the fate of Victor Jara still looms very large in many memories.
        This is a beautiful photo of Ronni Moffitt. In high school, she cherished the U. S. democracy so much she wrote a term paper in which she lamented America's "flirtations with regional dictators." She specifically referenced Batista in Cuba, Somoza in Nicaragua, and Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.
         This is Ronni Moffitt at age 25 in 1976, the year she died. Her passion for democracy found her working for Orlando Letelier, who had been Chile's Ambassador to the U. S. and then Defense Minister in the administration of Salvador Allende, who had been democratically elected President of Chile in 1970. That election didn't sit well with U. S. President Richard Nixon and his top adviser Henry Kissinger because President Allende wanted Chile's resources to benefit Chileans, not rich Americans. Nixon and Kissinger preferred "U.S. friendly" dictators -- not patriotic and democratically elected Presidents. President Salvador Allende famously fought to the end from a palace window with an engraved AK-47 rifle that his friend Fidel Castro had given him as an inauguration gift. Allende's death in the U.S.-backed coup that installed dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1973 is something not only Chile but all of Latin America is still trying to come to grips with, as evidenced by President Bachelet's ongoing investigations and trials as July turns into August in the year 2015. Letelier, a key associate of Salvador Allende, ended up in Washington as a democracy advocate. Ronni Moffitt worked for him. They both died within a mile of the White House on September 21, 1976, after a terrorist bomb exploded beneath their car. Chile and Latin America are still to this day trying to investigate the murders of Letelier and Moffitt, still without much assistance from the United States.
        Notable journalists such as John Dinges and Saul Landau quickly surmised that Pinochet's dreaded DINA security assassins had carried out the attack. So did the FBI, but the FBI would soon complain that their investigations were being "stalled" or "misdirected" by the CIA. The year 1976 was the only year George H. W. Bush was CIA Director. A mere three weeks later -- on October 6, 1976 -- a terrorist bomb blew Cubana Flight 455, a civilian airplane, into the ocean killing all 73 on board, including two dozen young Cuban athletes. Declassified FBI documents confirm that the two most infamous Cuban-exile/CIA terrorists -- Luis Posada Carriles and Orlanto Bosch -- were masterminds of the Cubana Flight 455 bombing. Bosch, after being pardoned by President George H. W. Bush at the request of Jeb Bush, lived out his long life a free man in Miami; Carriles to this day is a controversial but heralded citizen of Miami. John Dinges, who wrote the above article about the Letelier-Moffit murders, also wrote a definitive book entitled "Assassination On Embassy Row." Such Pinochet-related murders are known to history and to Hollywood as "Condor Operations." John Dinges, Peter Kornbluh, and other respected authors have pointed out that Pinochet often used Cuban exiles in Operation Condor attacks because they had been expertly trained in explosives by the CIA and U. S. Army since 1959. And yes, Cuban exiles were tied to the Letelier-Moffitt car-bombing in Washington. In the last week of July, 2015, President Bachelet of Chile is still grim-faced and distraught over the thousands of murders during the Pinochet reign from 1973 till 1990.
        The car-bombing that murdered Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt within a mile of the White House in 1976, as well as the airplane bombing of Cubana Flight 455 three weeks later, haunt Michelle Bachelet to this day. They should also haunt Americans who, at long last, need to hold the perpetrators responsible.
          For example, the photo above was one of the last ever taken of 22-year-old Rosetta Pallini. She was a university student in Santiago, Chile, when Pinochet's goons labeled her a dissident. She escaped to Mexico City but the long reach of Operation Condor found her. She was then brutally murdered merely on the assumption she still opposed Pinochet's murderous rule back in her beloved country of Chile.
 Pinochet is shown in this Wikipedia photo with his key supporter, Henry Kissinger.
        Because Americans are not supposed to know much about Latin American history, they understandably have trouble comprehending the two modern-day photos depicted above. On the left showing deep affection for Cuba's Fidel Castro is Cristina Fernandez Kirchner. She has been President of Argentina since 2007. On the right is Michelle Bachelet showing deep affection for Cuba's Fidel Castro. She is the two-term President of Chile. President Kirchner and President Bachelet, in their younger days, both felt the wrath of vile U.S.-backed dictators, dictators who were Fidel Castro's bitter enemies too.
