Cuba's Obama-Trump Saga

Leaves Cubans Re-targeted!!
      President Obama's Ambassador to the United Nations was Samatha Power, a skilled, democracy-loving diplomat. Like other key officials in Obama's administration -- such as Secretary of State John Kerry and top adviser Ben Rhodes -- Ms. Power was deeply embarrassed that America's Batistiano-fueled Cuban policy was opposed by all the nations of the world, especially including America's best democracy-loving friends. In her Oct. 26-2016 UN speech above, Ms. Power made a brilliant explanation as to why she, on behalf of America, could not vote to support the United States' own Cuban policy, specifically the U. S. economic embargo that, since 1962, has been the longest and cruelest embargo ever imposed by a powerful nation against a weak nation. THUS, now registering around the world in resounding unanimity is the 191-to-0 UN vote starkly condemning America's Cuban policy. YET, the Batistiano control of the U. S. Congress means that the universally denounced policy remains mostly intact despite Obama's two-term presidency that still has a vastly superior approval rating to Donald Trump's Republican regime that now takes over a Batistiano-slanted White House to align with what already was a Batistiano-controlled U. S. Congress.
        President Trump's Ambassador to the United Nations is Nikki Haley, who had been the Tea Party-powered Governor of South Carolina. The contrast between Ms. Haley and Samantha Power is equivalent to shutting off a bright light to create pitch darkness. Ms. Haley has zero diplomatic experience and, apparently, she is a massive supporter of America's Cuban policy that rightfully gets that 191-to-zero denunciation in the UN. During the presidential campaign Ms. Haley's first choice was Marco Rubio and, after his wipe-out in the Florida primary, her next choice was Ted Cruz. In campaigning for Rubio and Cruz, Ms. Haley lavished scorn on Donald Trump's candidacy, mocking and belittling him at every turn. Now, incredibly, she is Trump's Ambassador to the UN, replacing a truly brilliant diplomat, Samantha Power.
    The Democracy-loving head of the Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americas, Sarah Stephens, has worked tirelessly the last ten years to promote sanity and decency regarding America's Cuban policy. Needless to say, she is dismayed that top Obama officials -- such as Power, Kerry, Rhodes, etc. -- have been replaced by their polar opposites -- such as Nikki Haley, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Top Strategist Steve Bannon, etc., in the Trump administration. On her Cuba Central Website January 27-2017 Ms. Stephens posted and denounced vehement anti-Cuban comments by the likes of Steve Mnuchin at his Senate hearing. But most of all, Ms. Stephens seemed to lament the stark contrast of a Nikki Haley replacing a Samantha Power as the U. S. UN Ambassador.
       Nikki Haley has made her first speech at the United Nations. She made headlines -- as noted above -- with the surly comment, "For those who don't have our backs, we're taking names." Her threat apparently was not aimed at BIG BOYS like Russia or China who don't have America's backs but at little perceived, make-believe threats like...Cuba. At least, that seems to be what the democracy-loving Sarah Stephens thinks.
      On her Jan. 27th Website, Sarah Stephens pointedly stressed the difference between Obama's Samantha Power and Trump's Nikki Haley at the United Nations. Ms. Stephens directed her readers to the complete video of Samantha Power's historic Cuban speech at the UN. Then Ms. Stephens contrasted that speech with Nikki Haley's Batistiano-loving comments made during her Senate confirmation hearing.
        This photo shows Nikki Haley answering softball questions during her Senate hearing that resulted in her easy confirmation as President Trump's Ambassador to the United Nations, a further indication that the nexus of a Republican-controlled U. S. Congress with a Republican White House is a lot more dangerous than having a decent, pragmatic Democrat like Barack Obama in the White House. Simple questions to Nikki Haley at her Senate confirmation hearings resulted in scary right-wing answers, scary for Cuba for sure but also for the United States and maybe the world. 
