Cuba's New Day TODAY

Monday, October 17th, 2016!!
       This Global Times image of Lady Liberty lighting up a Cuban cigar takes on added meaning today -- Oct. 17-2016. Starting today -- after a new Executive Order issued by President Obama -- there are no limits on the amount of rum and cigars that Americans can bring home from Cuba for their personal use.
      Susan Rice is the 24th U. S. National Security Advisor. Behind the scenes, she has been instrumental in advising President Obama on his monumental efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. This past weekend she was very much upfront when she addressed a Washington think tank and laid out a plethora of new presidential orders designed to further the process of normalizing relations with Cuba. Both she and the President used the same word -- "irreversible" -- in their belief that future U. S. governments will not be able to turn-back such advances, as brave and dangerous as they may be, because they will help the vast majority of Cubans, Americans, and Cuban-Americans. Ms. Rice concluded her remarks with this quip apparently meant to prick Cuban hardliners in Congress: "You can now celebrate these advances with Cuban rum and Cuban cigars." Many indeed will celebrate, but others will not. Representing the hardliners in Miami and Congress, Senator Marco Rubio, for example, railed about Obama catering to the "Castro bandits" although Susan Rice and most Americans realize that the banditry related to Cuba involves other nouns -- such as the Batistianos and the Mafiosi, just to name two.
     After months of delicate and secretive discussions, some taking place in Canada and the Vatican, President Obama announced to the world on Dec. 17-2014 that he was going to normalize relations with Cuba, the first such serious announcement since November of 1963 when President Kennedy, just prior to his ill-fated trip to Dallas, told his staff that his "priority" upon his return to Washington would be normalizing relations with Cuba. In the past two years, Obama incredibly has opened embassies in Havana and Washington for the first time since 1961; allowed commercial airplanes and cruise ships to travel to Cuba for the first time since 1962; removed Cuba from the Sponsors of Terrorism list to the utter chagrin of hardliners who relished the designation; made it easier for everyday Americans to have the freedom to travel to Cuba; and otherwise sliced deeply into the embargo of Cuba that the U. S. Congress has mandated or enhanced since 1962 when it was crafted to starve and deprive Cubans on the island to induce them to rise up and overthrow the now 90-year-old Fidel Castro. Then this past weekend President Obama backed up Susan Rice's revelations with this statement; "I approved a Presidential Policy Directive that takes another major step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. My goal is to make our opening to Cuba irreversible." As of today, President Obama's new series of orders allows Cubans to be able to buy certain U. S. products online. Also, Cuban pharmaceutical companies can now do business in the U. S., and joint medical research by Cubans and Americans will now be permitted...among a host of other new initiatives.
     Cuba's top Minister on issues related to the United States, Josefina Vidal, very carefully studied the entire text of President Obama's new overtures to Cuba, ones he hoped would help make his "opening to Cuba irreversible." In her diplomatic mode, Ms. Vidal expressed her "approval" of the President's newly official directives toward Cuba. But beyond that tacit comment, she was -- to the surprise of some -- keenly disappointed that he did not go further in combating the Batista-Mafia "fringe elements" that, to her mind, still dictate "a Cuban policy despised by the entire world, especially those who love democracy, and a policy that shames America far more than it shames Cuba although it leaves everyday Cubans on the island to bear the brunt of the unfair punishment handed out practically unchecked by the revengeful profiteers who are allowed to gradually usurp, decade after decade, so much of the enormous prestige the U. S. had following World War II before dark elements put it in bed with dictators like Batista, Trujillo, Somoza, Pinochet. Thanks to those elements, unchecked to this day, Cuba uniquely has had to deal with the ravages of the Mafia along with the Batista regime and then the exiles. Obama has done more than any American to correct...to make amends...for that but in my eyes and the eyes of the world, he has not done enough to end the blockade's pain."  
      After minutely studying President Obama's latest directives related to Cuba, Josefina Vidal held the above news conference in Havana to air her views. She again said that she "approved" his actions and "appreciated his obvious concern for the Cuban people." She called the directives "the document" and she made it plain they didn't go far enough in regards to the embargo, which she calls a "blockade," the occupation of Guantanamo Bay, and other issues she wants discussed and resovled. Study Ms. Vidal's exact words at the news conference and you will have the clearest update on where Cuba stands during the final three months of Barack Obama's 8-year presidency: "The document does not hide the purpose of promoting changes in the potential, economic and social order of Cuba, or hide the intention to further develop interventionist programs. Both countries would benefit from civilized coexistence within the large differences between our two countries." In other words, Vidal finds it incongruous...stupid, really...that President Obama is making multiple sincere efforts to normalize relations with Cuba while Congress and other branches of government are massively funding anti-Cuban regime-change projects with pipelines of Washington-to-Miami tax dollars. At the above news conference, Vidal also made these exact statements: "The measures in the President's document are positive but very limited and generally benefit the United States more than Cuba and its people. There are aspects that maintain minimum content. U. S. exports to Cuba will not expand beyond the limited sales previously authorized and that includes key sectors of our economy. The U. S. still restricts Cuban imports in U. S. territory, especially those from the state sector, with the exception of pharmaceuticals approved in the new package of regulations." At this news conference, as she has in the past, Vidal expressed her belief that "the U. S. citizens as a whole seem not to care" about their money always being used to hurt innocent Cubans, money that could be used to help needy Americans.
