Thursday, July 13, 2017

Cruising to Cuba Accelerates

But So Do Foreign Troubles!
      Cuba is only an island but its intrigue and importance in its region and on the world stage is far out of proportion to its size, population, and economy. Its close proximity and calamitous relations with the the world superpower, the United States, crowns the island's significance as well as its struggles for independence against powerful imperial forces. But on its own, Cuba is the largest island and arguably the most beautiful one in the Caribbean, which is a delicate and vital combination of island nations neighboring both the mighty U. S. and Latin America. From 1492 till today -- mid-July of 2017 -- Cuba has been spotlighted with an international gaze because of its own attributes and the covetous desires of foreign powers to dominate it. Both historically and topically, Cuba has been and still is a fascinating factor. Google will help you research its fascinating history while I update its topicality.
       Much is made of the fact that South Florida is and has been since 1959 fiercely anti-Cuba. That's because to kick-off 1959 the Cuban Revolution booted the U.S.-backed Batista-Mafia dictatorship off the island, but only as far as South Florida where Little Havana in Miami became the new capital for the Batistiano-Mafiosi exiles who still had the backing of the mighty U. S. in its still-very-viable efforts to recapture the island. But since 1959 much of the Cuban narrative has mostly been dictated out of Miami by the counter-revolutionary Batistianos. Thus, Americans are not supposed to realize that the majority of Cuban-Americans even in Miami favor normal relations with Cuba, not Batistiano-directed cruelty and hostilities. If you study the above map, note the red star in the upper-left corner. Port Canaveral in South Florida north of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, aligned with the Cuban-American majority in desiring normal Cuban relations, is now boldly promoting itself as "America's Gateway to Cuba."
      With strong encouragement from the plethora of Cuban-American business interests in South Florida, Port Canaveral is orchestrating more-and-more cruises to Cuba. The magnificent cruise ship depicted above is in the middle of the Florida Straits heading to Cuba from Port Canaveral. This week the audacious port and the Norwegian Cruise Lines announced a sharp increase in their cruises to Cuba.
     The photo above shows the Norwegian Sky arriving in Havana Harbor. This week the Orlando Sentinel and the Orlando television station WFTV had excellent reports entitled: "Norwegian Adds Cuba to More Destinations from Port Canaveral." After brave overtures from former President Obama, Cuban tourism exceeded four million in 2016 and is ahead of that pace in 2017. Thanks to Obama, nine U. S. airlines jumped at the chance to make the first commercial flights to Cuba since 1961. But restricted by the U. S. embargo that has existed since 1962, Cuba was not prepared for such an influx of visitors from the U. S., particularly when it came to hotel rooms. New hotels are being built, including some 5-Stars, and the U.S.-based AIRbnb is helping over 8,000 private Bed & Breakfast enterprises to sell out their accommodations. Meanwhile, the excessive air flights from the U. S. have been reduced and that has boosted the cruise lines because their ships have their own bedrooms for tourists.
     But Norwegian's newly ambitious cruises to Cuba from Florida are facing stiff competition from other lines. The graphic above shows the trajectory from Miami to Cuba for Carnival Cruise Line's Fathom ship, which circles the island with major stops in Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba before returning to Miami, Florida.
      But each day, it seems, if positive headlines for Cuba are made in newspapers and television stations in Orlando, negative headlines abound elsewhere to overwhelm or balance them out. The photo above is a case-in-point. It shows American baseball superstar Miguel Cabrera playing back in March in the World Baseball Classic for his beloved native country -- Venezuela. Offsetting those good Cuban headlines in Orlando, here is the giant headline in USA Today yesterday -- July 12, 2017: "Venezuelan Mess Troubles Cabrera." That "Venezuelan Mess" also "Troubles" Cuba because, for the past two decades, Venezuela has been Cuba's very special friend.
    The political and social turmoil and violence in Venezuela deeply concerns Miguel Cabrera, Cuba and the entire region. The oil-rich nation of Venezuela is so broke and so massively dysfunctional that its citizens, at least those not engaged in overthrowing the Cuba-friendly Maduro government, are crossing the border into Colombia in droves trying to purchase badly needed food and medicine that is not available in Venezuela. Meanwhile, in the U. S. and in Venezuela Miguel is a superhero. Now 34, he has been one of Major League Baseball's greatest all-time hitters since he was a World Series star at age 20. His current salary with the Detroit Tigers averages $31 million a year based on the guaranteed $248 million contract he signed in 2016 that runs until 2023 when he will be 41-years-old. It is now known that Miguel is having to pay huge dollars in ransom and blackmail to keep his mother and other relatives safe amidst the violence that embroils his native Venezuela.