                 EXACT SENATE QUESTION: "Do you agree that after more than a half a century the U. S. embargo against Cuba has failed to achieve any of its principle objectives?"   
               EXACT NIKKI HALEY ANSWER: "We should be clear about a few things. The goals of the embargo was never to cause regime change, but rather to raise the cost of the Cuban government's bad behavior." 
               Note: That stupid, right-wing answer got this exact reply from the democracy-loving Sarah Stephens: "That's just wrong, as the BBC and a million other reputable sources confirm." In addition to those "million other reputable sources," a plethora of declassified U. S. documents plainly posted on the U. S. National Archives website supports Ms. Stephens, of course. A declassified U. S. document from 1962 clearly states that the purpose of the embargo was to bring about regime change in Cuba by creating hunger situations and other dire deprivations on the Cuban people to induce them to rise up and overthrow their Revolutionary government. 
                 EXACT SENATE QUESTION: "Do you agree that the U. S. should help support private entrepreneurs in Cuba while training or providing other assistance, so they can build a business, market their products and services, and compete with state-owned enterprises?" 
                EXACT NIKKI HALEY ANSWER: "Unfortunately, Cuba does not have private entrepreneurs and working independently is not a right but a privilege granted only to supporters of the regime." 
                Note: That stupid, right-wing answer got this exact reply from the democracy-loving Sarah Stephens: "That was a whopper, as the Voice of America and a vast historical record shows." Right-wing and other Batistiano sources in the United States feel perfectly safe in making such ridiculously self-serving statements decade after decade because, via intimidation or the apathy of American citizens, they have dictated the Cuban narrative in the United States almost since January of 1959 when the Cuban Revolution chased much of the leadership of the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship to U. S. soil. Also, incredibly, a handful of Batistianos aligned with the necessary handful of sycophants in the 535-member U. S. Congress have easily enacted whatever laws they desired to hurt Cuba and to enrich and empower themselves -- such as the Cuban Adjustment Act, Helms-Burton, the Torricelli Bill, etc. Thus, for decades and continuing to this day virtual pipelines of dollars flow from Washington to Miami to support the most visceral and even terroristic counter-revolutionary actions while also lavishly funding, decade after decade, vast counter-revolutionary propaganda machines such as the Miami-based Radio-TV Marti boondoggle. 
       But even in Miami most Cuban Americans, unlike Tea Party darlings such as Nikki Haley, want a sane, democratic, Obama-like approach to Cuba. The ABC television station in Miami, Channel 10, has a fair-minded reporter stationed in Cuba, much to the chagrin of the Batistianos and right-wingers who, for decades, have been able to buttress their lies about the Batista dictatorship and Revolutionary Cuba by maintaining a Congressionally mandated law that prohibits everyday Americans from visiting Cuba, a freedom that, all these decades, all other citizens of the world have enjoyed. That, perhaps, helps account for the 191-to-0 condemnation in the United Nations of America's Batistiano-driven Cuban policy. 
       The reporter in Cuba for Miami's ABC-Channel 10 is Hatzel Vela, who had been a fine reporter for the top television station in Washington, WTOP. Reporting back to Miami, Vila is quite remarkably unbiased.
       And now Hatzel Vela, a Nicaraguan native, is a fine reporter stationed in Cuba for Miami's ABC Channel 10. When the democracy-loving Sarah Stephens said there were "a million reputable sources" disputing Nikki Haley's grossly distorted statements about Cuba at her Senate hearing, one of those sources would be Hatzel Vela at Miami's ABC-TV station. On Jan. 27-2017 Mr. Vela's report from Cuba showed he had no problem finding newly successful entrepreneurs in Cuba, a fact that counter-revolutionaries in the U. S. deny as a means of supporting their Cuban embargo that the rest of the world considers the longest and cruelest economic embargo ever imposed by a powerful nation against a weak nation. Mr. Vela's report featured Ruben Valladares and his wife, two of the thousands of Obama-orchestrated Cuban entrepreneurs. Ruben and his wife started a printing business -- Adorgraf -- in their home and one element of it has grown into a $300,000-a-year business that now employs 37 other Cubans; now Adorgraf is looking to purchase a larger building to house their expanding  and profitable enterprise. But Ruben told Hatzel Vela that he does have one major complaint: Because Obama could not remove all the cruel elements of the Congress-mandated embargo, Ruben says he and his wife cannot purchase certain materials they need to expand their business even more than their ingenuity has already expanded it. Nikki Haley and her ilk, if they watched Hatzel Vela's report from Cuba, would probably have, at least, enjoyed that portion of the report.