         The other current two-term female President of a very important Latin American country is Dilma Rousseff of Brazil. Yes, in this photo that is President Rousseff showing deep affection for Cuba's Fidel Castro. In her youth Dilma Rousseff paid a severe price for opposing a U.S.-backed dictatorship: She was unmercifully tortured for three years in that dictator's prison. Fidel Castro strongly opposed the U.S.-backed dictatorships that so harshly maligned today's three female Latin American Presidents in their youths -- Cristina Kirchner, Michelle Bachelet, and Dilma Rousseff. To understand Latin America today, Americans need to understand Latin American history -- and I don't mean the classified and sanitized versions that Americans have been spoon-fed for decades. {Note: As a passionate, democracy-loving American, I am not pleased that Presidents Kirchner, Bachelet and Rousseff -- as well as many other democratically elected Presidents throughout Latin America -- love Fidel Castro a lot more than they love the United States of America. Anyone who is pleased with that, I believe, is someone who cares little about democracy or the U. S. and, further, such a self-serving lack of admission or knowledge about Latin America perpetuates the power of Henry Kissinger clones. Ask President Bachelet of Chile while she tries to hold people in her country accountable for the crimes against nature perpetuated during the 1973 till 1990 terror orchestrated by one of Kissinger's favorite dictators, Augusto Pinochet. PRESIDENTS BACHELET, KIRCHNER, AND ROUSSEFF ARE TRUE EXPERTS ON LATIN AMERICAN HISTORY SIMPLY BECAUSE...THEY LIVED IT.}
        This, by the way, is an historic Latin American photo. It shows Cuba's Fidel Castro with Chile's beloved, democratically elected President Salvador Allende. According to information unearthed by President Bachelet's diligent researchers, on the above trip Castro warned Allende "that Nixon and Kissinger will target you as they are targeting me." It is assumed Castro meant that any leader of any country would be targeted if that leader tried to restrict how much U. S. business interests could extract from that country. Shortly after the above meeting, in September of 1973, President Allende died in his presidential palace trying to fight off a U.S.-backed coup as he used the engraved rifle Castro had given him upon his inauguration. Allende's relationship with Castro...starkly in contrast to his relationships with Nixon, Kissinger, and Pinochet...to this day resonates across Latin America, as President Bachelet and other Latin American leaders will readily attest. If you disbelieve that, go back and study the photo at the top of this essay. It was taken this week and it shows intense pain on the face of President Bachelet...pain caused by the U.S. penchant for supporting vile dictators from the 1950s till the 1990s...from Batista in the 1950s till Pinochet into the 1990s. Democracy lovers believe U.S. politicians -- either elected or appointed and either living or deceased -- should be held accountable if they aided or made such dictatorships possible.
Today the largest hospital complex in Cuba is named for Salvador Allende.
          In between her two stints as President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet campaigned tirelessly in quest of justice for victims of the Pinochet dictatorship. The photo above is courtesy of Martin Burnett/AFP. It was taken on September 10, 2013, when Michelle had served one term as President but could not run for consecutive terms. That's her on the right in this photo. Her mother, Angela Jeria, is in the center. They and the lady on the left are holding photographic memories of Pinochet victims as they demonstrate in front of the infamous prison at Villa Grimaldi where Michelle and her mother were tortured and where Michelle's father died. Now in her second term as President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet is still reminding the world of the U.S.-installed and U.S.-backed Pinochet dictatorship. Such reminders should also resonate with Americans, especially those who should be aware of American leaders whose actions besmirched democracy and...still torment President Bachelet, a great lady Americans should know and support.
