Cuba & U.S. Politics

Obama's Successor Will Be Crucial
       Jose Mujica -- the very, very popular former President of Uruguay -- had a long and very pleasant visit in the Havana home of Fidel Castro this past weekend. Mujica, a huge revolutionary friend who was Uruguay's President till March of 2015, has visited Fidel each of the last four Januarys -- 2013, 2014, 2015 and now 2016. At a news conference in Havana Saturday -- January 30, 2016 -- as reported by Fox News Latino and others -- the 80-year-old Mujica said these interesting words: "I had a pretty long meeting with Fidel and we talked about an infinite number of things. He remembered perfectly well our last conversation, and I confess he looked better than he did when I was in his home last year -- always scintillating, with the most diverse concerns. He is concerned about the spreading Zika virus. And he is direly concerned...alarmed, really...by the need to breed livestock as an important food category." Fidel Castro, who has surprised a lot of people for a lot of decades, now plans to celebrate his 90th birthday on August 13th of this year. 
     Cuban President Raul Castro arrived in Paris yesterday -- Sunday, the last day of January, 2016 -- and he will receive all the Bells & Whistles now accorded to major heads of state. That includes a state banquet in his honor at Elysee Palace. This photo shows French President Francois Hollande on his important state visit to Cuba in May of 2015. Hollande was the first of the leading Western Presidents to take full advantage of U. S. President Barack Obama's overtures to Cuba, including the opening of embassies in Havana and Washington for the first time since 1961. Prior to Castro's return visit, Hollande's office said, "Cuba is a country that is opening and we want to be a significant part of that opening." The statement also expressed France's recognition that "good relations with Cuba improves France's with all of Latin America." Even prior to Obama's brave efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, major French companies have been doing business with the island for years. Accor is involved in Cuba's hotel industry and Air France has regular flights to Cuba; the French alcohol beverage giant, Pernard Ricard, distributes Cuba's prized Havana Club, etc. Cuba owes France $4 billion but the French appear willing, even anxious, to reinvest most of that debt back into Cuba. Like all of America's best friends, France adamantly opposes the embargo of Cuba, which has been in effect since 1962. On his visit to Cuba in May, France's President Hollande said, "Few nations, large or small, could have withstood over five decades of intransigence from superpower America, with the embargo just one element. But now that Cuba has withstood it, the end of the embargo should stop hurting other nations too."
       President Obama's two-term presidency began with him supposedly marching to defend a Cuban policy that the prior ten U. S. presidents -- including Democrats Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton -- had neither the courage nor the ability to change. But Obama, realizing the negative image it casts worldwide on America, has done all in his power to alter the abomination, changes that France this week is following up on.
        Obama's legacy as President will note that he was the only U. S. President since the 1950s with the guts and decency to extend a warm hand to Cuba. He understood that Cuba's revolution in 1959 didn't overthrow a U.S.-backed Mother Teresa dictatorship in Cuba; he understood the ill-advised Bay of Pigs attack in 1961 only added to the Castro legend, as did countless U.S.-aided Exile and Mafia assassination attempts; he understood that such things as the terrorist bombing of the civilian Cubana Flight 455 and the embargo greatly harmed both everyday Cubans on the island as well as America's international reputation; and he understood that having a Cuban policy designed to sate the revenge, economic, and political motives of a handful of extremists had maligned the image of American and democracy long enough.
      The gutty brilliance of Mr. Obama regarding Cuba highlights the fact that none of his predecessors -- not even Kennedy, Carter and Clinton who tried -- could compete with a bought-and-paid-for Congress when it came to mandating Cuban policy. In the final months of his two-term presidency, Obama is forced to confront belligerents in Congress led by two first-term Cuban-American extremists -- Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio -- who happen to be prime Republican presidential contenders in 2016. Yet, Obama continues into this new month of February-2016 to use his Executive Powers to chip away at the abysmal Congress-mandated Cuban policy that all other U. S. presidents lacked the courage and intelligence to utilize.
       America's most enthused democracy-lovers, such as Sarah Stephens, have walked in stride every step of the way as President Obama has tried to normalize relations with Cuba. Ms. Stephens is the Founder and Director of the influential Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas. In her latest "Cuba Central" update on the CDA website, Ms. Stephens wrote: "President Obama is making it easier for U. S. actors and producers, writers and musicians, to work and perform in Cuba, and engage with Cubans in the process of creating their art. We have come a long way since the days when Cuban artists of the caliber of Latelbrahim Ferrer...were barred by the Bush administration from picking up their Grammy Awards."
