Friday, May 5, 2017

Cuban Resilience Tested Anew

But Its Survival Instincts Remain!
{Sunday, May 7th, 2017}
        This week -- May 4th, 2017 -- on the Front Page of America's largest newspaper, USA Today, there was this glaring headline: "Making Sense of Puerto Rico's Bankruptcy." As the map above shows, Cuba and Puerto Rico are neighbors, basically separated only by Caribbean waters and the island of Hispaniola that is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Even more emphatic than geography, Cuba and Puerto Rico have something else in common: Both island nations changed imperial masters when the United States easily provoked and won the 1898 Spanish-American War. Now fast-forward to May, 2017. On Jan. 1-1959 Cuba finally won Independence when its Revolutionary War defeated the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship. Struggling ever since to maintain that sovereignty against U.S.-backed Batistianos and their sycophants on U. S. soil, Cuba has amazingly withstood such things as the Bay of Pigs military attack in 1961 and an economic embargo first imposed in 1962 and now easily the longest and cruelest embargo ever imposed by a powerful nation against a weak nation. So, in May-2017 Cuba is a poor nation still depending on its remarkable resilience to survive. In the meantime, Puerto Rico became and remains a U. S. Territory composed of U. S. citizens who can vote in U. S. elections and have some strong representation in Washington. But, like embargoed Cuba, Puerto Rico is drastically poor. The first paragraph of this week's USA Today article stated: "Facing mountainous debt and population loss, the board overseeing Puerto Rico filed Wednesday for the equivalent of bankruptcy protection in a historic move that's sure to trigger a fierce legal battle with the fate of the island citizens, creditors and workers at stake. Puerto Ricans are U. S. citizens and can move to the mainland at any time..." Cubans, of course, are not U. S. citizens and Cuba cannot file for bankruptcy in Washington. But as a sovereign nation, Cuba has some advantages over Puerto Rico, namely...U. S. billionaire investors who have bankrupted Puerto Rico while making financial killings on 6-star hotels and the Caribbean's most spacious and affluent marina for yachts, are not allowed to bankrupt Cuba in the same manner. A recent documentary shows one of the U. S. billionaires showing off a 6-star hotel and that line-up of yachts to a journalist who then featured a beautiful and very intelligent 10-year-old Puerto Rican girl lamenting the fact that her school had closed its doors because of a lack of funding.
       Any study of the 1898 Spanish-American War, fought on Cuban soil, reveals that the capture of Cuba and getting "war hero" Teddy Roosevelt elected President were the primary goals of greedy Americans.
     Puerto Rico and Cuba as we know them today were both originally created by the extreme greed of a few imperialist-minded Americans. Except for using both these nations as piggy-banks, those greedy Americans really didn't care what happened to the Cuban and Puerto Rican people...and, unfortunately, the U. S. democracy since 1898 has been unable to hold such miscreants accountable. Thus, sovereign little Cuba is busy in May-2017 trying to remain sovereign while the U. S. Territory, Puerto Rico, is begging its master, the United States, to please keep it afloat economically. That anomaly-juxtaposition is fascinating.
    So, U. S. Territory Puerto Rico begs the U. S. for help.
       Meanwhile, poor little Cuba is still trying to survive the United States embargo, first imposed in 1962 and one that, in all likelihood, would have LONG AGO brought much larger and stronger nations to their knees. But Cuba's resilience is legendary all around the world and apparently still intact in May of 2017.
For example...............
         .................the above Reuters photo was used yesterday -- May 4th, 2017 -- to explain how Cuba is pulling yet another Houdini-like rabbit out of its Caribbean hat. Many times Cuba's American enemies have predicted its demise, starting in April of 1959 when United States Vice President Richard Nixon looked Fidel Castro squarely in the face in Washington and told him that Revolutionary Cuba, then barely three months old, would be recaptured within a few "weeks." Such redolent U. S. predictions have resonated frequented since Nixon's day, such as in May of 2017 as Cuba's best financial ally, the Venezuelan government, is itself in a state of almost certain collapse. Oil-rich but money-and-crime devastated Venezuela can no longer trade, in exchange for medical services, all the oil Cuba needs -- which is 22,000 barrels of diesel per day and 140,000 barrels of regular oil per day. From 2000 until 2015 Cuba was able to export some oil thanks to its contract with Venezuela plus what it produces itself. But Venezuela's 100,000+ barrels per day have been drastically reduced, creating a new and severe problem for Cuba. But Reuters reports that a Russian tanker with 249,000 barrels of oil will arrive in Cuba on May 10th, 2017...with more Russian tankers to follow. Reuters earlier reported that the American oil giant, Exxon, is seeking to drill oil in the Black Sea alongside Russia's oil giant, Rosneft, that right now is sending tons of oil to Cuba.
