Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Spinning Cuban Carousel

Washington-to-Havana-&-Back!!
    Six members of the U. S. Congress -- three Senators and three from the House of Representatives -- completed their urgent visit to Havana this week. The urgency was spawned recently when two anti-Cuban Cuban-American U. S. Senators, Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez, Chaired & Co-chaired a very bitter anti-Cuban Foreign Affairs Committee session in the Senate. The six congressional members who visited Cuba this week wanted to curb the Trump administration's attempt to put America's Cuba policies back in the hands of a handful of Cuban extremists, as in the Bush presidencies. Not wanting a total reversal of President Obama's pre-Trump advances with Cuba, the six congressional members had much to discuss with top Cuban officials, especially on the eve of the island's transition to a non-Castro leader in April. The U. S. delegation was led by U. S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Leahy for decades has worked tirelessly and bravely to normalize relations with Cuba. He is shown above in this Granma photo talking directly to Cuban President Raul Castro in a session that Leahy later described as "animated at times." In addition to Leahy, the other two Senators in Havana were Ron Wyden of Oregon and Gary Peters of Michigan. The three House members on the hasty fact-finding journey were Kathy Castor of Florida, Susan Davis of California, and James McGovern of Massachusetts.
    The latest visit to Cuba by Kathy Castor this week is in keeping with her tireless effort to normalize U.S.-Cuban relations. Born 51-years-ago in Miami, she has represented the Tampa-St. Petersburg area of Florida in Congress since 2007. She met with Cuban entrepreneurs who had built successful businesses because of the Obama presidency but have been starkly and negatively affected by the Trump administration. Congresswoman Castor, who hastened back to Florida a day early because of the aftermaths of the horrendous school shootings, also met with Cuban officials regarding the alleged sonic attacks against U. S. diplomats that have been used by Trump and Cuban-American hardliners as one of their pretexts to hurt Cuba. Castor agreed with the consensus opinion on both sides of the Florida straits that Cuba wouldn't threaten its own tourism lifeline with such a ploy. She said: "I don't see a motivation of the Cuban government itself to having done harm to our diplomats, but I don't know." Castor is also direly concerned that Trump's gutting the embassies in Havana and Washington harms innocent Cubans and Cuban-Americans the most. "We urgently need to get back to a full staff because it is important for families in Cuba and my state of Florida to be able to use embassy facilities so these families can meet." Cuba for two decades has used two currencies -- the peso and the convertible peso. Economists agree the dual currencies have stifled the island's economy and production. Castor said, "They told us Cuba will stop operating under the two-currency system this year. They say it's very complicated because it effects wages throughout the island, but they do hope to end it this year. And they have told us that before too."
       After his three-day trip to Cuba this week, Congressman James McGovern said, "It was a big mistake to reduce the embassies in Havana and Washington. And it was a mistake for the State Department to list Cuba as unsafe."
    And Congresswoman Kathy Castor added one more thing about her trip to Cuba this week. She said that Senator Leahy had a private conversation with President Raul Castro about his retirement in April and the significant changes that might...or will...entail for both Cuba and the U. S. Ms. Castro said, "I wanted to talk to the presumed next President of Cuba, Miguel Diaz-Canel, but we did not get to do that."
      While Raul Castro, Cuba's out-going President, has shown an eagerness to talk with friendly Americans, like President Obama and like the six members of Congress on the island this week, the same is not true for Cuba's in-coming President, Miguel Diaz-Canel. Ignoring this week's high-level delegation from Washington was typical of Diaz-Canel who much prefers spending his most valuable time with leaders of nations far more friendly to Cuba than the United States is. Thus, the photo above shows Diaz-Canel hosting Her Excellency Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, the Prime Minister of Namibia, while ignoring requests from important Americans. He thanked her for Namibia's help as Cuba tried to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Irma, help he knows the island didn't receive from the United States. Namibia's current leader and Cuba's future leader also worked out trade and "other mutually beneficial agreements" while Diaz-Canel ignored the six Cuba-friendly Americans.
     While Miguel Diaz-Canel supported Raul Castro's historic detente with President Obama, President Trump's June 16-2017 trip to Miami -- when he turned America's Cuban policy back over to a handful of hard-line extremists -- was the "last straw" for Diaz-Canel, who is not only not a Castro but was born after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. After June 16-2017, he said: "Cuba has one enemy, the United States. The Obama window was nice but the other party closed it. Wasting our time on our one enemy makes no sense when that time can be applied to our friends. We must preserve our sovereignty at all costs against a major force, but to advance we must embrace our friends." That includes, Diaz-Canel believes, the Prime Minister of Namibia as well as the leaders of all non-USA nations, including America's biggest competitors, "if necessary, as it seems now." Indeed, in the last two years as Cuba's First Vice President, Diaz-Canel has cultivated close friendships with President Zi and President Putin while also closely studying the Vietnamese economic model.
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