Thursday, September 10, 2015

Siege Of Cuba Continues

So Does The Cuban Gravy Train
Updated: Friday, September 11th, 2015
          Cristina Escobar, fluent in both Spanish and English, coined a phrase that is very pertinent to the ongoing U.S.-Cuban relations, perhaps more pertinent than the opening of embassies in the capitals of Havana and Washington this summer for the first time since 1961, the year of the Bay of Pigs as well as numerous assassination attempts against Fidel Castro, among other regime-change programs designed in Miami and Washington and routinely funded by the U. S. Congress. Cristina, here in September of 2015, believes those newly installed embassy flags will have an ephemeral existence before being put back in storage for another five decades or so. The phrase she has coined to support that belief is: "El anti-Fidel Castro industria" or, translated to English, "The anti-Fidel Castro industry." Cristina believes the anti-Castro industry is far too entrenched, too powerful, and too lucrative in Miami and Washington to allow either sanity or a breath of fresh air to embrace U.S.-Cuban relations. Therefore, she thinks that a cancerous minority will easily destroy the majority wishes of powerful entities that include President Barack Obama as well as a plethora of U. S. businesses and farmers who strongly desire normal relations with the Caribbean's largest and most important nation. So, who is Cristina Escobar, you ask...another pundit? Not exactly. At age 27 she is an absolutely brilliant television anchor and Cuba's most influential journalist. Moreover, she is the leader of the island's twenty-something generation that, come hell or high water, will either determine Cuba's future or fight foreign efforts to blunt them...as opposed to, for example, defecting to Miami. Later in this essay I will direct you to YouTube videos where you see and hear Cristina in English use the phrase "The anti-Fidel Castro industry" but also the word "dysfunctional" to describe the U. S. Congress that she firmly believes, when it comes to Cuba, is controlled by the most vicious first-and-second-generational elements booted off the island by the Cuban Revolution in January of 1959. For example, Cristina is well aware that the first generation of Cuban exile powers in Miami included Rafael Diaz-Balart, a key Minister in the Batista-Mafia dictatorship in Cuba, and the second generation of Cuban exile power in both Miami and Washington includes Diaz-Balart's four sons, two of whom have been elected to the U. S. Congress. Cristina Escobar -- on Cuban, regional, and U. S. television while speaking Spanish or English -- is proving that she understands U.S.-Cuban history. More importantly, she understands current events. And that's why she believes the lucrative anti-Fidel Castro industry in the United States will soon demolish President Obama's efforts to normalize relations with the island.
       To comprehend Cristina Escobar's contention that "the anti-Fidel Castro industry" in the United States will thwart any efforts by President Obama and others to normalize relations with Cuba, you need to be less familiar with pundits on cable television and more familiar with unbiased, true Cuban experts such as Tracey Eaton. From 1994 till 2005 Tracey headed the Dallas Morning News bureau in Havana. I read and studied all of his articles and then exchanged a hundred or so emails with him, and he met me at the Victoria Hotel in Havana on my first day in Cuba in 2004. The photo above shows Tracey at his home in Tarara, just outside Havana, as he changed the Texas license on his Jeep to a Cuban license. Today Tracey teaches journalism and photography at Flagler College in Florida but he remains the best investigative journalist regarding U.S.-Cuban relations. He writes incisive articles for such publications as The New York Times and USA Today. He also publishes two of the best Cuban blogs -- Along the Malecon and Cuba Money Project. In the first three days of this first full week in September of 2015, Tracey's Along the Malecon has utilized the Freedom of Information Act to reveal that, detente or no detente, the U. S. government -- via such tax-soaking enterprises as USAID and Radio & TV Marti -- continues to fund a stunningly vast array of regime-change programs aimed at Cuba. This week -- September 9th -- a new USAID program began soliciting "multiple managers" for a new Cuban project with opening salaries ranging from $90,823 to $139,523 per year. Yes, Tracey regularly provides exact salaries. Recently he did so for what I counted as 32 Cuban projects with dozens and dozens of exact salaries that should make any taxpayer wince. This week on his Malecon blog Tracey documented how the Cuban projects "survived the ax" even as the U. S. government is in a cost-cutting mode, even reducing funding for many worthwhile programs. For example, Radio & TV Marti based in Miami this week began soliciting bids to hire entertainers "to produce funny, ironic, satirical and entertaining comedy shows" aimed at making fun of the Cuban government. The highly paid "entertainers" would be writing, producing, and acting in expensive half-hour productions. The salaries and all other expenses, of course, will be passed along to taxpayers who, presumably, are too stupid, too scared, or too unpatriotic to even ask, "Can this STILL be happening?"
