Cuba-U.S. Military Ties

And, hopefully, Rice Too!!
      This photo, courtesy of Agustin Borrego, shows Colonel Idael Fumero Valdes, the top enforcement police officer on the island of Cuba. He represents a seldom publicized fact: Routine police and military cooperation between Cuba and the United States. Recently Colonel Fumero led a delegation of Cuban officials on a tour of the U. S. Military Command for Latin America at Key West, Florida. It reflected the U. S. desire to continue and expand ties with Cuba designed to make both nations and the Caribbean safer by mutually policing their contiguous waters against illegal drug and human trafficking. The United States obviously respects the cooperation Colonel Fumero has consistently provided, which includes capturing drug dealers wanted by the United States and quickly alerting American authorities to come get them.
      Lt. Adisleidys Despaigne {a Borrego photo} is also typical of Cuban officers who are trained to assist U. S. military and police officials. "Cuban mothers like me," she says, "have the same concerns and worries as American mothers. That includes drug dealers and human traffickers who try to prey on all our children."
      This week -- Monday, May 30th, 2016 -- Martin Rice Company of Missouri delivered a 20-ton shipment of high-quality, long-grain rice as a totally free gift to the Cuban people. It was off-loaded from a ship at Cuba's plush Mariel Port 28 miles southwest of Havana as a gesture of friendship from Missouri to Cuba.
      Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is spending several days in Cuba this week on a very ambitious trade mission. His large delegation includes top government, agriculture, business, and education officials from Missouri. Governor Nixon said, "Missouri farmers and workers produce the highest quality products in the world and we are here to expand opportunities to get Missouri goods to Cuban consumers." Missouri's mammoth gift of 20 tons of rice is designed to prove to Cuba that Missouri's rice is superior to the rice grown in Vietnam and that nearby United States ports are much closer and more convenient for transporting it to the Mariel Port, which recently received a billion-dollar upgrade. Missouri is #4 among the 50 U. S. states in the production of rice. Cuba is a major purchaser of rice, most from faraway Vietnam because of the U. S. embargo. Cuba has not purchased any rice from the U. S. since 2008 and Governor Nixon wants that to change drastically, along with the sale to Cuba of a myriad of other Missouri products.
   The plaque dated "May 2016" depicted above reflects increasing recognition of the herculean work Cuban diplomat Josefina Vidal has performed during extremely delicate negotiations to normalize relations with the United States. Some now consider her "the U.S.-Cuban angel of peace."
        Since the 1950s, of all the Cuban and American diplomats who have strived to ease the hostilities between the two neighboring nations, none have matched the sheer brilliance of Cuba's Josefina Vidal.
       James Williams is President of the Washington-based Engage Cuba Coalition. Mr. Williams is among the democracy-loving Americans leading the plaudits honoring Josefina Vidal's "truly brilliant diplomacy." 
       James Williams, as the leader of the Engage Cuba Coalition, also deserves much credit for standing up to implacable foes while brilliantly and bravely supporting U. S. efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. Being fiercely pro-American and pro-democracy, Mr. Williams believes Americans deserve the freedom to "freely trade with and travel to" the nearby sovereign island of Cuba. WOW!! What a democratic concept!! 
      The Adonia, the magnificent Carnival Cruise Lines ship, has again this week left Miami bound for Cuba. It is the second historic trip to highlight a key aspect of President Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. The first of the 7-day cruises two weeks ago stopped off in Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. This week the Cienfuegos stopover has been cancelled to allow for longer stays in Cuba's two largest cities -- the capital of Havana on the northwestern tip of the alligator-shaped island and the old capital of Santiago on the southeastern tip. The Adonia is currently making twice-monthly visits to Cuba.
The alligator-shaped island -- Havana to Santiago de Cuba.


Getting To Know Cuba

By Knowing Cubans
        Cristina Escobar, Cuba's young superstar news anchor, is racking up some frequent flyer miles from the island to the U. S. and back. That's because, fueled by President Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, many U. S. entities that want to know more about what's happening on the island and what's likely to happen realize that the two best ways to find out is: {1} Go to Cuba and talk to Cubans; or {2} invite Cubans to come talk to you. Cristina is getting more invitations than she can handle to tell Americans about Cuba and about why she turns down lucrative offers to stay in the U. S. to live and work on the island she loves with a passion. Each of the last three years, Cristina has made insightful visits to the U. S., making indelible impressions each time. In the last few days she has accepted invitations from the United States Chamber of Commerce and the NPR network to come to America and tell them about Cuba, where it is and where she thinks it is going. Cristina's visits to America are important because, for sure, the mainstream U. S. media is incapable or unwilling to portray U.S.-Cuban relations except from the perspectives of viciously anti-Castro Cuban-Americans. That situation, since 1959, has been even more injurious to the image of the U. S. democracy than to Cuba, which actually has garnered worldwide sympathy and support because of America's undemocratic targeting of the nearby island. Cristina, a passionate supporter of Cubans on the island and an astute critic of an American policy dictated only by a handful of "anti-Cuban Cuban-Americans," is anathema to the mainstream U. S. media but increasingly more-and-more fair-minded Americans who want to know about Cuba are soliciting Cristina's views.
