Monday, January 9, 2017

Cuba's Coda Near at Hand

The Last Act May be Ugly!
     An article this week in the Miami Herald foreshadowed, I think, the imminent demise of Revolutionary Cuba's enigmatic 58-year rule of the enchanting Caribbean island. The article was written by Fabiola Santiago who left Cuba in 1969 and has been one of the fiercest anti-Castro zealots at the Miami Herald since 1980, now as a top editor at a major newspaper that seems only to allow anti-Castro zealots to report on Cuban-related issues. The latest article by Ms. Santiago weirdly found it "weird" that Cuban soldiers, marching to celebrate the 58th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution's victory over the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship, chanted pro-Cuban and not pro-American or pro-Miami slogans. Beyond that weird way to assail Cuba, Ms. Santiago did offer one ominously significant paragraph that she began with her repetitious ranting about President Obama not consulting with Miami's anti-Castro zealots before he embarked on his efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. Study that paragraph carefully: "The hardline exiles, including members of Congress from Miami sidelined as Obama crafted his friendly Cuba policy without them, are back in charge and already pushing hard. In a letter to Donald Trump, five former diplomats asked him to undo most of Obama's policy within the first 100 days of his presidency and block the confirmation of a U. S. ambassador to Cuba." Since 1980 at the Miami Herald Ms. Santiago has learned and exploited one valuable lesson: Within the bowels of the U. S. democracy, a mere handful of the most zealous Cuban-Americans can easily use the U. S. Congress and any Republican administration to dictate any revengeful or otherwise self-serving laws or policies to sate whatever anti-Castro, pro-Batistiano whims they may have. The Miami Herald's transformation from a respected U. S. newspaper to an anti-Castro propaganda tool used by extremists means it never has to address the other side of the two-sided U.S.-Cuban conundrum, namely why only extremist hardliners -- Ros-Lehtinen, the Diaz-Balarts, Rubio, Curbelo, DeSantis, etc. -- can get elected to Congress from South Florida -- even thought most Cuban-Americans even in Miami are moderates who favor Obama's Cuban policies, not theirs. And, of course, none of these rich and powerful hardline extremists seem to care a whit about how much their assaults on Cuba so drastically harms America's international image in the eyes of the entire world, as evidenced by such pertinent things as the 191-to-0 worldwide condemnation at the United Nations of America's Batistiano-driven Cuban policy.
      In her article, of course, Fabiola Santiago bragged loudly about how incoming President Donald Trump will quickly put the Miami extremists "back in charge" and wipe out all the positive and decent advances President Obama has made regarding Cuba. She and all the anti-revolutionary zealots who rule Little Havana are still raving about Trump's cowardly promises made to the Brigade 2506 remnants in which he promised the still-heralded survivors of the failed Bay of Pigs attack way back in April of 1961 that he, President Trump, would reverse Obama's advances and fulfill their decades-old desires to finally regain control of Cuba ala the halcyon Batista-Mafia days of the 1950s. Not even three Bush administrations could accomplish that trick but Fabiola Santiago and other Miami hardliners firmly believe Trump can and will do it. Sadly for Cubans, Americans and democracy, she might be right.
       Trump sharply buttressed his pledges to Brigade 2506 by quickly naming Bush-era career anti-Castro zealots like Mauricio Claver-Carone as his primary Cuban advisors, purposely excluding all others. One of the typical followups was a Miami Herald article entitled: "Former Diplomats Urge Trump to Undo 'Unlawful' Obama Cuba Policy." If you check that article, you will discover those five "diplomats" are:
Otto Reich
Jim Cason
Jose Sorzano
Elliott Abrams
Everett Briggs
         I enlarged and underlined the names of those five "diplomats" in the hope it might encourage you to Google their names. The recent presidential election that is sending the unqualified Mr. Trump to the White House left an indelible and undeniable reminder that the last thing the vast majority of Americans wanted was a continuation of a bought-and-paid-for, meal-ticket, establishment, and continually recycled "rigged" government in Washington. That view clearly is what got the totally unqualified and very unpopular Mr. Trump elected President because the only other alternative was an establishment candidate who called Trump supporters "a basket of deplorables" while most of them were just desperately seeking new people, not recycled and self-serving failures, in their government. From Claver-Carone to John Bolton to Roger Noriega to the five names listed above that you need to Google, President-elect Trump has recycled from the Bush dynasty precisely what the vast majority of Americans did not want, which in Cuba's case is a refurbishing of the most anti-Cuban, pro-Batistiano extremists from the Republican administrations that preceded Obama's two-terms in the White House. In between Republican administrations, what do appointed anti-Cuban extremists do? Answer: They generally bide their time making tons of money as anti-Cuban consultants, TV & radio pundits, anti-Cuban propagandists/lobbyists or as high-paid administrators of anti-Cuban Think-Tanks. Then in Republican administrations they are snatched back up as appointees to assault Cubans on the island, just as the five above-named stalwarts were doing with that lascivious "reminder" letter to Trump. The Trump election reflects the fact that unaccountable appointees slightly below the radar will continue to make decisions that benefit them revengefully and economically in America's name but shame democracy with little or no accountability.
