Cuba: Uh, Yes, CUBA

Now & Always, CUBA!!
      My passions for the United States and democracy combined to make me passionate about a Caribbean island -- Cuba. That's because I sincerely believe that Cuba says far more about the United States than it says about Cuba. That's important, because Cuba is a poor island and the United States is the world's economic and military superpower. Cuba's significance on the world stage is far out of proportion to its size, population or wealth; that's because U. S. relations with Cuba...since the 1898 Spanish-American War and especially since the 1959 triumph of the Cuban Revolution over the vile U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship, have done more than any other topic or thing to continuously demean the U. S. and democracy in the eyes of the world. The amazing thing to me revolves around the fact that two generations of Americans since the 1950s have had neither the guts nor the patriotism to rectify the democracy-debilitating aspects of U.S.-Cuban relations, which decent U. S. taxpayers have paid dearly for but which a mere handful of right-wing Americans, Cubans, and Mafiosi have effectively and self-servingly dictated all these decades.
        The endless decades of incessant arm wrestling-like tugs-of-war between poor little Cuba and the rich and ultra-powerful United States have famously included military clashes, a record-shattering number of assassination attempts against one still-living man, terrorist acts including the bombing of a child-laden Cuban civilian airplane, and a litany of United States laws designed officially in Congress to annihilate Cuba and to greatly enrich, entice and empower Cuban-Americans. Through it all, the mere survival of Revolutionary Cuba and its now 90-year-old architect Fidel Castro has resulted in a pugnaciousness that is admired worldwide, as reflected each October by a 191-to-2 pro-Cuba/anti-U.S. vote in the United Nations.
         A tiny country with one star on its red-white-&-blue flag holding off the world superpower that has 50 stars on its red-white-&-blue flag has fascinated the world and, ironically, created in its over-sized wake the dramatic waves of democratic elections beginning in the 1970s that honestly elected Fidel Castro-disciples as Presidents throughout Latin America, forever ending the preponderance of U.S.-backed right-wing dictators such as Batista in Cuba, Pinochet in Chile, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Videla in Argentina, Somoza in Nicaragua, etc. Ironic? Yes. TrueYes. And denying such basic facts is not being pro-American.
        Democracy-loving people trying to restore sane diplomatic relations with Cuba have easily been thwarted since 1898, and especially since 1959, by a handful of roguish people motivated mostly by greed but also by revenge. When a decent Cuban-American journalist in Miami, Emilio Milian, objected to such things as the terrorist bombing of a civilian airplane, he was car-bombed; when the top journalist at the Miami Herald, Jim DeFede, wrote a famous column excoriating Miami's representatives in the U. S. Congress for helping to make Miami a haven for well-known anti-Castro terrorists, he was fired. Since then, the mainstream U. S. media has contributed greatly to the American cowardice and ignorance that has complied with the extremist dictates of U.S.-Cuban Relations at the expense of America's image and of Democracy's veracity as the all-time greatest form of government. Greed and revenge are the winners.
        Only in the fast-fading final two years of Barack Obama's two-term, 8-year presidency has any of the last ten U. S. presidents had the courage and intelligence to try to create A New Era in U.S.-Cuba relations.
    Obama's impending legacy gets an "A" because of Cuba.
     Because of Obama, this white-haired Cuban gives a thumbs-up to the photographer while standing proudly on her balcony displaying side-by-side American and Cuban flags. For an entire lifetime, this Cuban has been hurt and deprived by a U. S. Cuban policy the American people have been told is necessary to hurt or overthrow the now 90-year-old Fidel Castro, presumably so the Batistiano-Mafiosi types can finally reclaim the island after hiding all these many decades behind the skirts of the American government.
        And yet, President Obama has bravely and astutely defied the right-wing congressional dictators and, for the first time in over half a century, executively executed some long-overdue New Cuban Policies.
     Just in the last few days, courtesy of Mr. Obama, U. S. commercial airplanes have been allowed to fly to Cuba for the first time in over half-a-century. It allows more Americans to personally judge Cuba even as anti-Castro stalwarts in Miami and in Congress huddle frantically to decide how they can end such sanity. 
    But still, even as we focus on the positives, the great Editorial Cartoonist Steve Sack reminds us that the newly opened Cuban embassy in Washington and the newly opened U. S. embassy in Havana are still at loggerheads before agreeing to finalize normal relations. As Steve Sack says, Cuba insists that the embargo end and that Guantanamo Bay, which the imperialist-minded United States stole in 1903, be returned. The U. S. counters by accusing Cuba of "human rights" violations and not addressing "property claims" such as the hotel that the Mafia kingpin Meyer Lansky hastily left behind in the dark, wee hours of January 1, 1959.
       The Bush-era prison at Guantanamo Bay still drastically harms America's image and America's security because it is used as a major recruiting tool by America's greatest enemies around the world. Additionally, the prison year-after-year costs U. S. taxpayers countless millions of dollars that would be saved if the prisoners were held in readily available maximum security prisons on U. S. soil. And additionally, President Obama was twice elected President of the United States on the promise that he would close the prison at Guantanamo, and he has tried to do that to the best of his ability. But in the closing months of his presidency, about 60 prisoners remain in the still-open prison and recruiting tool on Cuban soil that Cuba rightfully wants returned. Because of an incompetent, intimidated or politically correct U. S. media, the right-wing minority that mandates such Cuban policies are never asked, "Do you care how much such Cuban policies harm America's image around the world and how much they harm the security of America?" 
   America's best friends around the world are ashamed of this image. 
Perhaps it's time Americans are too.
      President Obama has bravely tried to chart a new course in U.S.-Cuban relations as indicated by this WH.gov/Cuba-policy graphic. With more help from brave democracy-loving Americans, he could do much more -- such as finally ending the embargo of Cuba and returning Guantanamo Bay to its rightful owner.
       In the late 19th century, brave Cubans like Jose Marti and the Maceo brothers gave their lives fighting Spanish soldiers in two losing Wars for Independence. After the 1898 Spanish-American War, the U. S. replaced Spain as Cuba's imperialist ruler. In 1959 the Cuban Revolution shocked the world by overthrowing the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship. Every day since then, it has shocked the world by holding off the U.S.-backed Batistiano-fueled efforts to reclaim the island. But somehow it has remained a sovereign country. And that's why maps like the one above look skewed to many democracy-loving people. If you look closely at this map on the southeastern tip of the island, you will see "Guantanamo Bay (USA)" and it is a designation that Cuba, and the world, opposes in these closing days of 2016 when the U. S. sanctimoniously criticizes Russia and China for claiming Crimea or disputed islands in the South China Sea, etc. In 1898 in Paris, no Cuban was on hand to voice an opinion about the treaty that ended the Spanish-American War, which ended Spain's rule of Cuba but put it in perpetuity in the hands of...the U. S.
       Unlike in Paris in 1898 when no Cuban could speak as the Spanish-American War was finalized, in 2016 Cuba should be permitted to speak about its own territory -- namely, the American occupation of Guantanamo Bay. And Josefina Vidal -- Cuba's brilliant diplomat on all matters related to the U. S. -- is the person today who, when afforded the chance, speaks -- in either Spanish or English -- the most eloquently and righteously about such things. No, Vidal...unlike a handful of Cuban-Americans in Congress...is not backed by a multi-trillion-dollar economy or by the world's strongest military. But she does have right on her side when it comes to things such as Guantanamo Bay, and that...should account for...something.  
Which reminds me of:

  Penelope Purdy!!
        In a famous editorial for the Denver Post, Penelope Purdy included what I believe remains to this day the most eloquent and righteous sentence ever written about America's Cuban policy. A brilliant Latin American expert, she spent a long time detailing how the United States installed or supported vile dictators like Batista, Pinochet, Mobutu, Trujillo, the Shah, Videla, Somoza, etc., etc. And then Ms. Purdy wrote: "For all these decades, America's Cuban policy has been conducted with the IQ of a salamander."  
       Every time I think of  Penelope Purdy's analogy that infuses a Salamander with America's Cuban policy, I agree with her insightful and informed premise. At the same time, I believe it also insults the intelligence of little guys like this one. I often ride my 4-wheeler into streams or mud-puddles and see a lot of little Salamanders. For centuries they have survived human encroachments and weather-related famines as well as a plethora of skilled predators such as snakes, hawks, raccoons, etc. So their IQs have to be rather formidable. The same could even be said, I reckon, of the self-serving rogues who dictate America's Cuban policy. However, I cannot say the same for the intelligence of the American people who have allowed America's Cuban policy to shame America and Democracy since the Spanish-American War in 1898, and especially since U. S. support of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship in 1952 and particularly the Batistiano-Mafiosi support since 1959. Surely, as Penelope Purdy so eloquently suggested, this little Salamander would never agree with such an American Cuban policy. He's not a rogue and he obviously has a high IQ.

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