        Michelle Bachelet, in her second term as President of Chile, is an expert on Latin American history, especially the period from 1952 till 1990 when she admits she still "has trouble believing" the world's greatest democracy "spread" vicious dictators "across" the Caribbean and Latin America. She believes it would not have been so "terrible" if Americans had "objected" to the U. S. support of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship beginning in 1952. And she openly suggests that Americans should know Latin American history so they can "learn from it." The Latin American dictatorships essentially ended in 1990 with the end of the Pinochet reign in Chile, a 17-year-old rule that was so brutal it still brings tears to President Bachelet's 63-year-old eyes. This week, in the summer of 2015, she said, "We must never stop."  By that, she means that Latin America must never stop seeking justice for the victims and from those responsible.


Newly Discovered In Cuba

Off The Beaten Path
         Hana Jakrlova is an acclaimed Czech-born photographer based in New York and Prague. She recently fulfilled a long desire to visit Cuba. She got some wonderful photos on the island, which are now the basis of exhibitions that have attracted the attention of CNN and other media outlets. Hana said she didn't want photos of old cars, cobblestone streets, or even the cute and colorful Cuban schoolchildren. She knew all about that image of Cuba. So, she wanted to see and photograph other unique aspects of the island.
        Hana Jakrlova stumbled across this theme park on the edge of Santiago de Cuba. She actually thought it was closed but soon discovered it was open for business, complete with waitresses waiting with cocktails to serve to tourists visiting the park. Only...there were none. Hana was the only visitor that day. It's called "El Mundo de la Fantasia"/"The World of Fantasy." Hana found it charming. She wondered why tourists hadn't discovered it. She said, "It is kind of a metaphor for what Cuba is going through, I guess. The park is one of those places that symbolize the state of Cuba now. It's picturesque...but also sad and bizarre." Hana's photos and her incisive understanding of Cuba makes me a candidate to purchase her upcoming book, which will be entitled "Cuba Before The Dawn." I surmise that she chose that title because she anticipates it will change drastically as more people discover it thanks to what many perceive as the ongoing Obama-directed thaw in relations with America, the nearby superpower that envisions a Cuba saturated with Wal-Marts, Starbucks, McDonald's, student loans, expensive healthcare, modern cars, millionaires, billionaires, a gigantic chasm between the haves and have-nots, and...oh, yes!...democracy!!
Meanwhile, Hana discovered "The World of Fantasy" in Cuba.


Cuban Embargo Is Eternal

Like A Painful Albatross
         Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, tomorrow {Friday} in a speech at Florida International University in Miami, will call for an end to the embargo against Cuba. That's in the hometown of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. In fact, Rubio is a part-time teacher at Florida International, a part-time first-term Senator, and a full-time Republican presidential contender. Ms. Clinton's advocacy against the embargo is not meaningful. She is merely following the tea leaves. Three quarters of Americans, 60% of Cuban Americans, and even 59% of Republicans favor ending the embargo, which has harmed Cubans on the island and benefited a few Cubans in Miami and Union City since 1962. Clinton's speech tomorrow will merely highlight the fact that the U. S. democracy is a prisoner to the small but powerful pro-Batistiano faction, which includes Rubio and his mentor Jeb Bush. However, there are members of the U. S. Congress and other independently thinking politicians who admirably seek sane relations with Cuba for decent, humanitarian, and democratic reasons. Clinton is just a poll-watcher.
         This Republican member of the U. S. Congress did a brave and decent thing Tuesday, July 28th. Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota introduced a bill to eliminate the 55-year-old U. S. embargo against Cuba. The majority of Americans, Cuban-Americans, and citizens of the world agree with him. Yet, it won't get done. The uniqueness of America's relations with Cuba will prove, yet again, that the U. S. democracy, the strongest in the world, is not quite strong enough to overcome a vile Cuban policy that has been dictated since 1959 by the most extreme remnants of the long-ago U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia regime on the nearby island. Congressman Emmer, while his effort was laudable, will discover that basic fact.
       Tom Emmer narrowly lost a bid to become Governor of Minnesota in 2010. He has represented Minnestoa in the U. S. Congress only since January. He was born 54 years ago in South Bend, Indiana. His bid this week to end the embargo against Cuba is based on the fact that he believes...he knows...it would do two things: {1} Help farmers and businesses in Minnesota; and {2} he is ashamed of the image the embargo against Cuba presents to the rest of the world, especially the Caribbean and Latin America.
