The Nancy Pavon Story

Needs to be Told
         The 3-photo montage above encapsulates a remarkable life and tells a part of Nancy Pavon's story. Now 60-years-old, Nancy is a kind, sweet Cuban lady. The photo in the lower-right shows Nancy at age 15 on October 12, 1971 as she lay unconscious in her hospital bed shortly after the lower portion of her right leg had been operated on to repair extensive nerve damage. That portion of her leg had been blown completely off by cannon fire from a Miami speedboat as she slept beside her 13-year-old sister Angela in their coastal cabin in the tiny fishing village of Boca de Sama on Cuba's northeastern coast near the city of Holguin. The nighttime terrorist attack wounded Nancy's younger sister Angela but their older sister, Xiomara, was further up the coast on armed duty as a coastal militia guard. Two of Nancy's relatives -- Ramon Siam and Lidia Rivaflecha -- were killed in the attack. The photo in the upper-right shows Nancy two weeks later in a wheelchair on the day her doctor had told her she would never be able to wear the new red high-heel shoes that her father, a fisherman, had bought for her 15th birthday. The photo on the left shows Nancy as an adult, now a lady who understands the darkest offshoots of U.S.-Cuban relations.
       The terrorist attack that so drastically changed Nancy's life prior to daylight on Oct. 12-1971 was not a random act. That's why Nancy's older sister was on guard duty further up the Cuban coast that night.
       Since 1971 Nancy has received constant and free medical care in Cuba. She has suffered mightily because of the extensive nerve damage, not to mention being forever unable to use those red high-heel shoes that were supposed to brighten her 15th birthday. The telling of Nancy's story is a pro-American project, I believe, because it typifies aspects of the U.S.-Cuban malaise that long-propagandized Americans eventually have a right to know from a simple humanitarian standpoint.
        Nancy's older sister Xiomara, the one that was on guard duty further up the coast that night, took this photo of Nancy lying unconscious in her hospital bed on October 12, 1971 after major surgery. That one cowardly terrorist attack has affected many, many lives every day, every minute, since that seminal night.
      I mentioned that Nancy is a kind, sweet Cuban lady. She is. She doesn't hold grudges against Americans or Cuban-Americans. But she is well-known, as this photo indicates, for speaking out against "Americans and Cuban-Americans who to this day do not hold those responsible for such things, such terrible things still being celebrated in Miami." In this particular speech Nancy recalled how she was asleep beside her younger sister Angela when "the cannon ball tore through our cabin and sliced my foot off like a machete. Later, while hospitalized, I learned that the two big speedboats had been dropped off by a larger boat and after their dirty deed they radioed ahead so the Miami media could cover their victory celebration on the dock."
       Nancy's story is well-known throughout Cuba, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Thus, it is probably appropriate if Americans know it too. The photo above is from a YouTube interview in which Nancy details what happened to her and how the attack has affected "so many innocent lives for so many years."
        Nancy Pavon today is a beloved celebrity in Cuba. She is being embraced above by another beloved celebrity, Ramon Labanino. Ramon was one of the famed "Cuba 5" that were sentenced to up to life in prison by a Miami court and were kept in isolation at five different federal prisons around the United States. After serving about 15 years, the Cuba 5 were returned to Cuba as one of the offshoots of President Obama's amazing efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. The Miami courtroom accused the Cuba 5 of being spies; the Cuba 5 claimed they were in Miami only to detect possible terrorist acts against Cuba and that they gave their observations to the U. S. FBI. At the above gathering, Ramon said, "We tried to prevent things such as what happened to Nancy, her sister, and the two people who were killed that night."
       Boca de Sama today is a quaint little Cuban village with 85 very hard-working and friendly citizens. It is still a fishing village as the front cover above indicates. It is also a tourist attraction for bird watchers.
     This map shows the vulnerable location of Boca de Sama (check the upper-right} because it's located where the Sama River runs into the bay and then the ocean. As you can see, speedboats could easily enter the bay, attack, and then race back out into the sea toward their safe sanctuary in Miami.
This is the edge of Boca de Sama, Cuba.
