The U.S-Cuba-MAFIA Triangle

A Nexus From 1952 Till Today
Saturday, December 12th, 2015
       President Luis Guillermo Solis of Costa Rica is the latest Latin American leader caught up in the tangled web of U. S. laws designed to hurt Cuba and to empower and enrich Cubans once they defect to the United States. President Solis right now is beside himself over 4,500 Cubans stranded in his country for weeks now. They are a product of Wet Foot/Dry Foot, a U. S. law dating back to 1966 that encourages Cubans to defect and if their front foot touches U. S. soil they immediately have instant legal residency and welfare. Of course, that law and many others pertain only to Cubans, acutely discriminating against non-Cubans. Fearing that President Obama's peaceful overtures to Cuba will end Wet Foot/Dry Foot, thousands of Cubans are trying to flock to the U. S. via the Mexican border, some reportedly paying traffickers up to $15,000 to make the journey through eight countries. Some 4,500 Cubans made it as far as Costa Rica but were stopped at the border with Nicaragua, with Guatemala and other countries supporting Nicaragua. At his wit's end, President Solis this week announced that Costa Rica would fly them to Belize and from there they could reach U. S. soil. But Belize refused that plan. So, President Solis is caught in a quandary.
 Some of the 4,500 Wet Foot/Dry Foot Cubans stranded in Costa Rica.
          President Solis of Costa Rica -- vexed by Wet Foot/Dry Foot -- will fly to Cuba tomorrow, December 13th, for an important 3-day visit. He will lead a huge contingent to Cuba -- 31 government officials and 50 business leaders. Only in 2009 after President Obama replaced anti-Cuban President Bush in the White House did Cuba and Costa Rica restore relations. President Obama has made other great strides in normalizing relations between the U. S. and Cuba but only the U. S. Congress can put an end to such laws as Wet Foot/Dry Foot that have, for decades, harmed Cuba and many other countries in the region while also sating the revenge, economic, and political appetites of Cuban-Americans. Presidents caught in the middle, like Mr. Solis in Costa Rica, are astounded that the American people meekly allow a handful of Cuban-Americans and their easily acquired sycophants to so easily dictate such laws in the U. S. Congress. President Solis said, "We have waited many decades for America to conduct a sane approach to Cuba."
        This map shows the long, circuitous journey -- from Cuba to Ecuador to Colombia to Panama and to Costa Rica -- that the thousands of Cubans had taken before being stopped at the Nicaraguan border.
Anti-Cuba, yes; anti-world, si.
        USA Today yesterday -- Friday, Dec. 11th, 2015 -- had a full-page update on the 4,500 Cubans stuck on the Costa Rican-Nicaraguan border. It shows the insightful graphic above by USA Today's Janet Loehrke. The article was written by USA Today's Cuban-American Miami-based journalist Alan Gomez, and it is fair and balanced. Gomez quotes Frank Mora, the Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University in Miami. Mora said: "The question from Central Americans is, 'So why is it that Cubans have these privileges while Salvadorans and Mexicans have to go back to their country?' That creates tensions in the region." It surely does but most of the mainstream media in the U. S., especially the television networks, don't have the guts or the integrity to even discuss the anti-democratic issue that Mr. Mora in Miami just discussed in yesterday's USA Today.
     This is the fair-minded Frank Mora -- born, reared, and educated in Miami. His comments in USA Today Friday are typical of his democracy-loving appraisals of U.S.-Cuban relations and how they relate to Latin America and the Caribbean. It is a shame, I believe, that Miami -- which has a wealth of fair-minded individuals -- sends only Cuban hardliners to the U. S. Congress, which keeps in place a litany of anti-Castro laws that don't hurt Castro but indeed hurt many, many other people.
         Yesterday-- Dec. 11th, 2015 -- Cuba's media, including the popular Cubadebate blog, used the above photo to illustrate a note 89-year-old Fidel Castro wrote to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The photo shows President Maduro on a recent visit to Castro's home in Havana. The first sentence of Castro's "Dear Nicholas" note to Maduro was: "I join the unanimous opinion of those who have congratulated you on your brilliant and courageous speech on the night of December 6." That was a reference to the concession speech Maduro made after last Sunday's National Assembly election in Venezuela gave a super-majority to Maduro's bitter opponents. With that super majority, Venezuela's National Assembly can now {1} begin impeachment proceedings against Maduro, whose term as President runs till 2019; and {2} the National Assembly now has the power to end Venezuela's very vital oil shipments to Cuba. In his December 6th speech, Maduro surprised some by saying he would "accept" the National Assembly vote. Fidel, in his note, seems to agree with that calm acceptance...but what transpires in the National Assembly-vs.-Maduro tugs-of-war in the coming days will be worth watching -- by all Venezuelans, Cubans, and Americans.