         Also yesterday -- on Tuesday, July 28th -- Kathy Castor, a Democrat from Tampa -- introduced a bill in the U. S. Congress to end the embargo against Cuba. To support her bill, Congresswoman Castor made an impassioned plea for the other 534 members of Congress to remove the shameful albatross around the necks of Americans and Cubans. In the middle of that plea, she said: "This important step forward will advance human rights and tilt the fortunes of families and entrepreneurs on both sides of the Florida Straits." Of course, there is not a single soul that can dispute those words. Yet there are not enough members of the U. S. Congress who have the guts to support Democrat Kathy Castor and Republican Tom Emmer.
        Kathy Castor was born 54 years ago in Miami, Florida. {Photo: Wikipedia}. She has represented Tampa in the U. S. Congress since 2007. With rare courage and decency for a politician, Ms. Castor has defied Florida extremists all her political life because she realizes that America's Cuban policy severely harms Americans, Cuban-Americans, and many innocent people throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.
         To improve the lives and welfare of everyday Cubans and to benefit businesses in Tampa and the rest of Florida, Congresswoman Kathy Castor has visited Cuba often. The bill she introduced yesterday to end the embargo is just the latest example of the Herculean work she has done all her political life to combat an American Cuban policy dictated for decades by Florida extremists and sycophants such as the parasitic Bush dynasty. A major article in the St. Petersburg Times yesterday revealed Ms. Castor powerfully assailing Jeb Bush's latest sell-out to ultra-rich billionaires. At a Koch brothers campaign event in New Hampshire, Jeb Bush said Congress should "phase out Medicare," condescendingly pleasing the billionaire Koch bothers and keeping in step with the Bush desire to help the very rich at the expense of everyone else. Kathy Castor's hometown newspaper in St. Petersburg/Tampa quoted her as saying that Jeb Bush's comment was "outrageous," the same description she has applied to longstanding anti-Cuban Bush policies that less brave members of the U. S. Congress and the U. S. media dare not challenge.
        As Kathy Castor well knows, democratic principles have never been applied to U.S.-Cuban relations -- especially since 1952, the year the U. S. teamed with the Mafia to support the vile Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba. Since 1959, the year the Cuban Revolution booted the Batistianos off the island, mostly back to their Miami and Union City havens, small conclaves like the one depicted above have dictated America's Cuban policy. In the photo above, on the right, are Cuban-American U. S. Senators Marco Rubio from Miami and Bob Menendez from Union City. They are shown hosting a confab of Cuban dissidents, including the famed Yoani Sanchez. Unfortunately...Sanchez, Rubio, and Menendez believe America's Cuban policy should be eternally left to tiny gatherings like this one. And unfortunately for democracy and people not named Bush, Sanchez, Rubio or Menendez, there are not enough patriots like Kathy Castor around to fight for democratic principles even when it involves the Caribbean island that is ninety miles from Miami. 


A New Cuba Arising

And A Wonder To Behold
         A good way to get to know and understand the changes taking place in Cuba is to purchase this book: "PASSAGE TO CUBA: An Up-Close Look At The world's most Colorful Culture." It is a portrait of love by a great American photographer, Cynthia Carris Alonso. Since 1993, she has made many trips to the island, astutely capturing in unforgettable photos Cuba's people, their culture, and their hopes and dreams.
        This is Cynthia Carris Alonso. {Photo courtesy: Alicia Alonso} "Passage To Cuba" is her first book but her photography has earned her many awards and accolades. She has had a love affair with Cuba and its people for over two decades, as illustrated by photos and loving captions in this book. She told the The New York Daily News, "I am hopeful that political changes will bring economic benefits for the Cuban people as well as for foreign investors, while preserving the beautiful spirit and culture of the Cuban people."
                  This Cynthia Carris Alonso photo was taken in a sugar cane field in San Antonio de Los Banos. It is obvious she believes that the rhythms of Cuba flow the strongest in the veins of everyday Cubans.