       This is a classroom in Boca de Sama, Cuba. These children today are harmed by the ongoing U. S. embargo of Cuba but they are now considered safe from Miami terrorist attacks because of Cuba's vigilance and because of so many U. S. Coast Guard and warships in the Florida Straits. It is my hope that Americans care about these Cuban children just as I believe they should care about Nancy Pavon.
         Now and forever, The Nancy Pavon Story will be an integral part of the little Cuban fishing village of Boca de Sama. But it will also, now and forever, be a microcosm of U.S.-Cuban history and U.S.-Cuban relations. That's why I believe it's OK for Americans to know about a nice Cuban lady named...Nancy Pavon.
"The Nancy Pavon Story"
Yes, it needs to be told!!


Rediscovering Cuba

Thanks, Mr. Obama 
Saturday, April 30th, 2016 
        On the heels of five decades of the U. S. and Cuban exiles targeting Cuba with cruel embargoes as well as both cold and hot wars, the world, including the U. S., is again opening up to the tropical island thanks to the startling effects of President Obama's efforts to normalize relations with nearby Cuba. The photo above shows American superstar actor Vin Diesel in Havana with his mammoth Hollywood crew to film the latest movie -- entitled FAST 8 -- in the wildly successful Fast and Furious series. The prodigious entourage includes other superstar actors such as Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, Kurt Russell, Eva Mendes, etc. Charlize Theron and Scott Eastwood have also been added to this gigantic movie.
         On an Instagram video you can see and hear Vin Diesel's euphoria about shooting his movie in Cuba. He says, "You can see how beautiful Cuba is with all the beautiful people! We are so proud to be here, man!"
         On Sunday, May 1st in the year of 2016 the Adonia -- the Pride of Cardinal Cruise Lines -- will set sail from Miami to Cuba!! It will drop anchor in Havana Harbor Sunday afternoon, becoming the first cruise ship from the U. S. to Cuba in over half-a-century. There will be 700 passengers on board the Adonia, mocking the U. S. embargo, in place since 1962, that still prohibits "American tourists" from visiting Cuba. But bold and brilliant Executive Actions courtesy of President Obama narrowly defines 12 excuses for Americans to visit the nearby island, as all other citizens of the world have the freedom to do. Thus, the 700 passengers will likely not be arrested when they get off the Adonia in Cuba nor even when they return to the USA.
       This map shows the 750-mile coasts of the main island of Cuba. After docking in Havana Sunday, the Adonia's 7-day visit will circle the island and dock in two other ports in the cities of Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba before returning to Miami. You can note the capital of Havana on the western end, Cienfuegos on the southern coast and the former capital of Santiago de Cuba on the far southeastern tip.
         Philip Hammond is also in Havana this week. That, too, is really big news! Mr. Hammond is the first British Foreign Minister to visit Cuba since 1959, the year the Cuban Revolution stunned the world by overthrowing the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship. He said, "As Cuba enters a period of significant social and economic change, I am looking forward to demonstrating to the Cuban government and people that the UK is keen to forge new links across the Atlantic." The UK is currently Cuba's 11th largest trade partner. In the 28-nation EU, Spain and the Netherlands are by far the top two Cuban trade partners. In Havana Mr. Hammond was forced to admit that the UK "fears" the gutless U. S. embargo against Cuba. It has been in effect since 1962 and Mr. Hammond says it will continue to scare off British companies seeking to do business in Cuba. He pointed out that this year a British architectural firm -- Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo -- was fined $284,000 by the United States for doing some minor work in Cuba while other companies have been fined hundreds of millions of dollars for doing the same, money supposedly used to enrich and empower hard-line Cuban exiles in Miami, New Jersey and the U. S. Congress to continue their assaults on the Cuban people by still enforcing an embargo inflicted on Cuba in 1962 for the stated purpose of starving and depriving Cubans on the island for the purpose of enticing them to overthrow their revolutionary government so the U.S.-based Batistianos could march back across the Florida Straits. The embargo hasn't starved Cubans on the island but it has severely deprived them; one company in Jamaica was fined for sending a box of baby aspirin to Cuba and the American people were supposed to meekly mumble, "God! If baby aspirin gets to Cuba, it will only benefit Castro and insult those nice Miami Cubans!" WOW!! Wow.