       In December of 2014 Cristina Escobar spent a week in California. That's Cristina in the black dress listening attentively to a journalism professor at Cal State-Fullerton. She also toured Hollywood and Universal Studios. Being a fan of Hollywood movies, she says, "helped me learn English." Her passions for broadcast journalism, movies, and "to feel America's pulse" spawned her visit to California in 2014.
       In 2015 Cristina was back on U. S. soil, this time as Cuba's superstar journalist covering the fourth and final Vidal-Jacobson diplomatic session in Washington. The photo above shows Cristina making history, as documented by CNN. It shows her at a White House news conference asking six...yes, six...pertinent questions of President Obama's spokesman Josh Earnest. She was the star of the event and a CNN report that is still available online is aptly entitled: "Cuban Reporter Makes History at White House Briefing."  
"When Cuba questioned in the White House."  
Cristina's slice of White House history.
        This image is taken from a video-taped interview American journalist Tracey Eaton got with Cristina Escobar in Cuba. The video is still available on many worldly venues, including YouTube. The interview produced a myriad of published quotes from Cristina, including "I do not want the U. S. to bring me democracy. That is a project for Cubans on the island." But probably the most ubiquitous quotation from this particular interview was: "Cuba's fate is up to Cubans, not Americans." If you Google that sentence, it will readily be credited to her. The Spanish newspaper, El Pais, described it as "worthy of the great Cuban poet and independence fighter Jose Marti." High praise indeed!  
       In 2016...this last week of May, 2016...Cristina Escobar was back in America to, for one thing, tell the U. S. Chamber of Commerce her views on the current state of U.S.-Cuban relations. The above photo shows Cristina in the Washington studio of NPR, which is an excellent media source in the U. S. because it is the one broadcast outlet that will actually pursue both sides of two-sided stories, such as the Cuban conundrum. In this photo NPR reporter Eyder Peralta is shown conducting in English a very insightful 30-minute interview of Cristina. The entire interview is still on such outlets as NPR, YouTube, and the Center for Democracy in the Americas website. Peralta fired 20+ questions at Cristina, none of which fazed her.
         To understand Cuba in 2016 as President Obama is trying to embrace it, Americans need to know Cristina Escobar, a 28-year-old Cuban on the island. Otherwise, because of an extremely weak U. S. media, Americans are force-fed views of Cuba only from the self-serving prism of a handful of revengeful Cuban-Americans who resent the 1959 demise of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship, which unfortunately was allowed to immediately and eternally reconstitute itself on U. S. soil. As an inquisitive broadcast journalist in Cuba, Cristina has taken it upon herself to become an expert on U.S.-Cuban relations. She has family in Miami, and a brother in New York. But she is Cuban, and will remain so. From her perspective as a highly respected broadcast journalist and an expert on U.S.-Cuban relations, Cristina believes that both America and Cuba are hurt..."perhaps fatally"...by the omnipotence of the U. S. broadcast media that she feels is a giant propaganda machine serving the economic and political desires of an elite, unsavory few. As her fame extends from Cuba and the region to America, the three most notable Cristina quotes are: "The lies the U. S. media tells about Cuba hurts everyday Cubans the most." "Journalists in Cuba have more freedom to tell the truth about the U. S. than U. S. journalists have to tell the truth about Cuba." "I don't want the U. S. to bring me democracy. That is a project for Cubans on the island." Self-proclaimed American patriots, of course, are programmed to dismiss the viewpoints of Cristina Escobar. But braver and more realistic American patriots, perhaps many of the millions choosing Trump and Sanders over "established" politicians, seem to agree with Cristina Escobar about how harmful a weak U. S. media can be even in a powerful democracy.