    Despite decades of gross distortions by the likes of Nikki Haley and decades of counter-revolutionary Cuban laws easily dictated by a mere handful of miscreants in the 535-member U. S. Congress, there is no denying that America's Batistiano-directed Cuban policy has grossly harmed two generations of totally innocent Cubans in all 14 of its provinces. Cuba's mere survival as an independent nation has gained the island tons of strong international respect while America's Cuban policy has done more over an extended period than anything else to harm America's worldwide image. {What else in a diverse world could possibly attain a 191-to-0 UN vote other than America's Cuban policy?}. That belligerence has kept Cuba in a pugnacious defensive posture trying to protect its hard-earned sovereignty even as the richest and leading remnants of the Batista-Mafia dictatorship, supported by right-wing imperialists in the U. S. Congress and in Republican White Houses, lurk ominously just beyond the island's Caribbean waters.
        This map spotlights Wyoming, the least populated of America's 50 states. Nikki Haley's comments at her Senate hearing conjured up an analogy that reminded me of my fondness for Wyoming...its expansive beauty but also its brave pioneering of so many democratic principles, such as women's rights, as America was spreading westward after the vastness of Thomas Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase from France.
        My Nikki Haley-reminded Wyoming analogy precipitated thoughts of a distinct Cuban-related possibility. Let's say...some miscreants were booted out of Wyoming when they strongly disagreed with Wyoming becoming the first state that allowed women to vote and to hold public office. And then those fleeing miscreants re-settled elsewhere...say, Newark or Miami...and got elected to the U. S. Congress, perhaps by usurping or strong-arming the democratic process. Then...say...those miscreants wanted to pulverize Wyoming to sate their revenge, economic and political motives. In the 535-member Congress, it seems, they wouldn't need much help to execute their Wyoming scheme -- maybe just tapping on a few shoulders such as Jesse Helms and Dan Burton lookalikes and saying, "Hey, buddy, if you support my Wyoming bill I'll support your Bridge-to-Nowhere bill so you can reward your biggest donor back in your district." Of course, in such a scenario that Wyoming bill would unleash torrents of tax dollars to both pulverize Wyoming and to enrich the miscreants and...OH, YES!!...the Wyoming bill would include a provision prohibiting Americans from visiting the state so they couldn't judge it for themselves and thus would be forced to accept the miscreant's generally unchallenged narratives about nice Wyoming.
      Now as you contemplate my Cuban-Wyoming analogy, also contemplate the above very enlightening photo. It was taken by Agency France Press the day a very, very reluctant President Bill Clinton was obligated to sign the infamous Helms-Burton Act into law, a Batistiano bonanza that greatly increased the island of Cuba's status as a punching bag and piggy-bank for benefactors in a foreign superpower. Uh, yes...Nikki Haley's comments in the Senate and democracy-loving Sarah Stephens' reactions to those comments reminded me that my very beloved Wyoming could suffer Cuba's fate...uh, legally, of course!!


Cuba CAN Survive Trump

Here's How!!!