        While President Obama has done all he can to combat the gutless U.S. Congress-sanctioned embargo, it remains in place because two successive generations of Americans are simply too gutless or too ignorant or too unpatriotic to demand its removal. All nations of the world, including America's best friends such as the UK, are appalled that the U. S. democracy is not strong enough to follow Mr. Obama's lead in trying to rein in a second generation of a handful of rich and powerful Batistianos-Mafiosi using a bought-and-paid-for and dysfunctional U. S. Congress to continually punish not only innocent Cubans but America's best friends around the world, infringing on their sovereign rights to trade with Cuba. Meanwhile, the U. S. taxpayers and voters are too scared or too stupid to object even as, each October, the 191-to-2 UN vote denouncing the embargo is headlined around the world, with only Israel -- the yearly recipient of billions of easy dollars in U. S. aid -- joining the U. S. in supporting the insidious embargo.
        Cuba has no enemies in the Caribbean or in Latin America or around the world, except for its massive northern neighbor, the United States. For decades, Americans have been told...warned, actually...not to question America's Batistiano-driven Cuban policy. They have meekly heeded that advice, or warning.
Cuba, the Pearl of the Caribbean!


A Batistiano White House?

Not Now, Maybe Later
       Cuba's revolutionary heroine Celia Sanchez first coined the term "Batistiano" on April 27th, 1959. That was the day she and Fidel Castro returned to the island after a 12-day visit to the United States barely three months after their Cuban Revolution had stunned the world by overthrowing the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship. Celia had arranged the trip with the American Society of Newspaper Editors. A pragmatist as Revolutionary Cuba's prime decision-maker, with Fidel's full concurrence, Celia had many benevolent plans for post-Batista Cuba; she knew, to bring those grandiose aspirations to fruition, little Cuba required friendly relations with the United States, the neighbor that happened to be the world's economic and military superpower. Her quick priority regarding the trip garnered ecstatic optimism when the U. S. State Department assured her that Fidel Castro, then considered both a Cuban and American hero, could meet with President Eisenhower to tell him that Cuba planned a democratic election that fall and the U. S. could closely monitor it to assure its honesty. But the State Department lied to Celia and the American Society of Newspaper Editors. President Eisenhower left Washington to play golf and the devious Vice President Richard Nixon met with Fidel. Nixon, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and CIA Director Allen Dulles all had financial and political reasons to return the Batistianos to power in Cuba and, in fact, by April of 1959 the most fanatic anti-Castro Cuban-exiles, including the infamous Luis Posada Carriles, were already being trained as Brigade 2506 at Fort Benning's then secretive Army of the Americas to spearhead the recapture of Cuba, which became the Bay Of Pigs attack in April of 1961. Tightly aligned with the Dulles brothers and separated from the old and malleable President Eisenhower, Nixon personally told Fidel that the U. S. and the Cuban exiles would regain control of Cuba "within a few months." Shortly after returning to Cuba on April 27, 1959, a double-crossed and furious Celia fired off this sentence in a conversation with Fidel and famed Cuban journalist/author Carlos Franqui: "The Batistianos will never regain control of Cuba as long as I live or as long as Fidel lives." It was the first of at least three times Celia made that statement in the presence of journalists. Her definition of Batistianos was/is unmistakable: A Batistiano was/is anyone who fled Cuba for the U. S. after being an official or a supporter of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship that was overturned by the Cuban Revolution.
        Celia Sanchez was the most important player in the Cuban Revolution and in Revolutionary Cuba. One of the most significant nuances of U.S.-Cuban relations since the 1950s is the sheer fact that Americans to this day are not supposed to know that basic fact. The reason, however, is simple: With collusion from the U. S. government and the U. S. media, the Cuban narrative in the U. S. since 1959 has been dictated by the remnants of the ousted Batista-Mafia dictatorship. But all the most knowledgeable insiders understood the leading role played by Celia Sanchez and that includes Carlos Franqui, Pedro Alvarez Tabio, Marta Rojas, Roberto Salas, Georgie Anne Geyer, Fidel Castro, etc. For example, Salas -- the famed photographer who worked closely with both Celia and Fidel -- said in his book: "Celia made all the decisions for Cuba, the big ones and the small ones. When she died of cancer in 1980, we all knew no one could ever replace her." Geyer, America's top Castro biographer, wrote that Celia "over-ruled" Fidel whenever and wherever she chose. Therefore, Celia's most striking quotation is both historic and amazingly prophetic: "The Batistianos will never regain control of Cuba as long as I live or as long as Fidel lives." Fidel, nearing his 90th birthday, is still alive and the Batistianos -- despite amazing support from the U. S. Congress, the CIA, and the U. S. Treasury -- have still not regained control of Cuba
Photographer Roberto Salas traveled with Fidel & Celia.