     Hotel Anton in Cienfuegos; Cuba is renovating its best hotels as fast as it can.
      Hotel Nacional in Havana, Cuba; legendary when the Mafia ruled Cuba in the 1950s and still legendary to this day. Presidents, Kings, Queens, and celebrities stay here.
     Another view of Hotel Nacional as a recent influx of tourism blankets the island.
         The Riviera Hotel in Havana; it was built in 1957 by Mafia kingpin Meyer Lansky and it still glistens above the Malecon seawall today after a recent renovation.
     Gary Rapoport, the 60-year-old grandson of Mafia kingpin Meyer Lansky, this week has shined the spotlight back on the Mafia-U.S.-Cuban nexus that began in 1952 and continues to this day. It all started in 1952 when the U. S. government teamed with the top echelons of the Mafia -- Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky -- to support the brutal, thieving Fulgencio Batista in Cuba. In 1957, unmindful of the Celia Sanchez/Fidel Castro-led revolution that was gaining traction far to the southeast in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra Mountains, Meyer Lansky spent $8 million {now about $32 million} of his considerable fortune to build the Riviera Hotel, complete with air conditioning and a plush casino that made Las Vegas casinos look second-rate. Gary Rapoport, a resident of Tampa, Florida, this week made headlines by announcing that he and other Lansky heirs are demanding that Cuba either return the hotel to them or pay them what it is worth. Gary told The Tampa Tribune Tuesday that Cuba took the Riviera Hotel "forcefully" from his grandfather after the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959 chased Batistiano-Mafiosi leaders off the island, mostly to nearby South Florida. And then on Wednesday, Gary told NBC-6 South Florida that he is aware that Cuba and the U. S. are now discussing financial claims the countries have against each other. He said: "We never filed a claim with the government or hired an attorney earlier because we didn't think the door for negotiating would ever actually open."
     Gary Rapoport says he has very fond memories of his grandfather, Meyer Lansky. Gary is shown here with a photo of his high school graduation with his granddad Meyer Lansky in attendance. Gary's dad, Marvin Rapoport, owned lavish horse farms in New York and Pennsylvania. Gary Rapoport now works for a bank in Tampa.
    This photo, courtesy of Gary Rapoport, shows Meyer Lansky's family in the 1940s. The two boys standing at the left are sons Paul and Buddy. Their mother Anne is sitting beside Meyer's only daughter, Sandra. She is Gary Rapoport's mother.
     This montage shows Meyer Lansky and his only daughter Sandra {he called her Sandi} on a trip to Israel. Sandra is the mother of Gary Rapoport, the grandson trying to reclaim Lansky's Riviera Hotel from Cuba. In the upper right, Sandra is holding a photo of her beloved father. In the lower right, the image of famed entertainer Dean Martin is appropriate. Sandra wrote a best-selling book about growing up as Meyer Lansky's daughter. The most quoted passages from the book relate to the Mafia's "gangland" hold on Las Vegas. In the book Sandra intimately detailed her sexual relationship with Las Vegas star Dean Martin. The page depicting Martin's six-times-in-one-night prowess is dizzying, and she wasn't talking about him singing six songs.
      This photo shows Lucky Luciano, on the left, and Meyer Lansky just as they were slugging their way...murdering, actually...to the top of New York-New Jersey's criminal empire known as the Mafia. Lucky was born in Italy in 1897 when his name was Salvadore Lucania. He was small, just 5-foot-8. Meyer was born in Belarus in 1902. He was smaller, just 5-feet tall. Lucky died of a heart attack at the airport in Naples in 1962 when he was to meet a Hollywood producer interested in a movie about Lucky's life. Lucky was flown back to New York City and buried there. Meyer died in Miami Beach in 1983 and is buried there. The two lifelong buddies are credited with expanding the Mafia into a national crime syndicate known as The Commission, which was run like a corporation -- but one that ruthlessly eliminated all competition.