       Back in March, 2016, when President Obama made his historic trip to Cuba, he promised the Cuban people in the above speech carried live across the island on state television that: "Cuba Does Not Need To Fear A Threat From the United States." Those kind, democratic words were spoken by a decent and brave U. S. president who did not suspect, less than a year later, his successor would be a Republican president named Donald Trump who indeed is "a threat" to the long-maligned Cuban people. Trying desperately to make his monumental overtures to Cuba as irreversible as possible, Obama has bravely defied the Batistiano fixtures in Miami and Congress by using his Executive Privileges to create massive advances in his efforts to normalize Cuban relations. He has opened embassies in Havana and Washington for the first time since 1961; established commercial airplane and cruise ship traffic from the U. S. to Cuba for the first time since 1962; enabled major U. S. companies such as Google and Marriott Hotels to sign important deals with Cuba, etc. And, to his everlasting credit, we now discover that President Obama is working diligently behind-the-scenes right up until January 20th to create more positives for Cubans and Americans that Trump and his Batistiano pals will try their damnedest to tear down in defiance of democracy-lovers.
      On January 18th, two days before Trump takes office as President of the United States, forty tons of charcoal will be exported by Cuba to the United States. It will be the first product that Cuba has been allowed to export to the United States in more than 50 years!! That ban, an anathema to Mr. Obama, was in abiding by the Batistiano-fueled U. S. law designed in 1962 and then maintained for many cruel decades to starve and deprive Cubans like the hard-working man above to induce them to rise up against Castro. 
      This photo taken by Ladyrene Perez for Cubadebate shows the contracts being signed in Havana that paved the way for the historic January 18th delivery of that charcoal from Cuba to America.  The man on the left is Scott Gilbert, the President of the U. S. company Coabana Trading LLC. The lady on the right is Isabel O'Reilly, the Director of Cuba Export. If Mr. Gilbert looks familiar, that's because he was the lawyer that negotiated the release of U. S. agent Alan Gross from a Cuban prison. As for Ms. O'Reilly, she's not at all unusual; women have always been at the forefront of both the Cuban Revolution and Revolutionary Cuba.
Notice that 5 of the 6 people standing behind the table are women.
     This photo shows Isabel O'Reilly reminding Scott Gilbert that Cuban charcoal is the best in the world, sweet-smelling and long-burning because it is made from the island's famed and unique Marabu. Ms. O'Reilly's official statement: "This is a first contract, but we hope to continue our relationship for many years and not just with charcoal, but with other products that we have ready to export like honey and coffee." Mr. Gilbert's official statement: "This agreement on charcoal means another plank in the construction of the bridge between the United States and Cuba." Decent Cubans like Ms. O'Reilly and decent Americans like Mr. Gilbert working together to the benefit of most Cubans and most Americans alarms a rich and powerful minority of Cuban-Americans who selfishly wish to punish most Cubans and most Americans forever.
      This recent photo also alarms the self-serving promoters of America's lucrative economic and political Castro Cottage Industry because the image depicted above is another Obama-orchestrated slice into their piggy-banks and punching bags. The image above shows Eric Schmidt, the Chairman and CEO of media giant Google, signing a hugely important telecommunication deal with Mayra Arevich, the President of Cuba's telecommunication agency, Etecsa. Mr. Schmidt said, "Engagement is best for Cubans and Americans, replacing ancient hostility." Ms. Arevich said, "This contract with Google will help Cubans connect with Gmail, YouTube, and other cyber outlets. We do not want our highly educated citizens to be isolated from world access. We want them to have what others have. This contract will also help Cuban-Americans who visit Cuba and it will help regular Americans if the embargo allows them to visit us as all other people can do." 
      Google is a very big deal in the world, now including Cuba.
      Cubans like these appreciate better access to the internet and they, of course, deserve it. The Google contract quickly reduced prices and Cuba, with help from Google, is increasing home access. A handful of self-serving Cuban-Americans in Miami and Congress that benefit from punishing Cubans like these in the guise of punishing Castro is a cruel, undemocratic policy that the rest of the world deplores.