        If you study the Jewish man depicted in this AP-Evan Agostini photo, you can begin to comprehend why Revolutionary Cuba might well survive the Trump presidency. Jason Greenblatt has been named Trump's "Special Representative for International Negotiations." As innocent as that designation looks, it is extremely good news for Cuba and for the millions of democracy-lovers who sincerely want former President Obama's sane Cuban politics to withstand the new configuration that finds a Republican in the White House to team with Republican control of both houses of Congress. The longstanding Republican alliance only with the most zealous counter-revolutionary Cuban-Americans finally was severely contested by the just-concluded two-term presidency of Barack Obama. President Trump's anti-Cuban rhetoric and his more-heralded appointments of counter-revolutionary zealots convinced most observers that Obama's sanity regarding Cuba would soon be overwhelmed by Trump's insanity. But one man -- Jason Greenblatt -- may have just enough sway with Trump to counter the whole passel of counter-revolutionary benefactors.
        When President Trump gave a thumbs-up to Jason Greenblatt as his administration's chief international negotiator, it immediately tempered what many had considered the stranglehold the visceral Miami members of Congress and other ultra-influential counter-revolutionaries like Mauricio Claver-Carone had on Trump's Cuban policies. Yes, Jason Greenblatt is uniquely influential when it comes to final-decisions rendered by the businessman Trump and, perhaps, he will now be similarly influential with President Trump. And Mr. Greenblatt is a democracy-lover who would like to see the Obama-fueled efforts to normalize relations with Cuba continue during the administration of his boss, President Trump.
       For the past two decades Jason Greenblatt has been Donald Trump's most trusted associate. That now is likely to continue in the White House. Mr. Greenblatt grew up in Queens, New York as the son of Hungarian Jewish refugees. He graduated from New York University's Law School in 1992. For two decades he has been the Executive Vice-President and Chief Legal Officer for Mr. Trump's vast business empire. Mr. Greenblatt is the father of six teenage children and the three oldest are 18-year-old triplets. The Greenblatt family has two key websites that stress close ties to Israel and...Cuba. One site stresses close ties between Cuban and American teens with words such as: "We are of Cuban heritage...our grandfather was born there...and we are seeking to form deeper connections with Cuban teens." Other comments by the Greenblatt family websites expressed euphoric support for President Obama's herculean efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, calling Obama's Cuban policies "a really fascinating time in history." 
        With the Trump White House now including Jason Greenblatt, it appears that the scary overload of counter-revolutionaries on the Trump transition team and in the Trump cabinet MIGHT NOT run roughshod over Obama's historic rapprochement with Cuba. Mr. Greenblatt and his aides have been to Cuba on business missions for Trump in 2012, 2013 and as recently as 2015. Cuba Ventures Corp., a Canadian company that is a true expert on Cuban issues, points out that Trump, encouraged by Greenblatt, has always been intrigued with "hotels, resorts and golf courses in Cuba when it is legal to do so." Greenblatt is reported to be "deeply embarrassed for America" over such things as the 191-to-0 repudiation in the United Nations of America's Cuban policy and presumably he will use his considerable influence in the Trump White House to try to "recoup and resuscitate" America's international image that has "suffered so terribly" from "the right-wing tilt" to its Cuban policy. The powerful counter-revolutionary segment of the American media that longs to impose its will on Cuba is upset over Greenblatt's White House position. For example, the Miami Herald blared this headline: "Trump Picks An Orthodox Jew to Lead Cuba Negotiations." 
        If this Orthodox Jew, Jason Greenblatt, can persuade President Trump to continue Obama's sane approach to Cuba, Trump might indeed "Make America Great Again," or at least make democracy-loving Americans like Mr. Greenblatt {and his six teenage children} less embarrassed about the worldwide condemnation of America's Cuba policy. From a business standpoint and an image prerogative, Mr. Greenblatt believes the U. S. should "not keep shooting itself in the foot for another half-century" to appease a small, ferocious and self-serving minority. So, it appears that the addition of Mr.Greenblatt to the Trump White House can represent a shining light brightening what looked like another dark tunnel.