      Safe in America, Miguel Cabrera and his wife Rosengel are very protective of their immediate family...but extremely worried about their relatives in Venezuela, including Miguel's mother. Here are his key quotes in USA Today yesterday: "The first advice I was given was to not get involved in politics, and I never have. But right now we have to get involved, because they have kidnapped our country. I am tired of having to pay bribes. I am tired of hearing that they are going to kidnap my mother, and I don't know whether it is a policeman or a bad guy. I don't know who they are. All I know is if I don't pay, those people disappear. This is a greeting to the people of the resistance. You are not alone. We will continue to support you." Chillingly, Miguel is aware that his mother and others close to him in Venezuela would "disappear" if he did not pay huge ransom amounts and he is aware that he would be "killed" if he returned to his native country. Oil-rich Venezuela sits on the world's largest known oil reserves and yet turmoil and crime have ravaged the nation, which until recently had a trade deal that provided Cuba with 100,000 barrels of badly needed oil per day. The USA Today yesterday said "an estimated 2 million Venezuelans have fled the country...with a large number choosing the Miami area." But apparently Miguel's mother can't leave and Miguel can't visit her as he pays big money in bribes so she won't "disappear."
      As mentioned, there were two positive Cuban headlines emanating from Orlando yesterday. But, the same day, there were two off-setting negative headlines too. One concerned the news about Venezuela and Miguel Cabrera. The other relates to the Reuters photo above. The worried man is 71-year-old Lula da Silva who was President of Brazil from 2003 till 2011 and who was wildly popular enough to turn over the presidency to his top associate Dilma Rousseff who was then democratically elected President twice. But in 2016 she was impeached in what she and Lula call a coup. And then yesterday Lula was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison. To stress the importance of that sentencing, note that Brazil is the strongest, richest, biggest and most populated Latin American country. Lula was once called by President Obama "the most important leader in the world." Cuba concurred with that assessment because Lula, who idolized Fidel Castro, was Cuba's dear friend.
      The photo above shows Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff in happier days when his two-terms as President of Brazil was transferred to two more democratically elected terms for her. In mighty Brazil, how in the world could Dilma be impeached and Lula sentenced to almost ten years in prison when, to this day, most Brazilians support them because they raised millions of the poorest Brazilians out of abject poverty. It's that very reason, they say, that rich Brazilians, the powerful minority, induced people like Speaker of the House Eduardo Cunha and current President Michel Temer to mount the "coup" that ended what was to be the 16-year reign of Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff. Indeed, Cunha has since been sentenced to 15 years in prison and President Temer is also currently facing corruption charges.
      The Brazilian judge, Sergio Moro, who sentenced Lula to 9.5 years in prison didn't dare order Lula to prison because the majority poor in Brazil might have mounted a revolution if that had been done. Lula himself says he will run yet again for President in Brazil's 2018 elections and, if that important election is fair, the majority poor might give him a third term, making up for the truncation of Dilma Rousseff's 2nd term.
      The previous photo and the one above are courtesy of AFP/Getty Images. This one shows a Lula da Silva supporter berating what she calls Brazil's "coup-mongers." Brazil's democratic election in 2018 might return Lula to power, negating his long prison sentence. But regardless of what happens in Latin America's most important nation, the consequences for Cuba and Latin America are enormous.
Lula da Silva worshiped Fidel Castro.
        As President and former president, Lula visited the ailing Fidel Castro multiple times, right up until the legendary Cuban died at age 90 on November 25th, 2016.
       As the powerful two-term President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff repeatedly paid reverent respect to her idol, the terminally ill Fidel Castro, and to his island nation.
      This is Dilma Rousseff at the age when, inspired by the Cuban Revolution, she became a guerrilla fighter to help overthrow a vile U.S.-backed dictatorship.
      But the young Dilma Rousseff was captured. For two years in a military prison she was unmercifully tortured. As President of Brazil, she was asked by the Brazil Truth Commission to testify about her ordeal during the time, still ongoing, in which still-living former Latin American dictators were being brought to trial for their "crimes." The vile dictators Dilma opposed so vehemently ruled Brazil from 1964 till 1985.