       Since the 1980s Radio-TV Marti has been one of the most lucrative and most controversial regime-change programs lavishly funded by taxpayers. In the 1980s the Bush dynasty anointed anti-Castro Cuban-American zealot Jorge Mas Canosa the leader of the Cubans in exile. As pointed out by Julia E. Sweig in her seminal book "What Everyone Needs To Know About Cuba," Canosa was advised to study and replicate AIPAC, the ultra-powerful Israeli lobby. He did. Soon the Cuban American National Foundation dictated Cuban laws in the U. S. Congress much like the influence AIPAC exerts regarding Israeli issues. Canosa, on his way to becoming an alleged billionaire in Miami, then founded such extremely lucrative enterprises as Radio-TV Marti, lushly funded by taxpayers. Years ago, at the turn of this century, Jeffrey Kofman of ABC-TV News had a famous report entitled "Newscast to Nowhere." Kofman revealed that Radio-TV Marti, an amateurish anti-Castro propaganda machine, was soaking in hundreds of millions of tax dollars for broadcasts from Miami intended to propagandize Cubans on the island...except Cuba could easily block the signals. Thus, the hundreds of millions of dollars was for a "Newscast to Nowhere." But as the famed Kofman report and many others have revealed, the prime purpose of such programs as Radio-TV Marti are all those lucrative salaries. The Kofman expose stated: "'The Marti has just never been seen in Cuba,' said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, one of a chorus of congressmen who think TV Marti's funding should have been cut long ago. Flake says, 'It's a jobs program...a political payoff." Thus...it has continued for decades.
           When he gave those quotes to ABC-TV's Jeffrey Kofman, Jeff Flake was in the U. S. House of Representatives, where he served from 2001 till 2013. He is now 52-years-old and in the U. S. Senate.
        As a Senator, Jeff Flake has continued to work tirelessly to bring sanity and decency to America's Cuban policy, including frequent trips to the island prior to the opening of embassies in the two capital cities this summer for the first time since 1961. But Senator Flake realizes that such advances in U.S.-Cuban relations can, and will, easily be turned back by a handful of anti-Castro zealots in Miami and in Congress. As investigative journalist Tracey Eaton, who is privy to exact money figures from the U. S. government, revealed this week, the lush funding for Radio-TV Marti and a multitude of other regime-change programs have been renewed by the Batistiano-loving U. S. Congress along with a stunning array of new regime-change programs, all providing dozens of plush salaries that Jeff Flake, years ago, told ABC-TV News were nothing more than "jobs programs, political payoffs." Money first, revenge second, democracy be-damned! Like the young journalist Cristina Escobar in Cuba, Senator Flake must be wondering, where are millions of the self-proclaimed democracy-lovers hiding? Up in trees? Under rocks?
        Yoani Sanchez, the most famed anti-Castro dissident in Cuba, has a passport and can fly back-and-forth from Havana to cities around the world. She surely made a beeline to Miami where she was given superstar treatment {aboveon Radio-TV Marti. Imagine that. Yoani knowing where her bread is buttered!!
         Then Yoani Sanchez made a beeline to Washington where she was treated like a superstar by Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez, two Cuban-American U. S. Senators who share Yoani Sanchez's anti-Castro zealotry and, according to Cristina Escobar, are prime benefactors of the anti-Fidel Castro industry.