        Like his famous father Osvaldo, Roberto Salas took thousands of photos of Fidel Castro in Cuba and on foreign trips. Roberto took this one of Fidel in New York City in April of 1959. No one in Cuba questioned Salas when he stated in his book -- A Pictorial History of the Cuban Revolution -- that "Celia made all the decisions for Cuba, the big ones and the small ones." The macho-minded Batistianos, however, realized early-on that vilification of Fidel was a lot easier than vilifying the petite child-loving doctor's daughter.

        While I believe Celia Sanchez's greatest quotation was the one about the Batistianos never recapturing Cuba, TheWomanProject.org favors this Celia gem: "We Rebels get far too much credit for winning the Revolution. Our enemies deserve most of the credit, for being greedy cowards and idiots." 
     Georgie Anne Geyer -- the nationally syndicated conservative columnist -- is America's best Castro biographer. In "Guerrilla Prince" Ms. Geyer correctly pointed out that Celia Sanchez "over-ruled" Fidel with his unending support.
      In "Guerrilla Prince" Georgie Anne Geyer's favorite Celia Sanchez quotation occurred soon after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution when Celia and Fidel were reminiscing about the revolutionary war with a group of journalists that included Carlos Franqui. Fidel had mentioned a very tough 10-day battle that the rebels won against a large Batista army. That's when, according to both Franqui and Geyer, Celia spoke up and, with deep emotion and sincerity, said these remarkable words: "Oh, but those were the very best and happiest times, weren't they? We were all so very happy then! We'll never be that happy again, will we? Never!" A petite, well-to-do doctor's daughter fighting and winning bloody battles against overwhelming forces were the best and happiest times of her life? Yes, she thought Cuba was well worth the effort and the risks.
       This is the great Cuban historian Pedro Alvarez Tabio. He wrote this unequivocal and pertinent observation of the Cuban Revolution: "If Batista had managed to kill Celia Sanchez anytime between 1953 and 1957, there would have been no viable Cuban Revolution, and no revolution for Fidel and Che to join."
      Pedro Alvarez Tabio edited this early Fidel bio and got Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian-born all-time greatest Latin-American author, to write the introductory essay. It's still available at Abe Books.
  Yes, although to this day the Batistianos don't allow Americans to judge her correctly, Celia Sanchez was the most important player in the Cuban Revolution and in Revolutionary Cuba that has, against great odds, survived for almost six decades...and counting. Celia -- long before macho males like Fidel, Che, and Camilo joined her war against Batista -- was the catalyst as a guerrilla fighter and the prime recruiter of rebels and supplies that launched and sustained the war. Fidel's worship of her began while he was helpless in a Batista prison and even today he understands why Tabio, Cuba's top historian, wrote: "If Batista had managed to kill Celia Sanchez anytime between 1953 and 1957, there would have been no viable Cuban Revolution, and no revolution for Fidel and Che to join." So, the Celia Sanchez who coined the term "Batistiano" is also the person most responsible for beating them and for keeping them from regaining control of her beloved island. In Cuba today -- in the spring of 2016 -- famed revolutionary heroines and Celia contemporaries such as Tete Puebla and Marta Rojas still live. But a younger generation of Cuban heroines -- led by Josefina Vidal and Cristina Escobar -- are currently the key Celia Sanchez disciples determined to make sure that the Batistianos don't "regain control of Cuba." In that regard, Vidal and Escobar have each made resounding statements/quotations that, I believe, Celia would wholeheartedly sanction.