      Since March 31st, CNN has repeatedly aired an excellent documentary about the decade of the 1980s entitled "The Eighties." It has been repeated several times in this last week of May, 2016. The inquisitive Cristina Escobar has watched it more than once because she's concerned about Cuba. Americans concerned about America should do the same. The must-see documentary explains how, in the 1980s, the U. S. media evolved into an extraordinarily powerful propaganda machine as opposed to the news outlet considered vital to the viability of a democracy. In the 1950s television news was becoming the dominant news source for millions of Americans. From then throughout the 1970s, the three over-the-air networks {CBS, NBC, and ABC} did yeoman work in providing Americans ubiquitous as well as fair-and-balanced news coverage. The broadcast media -- radio and TV -- was considered so omnipotent and so vital to the U. S. democracy that the airways were depicted as "publicly owner essentials." But in the 1980s the most greedy elements of capitalism took over as a few wealthy Americans, by buying up necessary politicians, also purchased the airways. Thus, as the aforementioned CNN documentary explained, individual and corporate billionaires began to buy the three over-the-air networks, soon making the news divisions self-serving propaganda machines instead of news outlets. A decent billionaire who respected news and was a visionary -- Ted Turner -- began the 1980s by inventing CNN as a 24-hour cable news outlet that actually covered news fairly. But then CNN too was bought by greedy capitalists who cared only about money and self-serving propaganda. The same is true for cable television's other CNN wannabees -- Fox, MSNBC, etc. Like the three over-the-air networks, all cable news outlets in the United States are owned today by greedy individual/corporate billionaires who care a lot about money and propaganda but very little, if anything, about the integrity of either the U. S. democracy or the broadcast industry. That evolution -- from actual broadcast news outlets to propaganda machines -- was solidified in the 1980s, as bravely and expertly explained by CNN's oft-repeated documentary "The Eighties." It is a basic fact that Cristina Escobar seems to comprehend, but one that eludes less concerned and easily propagandized Americans.
The CNN documentary points out, until the news divisions of America's broadcast industry were purchased by greedy billionaires, top broadcast journalist like Walter Cronkite were among America's most respected and influential people. Mr. Cronkite, for example, ended both the Lyndon Johnson presidency and the seemingly endless Vietnam War with his reporting and commentary on his CBS News program. There are no Walter Cronkites today; they have been replaced by broadcast propagandists spewing distortions that serve the purposes of their greedy billionaire owners. Thus, the first nail in democracy's U. S. coffin was pounded home by the purchase of the broadcast industry by unsavory billionaires back in the 1980s. Then the second and perhaps last nail was pounded home in 2010 when the U. S. Supreme Court legalized unlimited political donations by billionaires. A bought-and-paid-for media coupled with a bought-and-paid-for political system has produced a life-threatening cancer for the United States democracy.
As a broadcast journalist in Cuba, Cristina Escobar is no Walter Cronkite. At least not yet. But she is already respected and influential in Cuba and, it seems, becoming more so in the U. S. as Americans get to know her. Americans who do know her now better understand her as a talented broadcast journalist who cares deeply about U.S.-Cuban relations and, moreover, comprehends its significance. She is smart enough and insightful enough to say: "I don't want the U. S. to bring me democracy. That is a project for Cubans on the island." "The lies the U. S. media tell about Cuba hurts everyday Cubans the most." "Cuban journalists have more freedom to tell the truth about the U. S. than U. S. journalists have to tell the truth about Cuba." Democracy-loving Americans do not have to faithfully believe everything Cristina Escobar says. I, for one, do not. But democracy-loving Americans should respect her sincerity and her expertise in assessing her Cuba and its relationship with the United States. For America's sake, and not just Cuba's, we need to wonder why she does not want the U. S. to bring her democracy; we need to wonder why she is so concerned about the lies the U. S. media tell about Cuba. And we need to wonder if...alas!!...Cuban journalists have more freedom to tell the truth about the U. S. than U. S. journalists have to tell the truth about Cuba. Such democracy-loving concerns by Americans, I believe, will be good for America...and Cuba.
Meanwhile, now that neither Walter Cronkite nor anyone resembling him adorns the U. S. media, why has the island of Cuba produced what appears to be the best journalist reporting on the U.S.-Cuban conundrum? Or...is that a pertinent question?
Cristina Escobar: Being interviewed on CCTV America.
Cristina Escobar: Reviewing data for her newscast. 
Cristina Escobar: Not fond of the U. S. media.
Cristina Escobar: Delivering the news in Cuba.


Still Courting Cuba

Superpowers Compete
        For the past quarter century, Carol J. Williams has been America's most astute journalist in analyzing international issues. As the star reporter for the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press, she has worked in 80 nations and recently, staying closer to home, she concentrates now on being an International Affairs writer, analyst and consultant. She is fluent in English, Spanish, Russian, German and French. Included in her unique observations have been the best conclusions regarding the intricate and often misunderstood relations between the Caribbean island of Cuba and its superpower northern neighbor, the United States. The Cuban media is state-controlled and the U. S. media, when it comes to Cuba, is too intimidated, too politically correct or too biased to do justice to its democracy. So Ms. Williams, to my reckoning, has been the best source for both reporting and analyzing U.S.-Cuban developments.