Cuba Hardliners Fight Back

Bush-era Rewards Still Massive 
{Updated: Friday, Jan. 27th, 2017}
        This is the entrance to Port Everglades just north of Miami, Florida. Earlier this week a Crowley container ship entered the port to drop off a load of Cuban charcoal, the first such legal shipment from Cuba to the United States in half-a-century. Also this week, top trade officials from Cuba had Obama-orchestrated scheduled meetings with top port officials in Florida, including Port Everglades, in the hopes of signing additional mutually beneficial deals. But yesterday -- Thursday, Jan. 26th, 2017 -- the South Florida-Orlando Sun Sentinel wrote: "In light of the threatening tweets by Governor Rick Scott, ports in Broward and Palm Beach counties canceled plans to sign an agreement for cooperation with the National Port Administration of Cuba." 
         As long as self-serving political thugs like Florida Governor Rick Scott are allowed to dictate America's Cuban policy, the United States will deserve the humiliating 191-to-0 condemnation of its Cuban policy by all the nations of the world. {That unanimity vote was cast in the United Nations}. And as long as pusillanimous, unpatriotic Americans allow a handful of thugs like Rick Scott to endlessly perpetrate America's cruel, self-deprecating Cuban policy, the majority of Americans themselves will be most to blame for not having the courage or the intelligence to stand up to a thuggish minority like Scott.
          In addition to promotional brochures like this, my last two issues of Time Magazine have included full-page color ads by Pearl Seas Cruises promoting its "exclusive 10-night voyages to fascinating Cuba."  
      The free brochures and the costly Time Magazine ad feature this map delineating the seven Cuban cities the luxurious cruise ship Pearl Mist will visit after it leaves the Port of Miami in nearby Florida.
This Pearl Seas map highlights Miami-to-Cuba commerce.
The Pearl Seas cruises to Cuba are not cheap.
      Of course, when companies like Pearl Seas Cruises, above, sign commercial contracts to do Obama-orchestrated business in Cuba for the first time in half-a-century, it is to make money and, as a capitalist offshoot, to create jobs in both countries. SOUNDS LIKE A GREAT TESTIMONY FOR SANITY, CAPITALISM AND DEMOCRACY, right? Wrong!! To the lucrative Castro Cottage Industry -- which originated in South Florida way back in 1959 when the overthrown U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship regrouped -- such mutually beneficial commerce with Revolutionary Cuba is to be blunted by whatever means is necessary. While regaining control of Cuba, despite superpower support from the U. S., has not materialized, the revenge, economic and political rewards for the Castro Cottage Industry have been incredibly valuable to a small but very select group of hardliners...and their primary sycophants such as the self-serving Bush dynasty.
         The Governor of Florida is Rick Scott and he obviously likes his job. This week Mr. Scott loudly announced that Florida ports who do business with Cuba will lose state money. Earlier this week, thanks to former President Obama's brave efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, a shipload of Cuban charcoal arrived in Fort Lauderdale. And this week a high-level Cuban trade delegation is meeting with port officials from Palm Beach County and Broward County. From Florida to Washington -- with the Trump White House now aligned with the long-established Batistiano dictation of America's Cuban policy in the U. S. Congress -- the Cuban hardliners in South Florida, although a distinct minority of Cuban-Americans -- easily control enough politicians to pull the Cuban strings now that their nemesis, Mr. Obama, is out of the White House.
       The majority of Cuban-Americans in South Florida, like outspoken Hugo Cancio, strongly supported President Obama's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. Hugo is shown above during a Reuters interview {The intimidated United States media normally interviews only fiercely anti-Cuban hardliners}. But Hugo, a Miami businessman who often visits his native Cuba, wonders aloud why Cuban-Americans like him are "under-represented or not represented at all" when it comes to politics in Florida and Washington.