          This, I believe, is one of most poignant photos in Cynthia Carris Alonso's book "Passage To Cuba." There are on the island of Cuba today Cubans who are old enough to personally remember the brutality and thievery of the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship of the 1950s. Such Cubans tend to cherish Fidel Castro's revolution the most, a fact American's visiting the island might discover for the very first time.
            The uniqueness of the Cuban Revolution is defined by numerous black-and-white photos from the 1950s. Women like these with reasons like this began the downfall of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship. If Americans don't understand the revolution's origin, perhaps it relates to the fact that the Cuban narrative since 1959 has mostly been controlled by those who fled the first and finest female-powered revolt.
          Time Magazine has also published an excellent pictorial of a changing Cuba: "INSIDE THE NEW CUBA: Discovering The Charm of a Once-Forbidden Island -- The People, The Culture, The Paradise." Because of dictates by revengeful Cuban-Americans, everyday Americans for decades have been the only people in the world without the freedom to visit Cuba. That may change as Obama-led changes bring a degree of sanity and decency to U.S.-Cuban relations. Meanwhile, these two aforementioned books will provide you excellent portraits of a uniquely gorgeous island whose past, present, and future continues to fascinate.
       This January of 1959 edition of Time Magazine introduced 32-year-old Fidel Castro to the American people. Notice the "July 26th" banner. He named his Cuban Revolution after his ill-fated attack on Batista's Moncada Army Garrison on July 26th, 1953. July 26th in the year 2015 was on Saturday this past weekend. The anniversary was a really big deal in Cuba, with thousands turning out for major ceremonies.
Moncada's 62nd anniversary on Sunday, July 26th, 2015. {Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP}
        This past weekend in Santiago de Cuba at the 62nd anniversary celebrations of the Moncada attack, Cuban schoolchildren played the role of the attackers. Instead of guns as weapons, they are carrying giant pencils as their weapons of choice. Even though the real attackers were markedly out-gunned and it was a bloody disaster, Fidel Castro mandated that his revolution against Batista was "The July 26th Movement."
Celia Sanchez, the most important Cuban revolutionary, wore a "July 26th" armband.
          Largely because of Celia Sanchez, Cuban schoolchildren today are far healthier, much safer, and considerably better educated than pre-revolutionary Cuban children were during the Batista-Mafia rule. These young students are shown at a ceremony celebrating Celia Sanchez's birthday -- May 9th.
         This photo of 12-year-old Celia Sanchez is courtesy of Cuba's Oficina de Aseintos Historicos. It was taken in 1932 in the southeastern Cuban city of Manzanillo where Celia, by 1953, was orchestrating the most important and most dangerous anti-Batista urban guerrilla activity. Shortly thereafter she became the most important guerrilla leader and procurer of arms and supplies in the Sierra Maestra Mountains and its foothills. Celia was birthed on May 9th, 1920 by her father, Dr. Manuel Sanchez, in their home in the southeastern Cuban town of Media Luna, where her birthday is celebrated yearly by awed Cubans.
 Photo courtesy: Barry McColgan/Facebook.
Beautiful statues of Celia Sanchez are tourist attractions in Cuba today.
        After the ill-fated Moncada attack on July 26th, 1953, Fidel Castro spent almost two years in a Batista prison and then almost another two years recruiting in the U. S. and Mexico before finally hooking up with Celia Sanchez's revolution in the Sierra Maestra in December of 1956. The photo above shows Fidel examining his microscopic rifle, a gift from Celia. From that day till the day she died of cancer at age 59 on January 11, 1980, they were inseparable soul-mates. Till this day, he worships the ground she walked on.
This new Celia Sanchez montage is courtesy of Radio Coco.
Fidel Castro turns 89 next month {on August 13th}.


Correcting Some Bush Arrogance

But Two Big Ones Remain
         As of today -- Monday, July 27th, 2015 -- the Cuban flag has been flying exactly one week over its embassy in Washington for the first time since 1961. That was made possible when the U. S. removed Cuba from its short list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Today...Wow!...the U. S. removed Cuba from its short list of nations that Fail To Combat Human Trafficking. Cuba had been on that list since 2003 as one of the endless methods the George W. Bush administration used to callously hurt Cuba and its people.
