Thursday, March 24, 2016
Cuba After Obama
Reversible or Irreversible??
The BBC this week used this Reuters photo to illustrate an article entitled: "Barack Obama: 'Change Is Going To Happen In Cuba'." The article was particularly insightful because it indicated that U. S. President Barack Obama, after a private two-hour meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro, concluded that "President Castro understands that change is going to happen in Cuba." That conclusion is quite significant.
This image of Cuba's Josefina Vidal is taken from a video interview the BBC included with the aforementioned article. Regardless of what President Castro said to President Obama in private, Vidal officially speaks for Cuba on U.S.-related issues. In the two minute, 32 second tape, you can detect that Vidal was not pleased with Obama's meeting at the U. S. embassy with Cuban dissidents. In this video she stated firmly, "Matters that are internal decisions and the sovereignty of the Cuban people will not be negotiated with the United States." Vidal has negotiated the major steps in Obama's plans to normalize relations but she is increasingly irked over what she claims is "the continuing U. S. creation of and funding of dissidence on the island. It starts with the Cubans in Congress but Obama, with his photo op, endorsed it."
The BBC article included this graphic to illustrate that "Cuba is banking on a growth in U. S. tourists" to expand its economy. In 2015, with a sharp uptick in U. S. visitors, the BBC said Cuba had 3,524,779 tourists, including 1.3 million from Canada. The trepidacious Cubans are more distrustful of the U. S. than other nations but just this week General Electric signed Memorandums of Understanding with Cuba because GE is hoping to sell "aviation, health care, and energy equipment to Cuba as the U. S. moves to lift a 55-year-old trade embargo." All that "lifting," of course, is strictly due to President Obama accomplishing some things even in the face of the always intransigent, right-wing tilted U. S. Congress. Obama can't persuade the Republicans to end the embargo but his strategy is to slice into it with an array of irreversible commercial ties before he leaves office in January. Starwood Hotels this week announced it is "investing millions to bring three Cuban hotels up to our standards." Carnival Cruise Lines in May begins the first cruises to Cuba from the U. S. in over 50 years. Commercial airline flights to Cuba from the U. S. have been prohibited for half-a-century but Obama and Cuba have agreed to 110 daily commercial flights to ten Cuban cities. But, such things, even after they are underway, are not irreversible because the Castro Cottage Industry in the U. S. has two things Obama doesn't have -- namely, control of Congress and control of the U. S. media.
One of the best articles about President Obama's 3-day visit to Cuba this week was penned by Julie Hirschfeld Davis of The New York Times. She indicated that Obama was sincere and convincing when he discussed the conflicted history of American imperialism with such statements as: "I believe my visit here demonstrates that you do not need to fear a threat from the United States. Many suggested that I come here to ask the people of Cuba to tear something down. But I'm appealing to the young people of Cuba who will lift something up, build something new." So, Julie's Obama notes were accurately portrayed in The New York Times although it's his Executive Powers, not his "war powers," that he is using to craft his Cuban agenda.
Roger Cohen was born 60 years ago in London and he has long been a superb op-ed columnist for The New York Times. His column this week was from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was entitled: "Cuba Heads For Miami." The sub-title was: "A Revolution Is Not A Bed Of Roses. Nor Is The End Of The Revolution." Mr. Cohen wrote: "Vietnam has been a remarkable success story. Annual trade with the United States has soared from a mere $220 million in 1994 to $29.6 billion in 2013. Four decades after the napalm, commerce has overcome enmity. Vietnam embarked on the opening that has fast-forwarded its economy over the past two decades. In Cuba's case...the process will almost certainly go quicker. It's located close to Miami. American hotel chains are already circling, or pouncing." With all due respect to Mr. Cohen, his politically correct attempt to compare Cuba with Vietnam is far off base. Vietnam fought a long and bloody war with the U. S., and won. That's why Mr. Cohen this week was in Ho Chi Minh City, which used to be named Saigon prior to the infamous war. But Havana is still Havana and Washington is still Washington. U.S.-Cuban relations are not remotely comparable to U. S. relations with any other country. Mr. Cohen should acknowledge that.
The montage above proves that U.S.-Cuban relations are totally unique. The U. S. indeed has supported ruthless dictatorships -- Mobutu in the Congo, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Pinochet in Chile, Samosa in Nicaragua, Videla in Argentina, etc., etc. But only in Cuba did the U. S., beginning in 1952, team with the top Mafia thugs -- Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky -- to support the vile Batista dictatorship. And that alone -- the unique Mafia aspect -- separates U.S.-Cuban relations from all other relationships.
And so does the following montage:
In 1959 the Cuban Revolution became the first and only revolution in history to overthrow a U.S.-backed dictatorship. Even more significantly, it created the first time in history that an overthrown dictatorship fled to U. S. soil and, in essence, reconstituted an even richer and more powerful situation than they had enjoyed in Cuba from 1952 till 1959. So, yes, Mr. Cohen, those two things seperate Cuba from Vietnam and all other nations. Cuba on the international stage in 2016 still punches far above its weight because it is still Revolutionary Cuba, a "sovereign" country as both Obama and Vidal said this week.
This photo -- courtesy of Orlando Barria/European Pressphoto Agency -- shows Cuban President Raul Castro escorting President Obama and his two daughters to Air Force One at the conclusion of this week's 3-day visit to Cuba by the first sitting American President since 1928. The presidents ended up laughing.
This photo -- courtesy of Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press -- shows President Obama on his last day in Cuba taking a moment, perhaps, to ponder his Cuban legacy. Because of his unique bravery, astuteness, and decency in regards to Cuba -- against imposing odds -- his Cuban legacy should forever stand very tall on the pantheon of great American leaders. Yet, most of what he has forged on behalf of the Cuban people and on behalf of America's image around the world will be reversed. That is so because of what the two above montages depicted -- the Batista-Mafia rule in Cuba followed by the reconstitution of that rule on U. S. soil, particularly its influence in the U. S. Congress. Put simply, too many revenge, economic and political offshoots of the 1952-to-1959 and the 1959-to-today U.S.-Cuban relations dictate the ultimate failure of Obama's remarkable overtures. But that's simply a factor of the imposing odds he faced, and should not distract from the courage and skill his efforts entailed. In the end his enemies will have been proven to have grown too strong and his support from the American people has been too weak.
And one more note:
Last night -- Wednesday night -- Ana Navarro closed out a prime-time news-hour on CNN with a long, shameful, and blistering verbal assault against President Obama regarding his trip to Cuba. Navarro is a Miami-based, highly paid propagandist for #1 Jeb Bush and #2 Marco Rubio and, now that Jeb and Marco have been ousted as presidential contenders, #3 Ted Cruz. The ubiquitous and obnoxious right-wing Navarro is presented as a "Political Analyst" by CNN and that is an insult to Americans and is a vivid reflection of how the precipitous decline of broadcast journalism in the United States has reached new depths. In promoting her right-wing agendas, Navarro not only regularly demeans President Obama but she also demeans the Office of President. With that being said, Navarro is a career publicist and promoter, not a journalist. Thus, the fault lies with CNN for displaying such disrespect for both journalism and its viewers. Any tape-review of Navarro's vitriolic tirade against the President last night should shame CNN.
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