        The Executive Director of the Port of Palm Beach, Manny Almira, is one of many Cuban-American executives in South Florida anxious to do business with Cuba after former President Obama bravely opened doors that had been tightly closed for over half-a-century. The Cuban-born Manny Almira, in fact, hoped to sign a lucrative deal with high-level Cuban trade visitor Ana Teresa Igarza this week. But Manny, of course, was not surprised that Governor Rick Scott threatened to severely punish him if he did so.
     This seminal photo reflects how the Castro Cottage Industry headquartered in South Florida got a permanent nexus in the U. S. Congress. The photo shows Jeb Bush forming a halo over the head of a giddy Ileana Ros-Lehtinen after Jeb, as her Campaign Manager, guided her successful Congressional bid in 1989. Born in Havana and long connected to the most vicious anti-Castro zealots in Miami, Ros-Lehtinen has remained a top-flight anti-Cuban Congresswoman ever since...with lots of unending Bush-connected company from the likes of Rubio, the Diaz-Balart brothers, Curbelo, etc. When Jeb ventured to Florida in the 1980s to further his political career and his bank account, he knew how to become Florida's two-term Governor but -- like his Cuban-exile aligned brother George W. and father George H. W. -- Jeb had his eyes trained on the White House, a plan that included his unique nexus with counter-revolutionary Cubans.
       With the mighty Bush machine and the omnipotent Castro Cottage Industry supporting him, Jeb Bush was the early favorite in a 17-person field to win the Republican presidential nomination. Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and other Miami anti-Castro zealots, of course, strongly backed Jeb although his primary contender was Cuban-American Marco Rubio -- the U. S. Senator from Miami that the Havana-born Ros-Lehtinen had mentored. But first Bush and then Rubio got unceremoniously demolished by non-politician Donald Trump because American voters longed to get shed of bought-and-paid-for established Washington politicians. For the same reason...plus a few others...Trump shocked the world by winning the presidency after a heated battle with Democrat Hillary Clinton from the money-crazed Clinton establishment. With the Bush and Clinton dynasties blunted, at least temporarily, President Trump, the billionaire businessman and showman, seems to have tightly formed an alliance with the Bush dynasty regarding poor little Cuba.
       On television news programs in the United States, is seems that only counter-revolutionary Cuban-Americans -- or their supporters -- are afforded airtime. Cuban-Americans like Hugo Cancio have noticed.
       Cuba's brilliant young news anchor, Cristina Escobar -- when she was in Washington to cover the last Vidal-Jacobson diplomatic session -- stated firmly, "Broadcast journalists in Cuba have more freedom to tell the truth about the U. S. than broadcast journalists in the United States have to tell the truth about Cuba." 
        If you watch the above Tracey Eaton interview of Cristina Escobar on YouTube, you will hear her say such things as, "I don't want the U. S. to bring me democracy. That is a project for Cubans on the island." A bilingual student of United States-Cuban history, which was her thesis at the University of Havana, Cristina is aware that in 1952 the U. S. teamed with the Mafia to back the brutal Batista dictatorship. 
        On a trip to Miami, Trump apparently tried to convince the elderly survivors of Brigade 2506 that, as President, he would fulfill their long-standing dreams of regaining control of Cuba. Brigade 2506 was the lushly funded, CIA-trained and U.S.-backed Cuban-exile unit that attacked Revolutionary Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April of 1961. The smashing defensive victory for Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs, an attack initiated by a fierce bombing assault, solidified Revolutionary Cuba's stubborn sovereignty to this day, although the remnants of Brigade 2506 and their supporters have remained counter-revolutionary powers in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood ever since. For example, the first six anti-Cuban zealots Trump named to his nascent presidential Transition Team would probably have been the first six chosen by Brigade 2506:
Mauricio Claver-Carone
Jose Cardenas
Robert Blau
John Barsa
Yleen Sarmiento de Poblete
Mercedes Viana Schlapp
           If you take time to Google the above names, you will find backgrounds with recurring themes about products of the counter-revolutionary Bush dynasty and/or aides to Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balarts.