        That brings up back around to Cristina Escobar, the antithesis to Yoani Sanchez on the island of Cuba and to Cubans who defected to greener pastures. As Cuba's 27-year-old superstar broadcaster, and as the leader of the island's increasingly restless twenty-something generation, Cristina strongly opposes everything Yoani Sanchez and what she calls "the Cuban-American extremists" stand for. And she believes they mostly stand for "enriching and empowering themselves at the expense of hurting everyday Cubans on the island." This summer while she was in Washington covering the fourth and final Josefina Vidal-Roberta Jacobson diplomatic session, Cristina made history with a blistering series of five questions fired at White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest at a crowded news conference -- "Will the regime-change programs continue? Will the U. S. diplomats at the new embassy in Havana be respectful to Cuba? Will Obama visit Cuba in 2016?" etc. Then in speeches and interviews around Washington, Cristina lambasted the U. S. media for "hurting everyday Cubans" by being gutless, incompetent, and biased when reporting on Cuba.
         In addition to being the most popular television newscaster in Cuba, Cristina Escobar has regular news reports on regional networks such as Telesur and she is frequently interviewed, as shown above, by international networks such as the Washington-based CCTV-America. The image above is taken from one of two CCTV-America interviews conducted this summer and posted on YouTube where, in English, you can watch her speak and then judge many of the quotes referenced above, including her belief that the vast and very lucrative "anti-Fidel Castro industry" in the United States will thwart any and all positive steps President Obama has achieved regarding normalizing relations with Cuba. Her opinions about the "dysfunctional U. S. Congress" and a "few self-serving Miami Cubans" are palpable and coincide with her tangible distaste for the "anti-Fidel Castro industry" that she feels fuels the "criminally flawed" U. S. policy towards Cuba. The above quotes were all taken from regional or international interviews in English featuring Cristina Escobar. Considering that the young and brilliant Ms. Escobar has a do-or-die Celia Sanchez-type attitude regarding Cubans on the island, not in Miami and Washington, charting Cuba's course, perhaps it is time Americans heard from her, at least via YouTube, as opposed to being force-fed one-sided Cuban propaganda from the likes of ubiquitous self-serving U. S. pundits such as Ana Navarro, Nick Castellanos, and Alan Gomez. Cristina is not defecting to Miami, New York, or LA where lucrative television anchoring jobs, in either Spanish or English, would surely await her. She will remain on the island, come hell or high water, expressing her influential opinion that Cuba, despite the opening of embassies, will remain in "a cold or hot war" {her exact quote} with the U. S. as long as the economic blockade/embargo continues, as long as the U. S. media continues to "lie about Cuba" {exact quote}, as long as the U. S. continues "its regime-change posture" {exact quote}, and as long as "the U. S. theft of Guantanamo Bay is not resolved and compensated for" {exact quote}. And another reason Americans should get to know Cristina Escobar is this quote: "From a David vs. Goliath aspect, Americans are taught to dismiss Cuba's demands for independence. But Cuba's true independence fighters were and are willing to die for their beliefs while such motivations are not typical of conquerors who may be far more powerful. If my twenty-something generation of Cubans on the island lose, we intend to inspire another generation just as determined. Hopefully, regarding things such as the return of Guantanamo Bay, David has more patience than Goliath. We just have to keep our slingshots loaded." She laughed, then added, "No nukes here but lots of rocks to sling."


                 In other words, whether she is anchoring the news herself, being interviewed by other journalists, or just sitting around in a soft chair just discussing the fate of the island that is so dear to her, Cristina Escobar is a force that, win or lose, must be reckoned with by Miami and Washington sources coveting the luscious island. No matter what Presidents like Obama and Castro or diplomats like Vidal and Jacobson hammer out, Cristina Escobar has a following and a constituency in Cuba that wants to be heard. So, listen to her hopes: {1She wants the embargo to end; {2} she wants the U. S. media to begin to report fairly on the U.S.-Cuban conundrum; {3} she wants Americans to be intelligent enough or free enough to recognize the evils of the anti-Fidel Castro industry; and {4} she wants Guantanamo Bay returned to Cuba.   