      The best article regarding President Obama's attempt to "normalize" relations with Cuba has been, not surprisingly, penned by Carol J. Williams. It was entitled: "U. S.-Cuba Thaw Could Erode Russian Influence With Havana Allies." That's important because Cuba, while it has strong international support in its everlasting rivalry with the U. S., has historically looked to Moscow in do-or-die conflicts with America, and that is true today because the island's most powerful regional support is receding markedly as Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Nicaragua, etc., all have internal problems of their own, lessening their devotion to Cuba. So, this critique by Carol J. Williams is your best up-to-date summary: "Cubans fearful of hostile U. S. actions have long counted on the Kremlin to ride to their rescue with military backing and economic influence, even in the lean years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But if Havana and Washington could patch up their relationship after 55 years of bitter division..." Ms. Williams is aware that Cuba would be much better served by having the nearby backing of the U. S. as opposed to the faraway support of Russia. In the aforementioned article, she concluded: "The ideology that tethered Cubans to Moscow has morphed in both countries." By that, she was referencing Russian sanctions following its Ukraine aggression and Cuba's increasing dependence financially on several billion dollars of remittances each year from Cuban-Americans in South Florida. The morphing of those and other nuances has Cuba susceptible to President Obama's rapprochement but, with ample reason, Cuba remains wary and reluctant of Miami and Congress.
       While cognizant of Obama's historically positive overtures, Cuba is even more aware that a handful of anti-Castro Cuban-American zealots from Miami -- such as Rubio, the Diaz-Balart brothers and Ros-Lehtinen -- still easily dictate America's Cuban policy in the U. S. Congress. For example, this week's "Cuba Central" posting by Sarah Stephens on her Center for Democracy in the Americas website reveals that Marco Rubio and Mario Diaz-Balart...that's Mario standing between Rubio and Ros-Lehtinen in the above photo...are both using their time in Congress this week to continue to concentrate on anti-Cuban bills as opposed to, say, working on items they might help Americans and Cuban-Americans. It has been that way for decades and Cuba doesn't think that will change even though most of the world's people, including most Cuban-Americans, support President Obama, not the Miami extremists, when it comes to Cuba.
      Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has reminded Cuban President Raul Castro that Miami and the U. S. Congress will override any friendly gestures Obama makes toward Cuba, "based on logic and history."
      Russian President Vladimir Putin this week {above} is hosting Cuba's First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Moscow. As the above photo indicates, Mr. Putin is seriously courting Mr. Diaz-Canel, knowing that the 56-year-old Cuban has already been designated as the next leader of Cuba no later than August 24th, 2018, meaning he figures to be Cuba's first non-Castro leader since 1959. Russia is not the economic powerhouse the U. S. is, but its nuclear arsenal attests to its superpower status. Newly plagued by sanctions and low oil prices, Russia hopes the U. S. detente with Cuba fizzles out, which it well might. In other words, the wily Putin is not a fan of Obama's efforts to normalize relations with the Caribbean's biggest and most influential island. Another Cold War-type standoff would be more to Putin's liking, pitting Cuba back in the middle of the tug-a-war that, way back in 1962, brought the world the closest its ever been to a nuclear holocaust. It appears that Putin, knowing Russia cannot compete economically with the U. S., is concerned that Obama-initiated commercial ties will erode the island's historic links to Moscow.



Diplomatic Chess Matches!!~
     Miguel Diaz-Canel is in Moscow this week at the head of a top-level Cuban delegation. The photo above, taken on May 25th, shows Diaz-Canel, third from the left, directly across the conference table from Russian President Vladimir Putin. It has been reported in Moscow that Putin personally invited Diaz-Canel and asked a pertinent question: "How is the detente with your neighbor to the north progressing, Miguel?"
       Miguel Diaz-Canel had a birthday on April 20th. He was born 56 years ago in Santa Clara, Cuba. Since 2013 he has held the coveted title of First Vice-President, the second most prestigious position in Cuba.
       The date has been set when Diaz-Canel will become the first non-Castro leader of Cuba since 1959. That date, established by President Raul Castro, is August 24th, 2018, but the transition may be sooner. 
          It is believed that Fidel Castro, who turns 90-years-old on August 13th, approved the designation of Miguel Diaz-Canel, but only after he had first suggested a woman, presumably Josefina Vidal. He reportedly let go of that suggestion only after she insisted "I can better serve Cuba as a diplomatic defender." 