        This photo on Dec. 10-2014 shows Dilma Rousseff, in her second term as the democratically elected President of Brazil, testifying tearfully before the Brazil Truth Commission about the two years she was unmercifully tortured in that prison.
       This photo from The Guardian captured a moment when President Dilma Rousseff broke down when testifying in 2014 about her torture in that Brazilian prison back in the early 1970s. The 2,000-word transcript of her statement is posted online.
      After twice being democratically elected President of mighty Brazil, Dilma Rousseff was one of the most powerful people in the world, just a notch or two below America's two-term President Barack Obama when the above photo was taken.
      This REUTERS photo shows Dilma Rousseff after she was impeached as President of Brazil in 2016. She believes to this day, as do millions of others, that the "coup" that ended her reign was engineered by rich Brazilians and rich Americans who resented how much money she and her mentor Lula da Silva devoted to improving the lives of Brazil's majority poor people. While Lula, also a former two-term President, was sentenced to 9.5 years in prison yesterday, the Brazilian elections in 2018 might redeem Lula and Dilma. Eleven million Cubans hope so.
And by the way:
       The two AP photos above show a young Donald Trump and a young Barack Obama, one in his prim-and-proper military-school uniform and the other just a carefree dude in Hawaii smoking a weed. As you ponder these photos, note that history will forever register what happened to these two rather different guys.
        On January 20th of 2017 Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, succeeding Barack Obama who had served two-terms and eight years as the 44th President of the United States.
       The photo above is courtesy of the London Telegraph and it shows America's lovely First Lady Melania Trump, attired all in red, and United States President Donald Trump departing Air Force One after their arrival in Paris this morning -- July 13th of 2017. The British newspapers and the superb BBC network lavishly and fairly cover major stories -- such as what's happening in Venezuela and Brazil that might lead to coups, revolutions or civil wars. And the Brits fairly cover things such as the new American President arriving in France THIS MORNING for very vital meetings with the new President of France.
   This Radio Free Europe photo shows First Lady Melania and President Trump getting off Air Force One today at Orly Airport south of Paris. On all three of his foreign trips, Melania has been a very classy, stylish and beautiful First Lady.
First Lady & President in Paris today.
    Meanwhile, in the U. S. the mainstream media, except for Fox News, is obsessed with only one thing -- impeaching President Trump, thereby showing zero respect not just for Trump but also for the office of President and the democratic election that put him in the White House. The photos above showing U. S. President Trump and Russian President Putin are topically side-by-side today because Trump's relations with Putin are currently the prime topic being used to dethrone Trump via a daily 24-hour coup being led by four powerful mainstream media sources -- CNN, NBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post. That coup conspiracy is as apparent as a bright sunrise because it is ongoing and will continue until or if Trump is dethroned. I am not a Trump supporter and agree that he was not qualified to be President. But Trump was elected because he was a non-politician and enough American voters were tired of incumbent, recycled, bought-and-paid-for establishment politicians running Washington. While I am not a Trump supporter, I respect his office and America's democracy, it seems, more than the unabashed and unapologetic coup-mongers listed above.
Also:
        A group that includes Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter is about to purchase the Major League Miami Marlins baseball team with a bid of about $1.2 billion. Jordan himself is a billionaire who owns the NBA Charlotte Hornets, is now married to a Cuban wife, and still earns over $100 million a year from endorsement deals, primarily an ultra-lucrative Nike shoe contract, almost two decades after his NBA career ended. Jeter, the recently retired New York Yankees shortstop, also still rakes in enormous endorsement dollars and he will be the primary front-office boss of the Marlins. Jeter's group out-bid offers from the son of politician Mitt Romney as well as the $1.17 billion bid from Miami billionaire Jorge Mas, who is the son of the late Jorge Mas Canosa, the all-time richest and most powerful anti-Castro Cuban-born counter-revolutionary in Miami. The Miami Marlins are the poorest of the 30 Major League teams and are projected to lose $80 million this season despite huge television contracts and other residual connections that benefit all Major League teams.
        The city of Miami and the Miami Marlins are still shaken by the tragic death of super pitcher Jose Fernandez from a boating accident on September 25, 2016. He was born in 1992 in Santa Clara, Cuba, and in his early 20s had been well-established as one of the greatest and most valuable baseball properties in the entire world.
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