      Even as President Obama, Susan Rice and many other true American democracy-lovers try to create A New Horizon for U.S.-Cuba Relations, there remains a powerful right-wing element in the U. S. bent on putting a stop to those efforts and turning back even the hint of a possible new sunrise trying so hard to emerge because of Mr. Obama's sheer boldness and decency.
          Elliott Abrams is now 68-years-old. Back in the Reagan, Bush #1 and Bush #2 presidencies he helped craft much of the anti-Cuban policy that still greatly harms, many believe, millions of innocent Cubans as well as the image of the United States. If you Google Elliott Abrams, you'll see that Wikipedia begins its bio with the reminder that "Abrams was convicted for withholding information from Congress about the Iran-Contra Affair while serving for President Ronald Reagan, but pardoned by President George H. W. Bush. During the Reagan administration, Abrams gained notoriety for his involvement in controversial foreign policy decisions regarding Nicaragua and El Salvador." His "decisions" related to Cuba were less notorious only because the Cuban narrative in the U. S. was controlled by extremists during the Reagan-Bush eras when the most extreme policies were formed. So, never elected but repeatedly appointed to powerful conservative or right-wing roles, what happens to Elliott Abrams-types when their patrons are out of office? Well, Abrams was one of the first named to presidential wannabee Ted Cruz's National Security Team. Appointee kings like Abrams also become pundits or join highly funded Think Tanks. Mr. Abrams, after quickly assessing President Obama's weekend directives related to Cuba, fired off a scathing anti-Obama article on the high-and-mighty Council on Foreign Relations website. It was posted October 16th and, in case you savor propaganda, it is entitled "The Obama Legacy in Cuba." I believe Obama's legacy in Cuba will forever tower above Abrams' legacies in Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, El Salvador, etc. But one of his excoriations of President Obama was this sentence: "This policy is...to make up for what he sees as decades of American sin toward Cuba." Mr. Abrams, if indeed that is President Obama's motive, I believe it is an appropriate and well documented one.
        America's democracy-lovers -- such as Sarah Stephens -- are the biggest supporters of President Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. Ms. Stephens -- at the Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americans -- is also one of America's greatest experts on U.S.-Cuban relations, as Mr. Obama knows. On October 14th she wrote: "The White House today issued something called 'Presidential Policy Directive PPD-43' devoted to 'United States-Cuban normalization.' At its core, the directive breaks, clearly and comprehensively, from the Cold War mold of U. S. policy toward Cuba, by setting forth as the New York Times described it, 'A new United States policy to lift the Cold War trade embargo and end a half century of clandestine plotting against the Cuban government.' Sarah Stephens also wrote that Obama had "unfinished" business to take care of. She specifically mentioned: "Ending the embargo with its crushing weight on Cuba; removing restrictions on U. S. travel to the island; and silencing the propaganda still broadcast by Radio-TV Marti." Sarah Stephens concluded that such things "must be completed before the promise of normalization is fully redeemed." One thing is for sure, if decent, unbiased democracy-loving Americans had their way, U.S.-Cuban relations would involve normal ingredients that benefit most Americans and most Cubans, not just a few.
       The embargo that the dysfunctional U. S. Congress wants to use to assault both Cuba and America's image for another six decades doesn't even have the support of most Cuban-Americans in Miami -- especially the youngest and best educated adults.
      Now back to the brilliant and feisty Susan Rice. She was born 51-years-ago in Washington and she has ably served President Obama as the U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations and now as America's top National Security Advisor. Here is her exact statement right after she laid out President Obama's latest directives regarding Cuba: "The United States used to have secret plans for Cuba. Now our policy is out in the open -- and online -- for everyone to read. What you see is what you get." Study those words, if you will, and judge how pertinent they are for a great democracy. You will also probably agree with Susan Rice that "secret plans for Cuba" for decades have shamed America and democracy. She and President Obama believe that, in a democracy, such plans should be "open" so the American people can judge them.
        Now judge this iconic White House photo. It shows President Obama on the left along with some of his top aides looking out the windows of Air Force One as it approached Jose Marti Airport in Havana. It was the day in 2016 when Mr. Obama became the first sitting U. S. president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge arrived on a warship in 1928. Instead of as an imperialist President, Obama arrived as a friend.
     Mr. Obama had the decency to tell the Cubans, "Cuba does not need to fear a threat from the United States." Because of him, that statement will hold true...especially if Republicans finally lose their grip on Congress and don't regain the White House.
      Obama's approval rating is at 55%, amazing for a two-term President in the final three months of his often tumultuous term. His Cuban legacy, I believe, will elevate his legacy significantly in the years to come as Americans, regaining insight as they rediscover the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, become increasingly aware of his unique brilliance and bravery regarding Cuba, an island and a topic that, as Susan Rice astutely opined, has been subjected to "secret plans" for far too long. 
In the meantime
      The great Brazilian artist Carlos Latuff keeps reminding the world that little Cuba since 1962 has "survived history's all-time longest and cruelest embargo ever imposed by a strong nation against a weak one." That's Latuff's little Cuban schoolgirl pounding that message atop Uncle Sam's head as she proudly skips along toting the Cuban flag and ridiculing the embargo.

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