       The Bush dynasty's most vicious anti-Castro Point Man was Havana-born Otto Reich. Between Republican administrations, people like Reich generally form very lucrative consultancy firms, such as Otto Reich Associates. But with a Republican in the White House, they magically and majestically resurface as public figures -- often as primary appointees or advisers. And President Trump has already been advised.
         This photo shows Cuban President Raul Castro making the major speech at a session of Caribbean and Latin American nations held in the Dominican Republic this week. The speech was carried live on state television in Cuba and throughout much of the region. It also made print headlines because President Castro used it to send his first clear and direct message to President Donald Trump: "Cuba as a sovereign nation needs friendly relations with the United States and we will continue to work toward that end. But Cuba will never sacrifice or negotiate away one iota of its independence, its sovereignty." Raul Castro turns 86 later this year. He is very tired. His only two brothers -- Ramon and Fidel -- died in 2016 in their 90s. And 2017, by his own declaration, will be his final year as the leader of Cuba. He anticipates a non-Castro successor, probably non-revolutionary 56-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, a strong education and student advocate.
Already on the island of Cuba, young adults like Jennifer Bello Martinez have carved a niche to hopefully make sure that they, not Miami and Washington, predicate the future of their island. Jennifer is the leader of the high-profile Federation of University Students, a 94-year-old organization that has always been at the forefront of fighting for Cuban independence. Jennifer and the FEU worship Fidel Castro's legacy. She will tell you all about the martyred University of Havana students -- Jose Antonio Echeverria, Fructuoso Rodriguez, Joe Westbrook Rosales, Jose Machado Rodriguez, Juan Pedro Carbo Servia, etc. etc. -- who were gruesomely murdered by Batista assassins such as Colonel Esteban Ventura Nova because they were early supporters of the rebel lawyer named Fidel Castro. When such murders did not quell but instead fueled the pro-Fidel Castro FEU fervor, Batista closed the University of Havana...but still sent out death squads after the still-survivng student leaders. Jennifer, today's student leader, will also tell you that Fidel Castro "till he became too ill to leave his home, spent his favorite hours talking to FEU students." And today, as the leader of the FEU, Jennifer Bello Martinez says, "If U.S.-sanctioned Cubans in Miami and Washington want Cuba back, they will find us at both the forefront and at the rearguard of the Cuban resistance."



Cuba-U.S. Trade

Another Historic Step Forward!
     This AP photo was taken yesterday -- Tuesday, Jan. 24-2017 -- at Florida's Port Everglades. The Crowley Maritime Ship K-Storm had just arrived from Cuba with two containers each loaded with 20 tons of charcoal made from the island's Marabu weed. It is the first legal shipment from Cuba to the United States in 55 years. The long-burning, sweet-smelling Cuban charcoal is considered among the world's best and it is made from a woody plant once considered a nuisance but now as charcoal it's a saleable product.
       Port Everglades is located on Florida's southeast coast just north of Miami. This last week of January-2017 it has become a vocal point to test how the new Donald Trump administration in Washington will deal with former President Barack Obama's historic efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. Yesterday's delivery of the Cuban charcoal to Port Everglades reflects one of Obama's last major attempts at re-establishing trade between Cuba and the U. S., which had -- prior to Obama -- been totally illegal because of the U. S. embargo against Cuba that has existed since 1962. Later this week, a top-level Cuban trade delegation will be at Port Everglades eager to sign more agreements with the nearby Florida port.
       The Director of Business Development for Broward County, Jim Pyburn, is typical of business leaders in South Florida begging the Trump administration not to end the commercial ties with Cuba that President Obama so bravely and historically forged. Jim Pyburn hailed yesterday's shipment of Cuban charcoal to Port Everglades. He said, "It's an opportunity for new jobs all down the road. It's something we can enjoy and build on, and hopefully help the Cuban people as well as South Florida workers." Jim Pyburn also looks forward to welcoming the Cuban delegation to Port Everglades this week. He said, "We are very excited for such a high-level trade group to come here. They will find us eager to discuss mutually beneficial commerce." 