       This photo shows a part of the first Commission that Luciano and Lansky designed in 1931 at a Mafia meeting held in Atlanta City, New Jersey. They wanted the greater New York area to be divided into five Mafia families with Lucky and Meyer dictating the leaders, such as the five early friends depicted above. Note that second from the left is Ben "Bugsy" Siegel. Siegel was the famed builder of Las Vegas's gambling empire till Lucky and Meyer, at a famous meeting in Havana at the National Hotel, ordered his assassination. And Luciano-Lansky orders were carried out. 
Bugsy is famed as the Mafia builder of Las Vegas.
       Bugsy's famous death sentence was indeed handed down by Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky in Cuba although Bugsy, like Meyer, was Jewish. Lucky and Meyer believed Bugsy was skimming money from the Flamingo Hotel that Bugsy so doggedly had built in the Nevada desert, spawning the world-famed city of Las Vegas.
       These are the three Mafia kingpins -- Santo Trafficante, Meyer Lansky, and Lucky Luciano -- that dominated the Havana Mob during the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship of Cuba from 1952-1959. Meyer and Lucky were the decision-makers and Santo ran several of the primary casinos. Santo and his father were the Mafia kingpins of Tampa for four decades before and after the Mafia's rule of Cuba in the 1950s.
       Left to the U. S. government and the U. S. media, Americans would believe that the Batista dictatorship in Cuba in the 1950s was led by Mother Teresa-types. In that milieu, movies have done a far better job of depicting the Mafia in the U. S. and in Cuba even with its cinematic embellishments. In "Godfather II," for example, Meyer Lansky was played by the Hyman Roth character, on the left above. Meyer was also a key factor in the HBO series "Boardwalk Empire." All leading Mafia figures, most of whom never had any real problems with law enforcement, have been vividly depicted in movies. That's how, for example, we actually learn that Meyer Lansky did, in fact, tell Fulgencio Batista in Florida, "I've always wanted the Mob to own its own country." That dream was then realized in Cuba till the Cuban Revolution intervened. Also, as the Hyman Roth character in "Godfather II" reminded us, Meyer Lansky in Cuba did say, "We are bigger than U. S. Steel!" and, counting the Mafia holdings in Havana, New York, and Las Vegas at the time, they certainly were big. REAL BIG!!!!
      According to the Batistaino-directed Cuban narrative in the United States since 1959, these are the three Mother Teresa-type men who treated the everyday Cubans so nice during the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship from 1952 till sunrise on January 1, 1959. Left to right, the Big Three Mafiosi in Havana from 1952 till 1959 were Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Fulgencio Batista. Uh, yeah, really! Mother Teresa-types! 
      To my mind, the photo above is an example of how the U. S. government and the U. S. media -- as opposed to movies and a few brave historians -- have, since the 1950s, steadfastly presented to Americans only the Batistiano version of the Cuban Revolution, which was primarily a unique female-orchestrated endeavor. Cuban females and children were the primary victims of the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship in the 1950s. And Cuban females, like the victorious ones above, were the rebels mostly responsible for chasing the Batistianos, the Mafiosi, and the U. S. executives off the island. If that fact is too much for the Batistianos to stomach to this day, so be it. This is one of Tete Puebla's favorite photos. That's her on the left with some of the other female guerrilla fighters that doomed Batista, Lansky, and Luciano in Cuba...although, unfortunately, their American sanctuary was awaiting them.
       Today Tete Puebla is a General in the Cuban army. I met her in 2004 when the Bush administration gave me permission to visit Cuba for the purpose of researching my biography of Celia Sanchez, Cuba's greatest revolutionary heroine and a guerrilla fighter right beside Tete. So, I can testify that General Tete Puebla is a sweet lady and easy to talk to. I have been reminded of that this week when I have read a plethora of articles about Meyer Lansky's grandson in Tampa, Gary Rapoport, demanding that Cuba repay the Lansky family for Meyer's loss of his splendid Riviera Hotel to the victorious Cuban Revolution. My thought is this: Why doesn't Gary Rapoport travel to Cuba and ask General Puebla face-to-face if she thinks Cuba should return the Riviera Hotel to the Lansky family? I would love to see how Tete would answer that question.
Tete Puebla, interviewed about her biography.
Celia Sanchez, the greatest Cuban {my opinion}.
"Native Flower of the Cuban Revolution"
Fidel Castro's favorite photo of Celia Sanchez.
Fidel Castro's favorite portrait of Celia Sanchez.
Writer Mercedes Rodriguez Garcia admiring portrait of Celia Sanchez.
This is in Santa Clara; Mariposa is Cuba's state flower.
Celia Sanchez portrait amid Mariposa flowers.

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