         Josefina Vidal, Cuba's Minister of North American Affairs, had a long reaction in Havana today that is both acute and astute, and therefore worth paraphrasing, summarizing and pondering: "OK, so we're off the Terrorism list. Now we're off the Human Trafficking list. Thanks a lot. We didn't deserve being on either. So, the U. S. -- for 18 more months -- happens to have a decent President with some executive privileges. But, mostly, the U. S. has a dysfunctional Congress that sells out to the highest bidder, which includes partisans in Miami. What we need...both countries...is decent input from American citizens who still, in their democracy, have some say -- not much, but some -- in the war-like, special interests actions of Congress. Terrorism and Human Trafficking, huh? What about removing Cuba from the sins of the embargo? What about returning Guantanamo Bay to its rightful owner? Congress still dictates those two things, which essentially means that a great democracy is trampled down by bought-and-paid-for dictators." Vidal will see the U. S. open its new embassy in Havana next week, and then she will attend the ceremony on August 14th when Secretary of State John Kerry shows up to officially raise the U. S. flag at its new embassy, which will be staffed with more "diplomats" than any U. S. embassy anywhere else in the world. The embargo and Guantanamo Bay still loom large in Vidal's mind. Thus, it wouldn't take much for her to agree to a dismantling of flags, detente, and other aspects of President Obama's thawing of Cold War-era cruelty.


Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

A Huge Blot Against America
Updated: Monday, July 27th, 2015
           Lisa Monaco is an important lady. {Photo courtesy: Mandel Ngan/AP}. She is President Obama's Deputy Security Advisor. She made headlines last weekend with an important speech at the Aspen Security Conference in Colorado. She said that shortly she will present to the U. S. Congress a plan to close America's most infamous prison -- Gitmo, which Amnesty International calls "The gulag of our time." Gitmo is on U.S.-occupied territory at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Ms. Monaco said: "This doesn't mean just unlocking the door and have somebody go willy-nilly to another country. It means a painstaking establishment of security protocols that would govern the transfer of that individual. Let's look at this: Why hand over this albatross to the President's successor?" As usual, Ms. Monaco's words pertaining to Gitmo make total sense. But, as usual, what makes total sense to the rest of the world routinely faces strong opposition in the U. S. Congress. Ominously, Ms. Monaco said she will deliver her proposals for Gitmo to Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. That, of course, is where many sane proposals go to die.
         Yet, it is Senator John McCain himself who defines the infamous prison at Guantanamo Bay as, "A blot on the image of the United States." Senator McCain turns 79-years-old next month. He was born on the Coco Solo U. S. Military Base in Panama. Both his father and grandfather were 4-star admirals. McCain himself is hailed as a war hero by almost everyone not in Vietnam or not named Donald Trump. He has been in the U. S. Congress since 1982 and in the Senate since 1986. As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee he viciously opposes most of President Obama's peaceful diplomatic efforts around the world -- especially Cuba, including the famed Gitmo prison as well as the U. S. occupation of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
        Lisa Monaco, a Harvard grad who was born in Boston 47 years ago, this week will begin earnestly dealing with a Republican-dominated U. S. Congress in her quest to remove Gitmo first and Guantanamo Bay second as a Bush-Cheney-Congress blot on both democracy and the United States. Her first approach was to appeal to patriotism, namely the anti-American image that Gitmo and the Guantanamo Bay occupation presents to the world. That didn't work. Patriotism, it seems, is on Congress's back-burner these days. So now, in a new draft that she will shortly present to Senator McCain, Ms. Monaco stresses the economic factor. She points out that U. S. taxpayers are paying $3 million a year to imprison each of the hundreds of prisoners at Gitmo while it would cost only a fraction of that amount if they were transferred to U. S. soil and housed in Supermax prisons. Her data to Senator McCain will state that presently there are 116 prisoners at Gitmo, which is down from the 242 that President Obama inherited. Under the plan she will present to Senator McCain, Ms. Monaco suggests that 52 of the current prisoners should be released to other countries and the remaining 64, considered dangerous, would be transferred to U. S. soil.