       This week NPR featured a well-researched and fair-minded update, written by David Welna, on the U. S. occupation of Cuba's plush Guantanamo Bay seaport. The above photo, courtesy of David Welna/NPR, shows a huge U. S. warship, the USS Jason Dunham, unloading supplies recently at Guantanamo Bay. The NPR report stated that U. S. military personnel cherish assignments to the luxurious base because it is "a hidden gem of a duty assignment for active duty folks." Maybe so, but Cuba and all unbiased regional and international observers believe that the continued occupation of Guantanamo Bay represents a blight on the image of the United States that overwhelms whatever benefits the theft of the seaport provides.
        Josefina Vidal {photo courtesy of ABC-TV News} is Cuba's Minister of North American Affairs. She has worked tirelessly with U. S. ministers in the past two years to normalize relations with the United States, highlighted by the opening of embassies in Havana and Washington for the first time since 1961. However, Vidal says, "As long as the United States perpetuates the theft of Guantanamo Bay, it will signal to us and to the rest of the world that a huge segment of the U. S. democracy still relishes the bygone era when imperialist powers raped and robbed small countries like Cuba at will. We are trying so hard to work positively with America, for the good of both countries. But until the day when the U. S. returns Guantanamo Bay to Cuba, I will consider that my island is under siege by the imperialist-minded United States. If the flags now flying at the two embassies come down, the occupation of Guantanamo Bay will be a reason or the continued regime-change programs could be a reason. The flags waving proudly meant a lot to many good people, but not all."
         This photo was taken by Edward H. Hart and is used courtesy of the Library of Congress. It shows the U. S. flag going up at Guantanamo Bay on June 12, 1898, as a key prize for winning the Spanish-American War, which gave the U. S. domination of Cuba.  Three years later, in 1901, the Platt Amendment sealed the U. S. theft of Guantanamo Bay for the token payment of $2,000.00 a year. In 1934, for whatever reason, the U. S. increased the yearly payment to $4,000.00. Then in 2015 the U. S. Treasury check to Cuba was $4,087.00, apparently adding $87 in interest. But Revolutionary Cuba has not cashed any of those yearly checks since 1959, the year the Cuban Revolution defeated the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship.
        This Library of Congress photo was taken in 1911. It shows U. S. soldiers conducting drills at Guantanamo Bay. To this day, America's vast military superiority over Cuba remains, in the eyes of the world, the sole justification for the U. S. occupation of Guantanamo Bay. And might over right soon gets old. 
         Moreover, the infamous Bush-Cheney U. S. prison at Guantanamo Bay continues to harm the image, and many believe the security, of the United States. It is known to the world as Gitmo and Amnesty International labels it "the gulag of our time." Eight years ago, as he campaigned successfully for President, Barack Obama promised to close Gitmo. Deep into his second term as President, he has tried but failed, apparently because right-wing Republicans in the U. S. Congress believe the prison is less of a bad thing on Cuban soil as opposed to U. S. soil. Some 123 prisoners remain at Gitmo. It has been estimated the yearly cost per prisoner runs into the millions of dollars while their incarceration in U. S. maximum security prisons would be about $35,000 per prisoner per year. With Mr. Obama unable to close Gitmo, he is now not even trying to do the right thing when it comes to Guantanamo Bay, which is to return it to Cuba and end the occupation that the rest of the world considers abhorrent and long overdue.
         Marine Corps General John F. Kelly currently heads the U. S. Southern Command based in Florida. That means he is the prime overseer of Guantanamo Bay. General Kelly says "It's a very useful base."
        From 2006 till 2009 Navy Admiral James G. Stavridis was in charge of the U. S. Southern Command and, as such, the overseer of Guantanamo Bay. He is the only Naval officer to hold three major commands -- the Southern, the European, and the Supreme Allied Command. He was born 60 years ago in West Palm Beach, Florida. He is now a dean at Tufts University where he graduated from Law School. Admiral Stavridis has written three important books: Partnership for the Americas; Western Hemisphere Strategy, and U. S. Southern Command. Admiral Stavridis, in other words, qualifies as an expert on Florida, Cuba, the Americas, and the Western Hemisphere. He seems to believe that the U. S. should not only close Gitmo but also return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba, apparently because it projects far more harm than good to the image of the United States. This week's NPR report quoted Admiral Stavridis as saying, "It is not vital to the national security needs of the United States." In other words, no longer involved in Commands, Admiral Stavridis seems to believe that Guantanamo Bay harms America's national security and projects or resurrects an image of imperialist America. But, it appears, the anti-Fidel Castro industry could care less.