          Josefina Vidal, Cuba's Minister of North American Affairs, is the main reason Cuba survived the Batistiano-aligned George W. Bush presidency from 2000 till 2009. Since then she has been Cuba's prime negotiator with the Barack Obama administration in attaching some sanity to U.S.-Cuban relations. But, as always, Vidal keeps a wary eye on the U. S. Congress where a handful of anti-Castro zealots aligned with a handful of right-wing sycophants have dictated America's Cuban-related laws for five disastrous decades. Also, Vidal keeps a keen perception on the ongoing presidential election process in the U. S., realizing that a Republican in the White House beginning in January of 2017 would align with Congress to wage either a cold or hot war against her island. In particular, Vidal has noticed that two Cuban-American first-term Senators who are vehement anti-revolutionary zealots -- Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz -- have been prime Republican presidential candidates, at least till Rubio dropped out after being swamped by Donald Trump in his home-state of Florida in a primary election. Unlike television pundits who actually are propagandists for their favorite candidate, Vidal's perceptions are vital to Cuba's survival as a sovereign nation. In that capacity, she has produced probably the most accurate and salient quotation regarding the U. S. presidential race, noting that the two Cuban-American hardliners -- Rubio and Cruz -- have had the backing of the Bush dynasty {to kick off their political careers}, the Tea Party, and a bevy of right-wing, Jewish, and conservative billionaires. Vidal, in the mold of Celia Sanchez, made this astute deduction: "It seems the Batistianos have a new plan. They now plan to capture the White House first and THEN recapture Cuba." Vidal didn't intend that comment as a pun or a joke. When it comes to the Batistianos, she is totally serious.
     At age 28, Cristina Escobar is Cuba's and the region's superstar newscaster. She is also highly regarded by the island's young-adult generation that plans to make sure that they, and not Miami and Washington, set the course for Cuba's future. Her most salient comment this year, made in a video-taped interview with respected American journalist and Cuban expert Tracey Eaton, was: "I don't want the U. S. to bring me democracy. That is a project for Cubans on the island." Like Celia Sanchez and Josefina Vidal, Cristina Escobar is the embodiment of brilliant and powerful Cuban women who cherish the island's hard-earned sovereignty and she doesn't want to trust it to foreigners. "In the 1950s," Escobar says, "the U. S. sicced Batista and the Mafia on my island and called it democracy. Americans still accept that and justify it. But enough Cubans didn't. I believe enough in my generation now will stay on the island and defend the sovereignty that so many great Cubans fought so hard for. Even if the odds are against us, we will fight." 
       From their vantage point in Cuba, Josefina Vidal and Cristina Escobar closely monitor news coverage of U. S. politics. Actually Vidal made her comment about the shifting Batistiano "plans" to recapture Cuba by first capturing the White House when she feared the Republican nomination would fall to Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz. Truth be known, Vidal would have preferred the extremist Cuban-Americans Rubio or Cruz to Jeb Bush. After the highly financed Jeb and Rubio both succumbed to the surprising Donald Trump tsunami, Vidal recently told the AP in Havana, "I honestly don't know what's going on in the U. S. election at this point. I really don't." And Americans are as flabbergasted as Cuban sage Josefina Vidal.
        Like Rubio and Bush, Ted Cruz has also been wiped out by the Trump tsunami, at least in this presidential cycle. But the dangerously ambitious and far-right winger Cruz is not ready to admit it. Yesterday he named former Republican contender Carly Fiorina as his "Vice President," something no one has ever done before actually getting the nomination. Confused Americans, not to mention acute observers Vidal and Escobar in Cuba, are left to ponder the latest craziness in the all-out Batistiano quest to capture the White House BEFORE they recapture Cuba, as the keen observer, Ms. Vidal, opined.
       Television pundits, such as Ms. Cupp, are perhaps as big a threat to the American democracy as the billionaires who now seemingly have a clear path toward purchasing it for their personal use. While, for sure, there remains some decent print journalism, the pundit-driven television "news" coverage in the U. S. is an insult to both viewers and democracy. The days of great broadcast journalists like Ted Turner, Walter Cronkite, and Kate O'Brien -- who actually believed in covering the news -- are long gone. And the biggest casualty is democracy, which from its inception in 1776 depended on a vibrant and competent news media as an essential component. But the Founding Fathers never envisioned television pundits or visual propaganda machines. And in Cuba, Vidal and Escobar seem to be sympathizing with the plight of American voters even as they keep keenly abreast of United States efforts to "return democracy to Cuba."