     The head of the Washington-based Center for Democracy in the Americans, Sarah Stephens, has for ten years used her organization to fight desperately to normalize relations between Cuba and the United States. On her website, eyeing the threat from Trump's January 20th advancement to the White House, she wrote, "It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness." President Obama has listened to Ms. Stephens. But the U. S. media and Republican presidents like Trump, apparently, would need permission from Rubio, Cruz, Menendez, the Diaz-Balarts, Ros-Lehtinen, Claver-Carone, Curbelo, and DeSantis to get input from democracy-lovers like Ms. Stephens, a fact that shames America a lot more than it shames little Cuba.
    Cubans now wonder about the historic arrivals of commercial cruise ships and commercial airplanes once Obama leaves the White House in a few days and they wonder if Cubans on the island will again be unmercifully targeted by Cubans in Miami and Congress tightly aligned with a Republican Congress and soon with another Republican White House. The U. S. Cuban policy dictated by a few Miami and Congressional benefactors wants to continue restricting everyday Americans from visiting Cuba, lest they counter the undemocratic dictations of a harsh minority intent on maintaining full control of the Cuban narrative, a narrative that all other citizens of the world have the freedom to judge for themselves.  
      Thanks to Obama, Cuban tourism topped a record 4 million in the past year. But thanks to a few miscreants in Congress, everyday Americans remain the only people in the world without the freedom to visit Cuba where they could judge it for themselves. A few days ago democracy-lovers in America closed their eyes in shame when the very first thing the newly convened Republican-dominated Congress did was to stupidly and shamefully try to GUT THE POWER OF ITS OWN ETHICS COMMITTEE. Unethical Cuban practices, to be sure, are not the only reason Republicans in Congress do not want their actions to be scrutinized but, rest assured, the unethical and Congressionally mandated Cuban laws are a reason
      With acute Havana-connected biases and omnipotent Bush-connected tentacles that extend uncontrollably from Miami to Congress, Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balart brothers apparently have more say-so about Cuban policies than the rest of America's 320 million citizens combined, a fact that concerns America's very best democracy-loving friends around the world and should deeply concern Americans.
         As this graphic illustrates, it seems that the rest of world wonders why the U. S. democracy eternally allows a mere handful of famously biased benefactors to maintain a Cuban policy that the majority of Americans and Cuban-Americans as well as the entire world considers to be abhorrent and undemocratic.
        Yet, these are typically happy Cuban children in today's Revolutionary Cuba -- well-educated, well-cared-for healthwise, well-groomed and deeply loved and protected. {Do you think those smiles above are insincere or forced by government-minders?}. Cuban children are the favorite subjects of photo-happy tourists. Many Cubans on the island speak English but, encouraged by President Obama's decency, Cuba in 2015 began stressing English classes even for elementary students in the belief that, for the first time since 1962, even everyday Americans would be allowed to visit the island. But that decision regarding English classes was made prior to Trump's vicious anti-Cuban speech in Miami made in front of the huge Brigade 2506 banner. At least two elementary schools have since phased out those English classes. In any case, these Spanish-speaking Cuban children do not deserve to be punished all their precious lives by Congressionally mandated laws from a foreign country, especially the world's #ONE superpower.  
Foreign FAT CATS punishing Cuban children is not humorous.
And by the way:
       An award-winning Ethiopian journalist and photographer, Aida Muluneh, heard about a good deed Cuba did involving Ethiopian children years ago and she went to Cuba to follow up on the story. Cuba had rescued 2,400 children aged 7 to 14 caught up in the violent Ethio-Somali War in 1979. They were flown to the small, picturesque Cuban island of Isla de la Juventud, the Isle of Youth. There they were safe and provided all essentials, plus free educations through college and free health care for life. As adults some went back to Ethiopia and some stayed in Cuba. Aida chronicled her report, complete with photographs, for Tadias Magazine and online it is entitled "The Untold Story of Ethiopians in Cuba." She made this conclusion: "The Cubans have gone above and beyond in providing support to Ethiopians to this day." 
       Because Aida Muluneh is an Ethiopian journalist, I guess she did not have to ask the Cuban-Americans in the United States Congress if she could research and write a positive magazine article about Cuba. Someday, perhaps, we democracy-lovers may be able to say the same thing about American journalists.
      I mentioned Cuba's Isla de la Juventud, the picturesque island where the Ethiopian children were cared for. You can see its exact location on the above map. Batista's Cuba called it the Isle of Pines because of its abundance of pine trees. It was where Fidel Castro was imprisoned from 1953 till 1955. After Fidel's revolutionary victory in 1959, he later changed the name to Isle of Youth and today it's a tourist attraction and the home of one of the island's major baseball teams. About 90,000 Cubans live on the island, with about 60,000 of them in the capital city of Nueva Gerona, which is on the northern coast directly southwest of Havana. While Cuba is the largest Caribbean island, Isla de la Juventud is its 7th largest island.
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