        Guantanamo Bay's strategic location on Cuba's southeastern tip and in the center of the Caribbean with close proximity to all of Latin America, once had a primary military objective for the United States, especially as a refueling depot. But now the region and all sea lanes are saturated with nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered ships and submarines, and the U. S. in the jet age has hundreds of military bases around the world, including multiple bases in Florida within minutes of Cuba and anywhere else in the region. So why, considering how much the continued occupation of Guantanamo Bay hurts America's image worldwide, is it likely that the Gitmo prison and the lush port of Guantanamo Bay will remain in U. S. hands?
       Yes, Cristina Escobar has strong opinions about Guantanamo Bay. And, truth be known, her opinion is important. At age 27, Cuba's most popular journalist says, "In essence, as long as the U. S. Congress is able to rub the theft of Guantanamo Bay in our faces, we will, in effect, be in a state of war with the U. S. If it is not a hot war because of the disparity in the military might of the two countries, it is a continuation of the cold war. That hurts us dearly and hurts America too, with the benefactors being only a few revengeful criminal types. The U. S. democracy began a descent when it was not strong enough to prevent the Spanish-American War in 1898 and when it was not strong enough to prevent the U. S. installation or support of vile dictators beginning in the 1950s in Cuba, Congo, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and elsewhere. Waves of democracy corrected some of that but the Cuban dictators fled to the U. S. in 1959 to continue their regime and thus Cuba, for going on six decades, continues to be targeted by the elements the Cuban Revolution chased off the island but...not very far. It's the 'not very far' that hurts the Cuban people so very much."
             Cristina Escobar is not just the most influential journalist in Cuba. She is also an emphatic voice for the island's twenty-somethings that crave two things: {1} There independence; and {2} a better life. Cristina has no desire to be the top newscaster in Miami, which she probably could easily become. What she wants is "for my generation of Cubans to stay on the island without being shackled by a foreign imperialist power."
         Back in December Cristina Escobar spent ten days at journalism seminars in California and this summer she made history by being the first Cuban journalist to ask questions {above} at a news conference in Washington conducted by the U. S. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. She made headlines with some blistering and pertinent questions, such as...will the U. S. regime-change programs continue even as the two countries try to normalize relations;? Will the occupation of Guantanamo Bay ever end;? Can we expect President Obama to visit Cuba in 2016? Her questions were the best of the day!
        John Earnest, the White House Press Secretary, seemed pleasantly surprised and amused when he looked down at the young female Cuban journalist asking the pertinent questions in perfect English.
        In addition to making history and quite an impression at the White House news conference, Cristina not only made some pertinent pro-Cuban speeches around Washington but in the above photo, taken from YouTube, she patiently answered a series of tough questions when cornered in a parking lot by an unfriendly television reporter. During her trip to Washington, Cristina made it clear that her primary message was this: "The unfair, one-sided negative portrait of Cuba in the U. S. media hurts everyday Cubans on the island. It hurts them a lot. The U. S. media and the U. S. government should be ashamed."
             While she was in Washington, Cristina Escobar wanted some video outside of the White House. It was a rainy day so she held the umbrella for her photographer. Her passion is Cuba, not her persona.
Back in Cuba, Cristina Escobar is the island's top newscaster.
        Cristina Escobar is a leader of a young-adult generation of Cubans that will remain on the island and try to predicate the island's relations with the United States as flags now fly, at least for the time being, at the new embassies in Havana and Washington. In her pensive moments, as above, Cristina is not optimistic. Remnants of the long-ago Batista dictatorship? The Embargo? Cubana Flight 455? Guantanamo Bay, USA? In one pensive moment, as above, Cristina lamented out loud, "If the U. S. democracy was stronger, Cuba would benefit a whole lot." Cristina Escobar cares a whole lot about Cuba. That's a good sign.
  Guantanamo Bay, USA. It's a Crime.
So was what happened to Cubana Flight 455.
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