        Great television newscasters like Walter Cronkite once actually told Americans "the way it is." Since then, the pundit-driver television news networks have evolved into visual propaganda machines.


Welcome to Cuba

Obama Opened the Door
Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 
      This Disney Fantasy Cruise ship had a typical experience in the Florida Straits Tuesday, April 26th. It was sailing off the northwestern coast of Cuba when it spotted and rescued 3 Cuban-American fugitives clinging frantically to the side of an overturned boat. As usual, they were simply turned over to the long-frustrated U. S. Coast Guard that's over-burdened by such repetitious events based on salacious U. S. Cuban laws. 
             The U. S. Coast Guard identified the fugitives as Luis Rivera-Garcia, 30; Juliet Estrada-Perez, 23; and Enrique Gonzalez-Torres, 23. The Coast Guard said they were wanted in Florida and Louisiana on Credit Card fraud. It is routine for cruise ships in the Florida Straits to rescue Cubans fleeing Cuba to take advantage of U. S. laws that permit Cubans, and only Cubans, to be home-free with instant financial benefits beginning the moment they touch United States soil. By the same token, such United States laws favoring only Cubans results in many criminals also severely burdening American taxpayers. While the U. S. media is either too intimidated or too politically correct to point out such facts, the U. S. government is continually burdened by such Cuban-only laws. And, of course, for many decades documentaries, and even famous movies such as Scarface, have scripted story-lines based on such facts.
          Cuba, of course, tries to protect itself from U. S. laws such as Wet Foot-Dry Foot, the Cuban Adjustment Act, the Torricelli Bill, Helms-Burton and the vast array of other Cuban-related laws mandated for decades by a handful of self-serving Cuban Americans that are financially and politically aligned with a handful of their right-wing sycophants in the U. S. Congress. Cuba's problem...AND AMERICA'S...is the simple fact that the majority of U. S. citizens, since the 1950s, have had neither the guts nor the patriotism to challenge such affronts to the frayed U. S. democracy. The episode in the Florida Straits, a typical derivative of America's Cuban policy, is a daily problem for the U. S. Coast Guard...and cruise ships in the Florida Straits.
       These are the mugshots of the Cuban fugitives that the Disney cruise ship turned over to the U. S. Coast Guard in the Florida Straits yesterday, Tuesday, April 26th. They epitomize U. S. Cuban laws that entice Cubans to the U. S. -- great Cubans, not-great Cubans, all manners of Cubans and only Cubans, making for a gigantic immigration joke. The discriminatory Cuban laws have sapped U. S. tax dollars and U. S. prestige for many decades and a bought-and-paid-for segment of the U. S. Congress wants it to continue, so it probably will. Meanwhile, regarding these three former fugitives, Americans allegedly paid for their credit card fraud and will now pay dearly for their lawyers, their incarcerations, etc. It's a sad, unending sympathy without a coda.
         Posters like this -- "Bienvenido A Cuba" or "Welcome to Cuba" -- now greet the avalanche of tourists flocking to the island since Presidents Obama and Castro in December of 2014 announced their mutual goals of normalizing relations. The reaction has spawned a plethora of growing pains, such as not enough hotel rooms to meet the demands, but most people around the world welcome the bold and brave effort.
        Sarah Stephens, the founder and director of the Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas, is the prime proof that President Obama, more than any of the previous ten U. S. presidents, is accepting advice on Cuba from democracy-lovers and not just hard-line and self-serving Cuban exiles and their easily acquired sycophants in the U. S. Congress. For example, famed musicians and artists flocking to Cuba are a direct result of President Obama taking suggestions from Ms. Stephens: "Culture has enormous power. It cannot replace diplomacy, but collaboration in the arts and humanities between the U. S. and Cuba can play an important role in moving it forward." The President heeded those words and also listened to Ms. Stephens when she begged him to confront the congressional dictation of America's Cuban policy. She said, "Cuba sanctions in the hands of the U. S. Congress is like a hammer in the hands of a child who discovers that everything is a nail." President Obama, with such reminders, has attempted to restrain such senseless pounding. Thanks to Ms. Stephens, Mr. Obama has created The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. That has resulted in such resounding events as the scintillating Rolling Stones' concert last month followed by other high-profile visitors from the world of arts and entertainment.