       Tourism from the U. S. to Cuba has boomed since President Obama eased some travel restrictions that had been in place since 1962. The Ismael Francisco photo above shows Kevin Darrow arriving in Havana Tuesday, May 24th. Mr. Darrow is a restaurant owner from Pasadena, California. Although the U. S. reportedly is allowing the convenience of credit cards and travelers checks on the island, that transition is still evolving. Mr. Darrow complained about having to carry too much cash and the Cuban government is complaining that America's "Cold War" financial restrictions continue to plague the Cuban economy.
     Josefina Vidal, Cuba's Minister of North American Affairs and, supposedly, Fidel's First Choice as the next leader of Cuba, recently hosted the third so-called U.S.-Cuban Bilateral Commission in Havana. She says the 4th session will be held in Washington in September. Vidal has negotiated many remarkable advances in U.S.-Cuban relations with the Obama administration but, wary of a Republican U. S. president beginning in January "to team" with a Republican U. S. Congress, Vidal hopes to make progress by September on three of her lingering priorities: {1} Serious discussions on further erasing "punitive" aspects of the blockade/embargo; {2} ceasing "congressional funding and creation" of dissidents on the island; and {3} "intelligent dialogue" concerning the return of Guantanamo Bay. While feeling "ecstatic" over advances since President Obama "opened doors," Vidal says that normalizing relations "is still a work in progress."
     In her four diplomatic sessions with Roberta Jacobson and her three bilateral meetings with Kristi Kenney, Vidal has stressed these points regarding what she terms the U. S. "theft" of Guantanamo Bay:  {1} When the U. S. "stole" Guantanamo Bay in 1903 it was because "it could" after the 1898 Spanish-American War resulted in the U. S. becoming the "new imperialist dictator" of Cuba; {2} the U. S. Naval Base on plush Cuban soil is nothing more than "a superfluous and revengeful playpen" because of the U. S. military bases in Puerto Rico and the southeast U. S. as well as ships and submarines "toting nuclear missiles" in seas all around Cuba; {3} the continuing U. S. occupation of Guantanamo Bay is merely to appease "a few of the most revengeful Cuban-Americans" in Congress; and {4} "it is shocking to me that the theft of Guantanamo Bay is allowed to demean the image of the United States democracy on a daily basis all around the world."
U. S. flag being raised at Guantanamo Bay in 1903.
It is still controlling Guantanamo Bay today.
U. S. flag flying high at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Obama can't close Bush-era prison at Guantanamo Bay.
       Barack Obama has twice been elected America's President, partly because he promised to close Guantanamo, which Americans realize is an image that severely and unnecessarily hurts the U. S. and democracy worldwide. He has been severely and unfairly criticized for not being able to accomplish that goal. Yet, his skillful and bold use of Executives Orders has sliced markedly into other punitive -- against Cuba but also against America -- laws easily and routinely mandated by a dysfunctional, Batistiano-directed U. S. Congress. Those criticizing Obama for not being able to close Gitmo tend to forget the advantages a mere handful of two generations of anti-Castro zealots from Miami have in the American Congress.
     Mario Diaz-Balart, the U. S. Congressman from Miami, is emblematic of the congressional dictation of a U. S. Cuban policy that most Americans, most Cuban-Americans and America's best friends around the world abhor. He is one of five Cuban-Americans, including his older {Havana-born} brother Lincoln, who have represented Miami in the U. S. Congress. All are rich and powerful anti-Obama zealots although polls confirm that most Cuban-Americans even in Miami favor Obama's Cuban policy, not theirs. The Diaz-Balarts are sons of Rafael Diaz-Balart, a key Minister in the Batista dictatorship who fled the Cuban Revolution and became one of the richest and most powerful anti-Castro zealots in the history of South Florida. Mario recently celebrated the easy ploy of slipping a bill into a "must pass" multi-billion-dollar bill designed to make sure that neither Obama nor anyone else can alter the U. S. occupation of Guantanamo Bay.
      Leaving America's Cuban policy in the hands of a few anti-revolutionary zealots leaves the above image of the United States embedded deeply in world opinions. It is a congressionally painted and Bush-era image that President Obama has tried mightily to correct but neither the intimidated/incompetent U. S. media nor the pusillanimous/propagandized U. S. citizenry cringe enough about this very sad image.
Is it America's "Pearl" or Cuba's "Pearl?"
   "One thing we will never negotiate is our sovereignty, which the revolution gave us in 1959. The blockade and the theft of Guantanamo Bay infringe on our sovereignty." {Vidal: Cuba's top diplomat and negotiator}.

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