      The most powerful member of President Trump's new cabinet is Secretary of State Rex Tillotson, who previously was the top man at Exxon with extremely tight alliances with Russian bosses, including Putin.
     It is well known that Rex Tillotson and Russian President Vladimir Putin were close friends when Exxon and Rosneft were merrily making money together. With Tillotson now America's Secretary of State, his and Exxon's friendship with Putin and Rosneft might change but meanwhile Putin can replace Venezuela as Cuba's main oil supplier. And, of course, that bespeaks of Cuba's Houdini-like resilience.
The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, was in Cuba this week.
          Before meeting Cuban President Raul Castro on Friday, May 5th, 2017, Ecuadorean President Correa is shown being greeted by Ramiro Valdes, one of Cuba's few remaining Revolutionary Commanders.
Rafael Correa and Raul Castro on May 5th, 2017.
         Like many Latin American presidents, Rafael Correa's primary idol was Cuba's revolutionary icon Fidel Castro. The photo above shows the last time President Correa visited Fidel's Havana home. And shortly thereafter Fidel died at age 90 on November 25th, 2016. Mr. Correa attended the memorial service.
   President Correa paid homage this week at Fidel's tomb.
President Correa spent a long time at the tomb.
        Here, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa took time to read the entire list of Principles of the Cuban Revolution as outlined by Fidel Castro. President Correa then took several photos of this memorial.
        This AP photo shows Cuban President Raul Castro viewing this week's May Day parade. But he wasn't the Castro making the biggest headlines on the island this week, including international headlines.
            The feisty, outspoken, 54-year-old daughter of Raul Castro and Vilma Espin, Mariela Castro, this week made a comment about who will succeed her father as Cuban president when he steps down on February 24th, 2018. What she said garnered headlines around the world, starting with the Associated Press bureau in Havana but extending outward from there. She coyly suggested that the world might be in for "a surprise." A long-time tease...in college she shocked her family, all except feisty mother Vilma, by dancing topless in a play...this week Mariela teased the media with this exact comment about her dad's successor in 2018: "Sometimes you're going in one direction and suddenly you look over here and go 'Wow, how interesting.' I hadn't focused on this person. There are always surprises." Yes indeed, in Cuba too!
         She tagged her prediction with a very coy, teasing smile. But it still made international headlines because...well...she's Mariela Castro, the most famous of Raul's and Vilma's four children. She and her husband Juan have three lovely children and, both on the island and internationally, Mariela is a powerful advocate for gay rights. She is also a member of Cuba's powerful National Assembly and never hesitates to speak her mind...and, yes, when she speaks her father listens and so did her late uncle Fidel Castro.
       Most people have presumed that 57-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel will take over as Cuba's next President on February 24th, 2018. He holds the title as Cuba's First Vice President and has a good reputation on the island, including with the restive young-adult generation that is clamoring for its favorites. But then when Mariela hinted at a "surprise," there were rampant guesses...with Michael Weissenstein at the AP bureau in Havana suggesting perhaps Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and then making a strong case for him. But I don't think that's who Mariela had in mind. She was thinking about some much bigger "surprises." 
        I think Mariela Castro was thinking about Ana Mari Machado. She is already a powerful Vice President of the National Assembly. When major domestic or foreign decisions are made on the island, Ana is often the one who makes or most significantly influences them. Mariela drastically changed her uncle's and her father's opinions about gays and she might be changing her father's mind about Cuba finally having a female leader. Surely, Ana is both capable and prepared for such a role. Moreover, I don't believe there is any other Cuban in an island-wide election that could get as many votes as the beloved and highly respected Ana. She recently criss-crossed the island and determined that the U. S. embargo was what most of her fellow Cubans wanted her "to finally cause to end." She told them, "That's my priority too."
         It is no secret that powerful women like Ana Mari Machado already make most of the key day-to-day domestic decisions on the island, and Ana has all the qualifications in the foreign arena too. In foreign capitals she has signed many agreements on behalf of Cuba. Foreign leaders...like Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa this week...ask to meet with Ana. Significantly, President Correa also this week met with Beatriz Johnson Urrutia and Ana Teresita Gonzalez. And years ago Fidel Castro said that Josefina Vidal, now Cuba's omnipotent and brilliant Minister of North American Affairs, "would have my support if she wanted to be the future leader of Cuba." But in May of 2017 I now lean toward Ana Mari Machado because I think she is superbly qualified and because I believe she has the support of most Cubans in Cuba.
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