       Fulfilling Sarah Stephens' considerable cultural input, photos by Desmond Boylan/AP chronicled last week's 4-day visit to Cuba by American superstar musicians Usher and Dave Matthews, for example
     In Havana, Dave Matthews asked many questions about Cuba's past.
       Dave Matthews posted the above photo on his Facebook page. It shows him and Smoky Robinson with two members of Cuba's famed Buena Vista Social Club. And on his Facebook page, Dave Matthews wrote these words about Cuba: "The responsibility people have to each other here is very rare, and I love it."
U. S. superstar Usher thrilled his Cuban fans.
         Usher's four-day visit to Cuba was a part of Sarah's and the President's large Committee on the Arts and Humanities contingent, but he loves Cuba and is no stranger on the island. The photo above was taken last September when Usher and his new bride, Grace Miguel, flew to Cuba for their honeymoon.
    The legendary Smokey Robinson made friends with Cuban schoolchildren.
      This Desmond Boylan/AP photo shows Smoky Robinson watching an audacious Cuban schoolgirl performing a dance just for him. He later said, "She was fantastic. All the kids were. I am impressed with the priority Cuba places on its children -- safety-wise, education-wise, and health-wise. The parents and teachers are allowed to fawn over those kids. I believe they are happy. I believe we should try to make them happier." 
       Sarah Stephens at the Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas agrees wholeheartedly with Smoky Robinson and disagrees just as strongly with the assaults by the U. S. Congress on Cuba and its schoolchildren. Ms. Stephens: "Cuba sanctions in the hands of the U. S. Congress is like a hammer in the hands of a child who discovers that everything is a nail." In addition to influencing Obama, Ms. Stephens also influences fair-minded members of the U. S. Congress...such as Kathy Castor and Tom Emmer who will soon sponsor legislation to repel the U. S. embargo of Cuba.
       President Luis Guillermo Solis of Costa Rica, speaking for other Latin American leaders, this week railed against U. S. laws that discriminate grossly in favor of Cubans and against all other would-be immigrants. For months his nation has been roiled by up to 8,000 Cubans and now another 2,000 stranded at its border with Nicaragua as they seek to reach the U. S. via the Mexican border. Once setting foot in the U. S., Cubans are home-free with instant financial and residence rewards, a judicious enticement totally unavailable to non-Cubans thanks to the long-standing U. S. Wet Foot/Dry Foot law. An exasperated President Solis said, "It's up to the United States to administer its laws but its Cuban laws should be fair enough so as not to bring hardship to everyone else, including nations like mine who do not deserve and can't afford these fall-outs. The American people need to consider all the Cuban fall-outs."
         President Solis is shown here holding a Cuban flag after his arrival at Jose Marti Airport in Havana. Like every single Caribbean and Latin American nation, Costa Rica strongly opposes the U. S. embargo of Cuba as well as such discriminatory laws as Wet Foot/Dry Foot and other U. S. laws enticing Cubans.
      The death toll from the devastating earthquake that struck Ecuador has reached 654 with many more still missing. Three of the dead were Cuban doctors that were among the 742 Cuban health personnel working in Ecuador. The day this latest earthquake struck, Cuba dispatched 53 more health workers to the stricken country from its Henry Reeve International Medical Team that is considered the world's best in dealing with such disasters. When Hurricane Katrina was barreling down on New Orleans, Cuba begged the George W. Bush administration for permission to fly 1500 Henry Reeve professionals to New Orleans, but that permission was denied even as the Bush administration famously botched the disaster. By contrast, the Obama administration has gone out of its way to thank Cuba for being among the first to respond to disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti and the Ebola crisis in Africa.
And by the way:
 This is a tribute to Cardinals by Season's Splendor.


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 ...