          This White House photo shows Lisa Monaco, a very patriotic American, explaining her Gitmo/Guantanamo Bay plans to President Barack Obama. In 2008 he inherited a host of Bush-Cheney problems -- from Gitmo to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that spawned terrorist armies and not just terrorist cells or individuals. When he became President in 2008, President Obama vowed to close Gitmo and to use diplomacy, not war, as the fulcrum or cornerstone of America's foreign policy. He has had some remarkable successes, including some sanity finally imparted to U.S.-Cuban relations. But many of President Obama's most worthy projects have been thwarted by a war-like, belligerent U. S. Congress that caters mostly to the financial power of special interest groups, not excluding the Military Industrial Complex that a war-hating Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower, warned Americans about back when he left office in 1960.
                 A powerful Cuban, Josefina Vidal -- reminiscent of Lisa Monaco -- has some pertinent thoughts in regards to Gitmo and Guantanamo Bay. She too wants Gitmo closed and she wants Guantanamo Bay returned to Cuba. As Cuba's ultra-important Minister of North American Affairs, Vidal realizes that the rest of the world, including the UN, agrees with her that Guantanamo Bay was stolen from Cuba shortly after the U. S. gained dominance over the island following the easy victory in the 1898 Spanish-American War. "I am surprised," she says, "that the American people care so little about their democracy that they are willing to accept the opprobrium the rest of the world, especially the Caribbean and Latin America, showers upon the U. S. concerning the imperialist theft of Guantanamo Bay. The military base and the God-awful prison merely exacerbates the image that shames America. A decent American President, Mr. Obama, has greatly improved relations with Cuba. But Guantanamo Bay is now a two-step process -- close the prison first and then return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba. The U. S. has hundreds of bases, many in Florida and on the East Coast within a few minutes airtime of Cuba. It has nuclear-armed submarines in our shared waters. Guantanamo Bay simply represents a means for extreme Cuban exiles and their Republican associates to hurt or embarrass Cuba as a part of their revenge for not being able to overthrow the Cuban Revolution. The harm it presents to America's image is of no concern to that faction. To the world Guantanamo Bay's continued occupation means that the U. S. is still living in the archaic imperialist stone-age that the Cuban Revolution rebelled against decades ago."
       The sheer brilliance and determination of Josefina Vidal is largely responsible for the improved relations between Cuba and the United States. She, more than anyone else including Obama himself, is the reason that, for the first time since 1961, the Cuban flag now waves over a Cuban embassy in Washington; and on August 14th Secretary of State John Kerry will be in Havana to raise the U. S. flag at its embassy in Havana. Josefina Vidal orchestrated that and much more, against implacable odds. She also did even more impossible things -- such as returning the imprisoned Alan Gross to Maryland when anti-Cuban zealots were gleefully using his imprisonment to harangue against Cuba. She also engineered the return of the famed Cuba 5 to Cuba, including the last one that had been sentenced in Miami to two life terms plus 15 years in a U. S. federal prison. And, perhaps most amazing of all, Josefina Vidal got Cuba removed from the U. S. State Department's debilitating Sponsors of Terrorism list, a listing that dated back to the 1980s and which allowed Miami courts to successfully sue unrepresented Cuba on a myriad of often innocuous charges. Now Josefina Vidal aims to have Guantanamo Bay returned to Cuba. Like some other diplomatic moves she has accomplished, Guantanamo Bay is considered an impossible task for her because ultra-powerful Cuban-Americans and members of Congress consider it the Crown Jewel of their revenge, economic, and political successes against Cuba. But underestimating Josefina Vidal has helped loosen the tight grip extremists have had on America's Cuban policy. The pertinent question now is this: As hard as she has worked to improve U.S.-Cuban relations, would Vidal be willing to sacrifice all of it if Guantanamo Bay is not returned to Cuba?? The answer is significant because the answer is: Yes.

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 ...