       Unfortunately, the two-term George W. Bush presidency directly preceded President Obama's two terms. The Bush dynasty, dating back decades, has benefited massively from economic and political standpoints with its tight alliance with only Cuban-exile extremists as opposed to Cuban-exile moderates. For example, over and beyond the strident bought-and-paid-for Cuban policies of the U. S. Congress, the George W. Bush presidency mandated such anti-Cuban dictates as an expensive, for both taxpayers and America's image, program to entice Cuban doctors and nurses working in poor foreign nations to defect to the U. S., one of the last-minute Bush directives that President Obama inherited and tried to correct.
        During his eight years as President, George W. Bush appointed only anti-Cuban zealots such as Carlos Gutierrez {above}, Roger Noriega, Otto Reich, Mel Martinez, etc., etc., to direct his Cuban and Latin American policies. It was in line with his father's {George H. W. Bush} extreme anti-Cuban policies during a long political career and his brother's {Jeb Bush} extreme anti-Cuban policies during two-terms as Governor of Florida, policies that certainly will be resumed if Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or any other Republican claims the White House in January of 2017 succeeding the decent Mr. Obama. During the preceding George W. Bush presidency, for example, the U. S. executed its last Latin American regime-change, strongly and embarrassingly supporting a coup that overthrew -- for about 72 hours -- Cuba's friend Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. While such a return to abysmal U. S. policies in Latin American still alarms and roils the entire region, the Bush dynasty has always been assured that nothing it does in regards to Cuba will cost it any votes or support from sufficiently proselytized and propagandized Americans who have been primed to think that such abominations as the Bay of Pigs attack, the terrorist bombing of Cubana Flight 455, the Venezuelan coup, etc., etc., were pro-American, pro-democracy acts.
        If Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush -- or any Republican, for that matter -- becomes President of the United States in January of 2017, they will immediately begin rolling back all of the positive overtures President Obama has made regarding Cuba. Yet today -- February 1, 2016 -- as the armies of television pundits analyze the results of the first primary caucus voting in Iowa -- the Cuban issues, as far as the media is concerned, are totally off the table although, in essence, the Cuba issue has a dramatic effect on the overall image of America and democracy. And, sadly, propagandized Americans will merely sigh and not utter a whimper regardless of what any anti-Cuban zealot as President or Commander-in-Chief does.
           Cubana Flight 455 resonates throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, and the world. Yet, Americans have been successfully propagandized into believing it never happened, or at least that it was/is insignificant. Whether goaded by incompetence or intimidation, the U. S. media navigates through an entire presidential campaign cycle, obsessed with such things as today's vote in Iowa, without ever mentioning the vastly significant difference between President Obama's Cuban policy and the Cuban prospects of the would-be Republican presidents, a contest that includes yet another Bush and two Cuban-American anti-Castro extremists. And so, what is the significance of Cubana Flight 455?? Well, if Americans were proselytized to have no reaction to Cubana Flight 455, what could a Republican Commander-in-Chief do regarding Cuba that they would react to? {The operative word being...react}.
       Meet a very important Cuban named Odalys Rodriguez del Toro. She is the Director of ETECSA, the island's networking effort. On this very first day of February of 2016, Odalys has a big announcement: She is launching broadband internet service in two Havana neighborhoods as a pilot project aimed at bringing home access to the island. Then she will allow cafes, bars and restaurants to begin ordering broadband services. To bring that about, Odalys says she is working with Huawei, China's giant telecom operator.
       Cristina Escobar, Cuba's highly regarded and superbly talented television news anchor, reminds her attentive audience that the island "has many friends around the world, including Americans like Mr. Obama, and as you will see this week...like France and China. To move forward, we must work with our friends, the ones we can trust the most." At age 28 and the most influential Cuban among the crucial young-adult generation of Cubans, Ms. Escobar clearly does not trust the U. S., for these reasons: "Miami, Republicans in Congress, and the possibility of a Republican president who will try to undo what Obama is accomplishing."
         During the above session, Cristina cracked up her two guests with this comment: "Your viewpoint gives me a revolutionary thought -- WHY DON'T CUBANS ON THE ISLAND DECIDE THE FATE OF CUBA'S FUTURE!"
Cristina Escobar is very much A CUBAN ON THE ISLAND.
Even Washington now pays attention to her viewpoints FROM HAVANA.
Even in her leisure moments, Cristina Escobar fights for Cuba.
And, I might add, with a revolutionary fervor.

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