      The Cuban delegation at Port Everglades is led by Ana Teresa Igarza. She is the General Director of Cuba's most important commercial enterprise, the refurbished Mariel Port Development Zone that comprises the island's most modern deep-water port and 11,367 acres of commercial land 28 miles southwest of Havana. Ana said, "If we can get past blockade restrictions that have existed for five decades, the Cuban people and the American people, especially in close-by Florida, will be so much better off." 
       Another fast-rising female star in Cuba, Tania Vazquez Garcia, is also a key member of the Cuban trade delegation now on U. S. soil and eagerly anticipating successful meetings with Port Everglades' officials. Tania is Cuba's Minister of Foreign Trade and Investments. She said, "The Obama officials I have worked with influenced me greatly by displaying sincere interest in helping everyday Cubans. I hope that sincerity continues beyond Mr. Obama to benefit Cubans, Floridians and other Americans. With trade and commerce, we can help each other but with Cold War animosity we can be hurtful to each other too." 
     South Florida has hundreds of Cuban-American business executives, such as Manny Almira, who agree wholeheartedly with Ana and Tania, the two key Cuban trade officials visiting Port Everglades this week. Manny, born 59-years-ago in Cuba, is the Executive Director at the Florida Port of Palm Beach and he savors commerce with Cuba. He says, "Trade and friendly relations between neighboring nations is far better than embargoes and hostilities. Most Cuban-Americans in South Florida want an end to the embargo. All business people I know want it to end. Workers in Cuba and in South Florida need commerce, not embargoes." 
       This photo shows four key officials in the two-term Obama administration that worked tirelessly to bring sanity and decency to America's Cuban policy, a right-wing Batistiano-directed policy that on Oct. 26-2016 attained a 191-to-0 denunciation in the United Nations. Right to left above are: President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. But this Democratic quartet of democracy-loving Americans left office on January 20th and their Republican replacements are...in a word...scary. And that is particularly true for Cuba.
      Newly installed United States President Donald Trump and his most important cabinet pick, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have both vowed to reverse President Obama's monumental steps toward normalizing relations with Cuba. In other words, Trump and Tillerson apparently intend to put U.S.-Cuban relations back in the hands of a few hardline Cuban-Americans and their self-serving sycophants, much to the dismay of most Americans, most Cuban-Americans, all nations in the world, and particularly to the chagrin of almost all Cuban-American business leaders, such as Manny Almira. Not only has Trump replaced John Kerry with Rex Tillerson but he has replaced people like Susan Rice and Samantha Power with extreme anti-Cuban zealots like Mauricio Claver-Carone and Nikki Haley. But it is now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who might loom as the biggest threat to sane and decent relations between the United States and Cuba.
         Rex Tillerson was the ultra-rich CEO-Chairman of the world's biggest oil company, ExxonMobil, and now he is one of the most controversial and most powerful figures in the new Trump administration.
       Americans are aware of Rex Tillerson's abiding friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but probably not as aware as they should be. This week the London-based The Guardian newspaper blared this headline: "LEAK REVEALS REX TILLERSON WAS DIRECTOR OF BAHAMAS-BASED U.S.-RUSSIAN OIL FIRM." The sub-headline was: "Documents from Tax-Haven Will Raise More Questions Over Suitability of Donald Trump's Pick for U. S. Secretary of State." So, going from Obama-to-Trump also means going from...Kerry to Tillerson, Rice to Claver-Carone, Power to Haley, etc. What all that means for Cuba, South Florida, America, Russia, and the world remains to be seen. But if the handshake above is as deeply embedded in the newly configured White House as it seems to be, and in the future of the already fragile relations between Cuba and the U. S., it might be time to at least start to batten down the hatches.


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 ...